Bình luận về Hồ Chí Minh và Đảng Cộng Sản Việt Nam

Bình luận về Hồ Chí Minh và Đảng Cộng Sản Việt Nam

Monday, 21 January 2013




Dialectical Materialism
by J Pickard

When we discuss the method of Marxism, we are dealing with the ideas which provide the basis for our activities in the labour movement, the arguments we raise in the discussions we take part in, and the articles we write. It is generally accepted that Marxism took its form from three main roots. One of those roots was the development of Marx's analysis of French politics, particularly the bourgeois revolution in France in the 1790s, and the subsequent class struggles during the early 19th century. Another of the roots of Marxism is what is called 'English economics', ie., Marx's analysis of the capitalist system as it developed in England. The other root of Marxism, which was its starting point historically, is said to be 'German philosophy', and it is that aspect of it that I want to deal with here. To begin with, we say that the basis of Marxism is materialism.
That is to say, Marxism starts from the idea that matter is the essence of all reality, and that matter creates mind, and not vice versa. In other words, thought and all the things that are said to derive from thought - artistic ideas, scientific ideas, ideas of law, politics, morality and so on - these things are in fact derived from the material world. The 'mind', ie., thought and thought processes, is a product of the brain; and the brain itself, and therefore ideas, arose at a certain stage in the development of living matter. It is a product of the material world.
Therefore, to understand the real nature of human consciousness and society, as Marx himself put it, it is a question "not of setting out from what men say, imagine, conceive... in order to arrive at men in the flesh; but setting out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process demonstrating the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process.
The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, images of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. In the first (non-materialist) method of approach the starting point is consciousness taken as the living individual; in the second (materialist) method, which conforms to real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness." (The German Ideology, Chapter one).
A materialist therefore seeks an explanation not only for ideas, but for material phenomena themselves, in terms of material causes and not in terms of supernatural intervention by gods and the like. And that is a very important aspect of Marxism, which clearly sets it aside from the methods of thinking and logic which have become established in capitalist society. The development of scientific thought in the European countries in the 17th and 18th centuries displayed some really contradictory characteristics, which still remain typical of the approach of bourgeois theoreticians today.
On the one hand there was a development towards a materialist method. Scientists looked for causes. They didn't just accept natural phenomena as god-ordained miracles, they sought some explanation for them. But at the same time these scientists did not yet possess a consistent or worked-out materialist understanding; and very often, behind the explanations for natural phenomena, they also saw, at the end of the chain, the hand of God at work. Such an approach means accepting, or at least leaving open the possibility, that the material world we live in is ultimately shaped by forces from outside it, and that consciousness or ideas come first, in the sense that they can exist independently of the real world. This approach, which is the philosophical opposite of materialism, we call 'idealism'.
According to this approach, the development of mankind and of society - of art, science, etc. - is dictated not by material processes but by the development of ideas, by the perfection or degeneration of human thought. And it is no accident that this general approach, whether spoken or unspoken, pervades all the philosophies of capitalism. Bourgeois philosophers and historians in general take the present system for granted. They accept that capitalism is some kind of finished, complete system which is incapable of being replaced by a new and higher system. And they try to present all past history as the efforts of lesser mortals to achieve the kind of 'perfect society' which they believe capitalism has achieved or can achieve.
So, when we look at the work of some of the greatest bourgeois scientists and thinkers in the past or even today, we can see how they have tended to jumble up materialist ideas and idealist ideas in their minds. For example Isaac Newton, who examined the laws of mechanics and the laws of motion of planets and planetary bodies, didn't believe that these processes were dictated by mind or thought. But what he did believe was that an original impetus was given to all matter, and that this initial push was provided by some sort of supernatural force, by God.
In the same way it is possible today for many biologists to accept the idea that species of plants and animals evolved from one type to another, and that mankind itself is a development from earlier species. And yet many of them cling to the notion that there is a qualitative difference between the human mind and the animal mind, consisting of the 'eternal soul' which leaves the human body after death. Even some of the most eminent scientists jumble up the materialist method with idealist ideas of this kind, which are really backward, scientifically speaking, and are more related to magic and superstition than to science.
Marxism therefore represents a systematic and fundamental break with idealism in all its forms, and the development in it place of a materialist understanding of what is taking place in reality. Materialism in this sense provides one of the basic starting points of Marxism. The other basic starting point is dialectics.
Dialectics is quite simply the logic of motion, or the logic of common sense to activists in the movement. We all know that things don't stand still, they change. But there is another form of logic which stands in contradiction to dialectics, which we call 'formal logic', which again is deeply embodied in capitalist society. It is perhaps necessary to begin by describing briefly what this method implies. Formal logic is based on what is known as the 'law of identity', which says that 'A' equals 'A' - i.e. that things are what they are, and that they stand in definite relationships to each other.
There are other derivative laws based on the law of identity; for example, if 'A' equals 'A', it follows that 'A' cannot equal 'B', nor 'C'. On the face of it this method of thinking may again seem like common sense; and in fact it has been a very important tool, a very important device in the development of science and in the industrial revolution which created the present-day society. The development of mathematics and basic arithmetic, for example, was based on formal logic. You couldn't teach a child a table of multiplication or addition without using formal logic. One plus one equals two, and not three.
And in the same way, the method of formal logic was also the basis for the development of mechanics, of chemistry, of biology, etc. For example, in the 18th century the Scandinavian biologist Linnaeus developed a system of classification for all known plants and animals. Linnaeus divided all living things into classes, into orders, into families, in the order of primates, in the family of hominids, in the genus of homo, and represents the species homo sapiens. The system of classification represented an enormous step forward in biology.
It made possible, for the first time, a real systematic study of plants ad animals, to compare and contrast animal and plant species. But it was based on formal logic. It was based on saying that homo sapiens equals homo sapiens; that musca domestica (the common housefly) equals musca domestica; that an earthworm equals earthworm, and so on. It was, in other words, a fixed and rigid system. It wasn't possible, according to this system, for a species to equal to anything else, otherwise the system of classification would have completely collapsed.
The same applies in the field of chemistry, where Dalton's atomic theory meant a huge stride forward. Dalton's theory was based on the idea that matter is made up of atoms, and that each type of atom is completely separate and peculiar to itself - that its shape and weight is peculiar to that particular element and to none other. After Dalton there was a more or less rigid classification of elements, again based on a rigid formal logic, whereby it was said that an atom of hydrogen was an atom of hydrogen, an atom of carbon was an atom of carbon, etc. And if any atom could have been something else, this whole system of classification, which has formed the basis of modern chemistry, would have collapsed.
Now it is important to see that there are limitations to the method of formal logic. It is a useful everyday method, and it gives us useful approximations for identifying things. For example, the Linnaean system of classification is still useful to biologists; but since the work of Charles Darwin in particular we can also see the weaknesses in that system. Darwin pointed out, for instance, that in the Linnaean system some types of plants are given separate names, as separate species, but actually they are very similar to each other. And yet there are other plants with the same name, of the same species, which are said to be different varieties of the same plant, and yet they are very different from each other.
So even by the time of Charles Darwin it was possible to look at the Linnaean system of classification and say, 'well, there's something wrong somewhere'. And of course Darwin's own work provided a systematic basis for the theory of evolution, which for the first time said it is possible for one species to be transformed into another species. And that left a big hole in the Linnaean system. Before Darwin it was thought that the number of species on the planet was exactly the same as the number of species created by God in the first six days of his labour - except, of course, for those destroyed by the Flood - and that those species had survived unchanged over the millennia. But Darwin produced the idea of species changing, and so inevitably the method of classification also had to be changed. What applies in the field of biology applies also in the field of chemistry.
Chemists became aware, by the late 19th century, that it was possible for one atomic element to become transformed into another. In other words, atoms aren't completely separated and peculiar to themselves. We know now that many atoms, many chemical elements, are unstable. For example, uranium and other radioactive atoms will split in the course of time and produce completely different atoms with completely different chemical properties and different atomic weights. So we can see that the method of formal logic was beginning to break down with the development of science itself.
But it is the method of dialectics which draws the conclusions of these factual discoveries, and points out there are no absolute or fixed categories, either in nature or in society. Whereas the formal logician will say that 'A' equals 'A', the dialectician will say that 'A' does not necessarily equal 'A'. Or to take a practical example that Trotsky uses in his writings, one pound of sugar will not be precisely equal to another pound of sugar. It is a good enough approximation if you want to buy sugar in a shop, but if you look at it more carefully you will see that it's actually wrong.
So we need to have a form of understanding, a form of logic, that takes into account the fact that things, and life, and society, are in a state of constant motion and change. And that form of logic, of course, is dialectics. But on the other hand it would be wrong to think that dialectics ascribes to the universe a process of even and gradual change.
The laws of dialectics -
and here is a word of warning: these concepts sound more intimidating than they really are - the laws of dialectics describe the manner in which the processes of change in reality take place.
Let us take, to begin with, the law of the transformation of quantity into quality'. This law states that the processes of change - motion in the universe - are not gradual, they are not even. Periods of relatively gradual or slight change are interspersed with periods of enormously rapid change - change which cannot be measured in terms of quantity but only in terms of quality. To use an example from natural science again, let us imagine the heating of water. You can actually measure ("quantify"), in terms of degrees of temperature, the change that takes place in the water as you add heat to it. From, let us say, 10 degrees centigrade (which is normal tap water) to about 98 degrees centigrade, the change will remain quantitative; i.e., the water will remain water, although it is getting warmer.
But then comes a point where the change in the water becomes qualitative, and the water turns into steam. You can no longer describe the change in the water as it is heated from 98 degrees to 102 degrees in purely quantitative terms. We have to say that a qualitative change (water into steam) has come about as a result of an accumulation of quantitative change (adding more and more heat). And that is what Marx and Engels meant when they referred to the transformation of quantity into quality. The same can be seen in the development of species. There is always a great variety in every species. If we look around this room we can see the degree of variety in homo sapiens.
That variety can be measured quantitatively, for example, in terms of height, weight, skin colour, length of nose, etc. But if evolutionary changes progress to a certain point under the impact of environmental changes, then those quantitative changes can add up to a qualitative change. In other words, you would no longer characterise that change in animal or plant species merely in terms of quantitative details.
The species will have become qualitatively different. For example, we as a species are qualitatively different from chimpanzees or gorillas, and they in turn are qualitatively different from other species of mammals. And those qualitative differences, those evolutionary leaps, have come about as a result of quantitative changes in the past. The idea of Marxism is that there will always be periods of gradual change interspersed with periods of sudden change. In pregnancy, there is a period of gradual development, and then a period of very sudden development at the end.
The same applies to social development. Very often Marxists have used the analogy of pregnancy to describe the development of wars and revolutions. These represent qualitative leaps in social development; but they come about as a result of the accumulation of quantitative contradictions in society.
A second law of dialectics is 'the law of the negation of the negation', and again it sounds more complicated than it really is. 'Negation' in this sense simply means the passing away of one thing, the death of one thing as it becomes transformed into another. For example, the development of class society in the early history of humanity represented the negation of the previous classless society. And in future, with the development of communism, we will see another classless society, that would mean the negation of all present class society. So the law of the negation of the negation simply states that as one system comes into existence, it forces another system to pass away. But that doesn't mean that the second system is permanent or unchangeable.
That second system itself becomes negated as a result of the further developments and processes of change in society. As class society has been the negation of classless society, so communist society will be the negation of class society - the negation of the negation.
Another concept of dialectics is
the law of the 'interpenetration of opposite'.
This law quite simply states that processes of change take place because of contradictions - because of the conflicts between the different elements that are embodied in all natural and social processes. Probably the best example of the interpenetration of opposites in natural science is the 'quantum theory'. This theory is based on the concept of energy having a dual character - that for some purposes, according to some experiments, energy exists in the form of waves, like electromagnetic energy. But for other purposes energy manifests itself as particles.
In other words, it is quite accepted among scientists that matter and energy can actually exist in two different forms at one and the same time - on the one hand as a kind of intangible wave, on the other hand as a particle with a definite 'quantum' (amount) of energy embodied in it. Therefore the basis of the quantum theory in modern physics is contradiction. But there are many other contradictions known to science.
Electromagnetic energy, for example, is set in motion through the effect of positive and negative forces on each other. Magnetism depends on the existence of a north pole and a south pole. These things cannot exist separately. They exist and operate precisely because of the contradictory forces being embodied in one and the same system.
Similarly, every society today consists of different contradictory elements joined together in one system, which makes it impossible for any society, any country, to remain stable or unchanged. The dialectical method, in contrast to the method of formal logic, trains us to identify these contradictions, and thereby get to the bottom of the changes taking place.
Marxists are not embarrassed to say that there are contradictory elements within every social process. On the contrary, it is precisely by recognising and understanding the opposite interests embodied within the same process that we are able to work out the likely direction of change, and consequently to identify the aims and objectives which it is necessary and possible in that situation to strive for from the working class point of view.
At the same time, Marxism doesn't abandon formal logic altogether. But it is important to see, from the point of view of understanding social developments, that formal logic must take second position. We all use formal logic for everyday purposes. It gives us the necessary approximations for communication and conducting our daily activities.
We wouldn't be able to lead normal lives without paying lip service to formal logic, without using the approximation that one equals one. But, on the other hand, we have to see the limitations of formal logic - the limitations that become evident in science when we study processes in more depth and detail, and also when we examine social and political processes more closely.
Dialectics is very rarely accepted by scientists. Some scientists are dialecticians, but the majority even today muddle up a materialist approach with all sorts of formal and idealistic ideas. And if that's the case in natural science, it is much, much more the case as far as the social sciences are concerned.
The reasons for this are fairly obvious. If you try to examine society and social processes from a scientific point of view, then you cannot avoid coming up against the contradictions of the capitalist system and the need for the socialist transformation of society. But the universities, which are supposed to be centres of learning and study, are under capitalism far from being independent of the ruling class and the state. That is why natural science can still have a scientific method which leans towards dialectical materialism; but when it comes to the social sciences you will find in the colleges and universities some of the worst kinds of formalism and idealism possible.
That is not unrelated to the vested interests of the professors and academics who are highly paid. It is obvious and unavoidable that their privileged position in society will have some reflection, some effect on what they're supposed to teach. Their own views and prejudices will be contained in the 'knowledge' which they pass on to their students, and so on down to the level of the schools. Bourgeois historians, in particular, are among the most shortsighted of all social scientists. How many times have we seen examples of bourgeois historians who imagine that history ended yesterday!
Here in Britain they all seem to admit the horrors of British imperialism as far as the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are concerned; that British imperialism engaged in slave traffic; that it was responsible for some of the most bloody subjugation of colonial peoples; that it was also responsible for some of the worst exploitation of British workers, including women and children, in the coal mines, the cotton mills, and so on. They will accept all these iniquities - up until yesterday. But when it comes to today, of course, then British imperialism suddenly becomes democratic and progressive. And that is completely one-sided, a completely lopsided view of history, which is diametrically opposed to the method of Marxism.
The attitude of Marx and Engels was to view social processes from the same dialectical standpoint from which they viewed nature - from the standpoint of the processes that are actually taking place. In our everyday discussions and debates in the labour movement, we will often come across people who are formalists. Even many on the left will look at things in a completely rigid and formal way, without understanding the direction in which things are moving. The right wing in the labour movement, and also some on the left, believe that Marxist theory is a dogma, that 'theory' is like a 600 lb weight on the back of an activist, and the quicker you get rid of that weight, the more active and effective you can be. But that is a complete misconception of the whole nature of Marxist theory.
In point of fact Marxism is the opposite of a dogma. It is precisely a method for coming to grips with the processes of change that are taking place around us. Nothing is fixed and nothing remains unchanged. It is the formalists who see society as a still photograph, who can get overawed by the situations they are faced with because they don't see how and why things will change. It is this kind of approach that can easily lead to a dogmatic acceptance of things as they are or as they have been, without understanding the inevitability of change.
Marxist theory is therefore an absolutely essential device for any activity within the labour movement. We need to be consciously attuned to the contradictory forces at work in the class struggle, in order to orient ourselves to the way in which events are developing. Of course it isn't always easy to free ourselves from the prevailing framework of thinking in capitalist society and absorb the Marxist method. As Karl Marx said, there is no royal road to science. You have to treat the hard path sometimes in grappling with new political ideas.
But the discussion and study of Marxist theory is an absolutely essential part of the development of every activist. It is that theory alone that will provide comrades with a compass and a map amidst all the complexities of the struggle. It is all very well to be an activist. But without a conscious understanding of the processes you are involved in, you are no more effective than an explorer without a compass and a map. And if you try to explore without scientific aids, you can be as energetic as you like but sooner or later you will fall into a ravine or a bog and disappear, as so many activists over the years have unfortunately done.
The idea of having a compass and a map is that you can take your bearings. You can judge where you are at any particular time, where you are going and where you will be. And that is the fundamental reason why we need to get to grips with Marxist theory. It provides us with an absolutely invaluable guide to action as far as our activities in the labour movement are concerned.
II.The ABC of Materialist Dialectics
by Leon Trotsky
The dialectic is neither fiction nor mysticism, but a science of the forms of our thinking insofar as it is not limited to the daily problems of life but attempts to arrive at an understanding of more complicated and drawn-out processes. The dialectic and formal logic bear a relationship similar to that between higher and lower mathematics.
I will here attempt to sketch the substance of the problem in a very concise form. The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that A is equal to A. This postulate is accepted as an axiom for a multitude of practical human actions and elementary generalisations. But in reality A is not equal to A.
This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens - they are quite different from each other.
But, one can object, the question is not of the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities: for instance, a pound of sugar.
The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar - a more delicate scale always discloses a difference.
Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true - all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves.
A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself "at a given moment." Aside from the extremely dubious practical value of this 'axiom,' it does not withstand theoretical criticism either. How should we conceive the word 'moment'? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that 'moment' to inevitable changes.
Or is the 'moment' a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence.
Thus the axiom A is equal to A signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist.
At first glance it could seem that these "subtleties" are useless. In reality they are of decisive significance. The axiom A is equal to A appears on one hand to be the point of departure for all our knowledge, on the other hand the point of departure for all the errors in our knowledge.
To make use of the axiom A is equal to A with impunity is possible only within certain limits. When quantitative changes in A are negligible for the task at hand, then we can presume A is equal to A. This is, for example, the manner in which a buyer and a seller consider a pound of sugar.
We consider the temperature of the sun likewise. Until recently we considered the buying power of the dollar in the same way. But quantitative changes beyond certain limits become converted into qualitative. A pound of sugar subjected to the action of water or kerosene ceases to be a pound of sugar. A dollar in the embrace of a president ceases to be a dollar. To determine at the right moment the critical point where quantity changes into quality is one of the most important and difficult tasks in all the spheres of knowledge, including sociology.
Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects. In the elaboration of bearing-brass into cone bearings, a certain deviation is allowed for the cones which should not, however, go beyond certain limits (this is called tolerance). By observing the norms of tolerance, the cones are considered as being equal (A is equal to A). When the tolerance is exceeded, the quantity goes over into quality; in other words, the cone bearings become inferior or completely worthless.
Our scientific thinking is only a part of our general practice, including techniques. For concepts there also exists "tolerance" which is established not by formal logic issuing from the axiom A is equal to A but by dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing. "Common sense" is characterized by the fact that it systematically exceeds dialectical "tolerance."
Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers' state, etc., as fixed abstractions, presuming that capitalism is equal to capitalism, morals are equal to morals, etc. Dialectical thinking analyses all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the material conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which A ceases to be A, a workers' state ceases to be a workers' state.
The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of reality, which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretisations, a richness of content and flexibility, I would even say a succulence, which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena. Not capitalism in general but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers' state in general, but a given workers' state in a backward country in an Imperialist encirclement etc.
Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality.
Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc., which are just as important for theoretical thought as is the simple syllogism for more elementary tasks.
Hegel wrote before Darwin and before Marx. Thanks to the powerful impulse given to thought by the French Revolution, Hegel anticipated the general movement of science. But because it was only an anticipation, although by a genius, it received from Hegel an idealistic character. Hegel operated with ideological shadows as the ultimate reality. Marx demonstrated that the movement of these ideological shadows reflected nothing but the movement of material bodies.
We call our dialectic materialist since its roots are neither in heaven nor in the depths of our "free will" but in objective reality, in nature. Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebula.
On all the rungs of this ladder of development the quantitative changes were transformed into qualitative. Our thought including dialectical thought is only one of the forms of the expression of changing matter. There is place within this system for neither God, nor Devil, nor immortal soul nor eternal norms of laws and morals. The dialectic of thinking, having grown out of the dialectic of nature, possesses consequently a thoroughly materialist character.
Darwinism, which explained the evolution of species through quantitative transformations passing into qualitative, was the highest triumph of the dialectic in the whole field of organic matter. Another great triumph was the discovery of the table of atomic weights of chemical elements and further the transformation of one element into another. With these transformations (species, elements, etc.) is closely linked the question of classifications, just as important in the natural as in the social sciences. Linnaeus's system (eighteenth century), utilizing as its starting point the immutability of species, was limited to the description and classification of plants according to their external characteristics.
The infantile period of botany is analogous to the infantile period of logic, since the forms of our thought develop like everything that lives. Only decisive repudiation of the idea of fixed species, only the study of the history of the evolution of plants and their anatomy prepared the basis for a really scientific classification.
Marx, who in distinction from Darwin was a conscious dialectician, discovered a basis for the scientific classification of human societies in the development of their productive forces and the structure of the relations of ownership, which constitute the anatomy of society. Marxism substituted for the vulgar descriptive classification of societies and states, which even up to now still flourishes in the universities, a materialistic dialectical classification. Only through using the method of Marx is it possible correctly to determine both the concept of a workers' state and the moment of its downfall.
All this, as we see, contains nothing "metaphysical" or "scholastic," as conceited ignorance affirms. Dialectical logic expresses the laws of motion in contemporary scientific thought. The struggle against materialist dialectics on the contrary expresses a distant past conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie, the self-conceit of university routinists and . . . a spark of hope for an afterlife.

From 'Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy'
by Frederick Engels
Out of the dissolution of the Hegelian school, however, there developed still another tendency, the only one which has borne real fruit. And this tendency is essentially connected with the name of Marx.
The separation from Hegelian philosophy was here also the result of a return to the materialist standpoint. That means it was resolved to comprehend the real world - nature and history - just as it presents itself to everyone who approaches it free from preconceived idealist crotchets. It was decided mercilessly to sacrifice every idealist which could not be brought into harmony with the facts conceived in their own and not in a fantastic interconnection. And materialism means nothing more than this. But here the materialistic world outlook was taken really seriously for the first time and was carried through consistently - at least in its basic features - in all domains of knowledge concerned.
Hegel was not simply put aside. On the contrary, a start was made from his revolutionary side, described above, from the dialectical method. But in its Hegelian form, this method was unusable. According to Hegel, dialectics is the self-development of the concept. The absolute concept does not only exist - unknown where - from eternity, it is also the actual living soul of the whole existing world. It develops into itself through all the preliminary stages which are treated at length in the Logic and which are all included in it. Then it "alienates" itself by changing into nature, where, unconscious of itself, disguised as a natural necessity, it goes through a new development and finally returns as man's consciousness of himself. This self-consciousness then elaborates itself again in history in the crude form until finally the absolute concept again comes to itself completely in the Hegelian philosophy. According to Hegel, therefore, the dialectical development apparent in nature and history - that is, the causal interconnection of the progressive movement from the lower to the higher, which asserts itself through all zigzag movements and temporary retrogression - is only a copy [Abklatsch] of the self-movement of the concept going on from eternity, no one knows where, but at all events independently of any thinking human brain. This ideological perversion had to be done away with. We again took a materialistic view of the thoughts in our heads, regarding them as images [Abbilder] of real things instead of regarding real things as images of this or that stage of the absolute concept. Thus dialectics reduced itself to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought - two sets of laws which are identical in substance, but differ in their expression in so far as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature and also up to now for the most part in human history, these laws assert themselves unconsciously, in the form of external necessity, in the midst of an endless series of seeming accidents. Thereby the dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world and thus the dialectic of Hegel was turned over; or rather, turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet. And this materialist dialectic, which for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon, was, remarkably enough, discovered not only by us but also, independently of us and even of Hegel, by a German worker, Joseph Dietzgen. (2)
In this way, however, the revolutionary side of Hegelian philosophy was again taken up and at the same time freed from the idealist trimmings which with Hegel had prevented its consistent execution. The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of readymade things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end - this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted. But to acknowledge this fundamental thought in words and to apply it in reality in detail to each domain of investigation are two different things. If, however, investigation always proceeds from this standpoint, the demand for final solutions and eternal truths ceases once for all; one is always conscious of the necessary limitation of all acquired knowledge, of the fact that it is conditioned by the circumstances in which it was acquired. On the other hand, one no longer permits oneself to be imposed upon by the antithesis, insuperable for the still common old metaphysics, between true and false, good and bad, identical and different, necessary and accidental. One knows that these antitheses have only a relative validity; that that which is recognized now as true has also its latent false side which will later manifest itself, just as that which is now regarded as false has also its true side by virtue of which it could previously be regarded as true. One knows that what is maintained to be necessary is composed of sheer accidents and that the so-called accidental is the form behind which necessity hides itself - and so on.
The old method of investigation and thought which Hegel calls "metaphysical", which preferred to investigate things as given, as fixed and stable, a method the relics of which still strongly haunt people's minds, had a great deal of historical justification in its day. It was necessary first to examine things before it was possible to examine processes. One had first to know what a particular thing was before one could observe the changes it was undergoing. And such was the case with natural science. The old metaphysics, which accepted things as finished objects, arose from a natural science which investigated dead and living things as finished objects. But when this investigation had progressed so far that it became possible to take the decisive step forward, that is, to pass on the systematic investigation of the changes which these things undergo in nature itself, then the last hour of the old metaphysic struck in the realm of philosophy also. And in fact, while natural science up to the end of the last century was predominantly a collecting science, a science of finished things, in our century it is essentially a systematizing science, a science of the processes, of the origin and development of these things and of the interconnection which binds all these natural processes into one great whole. Physiology, which investigates the processes occurring in plant and animal organisms; embryology, which deals with the development of individual organisms from germs to maturity; geology, which investigates the gradual formation of the Earth's surface - all these are the offspring of our century.

The Three Sources and Component Parts of Marxism (extract)
by Lenin
The philosophy of Marxism is materialism. Throughout the recent history of Europe, and particularly at the end of the eighteenth century in France, which was the scene of the decisive battle against every kind of medieval rubbish, against serfdom in institutions and ideas, materialism proved to be the only consistent philosophy, true to all the teachings of natural science, hostile to superstitions, cant, etc. The enemies of democracy tried, therefore, with all their energy, to "overthrow," undermine and defame materialism, and defended various forms of philosophic idealism, which always leads, in one way or another, to the defence and support of religion.
Marx and Engels always defended philosophic materialism in the most determined manner, and repeatedly explained the profound error of every deviation from this basis. Their views are more dearly and fully expounded in the works of Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and Anti-Duhring, which, like the Communist Manifesto, are household books for every conscious worker.
However, Marx did not stop at the materialism of the eighteenth century but moved philosophy forward. He enriched it by the achievements of German classical philosophy especially by Hegel's system, which in its turn had led to the materialism of Feuerbach. Of these the main achievement is dialectics, i.e., the doctrine of development in its fuller, deeper form, free from one-sidedness-the doctrine, also, of the relativity of human knowledge that provides us with a reflection of eternally developing matter. The latest discoveries of natural science-radium, electrons, the transmutation of elements-are a remarkable confirmation of the dialectical materialism of Marx, despite the doctrines of bourgeois philosophers with their "new" returns to old and rotten idealism.
While deepening and developing philosophic materialism, Marx carried it to its conclusion; he extended its perception of nature to the perception of human society. The historical materialism of Marx represented the greatest conquest of scientific thought.
Chaos and arbitrariness, which reigned until then in the views on history and politics, were replaced by a strikingly consistent and harmonious scientific theory, which shows how out of one order of social life another and higher order develops, in consequence of the growth of the productive forces - how capitalism, for instance, grows out of serfdom.
Just as the cognition of man reflects nature (i.e., developing matter) which exists independently of him, so also the social cognition of man (i.e., the various views and doctrines-philosophic, religious, political, etc.) reflects the economic order of society. Political institutions are a superstructure on the economic foundation. We see, for example, that the various political forms of modern European states serve the purpose of strengthening the domination of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.
The philosophy of Marx completes in itself philosophic materialism which has provided humanity, and especially the working class, with a powerful instrument of knowledge.

Lenin's Collected Works
Volume 38, p359:
On the Question of Dialectics
The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts is the essence (one of the "essentials", one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter.
The correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics (e.g. in Plekhanov) usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples ("for example, a seed", "for example, primitive communism". The same is true of Engels. But it is "in the interests of popularisation ...") and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world.)
In mathematics: + and -, differential and integral,
In mechanics: action and reaction,
In physics: positive and negative electricity,
In chemistry: the combination and dissociation of atoms,
In social science: the class struggle.
The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their "unity", - although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). 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 "leaps", to the "break in continuity," to the transformation into the opposite", to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.
The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute.
NB: The distinction between subjectivism (scepticism, sophistry, etc.) and dialectics, incidentally, is that in (objective) dialectics the difference between the relative and the absolute is itself relative. For objective dialectics there is an absolute within the relative. For subjectivism and sophistry the relative is only relative and excludes the absolute.
In his Capital, Marx first analyses the simplest, most ordinary and fundamental, most common and everyday relation of bourgeois (commodity) society, a relation encountered billions of times, viz., the exchange of commodities. In this very simple phenomenon (in this "cell" of bourgeois society) analysis reveals all the contradictions (or the germs of all contradictions) of modern society. The subsequent exposition shows us the development (both growth and movement) of these contradictions and of this society in the Sum of its individual parts. From its beginning to its end.
Such must also be the method of exposition (or study) of dialectics in general (for with Marx the dialectics of bourgeois society is only a particular case of dialectics). To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., with any proposition: the leaves of a tree are green; John is a man: Fido is a dog, etc. Here already we have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognised); the individual is the universal.
Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes) etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs, the concepts of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say: John is a man, Fido is a dog, this is a leaf of a tree, etc., we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other.
Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as in a "nucleus" (:cell") the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general.
And natural science shows us (and here again it must be demonstrated in any simple instance) objective nature with the same qualities, the transformation of the individual into the universal, of the contingent into the necessary, transitions, modulations, and the reciprocal connection of opposites. Dialectics is the theory of knowledge of (Hegel and) Marxism. This is the "aspect" of the matter (it is not "an aspect" but the essence of the matter) to which Plekhanov, not to speak of other Marxists, paid no attention.
Knowledge is represented in the form of a series of circles both by Hegel (see Logic) and by the modern epistemologists" of natural science, the eclectic and foe of Hegelianism (which he did not understand!!), Paul Volkmann.
"Circles" in philosophy: [is a chronology of persons - essential? No!
Ancient: from Democritus to Plato and the dialectics of Heraclitus.
Renaissance: Descartes versus Gassendi (Spinoza?)
Modern: Holbach-Hegel (via Berkeley, Hume, Kant).
Hegel - Feuerbach - Marx
Dialectics as living, many-sided knowledge (with the number of sides eternally increasing), with an infinite number of shades of every approach and approximation to reality (with a philosophical system growing into a whole out of each shade) - here we have an immeasurably rich content as compared with metaphysical materialism, the fundamental misfortune of which is its inability to apply dialectics to the theory of reflection, to the process and development of knowledge.
Philosophical idealism is only nonsense from the standpoint of crude, simple, metaphysical materialism. From the standpoint of dialectical materialism, on the other hand, philosophical idealism is a one-sided, exaggerated, development (inflation, distension) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge, into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature, apotheosised. Idealism is clerical obscurantism. True. But philosophical idealism is ("more correctly" and "in addition") a road to clerical obscurantism through one of the shades of the infinitely complex knowledge (dialectical) of man.
Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed (transformed one-sidedly) into an independent, complete, straight line, which then (if one does not see the wood for the trees) leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes). Rectilinearity and one-sidedness, woodenness and petrification, subjectivism and subjective blindness - voila the epistemological roots of idealism. And clerical obscurantism (= philosophical idealism), of course, has epistemological roots, it is not groundless; it is a sterile flower undoubtedly, but a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge.

VOLUME 38, pp 221 - 222
Summary of Dialectics
by Lenin
1) The determination of the concept out of itself [the thing itself must be considered in its relations and in its development];
2) the contradictory nature of the thing itself (the other of itself), the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon;
3) the union of analysis and synthesis.
Such apparently are the elements of dialectics.
One could perhaps present these elements in greater detail as follows:
1) the objectivity of consideration (not examples, not divergencies, but the Thing-in-itself).
2) the entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.
3) the development of this thing, (phenomenon, respectively), its own movement, its own life.
4) the internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing.
5) the thing (phenomenon, etc) as the sum andunity of opposites.
6) the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.
7) the union of analysis and synthesis - the breakdown of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.
8) the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, etc.) is connected with every other.
9) not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?].
10) the endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.
11) the endless process of the deepening of man's knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence.
12) from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal dependence to another, deeper, more general form.
13) the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and
14) the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation).
15) the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content.
16) the transition of quantity into quality and vice versa (15 and 16 are examples of 9)
In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.


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