Summary Of Essay Nine: Militants On Methadone
This material is now badly out-of-date. Visitors are encouraged to read the updated summaries of Essay Nine Parts One and Two, here and here.
In this Essay (Parts One and Two of which have been published here, and here), the obvious objection that this critique implies that the ideas of the vast majority of leading revolutionaries have been compromised by the adoption of ruling-class ideology (which is patently absurd) is tackled head-on. This response (summarised below) is connected with a novel but partial re-analysis of the poorly understood term, "substitutionism".
In order to do this, I first of all show that it is not possible for workers to comprehend dialectics (this is because it is impossible for anyone to understand it), which means that it has had to be substituted into their heads, from the outside. This is not true of HM.
I then show that there are sound materialist reasons why prominent comrades have fallen for these ruling ideas; this is then linked to the abysmally poor record that Dialectical Marxism has notched up since at least 1921 (and arguably longer still), and why comrades (under the 'influence of dialectics') tend not to be able to see this glaring anomaly.
[HM = Historical Materialism.]
Unwitting Dialectical Dupes
It is first of all pointed out that revolutionaries of the calibre of Engels, Lenin and Trotsky did not wittingly allow their ideas to become compromised in this way. There were other factors at work --, of which they were well aware, but apparently not as they applied in their own case -- that pre-disposed them toward adopting a traditional, ruling-class approach to Philosophy.
Next, I show how and why dialectics cannot form the basis of a materialist or working-class view of reality. So, if DM is the "world-view of the proletariat", they have yet to be told -- all three billion of them.
In the first place, Lenin's infamous declaration that no one could possibly understand Das Kapital who has not studied and thoroughly understood the whole of Hegel's Logic (a claim that it is worth remembering not even Marx made of his own work!) would not only rule out most revolutionaries -- and probably Lenin himself (since he admitted in several places in PN that certain parts of Hegel's Logic were beyond even him!) [E.g., Lenin (1961), pp.103, 108, 117, 229] --, but probably the vast majority of human beings.
[PN = Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks, i.e., Lenin (1961); LIE = Linguistic Idealism.]
Secondly, if not a single DM-theorist (in over a hundred and thirty years) has been able to explain DM in comprehensible terms to anyone this side of the Oort Cloud, let alone to one another, then it is scarcely credible that workers are capable of grasping this mystical theory. This is not to suggest that workers do not have the intelligence to comprehend DM; far from it. It is on the contrary to allege that there is in DM nothing for workers to grasp, since DM-propositions are either empty of content, devoid of sense or are patently non-sensical. That, of course, explains why even self-appointed DM-experts cannot explain a single dialectical concept to a living soul.
[Or if they can, they have kept this fact remarkably well-hidden.]
Thirdly, since DM is itself a sub-category of LIE, and as such depends on notions that are beyond workers' experience (i.e., beyond anyone's material understanding) -- and which are thus inexpressible in their language -- they would have to be bamboozled into abandoning their material good sense in order to have this alien theory substituted into their heads "from the outside" (to paraphrase Lenin).
Dialectics: Understood By (At Most) Nobody
Fourth, claims that there have been working-class dialecticians (such as Joseph Dietzgen, Tommy Jackson and Gerry Healy, etc.), who managed to create from scratch a dialectical view of reality, are shown to be bogus. Dietzgen, if anything, was of petty-bourgeois stock; according to his son, he obtained his ideas from reading books on Philosophy. [Introduction to Dietzgen (1906a).]
Jackson, on the other hand, was a genuine working-class Marxist, but he 'caught dialectics' from Hegel, and his own classic book on the subject [Jackson (1936)] shows that he, too, did not understand a word of it (not because it was too difficult, but because, like the Trinity, it is incomprehensible). In that classic work, where Jackson touches on DM his account is as clear as mud. [Proof? See the long quotation from Jackson's book given in Essay Three, Part One.]
Healy also came from a petty-bourgeois background; he drifted in and out of the working class for a while, only to 'catch dialectics' from reading Lenin's MEC -- a condition that was later seriously compounded by a lethal strain he picked up from a prolonged exposure to PN. [Proof? Just open up a copy of Healy (1990) at any randomly selected page -- then, it will readily be apparent that no sane individual could possibly 'understand' dialectics. Read more, if you dare, here, and here.]
[MEC = Materialism and Empirio-Criticism; LOI = Law of Identity.]
Fifth, Trotsky's attempt to show that workers are "unconscious" dialecticians is subjected to detailed criticism. For example, his claim that workers know that it is impossible to make two identical objects is itself rather puzzling. [Trotsky (1971), p.65.] Not only is this not a counter-example to the LOI (which concerns an object's alleged self-identity), it is not even an instance of Trotsky's own confused 'definition' of it!
However, it is very easy to make two identical objects; physicists tell us that every photon, for example, is identical to every other photon. Hence, each time a worker turns on a light, he or she makes countless trillion identical objects, which, it seems, must mean that such workers are "unconscious" anti-dialecticians. [Substantiation for this assertion is given in Essay Six.]
Naturally, contentious claims like these can only be neutralised by an a priori declaration that every photon in existence (past, present and future) must be non-identical -- despite what scientists tell us, and in abeyance of the almost infinite amount of data that would be needed to support such a cosmically ambitious thesis.
At this point, perhaps, even the most hardnosed of dialecticians might just be able to see in such a stipulation a blatant attempt to impose DM on reality.
HM -- Introduced From The Inside
In the end, it is shown that no thesis exclusive to DM can be generated from workers' experience (whereas workers are already aware of key areas of HM -- and of those they aren't, they are easily persuaded of their truth when in struggle). This means, of course, that while DM has to be substituted into workers' heads from the "outside", HM does not have to be introduced to workers in this way.
Because of their materially-grounded language, their experience of exploitation and oppression, and the fact that HM is based on and addresses that experience (as well as their suppressed awareness of their own de-humanised condition, their struggle), it is actually introduced to workers, as it were, from the inside.
Hence, DM can only ever appeal to substitutionists.
Revolutionary politics merely brings to workers a developed, scientific theory (HM) that generalises their experience and provides the tactics, strategy and organisation necessary to overthrow Capitalism. In fact, this is all that needs to be "brought to workers".
This should make revolutionaries organisers and administrators, not prophets.
Ruling Ideas Continue To Rule
In order to make their theory seem to 'work', DM-classicists have had to adopt a ruling-class view of nature; hence, their theses are dependent on centuries of alien-class experience and Ideal forms-of-thought.
That being so, it is clear that the spectacular lack of success enjoyed by Marxism is no real surprise; plainly, this is partly due to the class-compromised and divisive theory (i.e., DM) that dialecticians have tried to substitute into workers' heads (against the materialist grain, as it were) -- making them in effect the objects of theory, not the subjects of history.
This tactic evidently undermines workers' natural tendency to accept ideas drawn from HM when in struggle. Dialectics cannot "seize" the masses since it seizes-up the brain of anyone unfortunate enough to "suffer from it" (to paraphrase Max Eastman).
Those who remain unconvinced by that assertion should read the writings of any randomly-selected academic dialectician. Unless they are extremely lucky, they will find page upon page of incomprehensible jargon, most of which material is about as clear as lengthy commentaries on the Incarnation of Christ -- and, as a lack of mere coincidence would have it, of equal relevance to the class struggle.
The writings of hardcore 'revolutionary' dialecticians (like Healy, and to a lesser extent, Woods and Grant, for instance), amply confirm this conclusion.
HM And DM -- A Dialectical Unity?
Throughout these Essays, HM has been counterposed to DM. To some, this might seem a bogus distinction; but no Marxist of any intelligence would use slogans drawn exclusively from DM to agitate workers. Consider for example the following: "The Law of Identity is true only within certain limits and the struggle against the occupation of Iraq!" Or "Change in quantity leads to change in quality (and vice versa) and the campaign to keep hospital HH open!" Or even, "Being is at the same time identical with but different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved by Becoming, and the fight against the BNP!"
Slogans like these would be employed only by militants of uncommon stupidity and of legendary ineffectiveness. In contrast, active revolutionaries employ ideas drawn exclusively from HM to communicate with workers. Socialist Worker, for instance, uses ordinary, material language, coupled with concepts drawn from HM, to agitate and propagandise; rarely does it employ DM-phraseology. The same is true of other revolutionary socialist papers.
Only deeply sectarian papers of exemplary unpopularity and impressive lack of impact use ideas lifted from DM to try to educate and agitate workers. Newsline (the daily paper of the old WRP) used to try to do this, but like the Dinosaurs it resembled, it is no more.
Chalk up another success to dialectics!
[The revamped News Line seems to be free of this disease, but is no less unsuccessful.]
[WRP = Workers Revolutionary Party.]
So, the distinction drawn here is made in practice every day by militants. The present work merely systematises it.
The Ruling-Class Bring On Their Sub(stitutionists)
Based on the above considerations, it is argued that DM forms the natural ideology of substitutionist tendencies in the workers' movement.
Certain Marxists (for reasons of their class-origin) have found Hegelian ideas conducive to their own contingent view of the world. In that case, the explanation for the importation of non-materialist ideas into Marxism given below is eminently materialist -- since it is based on the class origins of DM-classicists themselves.
This also helps explain why those who have tried to substitute themselves for workers -- be they STDs, Stalinist apparatchiks, professional revolutionary (i.e., dé classé) intellectuals, activists, Marxist academics, or even OTTs -- are among the most avid of DM-addicts.
[STD = Stalinist Dialectician; OTT = Orthodox Trotskyist Theorist.]
If, for whatever reason, it is thought that the working-class cannot bring about a socialist society on their own (suggesting, perhaps, to those who think this way that they need the help of Russian tanks, Maoist guerrillas, 'progressive' bourgeois nationalists, professional 'representatives' in Parliament, hardened cadres of conspiratorial comrades, or Marxist intellectuals (no doubt to teach the benighted masses the deeper mysteries of 'systematic dialectics')), then a theory that places the proletariat right at the bottom of the intellectual pecking order is going to look very appealing. Or, more realistically, it is going to prove highly useful in helping to rationalise the further (or later) exclusion of the majority from power -- and obscure enough to justify their subsequent and continued oppression ("in their own interests", of course) -- which is a political contradiction that only those who 'understand' dialectics are capable of "grasping".
In that case, what better than a 'philosophical theory' that appears to have Marx's stamp of approval on it (even though there is precious little hard evidence that he knew much about it) -- DM?
In Defeat, Don't Organise -- Speculate!
Marxists are well aware of the fact that in defeat those in the movement who are looking for consolation often find it in Mysticism and Idealism. However, those (like Lenin) who point this out are themselves only immune to the attractive influence exerted by this metaphysical black hole if they can show that they are above the material constraints reality places on everyone else --, which, clearly, they are not, and hence plainly they cannot. And that is partly why even such revolutionary stalwarts fall for Dialectical Mysticism.
As we will see, dialecticians are among the first to seek consolation in defeat, something they experience all the time; they do this by turning to a theory that reveals to them the comforting news that Marxism is a ringing success. DM teaches that appearances are contradicted by underlying realities; hence, even though Marxism might appear to be an abject failure (that is, only to the 'victims of bourgeois ideology'), to those with a well-focussed dialectical 'third eye' it is the very epitome of success. In fact, one can almost hear them 'reason' as follows:
"So what if we are now further away from a workers' state than Lenin was in 1917? And what does it matter that all four Internationals have failed? And what relevance is it that Marxist ideas have less impact on ordinary workers today than at any other time in living memory? Who cares if revolutionary parties are small, almost all are shrinking, splitting, fighting among themselves and blaming one another for their collective lack of impact? None of this matters since the NON guarantees all will be well in the end; indeed, each retreat is only another advance in the waiting. The latest gathering of my party (all 250 of us) heralds a historic turning point for the international proletariat."
There is no reasoning with this sort of pathological optimism, since it depends on a level of dislocation from material reality that would shame a coma victim -- as anyone who has tried to slap some sense into such dialectical day-dreamers can well attest. The fact that we have witnessed little other than defeat, retreat and set-back since the 1920's is brushed off as a mere blip. The dialectic will "spiral" back to save the day.
[NON = Negation of the Negation.]
In that case, and to change the image, if this 'Dialectical Titanic' is not sinking, then there is no need to man the lifeboats, or even rearrange the furniture.
In fact, there wasn't even an iceberg!
Everything in La La Land is hunky dory; forward to the next heroic failure comrades!
In contrast, revolutionaries drawn directly from the working-class appear to be less susceptible to this intellectual malaise (for reasons outlined above, and below). Those entering our movement from other layers of society are, it seems, highly vulnerable in this regard. [Why this is so will be outlined presently, too.] Unfortunately, the authors of the DM-classics were not workers -- and neither were the Hermetic Philosophers upon whose ideas they relied. And, in general, if we are honest, neither are those who lead the revolutionary movement today and who control its ideas.
DM provides this professional layer with a form of intellectual consolation, which among other things helps reassure them that history (nay, the entire "Totality") is on their side --, this despite the many material realities which every day seem to contradict this rosy view. DM helps account for, and reconfigure, this social layer's experience of constant defeat, rejection and failure; it does this by re-presenting it as its own internal opposite: as success in disguise.
Dialectics has thus helped insulate militant minds from the unwelcome fact that their Idealist theory is contradicted daily by intransigent 'appearances' --, which tell a different material tale to those not caught up in this dialectical reverie. DL does this by re-casting each defeat so that it only seems to have happened (or so that it only seems to be a defeat), and which can thus be blamed on 'objective factors'. In this way, recalcitrant experience does not refute dialectics, it confirms it!
Unfortunately, this particular "unity of opposites" in no way leads to a change in the way that reality is interpreted by those who believe change arises only in this way.
[DL= Dialectical Logic.]
The Russian Revolution -- although now completely reversed -- was thus a 'resounding success'. Even though it presided over the deaths of untold millions, and has put even more off Marxism for life -- presenting anti-socialist forces world-wide with a propaganda gift they could not have designed better themselves -- it is still a total 'success'.
Dialectical Myopia of this order of magnitude will not be cured by the few words posted here; these Marxist Dinosaurs refuse to die.
[Lest it be thought that I think the revolution in 1917 was mistake, I am referring above to its subsequent failure, not its earlier necessity. Nor is this to reject the explanation of the defeat of the Russian revolution advanced by Trotsky (and others), even though he (they) clearly failed to take account of the subjective/ideological factors aired in this Essay.]
However, on the few occasions when our movement has notched up a success here and there, this is unfailingly attributed to the 'dialectical method'. In contrast, on the very many occasions where we have failed, this is blamed on anything and everything else -- yes, you guessed it: those 'objective' factors again.
Success has subjectivity to thank for it; failure never. The Popes of Marxism are as infallible as the 'Vicar of Christ' -- except, of course, Catholicism has "seized the masses". Dialectical Marxism has merely ceased doing so.
Material reality is thus inverted so that in an ideal form it now conforms to theory. Dialecticians ignore or explain away whatever fails to fit the Ideal script Hegel authored (at a time when there were precious few proletarians to disturb his immaterial reverie). Naturally, this ostrich-like stance also serves as a defence-mechanism, protecting militant minds from the fact that workers in general reject the philosophical gobbledygook that the 'orthodox' constantly churn out.
Figure One: Dialectical 'Clarity'
But, by doing this, dialecticians have only succeeded in engineering their own continued rejection, ensuring that those who remain in the thrall of this divisive theory waste their time pootling about in small, insular ineffective grouplets -- whose over-inflated view of their own historical significance neatly runs in inverse proportion to the genuine impact they have on the class struggle.
[Spartacists, for instance, are an excellent example of this sort of dialectical malaise. The mystical mantle used to be worn (with pride) by the old UK-WRP, but the gods of dialectics took suitable revenge on them, 'negating' them with no little vehemence. No doubt the Sparts will be next -- unless, of course, the CIA knows different....]
In this way, DM succeeds in negating in an ideal form its own very real rejection by workers; it does this with some neat, internally-generated dialectical spin. Viewing things from beneath these dialectically-constructed sand dunes, DM-adepts can one and all pretend that workers en masse do not really reject dialectics. Far from it, they are in fact blinded by "empiricism" and "commodity fetishism" -- or they have been bought off by Imperialism with its super-profits; indeed, they suffer from "false consciousness" (a notion unknown to Marx).
Anything, rather than question the sacred dialectical mantra.
Anything rather than admit that the dialectical gospel is a fraud. Hence, unlike any other science known to humanity, 'Materialist Dialectics' has never been revised to accommodate reality; reality has been continually adjusted to suite its eternal verities.
Ironically, this means that in dialectics, lack of theoretical change is secured internally -- the internal contradictions of DM produce no development (just more 'epicycles').
Thus, according to the faithful (or at least, according to the way they re-process failure), the only thing in the entire universe that does not change through internal contradictions is DM itself!
It is, indeed, like the uncaused cause of traditional Theology; the Ein Sof of the Kabbalah.
Any other ordinary (or even scientific) theory that suffered continual refutation of this order of magnitude, and for so long, would be stone dead by now. But, not DM. The NON clearly has no power over its own most avid earthly representatives -- their theory is continually negated by material reality, but it remains miraculously the same generation on generation.
Dialecticians are thus living disproof of their own ideas: they never change.
Another rather fitting dialectical inversion....
To support these contentious claims it is then shown (in Essay Nine Part Two) that revolutionaries of the calibre of Engels, Lenin and Trotsky only turned to overt forms of DM when the revolutionary movement was in retreat -- as, indeed, did theorists, for example, in the UK/SWP after the industrial "downturn" of the late 1970s, and after the defeat of the NUM in the mid-1980's.
[Of late, dialectics has taken something a back seat in the UK/SWP; this is probably because the US/UK invasion of Iraq has allowed it to chalk up a few limited successes, which means there is clearly less need for consolation. Hence, there are few banners on the many huge anti-war marches we have seen of late in the UK that extol the wonders of dialectics, no matter how central to Marxism the faithful claim it to be. ("The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so bring the troops home now!"? "Formal Logic is valid, but only within 'certain limits'; end the occupation now!" I think not!)]
Indeed, as should have been clear to all, Hegel's original theory was itself invented to help account for the defeat of the French revolution, and hence the rise of Napoleon.
Dialectics is thus at once the daughter of defeat and the father of failure.
[OTG = Orthodox Trotskyist Group; OTT: Orthodox Trotskyist Theorist.]
In stark contrast, OTGs (i.e., the old WRP, (re-configured now as the MSF, among others), modern-day Spartacists, the scrag-end of the old Militant Tendency (more pointedly, Woods and Grant), other assorted Trotskyist grouplets (like the AWL) etc.) constantly appeal to DM because their catastrophist view of everything puts them in a permanently heightened, quasi-numinous state of mind. With nothing but failure staring them in the face, regular high doses of dialectical dope are essential to maintain the idée fixe that the revolution is indeed just around the corner, despite appearances to the contrary.
To that end, it is worth noting that Gerry Healy -- surely until his death in 1989 the annual winner of the Dialectical Gold Medal in all events -- went into frenetic, dialectical overdrive soon after his party booted him out in 1985.
The result? That monument to designer gobbledygook: Healy (1990).
[Read it and weep.]
This accounts not only for the extra level of religious fanaticism displayed by most OTTs in defence of their beloved "dialectics", it also explains their fondness for quoting DM-Scripture at erstwhile critics -- and at one another (over and over again, and then once more for good measure). As is the case with the Occult, novelty is the enemy. [Maoists are also particularly good at such forms of Bible-bashing.]
This also makes clear the almost universal contempt shown by the faithful for the "R" word: "Revisionism". Which is rather odd, since Lenin argued that no science is un-revisable.
So, because DM is not in fact revisable, and has never been revised, the only conclusions possible are that either DM cannot be a science, or Lenin was wrong -- and what he said about the nature of science needs revising itself!
Either way, the un-revisability of DM confirms its dogmatic status. Indeed, only fundamentalist theologians jealously guard the changelessness of their 'revealed' truths with comparable zeal.
There are in fact two main types of DM-adepts:
(1) Low Church Dialecticians [or LCDs], who cleave to the original, unvarnished faith laid down in the sacred texts written by Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, and Trotsky. These simple souls are highly proficient at quoting endless passages from the holy books as an answer to everything and anything, just like the faithful who bow to the East or who fill the gospel halls around the world. Their unquestioning faith is as impressive as it is un-Marxist.
They may be naive, but they are at least consistently so.
(2) High Church Dialecticians [or HCDs], who, on the other hand, are often openly contemptuous of the 'sophomoric ideas' found in these classic works (and typically reject the dialectic as applied to nature), just as they are equally dismissive of these simple LCD souls for their adherence to every word in the DM-classics.
[Anyone who knows about High Church Anglicanism will know of what I speak.]
HCDs are mercifully above such crudities; they prefer the mother lode -- direct from Hegel, Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks and the writings of assorted latter day Hermeticists like Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Tony Smith, Tom Sekine, Robert Albritton, Chris Arthur and Bertell Ollman -- cut perhaps sometimes with a few kilos of hardcore jargon straight from that intellectual cocaine-den otherwise known as French Philosophy.
HCDs are generally, but not exclusively, academic. Tortured prose is their forte, and a pointless existence is their punishment.
At least LCDs try to pretend that their ideas are relevant to the class struggle.
High Church dialectics is just good for the CV.
[And clearly, the latter sort of dialectics is not an "abomination" for that section of the bourgeoisie that administers Universities.]
Both wings, however, are well stocked with conservative-minded comrades, happy in their own small way to copy the a priori thought-forms of two-and-a-half millennia of boss-class theory, seldom pausing to give any thought to the implications of such easily won knowledge: if knowledge of the world is a priori, and based on thought alone, reality must surely be Ideal.
Even this simple truth will sail over their heads, so deep have ruling ideas sunk into their class-compromised brains.
This has meant that DM's baleful influence becomes important at key historical junctures (i.e., those involving defeat or major set-back), since it acts as a materialist-sounding alternative to traditional philosophical thought (even while it emulates the latter in all but name). It thus taps into thought-forms that have dominated intellectual life for 2500 years -- ones that define (for ruling-class thought-police) the boundaries of 'theoretical acceptability'. Because of its thoroughly traditional nature, DM is able to appeal to the closet "god-builders" and dialectical mystics that revolutionary politics seems to attract -- and who, alas, appear to congregate mostly at the top --, and, of course, in Colleges and Universities.
The reason for this is that these comrades, unlike most workers, have entered the socialist movement, by and large, as a result of personal commitment, as an expression of their rebellious personality, because of individual alienation from the system, or for other contingent psychological motives --, but not as a direct result of the class war (i.e., not through collective action).
This means that from the beginning (again, by and large), such comrades act and think as individuals; they are committed to the revolution as an idea -- as an ideal even --, as an expression of their own personal integrity. They are not revolutionaries for materialist reasons, that is as a result of their direct experience of working-class action, or as a consequence of a collective response to exploitation.
[Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with all this (indeed, such comrades are invaluable to the workers' movement), but, as we can now see, this has meant that the individual psychology of such comrades has helped stymie Marxist theory and practice for well over 120 years --, if and when this has not been counterbalanced by working-class materialism.]
When these comrades encounter DM, it is 'natural' for them to latch on to its a priori theses (for the reasons given above). This subjective response now connects dialectics with the revolutionary ego, for it is this theory that guarantees (for them) that their existence is not in vain, but is on the contrary capable of assuming cosmic significance. The revolutionary ego can only ascend to this blessed state if it becomes a willing vehicle for the tide of history, a slave to the dialectic. [This makes DM the theory of slaves, to paraphrase Nietzsche.] These cosmic forces have governed the universe from the beginning (and are written into the dialectic of matter), and they govern the nature of everything in existence, including the thought of these, the 'least' of their minions. By becoming slaves to the mysterious "Totality" (which, like 'God', cannot be defined) through revolutionary theory and activity, by joining in a movement that will fundamentally alter the course of human history, the petty-bourgeois ego is 'born again', only now as a professional revolutionary -- and sometimes with a new name.
But certainly with a new persona.
The scales now drop from its eyes.
The Hermetic virus has found another victim.
This now provides this layer with well-known social psychological motives, inducements and reinforcements, convincing them, for example: (1) that their personal existence is not meaningless; (2) that they as individuals are key figures that can and will help decide what direction history should take, and (3) that whatever it was that caused their alienation from bourgeois society, it can be rectified (redeemed?) through the right sort of acts, thoughts and deeds -- somewhat reminiscent of the way that Pelagian forms of 'muscular Christianity' teach that salvation can be had through pure thoughts, good works, and severe treatment of the body.
[Incidentally, this also helps account for the emphasis on praxis in DM-circles -- truth is confirmed in practice, and 'practice will make you free'.]
Dialectics takes over now from Divinity, giving cosmic significance to these petty-bourgeois comrades. Social atoms like these need the internally-generated unifying force of ideas to wed them to the international workers' movement -- whereas workers do not.
But such ideas could only come from a traditional source -- i.e., from some form of ruling-class theory. This is because, not only is this the only source of developed 'theory' around (as it was the sole one on offer in Marx's day), it contains the sort of ideas to which this layer is most susceptible.
Their background and education means that ruling-class ideas already dominate their minds.
And, by all accounts, these they are only too willing to disseminate by attempting to substitute them into the minds of workers.
In stark contrast, material forces in society tend to unify those involved in collective labour (which process by and large does not apply to the above dialectically-susceptible comrades). These compel workers to combine, but they do not persuade them to unite as a result of a ruling-class theory; they are forced to so out of material necessity. This type of unity is thus externally-imposed on workers, and by forces that ruling-classes cannot control (except at the margins), which, as is well-known, bring into existence and train their collective grave-diggers.
More importantly, these material forces are not linked to the revolutionary ego --, nor to ruling-class ideas --, but to a collective identity forced on workers.
In contrast once more, for petty-bourgeois comrades, dialectics replaces militant labour activism/struggle as a unifying force; without it the rationale behind the idée fixé that such comrades stand at the philosophical centre of the dialectical universe would disappear.
Moreover, because dialectics provides them with a seemingly coherent, but eminently traditional picture of reality (i.e., still as an idea), it supplies each one with his/her own unique motivating factor, which, because it is represented individualistically, now only serves to divide such 'dialectical comrades', one from the next (for reasons spelled-out below).
Dialectics, the theory of universal opposition, goes to work on militant minds and turns each into an inveterate sectarian and faction fiend.
Unfortunately, in Bolshevik-style parties, collective discipline is paramount. But, petty-bourgeois militants are not used to this form of externally-imposed discipline, and fights quickly break out, often over personal issues. Because these comrades think as social atoms, such disputes are easy to re-present as political differences, ones that require theoretical justification. The DM-classics, like the Bible, thus come into their own in such a climate.
For such social atoms, the desire to impose one's own views on others becomes irresistible; doctrinal control (i.e., the control of all those inner, privatised ideas in every other atomised Party skull) now acts as a surrogate for outer control by material forces. And just as traditional religionists have discovered, mind-control of this sort is more easy to secure if mysterious doctrines are deployed that no one understands, and which must be repeated constantly to dull the critical faculties.
Hence, because the Party cannot reproduce the class struggle inside itself, and force unity on its cadres externally, it can only control political thought internally (in each head) by turning it into a mind-numbing mantra, insisting on doctrinal purity. This naturally leads to more splits; unwilling horses like this will not be driven to drink from such unscientific troughs.
An authoritarian personality form thus emerges to enforce orthodoxy (disguised as an endeavour to keep faith with 'tradition', something we also see in all known religions), which now becomes a watch-word to test the loyalty of all those who might stray too far from the narrow path which promises to lead the select few toward revolutionary salvation.
Small now becomes beautiful -- nay desirable --, simply because it allows for maximum thought-control. In small parties, the 'purity' of the 'revolutionary tradition' is manifestly easier to enforce. Sectarianism is thus inherent in the political and organisational practice of such social atoms.
Moreover, the authoritarian personality quickly ensures that democratic accountability soon exits out the rear, and is thus an early casualty of this polluted backwater of the class war.
[This is not to suggest that these political tumours grow independently of external forces; as was noted above, such malignant features of this dialectical personality disorder tend to dominate when the materialist counter-weight provided by the working class is much reduced, or totally absent. This is of course exactly when these dialectical clones tend to 're-discover' the dialectic, as was pointed out earlier.]
No wonder then that such dialectical-'robots' cling onto DM like grim death, just like the religionists mentioned above; it now dominates and shapes their personal integrity and party identity. Any attack on this sacred doctrine is an attack not only on the glue that holds this sort of comrade together, but on the glue that holds the party together.
The implication of all this is that, in their own eyes, these professional (petty-bourgeois) revolutionaries are special; they live -- no they embody -- the revolution. They have caught the tide of history, they must keep the faith. Commitment to the revolution on these terms soon creates militants who, for all the world, appear to suffer from the dialectical equivalent of the aforementioned personality disorder -- chief among which is the Leader Complex. All hale the Great Splitter!
[Indeed, this might be why they find Hegel's Super-Ego Philosophy so appealing.]
For workers, things are totally different: material existence and survival forces them to action, not petty-bourgeois egocentrism. This makes workers far more collective-minded, and professional revolutionaries predominantly divisive.
Indeed, this is particularly true of such professional revolutionaries; their atomised egos make them 'naturally' factional. This helps explain why, among dialecticians, disagreements become so personal so quickly, and why factionalism is so rife -- and why strong characters, like Ted Grant, Gerry Healy, Michael Pablo, Tony Cliff, Ernest Mandel, Pierre Lambert and host of others, formed splits and divisions in the movement almost from the get-go. As noted above, such splits are now almost synonymous with Marxism itself (witness the well-aimed jokes in Monty Python's Life of Brian about the Judean People's Front, etc.).
Dialectical Marxists thus rapidly become militant Martinets. Often these individuals have very powerful personalities, something they can use to good effect in the small ponds they invariably patrol, and clearly prefer. Expulsions, splits and bans keep their grouplets small, and thus easier to control, as noted earlier.
In that case, and in this way, the revolutionary ego keeps our movement fragmented: small, insular and ineffectual, in preference to being democratic, outward-looking and effective. No wonder then that in such circumstances, democracy goes out the window along with reasonableness --, and, alas, along with political impact.
[Anyone who has tried to 'debate' dialectics with these militant martinets will know exactly what I mean. Those who doubt this should check this out.]
Ruling-ideas have thus come to rule Marxism; worse: they ruin it by helping those who divide, rule.
In furtherance of the class war, each dialectical ego imagines that it alone has direct access to the exact meaning of the dialectic. But, since no one actually understands this mystical theory, this is a very easy claim to make --, and one that is, naturally, impossible to refute.
Thus, every opponent is branded in the same way (on this see below): all fail to 'understand' the dialectic -- that is, all except the blessed soul that made that claim.
It is almost as if such comrades had received a personal visit from the Self-Developing Idea itself. Indeed, the road to Damascus and the road to Dialectics have more in common than just a capital "D".
Now this Unity of Opposites is no myth; the fragmentary nature of Marxism (and particularly of Trotskyism) attests to it every day. Indeed, it guarantees that revolutionary parties stay small, suffer constant defeat, and thus more fragmentation.
In defeat, however, such comrades turn to Dialectical Methadone (the 'Opiate of the Party') to insulate their minds from reality and constant failure. And by all accounts it does a good job. As noted earlier, anyone trying to argue with these dialectical druggies would be far better occupied head-butting a Billy-goat, for all the good it will do.
However, narcoleptic stupor of this order of magnitude -- and the lack of clarity required to maintain it, alongside the divisions it foments -- only helps engineer more defeats, thus creating the need for another sizeable hit, and so on. This is the real dialectical spiral on 'truth', not the one we read about in the official brochure.
No wonder Marxism is to success as religion is to peace on earth.
Nevertheless, the Militant Martinet is in its element here; the universe is already seen as an externalisation of its damaged ego (in this way it replaces 'God', as Feuerbach half saw) -- only now it is called the "Totality".
In that case, the desire to attain the sort of a priori knowledge that Traditional Philosophy has always promised to deliver is at one with the projection of this ego onto nature. This accounts for the origin of the covert DM-idea that reality is Mind (which is why it can 'contradict' and 'negate' itself), and hence that all real knowledge is a priori (and why dialectics can safely be imposed on nature): reality is an externalisation of the Militant Mind. This further explains why, to each DM-acolyte, the dialectic is so personal, so intimately their own possession -- and why you can almost hear their hurt when it is comprehensively trashed, as it is here.
Any attack on this 'precious jewel' is an attack on the revolutionary ego itself, and must be resisted with all the bile at its command.
George Novack records the following meeting he had with Trotsky in Mexico in 1937:
"[O]ur discussion glided into the subject of philosophy…. We talked about the best ways of studying dialectical materialism, about Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, and about the theoretical backwardness of American radicalism. Trotsky brought forward the name of Max Eastman, who in various works had polemicized against dialectics as a worthless idealist hangover from the Hegelian heritage of Marxism.
"He became tense and agitated. 'Upon going back to the States,' he urged, 'you comrades must at once take up the struggle against Eastman's distortion and repudiation of dialectical materialism. There is nothing more important than this….'
"I was somewhat surprised at the vehemence of his argumentation on this matter at such a moment. As the principal defendant in absentia in the Moscow trials, and because of the dramatic circumstances of his voyage in exile, Trotsky then stood in the centre of international attention. He was fighting for his reputation, liberty, and life against the powerful government of Stalin, bent on his defamation and death. After having been imprisoned and gagged for months by the Norwegian authorities, he had been kept incommunicado for weeks aboard their tanker.
"Yet on the first day after reunion with his cothinkers, he spent more than an hour explaining how important it was for a Marxist movement to have a correct philosophical method and to defend dialectical materialism against its opponents!" [Novack (1978), pp.169-70. Bold emphases added. Spelling changed to conform to UK English.]
Given the content of this summary of Essay Nine, Trotsky's semi-religious fervour becomes a little easier to understand.
DM has thus infected our movement at every level, fostering sectarianism, factionalism, exclusivism, unreasonableness, dismissive haughtiness (on the part of the High Church Faction), and extreme dogmatism (bordering on paranoia in some cases) -- which dialectical vices have imposed on each and every tiny sectlet in the movement an open and implacable hatred of practically every other sectlet, and in some cases, every other comrade.
[Speaking personally, this was one of the first things that shocked me about Marxism: the almost ubiquitous back-biting. I did not at that time know much about the revolutionary ego and its dark secrets; I certainly failed to make the above connections.]
If faults such as these were to afflict an individual, they would provide adequate grounds for sectioning under the mental health act. The result is that the ruling-class does not need to divide our movement in order to help consolidate its rule; we are quite capable of doing this ourselves.
This particular (but ironic) unity of opposites is clearly the opposite of unity; indeed, DM divides Marxists by uniting them in the acceptance of an ideology that separates comrade from comrade, tendency from tendency, guru from guru.
Everybody in the movement knows this (some even joke about it -- along Monty Python lines!); others excuse it or explain it away with still more 'dialectics'. But, no one confronts it at its source in the divisive doctrines of DM -- in the petty-bourgeois individualism that is super-glued to dialectics, and which thus afflicts those who 'lead' us.
The Dialectal Magus
If doctrinaire Marxism is the final result of this mystical creed, it needs a Guru to interpret it aright, rationalise the constant failures and justify the regular splits -- and, of course, to create a few more.
Enter the cult of the personality with all its petty, nit-picking, small-minded, little pond megalomania. Enter the "Leader" who knows all, reveals all, expels all: the Dialectical Magus.
As observers of religious cults have noted, even the most mundane and banal of statements put out by such leaders are treated with inordinate respect, almost as if they had come down from off the mountain itself, and were thus possessed of profound cosmic significance.
Figure Two: Gerry Healy In And Earlier Incarnation?
Or, Bob Avakian?
[Witness the inordinate respect shown for the dialectical meanderings of Mao and Stalin by 'tankies' -- and of comrade Healy by prominent members of the WRP. In fact, Healy was well-known for fomenting strife among comrades (with added violence, so we are told) to accentuate the 'contradictions' in his 'Party', on 'sound' dialectical grounds, of course. Witness too, the wholly un-merited semi-worship of Bob Avakian.]
This also helps account for the personal and organisation corruption revolutionary politics has witnessed over the years, (ranging from Mao's use of female comrades, to the same with respect to Healy -- but there are many other examples) which is partly the result of the noxious effect this doctrine has had on otherwise radical minds.
In this way, we have seen Marxism replicate much of the abuse -- and most of sectarianism -- found among religionists. Small wonder: both were spawned by similarly alienated patterns of ruling-class thought, and social atomisation.
As far as the DM-'faithful' are concerned, all this will fail to go even in one ear, let alone straight out through the other. This is because they refuse to accept that any of the pressures that bear down on ordinary mortals could possibly have any affect the DM-elect. In that case, social psychology does not apply to them. They are not like other human beings.
Hence, it must surely be a sheer coincidence that revolutionary parties the world over have replicated practically every single fault and foible that afflicts the god-botherers among us -- even down to their reliance on an obscure book about an invisible 'Being': i.e., Hegel's Logic.
So, while all these faults and foibles have well-known material causes when they descend upon the superstitious, they apparently have no cause whatsoever when the very same are found among dialectical superscientists. They can thus safely be ignored, never spoken about in political company.
And so, this dialectical merry-go-round takes another spin across the flatlands of failure....
Same Old Same Old?
Of course, as the above will seem (to some) to suggest, this analysis superficially resembles those that critics of Marxism have strung together. However, the difference here is that this attack is being launched only against DM (not HM), and by a fellow revolutionary. It is also backed-up by an analysis that is fully compatible with HM, even if it is completely destructive of traditional forms-of-thought.
More importantly though, the criticisms raised here have been pushed much further than any enemy of Marxism would dare, for fear that a sustained attack on Metaphysics and traditional thought might easily spill over into a reflexive but equally destructive criticism of the theoretical opiates upon which important strands of ruling-class opinion also depend. Naturally, too, this would simultaneously endanger the ideologically-privileged position such theorists have hitherto enjoyed, fatally undermining their social-standing.
Without Metaphysics, Traditional Philosophy would not only lack all content, it would serve no conceivable purpose. Moreover, its demise would clearly threaten the jobs of most academic Philosophers. Too many holes punched in that particular hull might threaten to sink several highly cherished ruling-class ideas along the way.
That alone makes the content of these Essays politically and historically unique; no one has pushed the points raised here this far, ever.
In that sense, and by attacking the ideological foundations of DM (as the are found in traditional thought), this work is no friend of anti-Marxist opinion, either. Indeed, and quite the reverse: it is an implacable enemy of both, since both represent different sides of the same ideologically-compromised coin.
In stark contrast to DM, HM provides consolation for no one; among other things it allows for the mutual destruction of the contending classes (etc.). No room for that in DM; the NON knows nothing of retreat.
[More on that in Essay Three, Part Five.]
According to HM, humanity will rid itself of class oppression only through the collective action of ordinary human beings, not because of the operation of the metaphysical laws found in DM.
In its own small way, therefore, this project is aimed at ending the baleful influence on Marxists of this regressive anti-materialist theory (DM), so that HM can at last begin to stand for a fully Humanised Marxism.
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