The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Drunk on Dialectics January 28, 2006 by RedStar2000

This is the sixth and I hope final collection of my posts against "dialectics".

It's lengthy (of course!) and not the easiest subject to even read about...much less come to grips with.

Indeed, if you find the whole matter intolerably boring and irrelevant, that's exactly the kind of impression I want to create.

"Dialectics" is both boring and irrelevant!

You can't do anything useful with it at all; it's like an enormous "verbal sandbox" where only the "nice kids" are allowed to play.

Ordinary kids who use ordinary language about real things are considered "undesirable playmates" by the "masters of the dialectic".

We don't "speak properly" hushed tones of respectful admiration for our "philosophical superiors".

I hope I don't have to speak with them again at all!


Here is an extract from Chapter 5 of The Holy Family written by Marx in 1844.

It is a very sharp criticism of speculative much so that, in my opinion, Marx almost escaped the mystical swamp of Hegelian "dialectics".


If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea "Fruit”, if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea "Fruit”, derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy — I am declaring that "Fruit” is the "Substance” of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea — "Fruit”. I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of "Fruit”. My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same as in the pear, and in the pear the same as in the almond, namely "Fruit”. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is "the substance" — "Fruit”.

Having reduced the different real fruits to the one "fruit" of abstraction — "the Fruit", speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from "the Fruit", from the Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea "the Fruit" as it is easy to produce this abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction.

The speculative philosopher therefore relinquishes the abstraction "the Fruit", but in a speculative, mystical fashion — with the appearance of not relinquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. He argues somewhat as follows:

If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but "the Substance", "the Fruit", the question arises: Why does "the Fruit" manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, "the Substance", "the Fruit"?

This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because "the Fruit" is not dead, undifferentiated, motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for "the Fruit" itself and for a speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the "one Fruit"; they are crystallisations of "the Fruit" itself. Thus in the apple "the Fruit" gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is "the Fruit", an apple is "the Fruit", an almond is "the Fruit", but rather "the Fruit" presents itself as a pear, "the Fruit" presents itself as an apple, "the Fruit" presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of "the Fruit" and make the particular fruits different members of the life-process of "the Fruit". Thus "the Fruit" is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as "totality” of fruits, which constitute an "organically linked series of members”. In every member of that series "the Fruit" gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary” of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself...

Speculative philosophy has as many incarnations as there are things, just as it has here in every fruit an incarnation of the Substance, of the Absolute Fruit. The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of "the Fruit", this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind. Hence what is delightful in this speculation is to rediscover all the real fruits there, but as fruits which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of "the Fruit", of the Absolute Subject. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, "the Fruit", to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of "the Fruit" in all the manifestations of its life — the apple, the pear, the almond — that is, to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each one of them "the Fruit" realises itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of "the Absolute Fruit".

The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind "the Fruit", i.e., by creating those fruits out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as "the Fruit". And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.

It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determining features invented by him, by giving the names of the real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, "the Fruit"

In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method.

Everything in italics is from Marx. The bold emphasis is mine.

We can only wonder how things would have been different had Marx vigorously pursued this line of reasoning. We might never have had any concern with the supernatural abstractions of "dialectics" at all.

For a much more philosophically sophisticated explication of this point, see abstraction -- part one: the heart of the beast by Rosa Lichtenstein.
First posted at RevLeft on December 27, 2005


Misinterpreting quotations is not going to get you anywhere.


Why don't you explain how I "misinterpreted" this lengthy quotation?

You can't, can you? *laughs*

That's ok...I freely admit that I have no academic background in philosophy at all and find 99.999% of it completely incomprehensible.

What I liked about this extract is that it is comprehensible. Marx is attacking the very thing that I most dislike about philosophy...the idea that you can effectively describe reality merely by the "correct" manipulation of words.

Which is, of course, exactly what "dialecticians" do.

I think it's a tragedy that Marx and Engels did not "follow through" with this line of attack. Had they done so, then "dialectics" would be properly relegated to some dusty little village museum in Germany.

And our overall theoretical level might be considerably higher than it unfortunately is at present.

Imagine what all those "smart people" in the last century might have done had they not wasted their time and energy on "magical mystery tours" of the "realm of the dialectic".

It's really sad.
First posted at RevLeft on December 27, 2005


It is a most dangerous error to identify any contradiction as dialectic, it then leads to a wrong understanding of the basic forces of a particular form of development which in turn leads to the adoption of wrong strategies and which in the last analysis leads to catastrophe.

This seems to be a kind of built-in "escape clause" for "dialectics".

That is, the failures of a Leninist party can always be "excused" by the incorrect identification of the "dialectical contradiction".

And likewise, if a "dialectician" turns out to be wrong about something, that again must "result" from incorrect identification.

On the other hand, any successes that turn up must be "because" the "real dialectical contradiction" was "successfully identified".

Why couldn't the High Priestess of Apollo at Delphi make the same argument? If things work out successfully, it's because you "correctly understood the prophesy". And if things don't work out, it's because you "misinterpreted what the god actually said".

How is a "real dialectical contradiction" to be "successfully identified"? What are the objective criteria?


A dialectical contradiction is something entirely different. It is the most basic contradiction. It is the contradiction that gives rise to all other contradictions in a particular form of development or system. Indeed all other contradictions are a result, are mere external symptoms of the dialectical contradiction, which is at the base of the two opposing theories or viewpoints.

Ok, that's what it "is".

But how do we know when we've "found it"?


To understand the real, the basic, the dialectical contradiction it is necessary to understand the material impact each of the two above contradictions have on man.

How is this to be determined...particularly ahead of time?


To decide proletarian strategy it is most essential to understand the dialectical contradiction between the classes which themselves are nothing but a result of the dialectical contradiction between the production and the means of production. It may and most certainly will vary from industry to industry. The tactics employed must vary from region to region even in similar industries because in the last analysis the tactics are fully dependent on the material available in each region. Understand from what material available in a particular region, in a particular industry can the proletarians most benefit. This will be the arm of proletarian dialectical contradiction.

Apparently, it depends on "material"...but this term goes undefined and who could say what it actually consists of?

Not me.


The thing to learn is how the great basic dialectical contradiction was identified by successful proletarian campaigns and how the choice of suitable strategies strengthened the proletarian dialectical arm.

Unfortunately, they don't tell us...except afterwards if they win.

And as you admit yourself, we can't just "copy them" because conditions are always different.

Suppose we have two Leninist parties and each one offers us a different identification of the "real dialectical contradiction".

How do we tell which one is right?

Do we just wait and see who wins???

If both lose, does that mean that neither one of them correctly identified the "real dialectical contradiction"?

Or, once again, suppose they both identify the same contradiction as the "real dialectical contradiction"...but they propose different strategies.

Which one is right? How do we decide?


Only that movement is destined to succeed whose leaders are able to see beyond the simple contradictions into the actual dialectical contradictions, which give rise to these contradictions.

So the rest of us have to guess which of our rival leaders is "really seeing beyond" and which ones are just befuddled by "superficial contradictions"?

Do we "flip a coin" or what?

Your post illustrates, I think, what happens when someone tries to take "dialectics" seriously.

It sounds like you're talking about something "real"...but when one tries to grasp it, it just melts into air.
First posted at RevLeft on January 5, 2006


To my current understanding, dialectics is just looking at objects in all their relations rather then thinking the object is abstract. I don't see why Redstar would be against [that].

I'm not "against" it...I find it incomprehensible.

"All their relations"? How is that to be defined?

Do we "take into account" the gravitational pull of the Crab Nebula?

Or is it just the "really significant" relations that count?

Where is the line to be drawn and by what criteria?

How do you decide when someone has actually done what you claim "dialectics" can "do" and when they're just blowing smoke out of their ass?

Just wait and see "who wins"??? *laughs*


Then again I believe redstar is against this because he is an anarchist.

Self-evidently nonsensical. For one thing, I'm not an "anarchist" in spite of all the Leninist efforts to label me such.

But more to the point, I think one could easily construct an "anarchist" version of "dialectics"...if there was any point in bothering.

It would just emphasize a different set of "contradictions" and a unity of different "opposites" and a "negation" of different "negations", etc.

It wouldn't tell them anything more useful than it tells you...but it would make them sound more profound and erudite.

For what that's worth. *laughs*


Dialectics is a science, which when applied correctly never produces the wrong results.

How is it then that nearly everyone who claims to "use it" almost always gets the wrong answer?

We've had many hundreds of "Leninist vanguard parties" and every one of them claimed to use "dialectics" and indeed, went so far as to claim that their "mastery" of the "dialectical method" guaranteed success "in the long run".

But their track record is abysmal.

In the most advanced capitalist countries, the Leninist parties have all dwindled into only a few that openly embrace reformism.

In fact, the list of "masters of the dialectic" is extremely short -- Lenin, Tito, Mao, and Ho.

Did I miss any? *laughs*

Not even Marx and Engels "make the cut"...because they didn't lead any successful revolutions, did they?

What kind of "science" can only be "mastered" by four guys in over a century?

Even worse, none of those four guys were able to teach even one of their followers "how to do it". All of the revolutions that they made through their "mastery" of "dialectics" are now as dead as the dinosaurs.

What kind of "science" is this???

You cite "mechanics" as a parallel to "dialectics"...but thousands and maybe even tens of thousands of people master that subject every year. And while all or nearly all of them make occasional errors, nearly all of them get "the right answer" nearly all of the time.

In fact, that's true of all real expect to get "the right answer".

Getting "the wrong answer" with any consistency is often a fruitful indication that something is "missing" and needs to be "looked for".

Only "dialectics" claims to be a "science" in which getting "the wrong answer" is the norm.

In fact, history suggests that the best course of action is to ask the recommendation of a self-proclaimed "dialectician"...and then go out and do the exact opposite!

Unfortunately, that path is blocked as well...because one can always find another "dialectician" who advises a different course of action. Like fortune-tellers, they're on every side of every controversy...and ordinary mortals lacking psychic powers are left to either pick one at random or steer clear of them altogether.

Guess what I recommend? *laughs*


To know that you have reached the correct dialectical contradiction you must satisfy one condition, that you have correctly identified the material forces representing the two opposing views.

But what might those "material forces" be and how do we know that we have "correctly identified them"?

After all, the world contains many material forces that represent the interests of many classes and even "sub-classes".

On occasion, some of these material forces are present with particular clarity...but usually we see a "jumble" of material forces acting in many directions.

Trying to pick out the ones "that really count" looks to me like drawing names out of a hat.

After a sequence of historical events has unfolded, it is certainly possible in retrospect to see that this material force or this combination of these particular material forces made that sequence of events inevitable.

That's what historical materialism does...and does better than any other form of historical analysis.

But all historical materialism can offer on future events is simple extrapolation.

The U.S. is an imperialist state in an expansionist will go on to do more of the same.

I think that's plausible...but I'd hesitate to stake my "full faith and credit" on it. There may be or may emerge material forces that make that further expansion impossible.

"Dialectics" does not help with this...even if it "could" reliably identify all the "significant material forces". It doesn't tell us which ones will prevail.

Consider your own example of "Islamic terrorism". In my view, it is the response of pre-capitalist elites to not only western imperialism but also the rise of a native "modernizing" bourgeoisie in the Muslim world.

Some of those bourgeois elements will support "Islamic terrorism" as a weapon against "foreign competition"...but others find "Islamic terrorists" to be an obstacle to profit maximization.

It's a complicated situation.

Historical materialism rather strongly suggests that the "modernizers" will prevail in the long run...and that Islamic fundamentalism will fade in importance.

That seems to me to be a "sound prediction" for 2100...but says nothing at all in any immediate sense.


What is material?

Any such commodity that increases the economic domination of one class over another.

I think we have a language problem with this one; you're not using the word "commodity" in the Marxist sense here.

At least I don't think you are.

Commodities are products that are produced for sale rather than use by the producers.

In and of themselves, they don't "increase" or "decrease" the "economic domination" of one class over another.

I think you mean "something else" here...but I don't know what it could be.
First posted at RevLeft on January 6, 2006


This may be slightly off-topic, but are there any communist organizations that outright reject dialectics as their basis for action?

Not yet...but I could be wrong about that.

It's the "halo effect". Marx compiled a truly remarkable track-record of being right about so many things that people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries just assumed that he "must have been right" about "dialectics".

And after Lenin's successful coup, it just became "impossible" to mount a "respectable" attack on that wretched metaphysical construct.

As you can see from the sputtering indignation, it was thought that to be "anti-dialectical" was the same as "signing up with the bourgeoisie".

It's only the fading of Leninism that now permits "dialectics" to be exposed for the fraud that it is. There are no significant remaining Leninist parties to "banish" the critic of "dialectics" to "bourgeois perdition".

Attempts to do that now -- from some of our resident Trotskyists or Maoists -- just provoke laughter.

Indeed, this particular "dialectician" is rather unusual in that he actually seems to want to offer some serious arguments in defense of "dialectics". I'm looking forward to his posts...because I think he will provide additional opportunities to expose "dialectics" as useless.

When non-Leninist Marxism -- that is, real Marxism -- becomes a "force to be reckoned with", I think "dialectics" will be a dead issue.

And politically revolutionary message boards like this one will banish any discussion of the subject to the Religion subforum.

Or just delete them entirely.
First posted at RevLeft on January 7, 2006


How can you be a "real Marxist" and be anti dialectical?

You concentrate on historical materialism -- the stuff that you can actually verify.

Remember that Hegel was fundamentally a reactionary...and while Marx made a valiant effort to strip "dialectics" of its reactionary character, he just couldn't do it.

If he "couldn't do it", who could?

The answer is no one can.
First posted at RevLeft on January 7, 2006


And yet redstar2000, how is historical materialism verifiable?

By examination of what really happened.

To be sure, there are many heated controversies in the course of such efforts. New evidence turns up and must be integrated into "the big picture".

Links must be discovered between what people said and the material realities that made those "ideas" sound plausible.

It is as difficult as any science...and can require a lifetime of work.

But it is, in principle, comprehensible. Ordinary people can read good history and understand it.

Things do not happen because of "great men" or "great ideas" or "divine intervention" or the "self-realization of the world-spirit" or any of that crap.

They happen because they are the inevitable consequence of human innovation in the means of making a living.

Of all the things Marx wrote, this may be the most original...

Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Yes, it is "partial" and "incomplete" and "preliminary".

But consider...

quote (Marx):

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
-- emphasis added.

No one ever said that least to the best of my always limited knowledge.

It is the "E=mc-squared" of history as a science.

And it has been verified on countless occasions.

I trust you'll notice that there's not a word about "dialectics" in this brilliant observation of how social reality actually works.
First posted at RevLeft on January 7, 2006


Redstar, if the method Marx used to draw his conclusions was wrong, then weren't his conclusions wrong too? If you've discarded the method, why claim to be sticking with the conclusions?

Because science doesn't care "how" you reached your hypotheses...only whether or not your conclusions are valid.

I think Marx could have -- and possibly even did -- use "ordinary" logic and observation to reach his conclusions. Certainly it does not require "dialectics" to verify that he was an extent that no prior or subsequent theory of history has matched.

On the other hand, anyone trying to verify a "dialectical" hypothesis has simply jumped "into a swamp". Someone has taken some empirical data, labeled different parts according to the "rules" of "dialectics", and "out pops an answer".

But material forces don't come with "dialectical labels" attached. A rival "dialectician" could attach completely different labels to the same data in order to get a completely different "answer".

And how are we to choose between them? On what basis?

A historical materialist analysis yields a series of basically "yes" or "no" conclusions.

Did the petty-bourgeoisie as a class support the rise of Nazism in Germany? That's something we can find out by examining the evidence.

Was this support the consequence of a "dialectical contradiction" between the German petty bourgeois fear of being proletarianized and the German ruling class's failure to restore "good business conditions" for the petty bourgeoisie?

Who the fuck could say? In fact, who could say what statements like that even mean?

"Dialectics", like "God", works in "mysterious ways".


Probably because those who oppose it tend to be those who don't understand it.

Easy enough to say. Some of the superstitious in the Religion subforum say that atheists "don't understand" religious belief because we "don't know the grace of God".

Those who say they do understand "dialectics" give us a whole range of contradictory conclusions...nearly all of which fail the test of "concrete" reality.

Just as astrologers cannot agree on a "correct forecast". *laughs*

I'm just as capable as you of reading the "three laws of dialectics".

I understand what they say.

But, unlike real sciences, there's no methodological consistency that yields consistently reliable results.

In principle, you or I or anyone could learn even the most difficult science...and after gaining experience, we'd each examine a thorny problem and get the same answer (or very close to the same answer) -- and our answers could be tested and proved or falsified.

How do you prove or falsify a "dialectical answer"?

Just wait and see "who wins"? *laughs*
First posted at RevLeft on January 7, 2006


I tend to think it's one of those things you either get, or you don't.

So is "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior".

But the "dialecticians" all say otherwise. According to them, it's a "special way" of grasping social reality that's "superior" to "bourgeois logic" and "bourgeois empiricism".

To them, rejecting "dialectics" is the equivalent of "preferring" to remain in the "dark ages" of pre-scientific thought.

And failing to "master dialectics" is an "admission" of "stupidity", "laziness", or both.


Not worth having a huge wrangle over.

Again, that's not what we are told by the "dialecticians" themselves.

As we've seen on this board, to them it's the "fundamental line" that divides "Marxism" from everything else.

They would regard an "undialectical Marxism" as an oxymoron. Even if you can't make heads or tales out of their "dialectics", you are expected to pay respectful lip-service to the concept...or else be the target of all manner of unsavory labels yourself.


Dialectics is a method of inquiry, not the subject of inquiry.

This is precisely the terrain on which I challenge the "dialecticians".

Is their "method of inquiry" useful? Does it yield fruitful results?

Does it get the right answer?

With a frequency better than chance?


On the other hand, it's commonly said - I think accurately - that those who oppose the theory of evolution by natural selection are mostly those who don't understand it.

Well, that could be true...but I think it's at least equally plausible that Christian ideologues understand enough of it to see it as a deadly threat to their own paradigm.

Indeed, evolution is such a successful paradigm -- coming up over and over again with answers that make sense -- that Christians are hopelessly embarrassed by the inadequacies of their own "explanations".

As intellectually shoddy as "Intelligent Design" is, it does represent an effort by the Christians to "explain away" the indisputable evidence produced by evolutionists. Their "God" is now a supernatural entity that had to "learn" how to "make" humans...and took nearly 5 billion years to "get it right". *laughs*

I think "dialectics" could well be thought of as a version of "Intelligent Design" least that's how Hegel seemed to think of it. A "world-spirit" manifesting itself in human thought? Slipping "new ideas" into our heads whenever it decides that "it's time" for the "next step forward"?

Marx did indeed attempt to rid "dialectics" of this metaphysical twaddle...but by retaining the form, he simply allowed the idealist content to re-emerge bearing "materialist" labels.

What was Lenin's basic thesis? That a small group of "wise men" could change history...because "dialectics" permitted them to "understand history better" than ordinary people could ever hope to do "on their own".

Their "special understanding" permitted them to make the "correct strategic and tactical decisions" that would lead them to power inspite of the fact that they were, of necessity, a small minority of the total population.

If that's what "dialectics" is "supposed" to "accomplish", then it has almost universally failed.

And even in those cases (Russia, China, Yugoslavia, and Vietnam) where "dialectics" supposedly did lead a small group of "wise men" to power, it did not permit them to remain in power.


Marxism isn't a science in the sense of Popper's definition.

I think it could be reasonably argued that historical materialism is a "historical science" like evolution. It gives us answers that can, in principle, be falsified (in the Popperian sense) by appeal to evidence.

But faced with contradictory claims by competing "dialecticians", we are all helpless.

No one has ever seen a "dialectical contradiction"...or heard, tasted, smelt, or touched one. There are no instruments that allow us to perceive one...or even display results that suggest that "there must be one" even if we can't directly observe it. I don't think there's any form of mathematics that suggests "it ought to be there" even if we "can't find it in the real world yet".

Inspite of the "scientific" claims of the "dialecticians", "dialectics" remains completely disconnected from all other sciences.

It stands "above science", say some "dialecticians"'s a kind of "meta-science" that subsumes all forms of real science.

In fact, claim the "dialecticians", you "can't" even do "real science" properly "unless" you've mastered the "dialectical method of inquiry".

Even though 99.999% of real working scientists have never heard of "dialectics" and would probably find its "laws" to be meaningless babble.

The only "connection" that "dialectics" has with real science is hindsight...a "dialectician" takes some scientific result and pastes a "dialectical" label on it -- and claims that this "proves" the "scientific nature" of "dialectics".

Why bother?

Because otherwise it would become obvious that "dialectics" is just metaphysical twaddle without any connection to the real world at all!

Finally, it occurs to me that some "dialecticians" might claim an "intuitive" understanding of "dialectics". Their brains work differently (and "better") than ours so they just have a natural intuitive grasp of the "dialectical nature" of reality that allows them to perceive "dialectical contradictions" that the rest of us "just can't see".

All well and good...but how would we distinguish those making such a claim from those who tell us that they can "see demons" because they are more "spiritually advanced" than we are?

I've never heard any "dialecticians" actually make such a claim...but it would be a logical extension of the claims they do make.

Once you start down the road of "special understanding" that's "beyond ordinary understanding", where's the limit?

Aside from the limits of your own imagination, what can't you claim?


Similarly, the method of dialectical materialism is justified by the accuracy of the analyses made with it. IMO pretty decent, better than anyone else's...with the stipulation I'm talking about genuine Marxism here.

By "genuine Marxism" you refer to the Trotskyist variant of Leninism, of course.

Very well, let's assume you're right about that...just for the sake of discussion.

How then is the abysmal failure of Trotskyism (all versions) in the "west" to be explained? With their "mastery of the dialectic", why aren't they in power?

In fact, why were they even less successful than the Stalinists? You would presumably argue that the Stalinists knew "nothing" of "dialectics", right?

Are you going to blame "Stalinist perfidy"? How could that overcome the people whom you consider the "real masters of the dialectic"?

If Lenin's "dialectics" could defeat the Mensheviks, why didn't Trotsky's "dialectics" defeat the Stalinists?

Of course you could reply that a "dialectical analysis" of the 20th century "shows" that the "western" working class was simply "too weak" and the capitalist class was simply "too strong".

But I could say the same thing...and drop the word "dialectical" as unnecessary!

That's the cue for that guy with the razor. *laughs*

If ordinary "generic" historical materialism can explain a sequence of events without invoking the "dialectic", then the "dialectic" is unnecessary.

The simplest explanation that actually explains is to be preferred.

If someone challenges my analysis of some sequence of events on the basis that I've "left out dialectics", I can only echo that French scientist back during the enlightenment.

I had no need for that hypothesis.
First posted at RevLeft on January 8, 2006


But Redstar's the only one who claims (a suitably modified version of) Marxism can meet the current definition of science.

Or should be able to.

Granted that there is a lot of "Marxist" writing that clearly doesn't measure up.

I just don't think we should accept that any more.

As the bourgeoisie begins to "drift away" from a scientific outlook, I think it's all the more urgent for us to cultivate a scientific outlook.

Proletarian revolution, in the last analysis, is a war of civilization against barbarism!
First posted at RevLeft on January 9, 2006


Redstar's point "how can you prove the existence of a dialectical contradiction" is apples and oranges. It's like saying that nobody has ever seen or measured a hypothesis.

"Hypothesis" is a word that has a specific non-material meaning. We could just as well substitute the word guess.

This is my guess about what's going on in the material world.

To be scientific, of course, it must be testable and, in principle, falsifiable.

A "dialectical contradiction" is proposed as a property of's supposed to be "something" that "everything has."

Well, if "everything has one", where is it?

How does it differ from a "soul" which the superstitious claim that "everyone has"...but which has defied all efforts to locate.

If we say that X is a property of matter, then it necessarily follows that we must be able to detect the presence of X in all the matter that we can examine.

Not just "in our heads" but in real actual matter subject to some form of direct examination.

Consider the statement that "all matter is composed of quarks". To my knowledge, a "naked quark" has never been detected. But the behavior of matter in particle accelerators provides indirect evidence that quarks must exist...otherwise, that behavior is simply inexplicable.

If "dialectics" was truly a useful "method of inquiry", then there ought to be at least some kind of indirect material evidence that "dialectical contradictions" really "exist" a "force", a "field", something.

And there's nothing...except, of course, words.
First posted at RevLeft on January 10, 2006


If it were not for dialectics, Marx and Engels would never have been able to develop their theories!

Yes, I've heard that claim before.

It's not a testable hypothesis as stated.

But let's suppose, for the sake of discussion, that it's "true". Marx and Engels needed "dialectics" as a kind of scaffolding from which to erect their theories.

It's my proposition that their theories can now stand on their own and the scaffolding can be torn down and disposed of.

We can use ordinary logic, empirical investigation, and the axioms of the historical materialist paradigm to explain social reality without any "need" for "dialectics".

In fact, it's my opinion that Marx and Engels "could" have "done without dialectics" altogether...and still reached the same conclusions that they did.


You are just going to be laughing stock to any serious Marxist...

Here is something that you might want to think about. It does not matter who "laughs at you". What matters is that you search for the truth no matter where it takes you.

Marx made a favorable reference to Dante on the first page of Das Kapital...Follow your own course and never mind what others say.

I'm doing my best to do that.
First posted at RevLeft on January 10, 2006


When an egg is incubated (incubated by the mother chicken or placed in a mechanical incubator) it will hatch and there a chick is produced. Why was it so?

Because of the dialectical contradiction that is within it. The chemical reactions inside the egg plus the outside factor, the heat. That is the dialectical relationship of things. That is the dialectical contradiction.

External heat source vs. internal chemical reactions = "dialectical contradiction", right?

In what sense does an external heat source "contradict" a chemical reaction?

The chemical reactions associated with terrestrial carbon-based life forms generally speed up with the application of heat.

When you say that such-and-such natural phenomenon "contradicts" such-and-such other natural phenomenon, all you are doing is pasting a couple of labels on these phenomena and then asserting that the labels "contradict" each other.

Some other "dialectician" could make up a different set of labels...and how would we ordinary mortals be able to distinguish the "correct dialectic" from the "incorrect dialectic"?

Moreover, you don't need a "dialectical explanation" for why an egg plus heat gives rise to a chicken. We've known for a long time now that chickens, like all living organisms, derive from DNA...they are "built" from a "plan".


In social conditions, dialectical contradiction is that contradiction arising between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. If you can't see that contradiction, then you really are in big trouble.

Certainly the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are two classes with conflicting interests.

That's something that could be shown by simple don't need any "dialectical" assumptions to observe that plain fact.

What then is gained by pasting the label "dialectical contradiction" on the phenomenon?


As Marx puts it, dialectics is the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought.

Actually, it was Engels who said that...but he was wrong. There does not appear to be any such thing as "general laws of motion" that "apply to everything"...although there do seem to be "laws of motion" for specific phenomena under specific conditions.

Those "laws" are all different from each other.

And none of them come with neatly printed "dialectical" labels attached.
First posted at RevLeft on January 10, 2006


Without dialectics, Marx & Engels could have never examined the internal contradictions that drive society forward...

Yes, they would have avoided a useless hypothesis.

In the historical materialist paradigm, societies are "driven forward" not by "internal contradictions" but by changes in the means of production.

Those changes stress the existing relations of production...and eventually cause their replacement with new relations of production.

In my opinion, Marx and Engels could have made that discovery even if they'd never heard of Hegel.

quote: organism is living and dying at the same time; unlike a rock, it is alive, yet every second of life is one second closer to death...

But in real life, we treat living organisms differently from the way we treat dead organisms.

Would you care to be buried at this moment because "in the long run you're dialectically dead"???

Thus your "dialectical labels" reduce to a quip...that no one in practice takes at all seriously.


Engels, and later Lenin had also noted that Capital is rigorously dialectical in content, pointing out numerous contradictions within capitalism itself.

Well, if they said it then it "must be true", right? *laughs*

I am not competent to make that call myself. But it does seem to me that Capital would be a far more accessible work minus its baroque "dialectical" flourishes.


How can you think that we can continue to observe contradictory phenomena by "abandoning the scaffolding" and ceasing to look at such contradictions?

Because those "contradictions" don't exist except in the heads of "dialecticians". Real physics tells us all we need to know about the behavior of water under certain conditions.


The communism of the future is a return to primitive communistic systems, but on a much higher, qualitative level (negation of the negation), etc.

Who cares? The "case for communism" does not rest in any sense on the forms of pre-class society anymore than it rests on "primate nature".

Communism is a prediction based on a historical materialist analysis of how capitalism works. It may turn out to be a good prediction or a bad one...the jury is "still out".

But suggesting that it's "dialectically inevitable" does not "confirm" the prediction.

Only the actual establishment of a working communist society in real life can confirm that Marx was right.

It can't be done by mere words.
First posted at RevLeft on January 10, 2005

quote (Marx to Engels, August 15, 1857):

As to the Delhi affair, it seems to me that the English ought to begin their retreat as soon as the rainy season has set in real earnest. Being obliged for the present to hold the fort for you as the Tribune's military correspondent, I have taken it upon myself to put this forward...It's possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way.
-- emphasis added.

As I've had occasion to note before, Marx and Engels made a lot of "off hand" remarks in their private correspondence that I imagine they'd hate to have been "held to account for" publicly.

Here I think we have an awareness on Marx's part of the potential for fraud in "dialectics".

You can "use" it to say anything...provided that you're careful to allow for any possible outcome.

How useful is that?
First posted at RevLeft on January 11, 2006


And you obviously reject it in favor of Bourgeois philosophy. Good job.

The rise of modern science corresponds with the rise of the question about it.

The sustained and largely successful rebellion against clerical mysticism and metaphysical philosophies was one of the great victories of the human species.

And the bourgeoisie paid for it...out of the surplus value they extracted from our labor power.

It was about the only damn decent thing they ever did with our money!

And it may be coming to an American capitalist these days could be more likely to fund some fucking superstition factory than anything resembling scientific research.

A young and vigorous capitalist class has a different outlook...

From Sweatshop to Laboratory

Meanwhile, what are we to make of your label "bourgeois" philosophy? To be scientific is to "be bourgeois", perhaps? *laughs*

Whereas to "be proletarian" is to tenaciously cling to 19th century metaphysics??

Inspite of its demonstrated uselessness???

In any contest between science and metaphysics, metaphysics will lose.

As the Leninists have consistently lost since 1975.

Indeed, "all you base belong to capitalists". *laughs*

If I cannot dissuade you from "going down" with the "dialectical" ship, that's too bad.

But if I can convince the revolutionaries of this century not to waste their time with that crap, then I will have done them a great service.

Dumping metaphysical illusions is always a step forward.
First posted at RevLeft on January 11, 2006


Things don't just happen and develop without contradictions. It is a result of the actions, interactions, reactions within itself and its environment. All matters are interrelated and interact. That is the dialectics.

The most recently fashionable version is "everything is connected to everything else".

If that is true, it's a trivial truth. It doesn't tell us anything useful about anything.

Someone claims, for example, that simulated violence in computer games "causes" computer game players to be "more aggressive".

Violent computer games may make people more likely to act aggressively, a study says.

I can see a "dialectician" saying at once: this reveals the "dialectical contradiction" between...

Between what?

Between anything he pleases. If "everything is connected to everything else", then violence in computer games "must" be connected to real physical violence.

Not to mention the gravitational influence of the Crab Nebula. *laughs*

In science, just to assert that something is "connected" -- "dialectically" or otherwise -- is not sufficient. Science looks for causal links...Phenomenon X happens because of this specific property of cause Y.

Suppose it could be demonstrated that playing a violent computer game generated a specific response in the human that could easily be measured. Suppose then it could be shown that this response is also generated when people actually engage in physical violence. And suppose finally that it could be shown that this response is "learned"...the more often it is generated, the more readily it appears -- whether the stimulus is "virtual" or real.

Now, you'd have something that could be said scientifically.

Playing violent computer games causes people to be more violent because they arouse and reinforce the same brain response that appears in people who actually engage in violent behavior.

How has "dialectics" helped us arrive at this conclusion? No matter what "dialectical" labels were pasted on the various aspects of this question, how would that have assisted us in arriving at a scientific conclusion?

The "grunt work" -- actual research -- would still have to be done to say anything useful on the subject.

Thus "dialectics" is like a mail-order permits the pretense of knowledge without actually knowing anything.

Except how to write a check. *laughs*

After someone has done the research and arrived at what looks to be a valid scientific conclusion, any "dialectician" can walk behind him and paste on the "dialectical" labels.

What does that achieve in the way of additional insight?

As far as I can tell, not a damn thing.
First posted at RevLeft on January 12, 2006


And how contradictions in societies happen and why and how to effect changes in society is dialectical materialism.

And how to have a concrete grasp of social conditions is dialectical materialism.

And how Marxism became Marxism is dialectical materialism....

How is one supposed to respond to this list of sheer assertions?

They all translate into: label is label or word is word.

You might say, with equal certainty, that "the communion wafer is the Body of Christ".

Except that assertion could be and has been disproved.

Your assertions just hang up in the air...with total disdain for anything so grubby as actual usefulness down here on Earth.

You claim that you want to "change the world"...but how can you possibly do that when your method of "understanding the world" is hopelessly metaphysical?
First posted at RevLeft on January 13, 2006


When analyzed, it becomes clear that Marxism, Leninism, and Trotskyism are the same thing.

I'm well aware that this is "an article of faith" with you.

That don't mean it's true.


You have repeatedly ignored evidence that refutes your points, as pro-capitalists tend to do when one argues with them.

I cannot "ignore evidence" when none is offered. I have repeatedly requested a demonstration of the actual utility of "dialectics". I have repeatedly received nothing but unsubstantiated assertions.

Consider this one from your Maoist colleague...


What separates dialectical materialism from all the rest of philosophies, ideologies or theories is that it would look for a way on how to put an end to such contradiction based on the actual material conditions and replace it with a better more advanced social system out of that old society.

But it has not found one.

The feudal war-lords did not need "dialectics" to overthrow ancient despotisms. The emerging bourgeoisie did not need "dialectics" to overthrow the feudal aristocracy.

It's in the material class interests of a new ruling class to overthrow an old one.

If Marx was right about how capitalism would develop, then it's in the material class interests of the proletariat in late capitalist society to overthrow the old bourgeoisie.

You don't need "dialectics" to figure that out. It "logically follows" from the axioms of historical materialism.

As for "dialectics" as a "guide to action", it sucks! The concrete results of your "applied dialectics" have been catastrophic!

And your Trotskyist colleagues have done even worse.

I'm amazed that all you "dialecticians" have the nerve to show your faces in public with the same old claims that have been repeatedly discredited.

All of you claim a Leninist "mastery of the dialectic"...and none of you have squat to show for it.

It's as if Ken Lay (Enron) were to go on tour seeking venture capital on the grounds of his "executive experience". *laughs*

Outside of some backward country where people really didn't know any better, who the hell would trust you to run a hot dog stand...much less a revolution!
First posted at RevLeft on January 13, 2006


I get bored with these kinds of responses.

Do you imagine I don't?

I would be delighted if the "dialecticians" would respond to my criticisms with something besides platitudes, assertions, and a fog of verbiage.

But that seems to be "the best you can do".

And, in fact, that demonstrates even better than my criticisms the total uselessness of "dialectics". You really can't say anything coherent on the subject...because "dialectics" is intrinsically incoherent.

Dialectics means whatever I want it to mean and it says whatever I want it to say.

Do you imagine that modern revolutionaries are going to eat that shit???
First posted at RevLeft on January 13, 2006


Let me make a picture of your "theory".

You say that the working class can't act or do a revolution now because the material conditions do not permit it. Wait until all of humanity have been drained of their energy and realized that "oh, we're all fucked up! We should act now!". It's certainly like, don't change your underwear until it's really worn out. I bet you do that.

I don't want to shock you...but I don't wear any underwear at all. Like "dialectics", I don't need it.

It was indeed Marx's idea that an old form of class society is not overthrown until its productive possibilities had been exhausted.

That's one of the crucial reasons why he thought that proletarian revolution would take place first in the most advanced capitalist countries...because capitalism in those countries would have become senile.

Indeed, if you look at the differences between China and the U.S., you can actually see the differences between a rising self-confident bourgeoisie and a decaying bourgeoisie "on the way out".

Once more, you don't need "dialectics" to do that.

It's obvious!

I don't know from what metaphysical orifice you plucked the notion of "humanity drained of their energy".

An aging ruling class does indeed appear to be "drained of energy". That's one of the material conditions required for successful proletarian revolution.

If you examine the landed aristocracies of Russia or France in the decades prior to their overthrow, you can actually see their confusion, their lassitude, their growing inability to rationally act in their own class interests. They "lost themselves" in dreams of their "glorious past" and were simply incapable of meeting the revolutionary challenge that grew up right in front of them.

I think this tendency can already be seen in the American bourgeoisie. It's still "small" and there remains some vigor in the ruling class here...but I think the "motion" is in the direction of senility.

Once again, here I am considering "motion" in history without using "dialectics".

I don't need it.

Neither does anyone else.


Go back and look at that link I put forth.

Be serious. Do you think I have time for the Gospel According to Alan & Ted?

What is that work really except an "updated" version of the lamentable Dialectics of Nature?

Pasting retroactive labels on scientific phenomena is not evidence for "dialectics".


Not seeing dialectics does not mean that it does not exist.

At the very moment you were posting this "insight", some semi-literate godsucker in the Religion subforum was writing:

u dont have to see sumthing to believe in it.. do u see atoms? dont u believe they exist?! the thing is... u can prove it without seeing it!!!

He's talking about "Allah".

Other than basic literacy, what's the difference between you and him?


Okay, is there even any proof you have to back this up?

Just the whole history of 20th century Leninism. Are you intending to argue otherwise? *laughs*


You claim that you have a mastery over how Marx/Engels and Lenin/Trotsky were wrong, yet you have squat to show for it!

Ah...but I'm just starting out...I've only been posting these ideas for three years. Leninist "dialectics" has had around a century to "deliver the goods".

Results: zip!

If anti-Leninist Marxism purged of all traces of "dialectical" mysticism has produced nothing by 2100, then your response will be pertinent.

I don't see how we could do any worse than you have...but I must admit that it's possible that I could be wrong.

On the other hand, it looks to be impossible for the "dialecticians" to "ever" be least as they tell it.

All their manifest failures are "dialectically transformed" into "brilliant successes" least in words. *laughs*


Who the hell would trust you with a revolution? I have never asked anyone to do that. I do not pretend to some "special understanding" that's "beyond" ordinary working people.

What I tell people is comprehensible...and people can accept it or reject it depending on whether or not they think it makes sense.

You "dialecticians" are the ones who claim to have a "special understanding" and demand that ordinary working people "trust you" to "lead a revolution" and "run the show afterwards".

But your track record conclusively demonstrates that your "special understanding" ain't worth a puddle of piss.

No one should "trust you"...ever!
First posted at RevLeft on January 13, 2006

The dialectician's lament...


They simply interpret the world, and let it go through its slow pace of motion. While Marx's (dialectical and historical materialism) was different. He proposes an action.

Alas, the world moves but not quickly enough. Let's do something that will "make it move faster".

Like booster rockets mounted on the earth's equator to make it spin faster. *laughs*


And the current philosophers and theorist-pretenders such as redstar who deviates, or in his words gets rid of dialectics, aren't really modern theorists. They've just gone back into the pre-Marx era way of thinking.

In a moment of gloom, the "pre-Marxist" Albert Einstein once said, "Mankind is very stupid and progress is very slow".

This is a subjective impression that results from an objective material condition: the human life-span is very short compared to the times required for large-scale social change.

Imagine a revolutionary bourgeois in Cromwell's "New Model Army" (c.1640CE) sincerely believing that "a new world was at hand". Would "dialectics" have helped him realize that the formal triumph of the English bourgeoisie was still over two centuries in the future?

Would understanding "dialectics" have made that happen any faster?

So it is for us. We can "do things" that will assist in a small way the progress towards a proletarian revolution. But "macro-history" involves the actions of enormous numbers of people spread out over a long period of history.

And "dialectics" is not some kind of philosophical "rocket fuel" that will "accelerate history" to "escape velocity".

Things just don't work that way.
First posted at RevLeft on January 17, 2006

The "dialecticians" reflexively assert that "only dialectics" can "deal with change" while ordinary language can "only" deal with "static identities".

Rosa Lichtenstein has another new essay up on her site in which she skewers this pompous nonsense with a simple list demonstrating the incredible richness of ordinary language in dealing with change...


Here is a greatly shortened list of ordinary words (restricted to modern English) that allow speakers to refer to changes of unbounded complexity:

Vary, alter, adjust, amend, mutate, transmute, modify, develop, expand, swell, flow, differentiate, fast, slow, rapid, hasty, melt, harden, drip, cascade, fade, is, was, will be, will have been, had, will have had, went, go, going, gone, lost, age, flood, crumble, disintegrate, erode, corrode, flake, tumble, cut, crush, grind, shred, fall, rise, spin, oscillate, rotate, wave, quickly, slowly, instantaneous, suddenly, gradually, rapidly, sell, buy, lose, win, ripen, rot, perish, grow, decay, more, less, fewer, steady, steadily, jerkily, slowly, quickly, very, extremely, exceedingly, intermittent, continuous, continual, push, pull, jump, break, charge, assault, dismantle, replace, undo, reverse, repeal, quash, hour, minute, second, instant, destroy, annihilate, boil, freeze, thaw, liquefy, evaporate, solidify, condense, protest, challenge, expel, eject, remove, overthrow, expropriate, defeat, strike, revolt, riot, march, demonstrate, rebel, campaign, agitate and organise….

The Law of Identity

The utter poverty of the language of "dialectics" stands revealed.

The "dialecticians" are linguistic panhandlers...and a flagrant nuisance on the streets of public discourse.

They ought to just go get a job! *laughs*
First posted at RevLeft on January 22, 2006
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