The purpose of this site it to explain the general scientific outlook of Marxism, dialectical materialism, in the form in which it must concretely exist in the present -
Dialectical Materialism as
a Practical Method
(Like every other science, philosophy has its own scientific terminology. All the concepts and categories used in dialectical materialism are scientifically derived and proved, originally by Hegel, and exist in an interrelated unity and conflict, becoming transformed into each other during the process of cognition. As we introduce each new term we shall present it in bold type)
All properly constituted philosophy is polemical. Since each philosophy claims to represent the truth, then at the same time it must deny every other. All affirmation is negation, says Spinoza. Philosophy which does not fight its corner is spineless and not worthy of the name. At the same time another great philosopher advises us that “There is a well known saying that if geometrical axioms affected human interests attempts would certainly be made to disprove them.” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 15, page 31).
Philosophy is the struggle of mankind to grasp and understand the material world of which we are a part in order to change it in such a way as to ensure that we can survive and prosper as a species. Every living creature does this, but only man does it in the conscious way.
When philosophy takes determinate forms in the struggle of man against the rest of nature as a species on this planet, it reflects humanity as it finds it, divided into classes along economic, social and political lines. Presently these classes are the capitalist class, which owns all productive wealth, the means to life, and wields its monopoly to oppress and exploit the working class, which owns nothing but means of consumption which it must daily renew by hiring out its power to labour to the capitalists for wages.
As a result, two philosophies are locked in deadly combat today. Idealism, which holds that consciousness determines being, that only thought exists and that the world external to thought is a product of it. This philosophy serves the interests of the capitalist, ruling class. The other philosophy is the dialectical opposite to this, Materialism, which holds that the material world exists independently of thought, which latter is a reflection of it, more or less correct according to the stage of development of humanity. In other words, materialism acknowledges that like all knowledge, philosophy is historically conditioned; we proceed from less profound to more profound knowledge. This philosophy serves the material interests of the working class.
Clearly, the second of these philosophies is the harbinger of change, since it alone is capable of grasping the new in nature and society, and the only class whose material interests are served by change is the working class. As a mode of production, a way of organising the process of production and distribution to meet the needs of humanity, capitalism is manifestly a historically bankrupt system. The capitalist class, whose interests are served by the preservation of the status quo, are bound to resist change, to deny the need for it so as to protect their material interests. They take refuge in idealism, to divorce thought from reality in order to construct false theories of nature and society to suit their purpose. Their philosophers and intellectuals are busy advancing all kinds of idealistic, religious and Utopian theories in order to resist change and justify the continued existence of the present outmoded capitalist economic system. The geometrical axioms are certainly not safe from them.
The work you are about to read poses the opposite to this, materialist philosophy based upon dialectical logic which correctly reflects the natural laws of motion of the material world in which we live, including the motion of human society and thought. This scientific outlook offers a certain way out of the impasse to which hundreds of years of capitalism have brought us by correctly grasping the truth of the present world social and economic crisis, and formulating the correct social, economic and political theory necessary for its solution.
I. The External World and Thought
The Materialist Outlook
All that exists, all that is in being, can be divided into two categories, the objective material world, and the world of thought. The question then arises, how do these two things, these two sides of the totality of Being, relate to each other ? In general, there are only two possible answers to this question, and from the very beginning philosophers have been divided into two opposing camps, depending on which of these they took to be correct. These two opposing points of view are materialism, which holds that the objective material world, (matter), exists independently of man, and that human thought, consciousness, is a reflection of it, and idealism, which holds that human consciousness exists independently of the objective material world, and all that apparently exists is somehow a creation of thought. The battle between these two diametrically opposed points of view rages to this day. The reason for this antagonism is that each of the two philosophies represents, or serves, a particular class interest. Idealism serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class, while materialism serves the interest of the working class. Marxism is a materialist philosophy.
The conflict between Marxism as a materialist philosophy and all forms of idealism is best understood by way of a study of Lenin’s book, Materialism and Empirio-
The Machist outlook, says Lenin, is in essence no different to that of the classical idealist philosopher, George Berkeley, (1685 to 1753). He quotes a passage from Berkeley’s main work, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
published in 1710.
“It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding.” This opinion is a “manifest contradiction, for, what are the afore-
According to Berkeley, all we can know is our sensations, and the world that is contained in them is somehow created by them, and nothing outside them exists. Nothing can exist separately from the human perception of it, so that to be consistent Berkeley would have to claim that when he walks out of a room everything in it disappears. Such is the absurdity of idealism, but it gets worse. Taking it to its logical conclusion, Berkeley must conclude that if everything is the creation of his own sensations, then so is every other person, that only he exists, and that there is therefore no purpose in trying to communicate his ideas to others. Why, then, did he bother to write a book ? Such philosophy is known as solipsism.
In order to show that Empirio-
“The task of science,” wrote Mach in 1872, “can only be: 1). To determine the laws of connection of ideas. (Psychology). 2). To discover the laws of connection of sensations. (Physics). 3). To explain the laws of connection between sensations and ideas. (Phycho-
Clearly, there is no mention of the objective world of matter here. For Mach it did not exist, which means that all we know of it must be a creation of the mind, and we are back to idealism and solipsism. Lenin gives the complete refutation of the idealist view on page 101 of Volume 14. First he quotes Engels :-
“The most telling refutation of this and all other philosophical crotchets is practice, namely, experiment and industry. If we are able to prove the correctness of our perception of natural processes by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and making it serve our purposes into the bargain, then there is an end to the Kantian incomprehensible ‘thing-
The concept of the ‘thing-
“What is the kernel of Engels’ objection ? Yesterday we did not know that coal tar contains alizarin. Today we know that it does. The question is, did coal tar contain alizarin yesterday ? Of course it did. To doubt it would be to make a mockery of modern science. And if that is so, three important epistemological conclusion follow:
1) Things exist independently of our sensations, outside of us, for it is beyond doubt that alizarin existed in coal tar yesterday and it is equally beyond doubt that yesterday we knew nothing of the existence of this alizarin and received no sensations from it.
2) There is definitely no difference in principle between the phenomenon and the thing-
3) In the theory of knowledge, as in every other sphere of science, we must think dialectically, that is, we must not regard our knowledge as ready made and unalterable, but must determine how knowledge emerges from ignorance, how incomplete, inexact knowledge becomes more complete and more exact.” [See below for an explanation of dialectics]
It was, of course, through experimentation and industry that several of the exact sciences, including geology, chemistry, and physics, proved long ago that the Earth existed long before there were humans, or even animals, to perceive it. Lenin summarizes the materialist outlook in three important passages in Volume 14. Explaining the connection between the external, material world and thought he writes :-
“For every scientist who has not been led astray by prophessorial philosophy, as well as for every materialist, sensation is indeed the direct connection between consciousness and the external world; it is the transformation of the energy of external excitation into the fact of consciousness. This transformation has been, and is, observed by each of us a million times on every hand. The sophism of idealist philosophy consists in the fact that it regards sensation as not being the connection between consciousness and the external world, but a fence, a wall, separating consciousness from the external world -
The explanation is developed a little further on page 69 :-
“Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world, and it is obvious that an image cannot exist without the thing imaged, and that the latter exists independently of the former.”
Dealing with the concept of the external world of matter, which the Machists claimed had disappeared, and whether it is truly given to man in sensation Lenin writes on page 130:-
“If you hold that is given, [the existence of matter], a philosophical concept is needed for this objective reality, and this concept has been worked out long, long ago. This concept is matter. Matter is a philosophical category denoting the objective reality which is given to man by his sensations, and which is copied, photographed and reflected by our sensations, while existing independently of them.”
The discovery of the electron in the field of exact science led the Machists astray because they had failed to grasp correctly the concept of matter as a philosophical category. If the physicists had failed to measure the mass of the electron, they had merely discovered something unexpected about matter, which nonetheless exists. Matter, then, is a general philosophical category denoting all that exists external to, and independently of, the world of thought. All matter is interconnected and is in eternal motion and change. Motion is the fundamental attribute of matter, it is the mode of existence of matter. Through its infinite motion, matter is bound to take existence in all kinds of forms to infinity, which come into Being and pass away in time. The concept of Being will be examined later. The perception of the motion of matter, the coming into Being and passing away of the infinity of forms it takes, and of the living inter-
Since materialism is the practice of allowing the external world of matter to determine thought, and since matter is in constant motion, then it follows that to be truly materialistic thought must correctly reflect this motion. We have explained that Marxism is materialism, but it is materialism of a particular kind, materialism guided by dialectical logic, or dialectical materialism. The dialectical method proceeds by grasping everything in relation to its own opposite, how these opposites relate, and how the conflict between them causes them to change and develop. The best starting point for the study of this method is Volume 38 of Lenin’s Collected Works, which contains the notes he made while studying the work of previous philosophers, particularly Hegel, (1770-
“Dialectics is the teaching which shows how opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical -
The science of Marxism has made a great deal of progress in the elaboration of this first principle, firstly by Marx himself, and through the work of Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and others. The result of all this work can be expressed formally in three general laws of dialectics. Here is the first law:-
All progress takes place through the unity, conflict,
interpenetration, and transformation of opposites.
We must weigh each word carefully. What precisely is meant by unity ? A study of the nature of matter shows that all the matter in the universe is inter-
Paradoxical as it may seem, opposites become identical precisely because they start off different. It is clear that a thing must be different to that which it affects and changes or no change could take place at all. That which is changed resists, hence the changing process appears as a struggle of opposites, conflict. The concept of inter-
All progress takes place through the transformation of quantity
into quality and vice versa.
Engels explains this law very simply:
“For our purpose, we can express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion (so-
The transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa is an obvious case of things being transformed into their opposites, and to find how they are transformed we must first discover how, by a process of interpenetration, they become identical. How exactly does quantity become identical with quality? The first thing we note is that it is not even possible to speak of one in isolation from the other. In our example from Engels we see that he does not speak of quantity as an abstraction, but of a quantity of a quality; a quantity of matter or a quantity of energy of some kind, and the quantitative change of quality is expressed in the concept of Alteration. Let us take as an example a quality such as a colour, say blue. If we leave a dark blue object out in the sunlight it will fade and become light blue – but it is still blue. Alteration is change of quality within the limits of that quality. If we leave the object in the sunlight long enough it will exceed the limits of the quality in question, the colour blue in this case, and become white. At the moment of qualitative transformation, the infinitely small quantity of blue is the same as the quality white. Quantity and quality find a moment of identity, and that is the leap from one quality to another. We see countless examples of this. By increasing the quantity of heat in a body of water the transformation to a new quality, from liquid to steam, suddenly occurs at a definite temperature at a given pressure; progressively adding weight to one side of a balance causes it to tip, and so on. So this is what we mean by the transformation of quantity into quality. The reverse process, the transformation of quality into quantity, is best understood by a study of the third law, which is:-
The law of the negation of the negation.
This law brings the other two into a unity and expresses the whole nature of the dialectical motion of matter, so that it must be explained at greater length, and in doing so we must introduce more terms and concepts which are necessary to the practice of dialectical logic.
To understand the concept of Negation we must start from the twin concepts of Quantity and Quality. If a thing or substance exists then it is self-
We begin with the consideration of the unity and conflict of opposites. Each opposite affects the other in some way, and in turn is affected by it. We may say that each Reflects the other. The dominating opposite determines the outcome of the motion involved, so we refer to this one as Cause and the way it changes the other as Effect. There is Difference between the two opposites, and it is helpful to consider this Difference from the point of view of one side, the affected side. The opposite with which it is in unity and conflict is a separate thing outside it, so we refer to the Difference between them as External Difference, and since the two opposites are different each one has its own Identity. We have said that the affected opposite, (Effect), Reflects the other, dominant opposite, (Cause). This means that the External Difference is reflected within the affected side, and changes it. This is Quantitative change. The affected side becomes, through time, more and more like its opposite, and correspondingly less and less like itself, and for this reason we tend to regard Cause as Positive and Effect as Negative. In every moment then, the affected opposite reflects the External difference internally, and this is its own Internal Difference.
But in considering what a thing is “like”, we are considering Quality, not Quantity, and in order to grasp the way in which quantitative change, (increase or decrease), affects quality we must deepen our understanding of the concept of quantity as such. There are two sides to quantity, Extensive Quantity and Intensive Quantity. It is self evident that mere Extensive increase of a given, determinate quality can never change it. If we say “increase this quality then we have already placed a pre-
A thing has Identity because it is defined by a particular Quality, and in this way the Quality is the Determination of the Identity. If the Quality is changed beyond its Limit then the Identity becomes differently Determined, a leap takes place and it changes into a different thing. It is the Cause, (the opposite), which has had its Effect, imposed its Quality on the thing. But we remember that according to the First Law the opposites inter-
Up to now we have considered Quantitative Negation and Qualitative Negation separately, but it is important to notice that each opposite, Quality and Quantity, has its own way of affecting the other. Quantity gradually changes Quality, and gradual change of quality within its limit is Alteration. The leap takes place when the limit is reached. But qualitative change has its effect on quantitative change. Whatever new quality comes into being, it will certainly affect quantitative change, since different qualities behave differently according to their nature, changing in different ways and at different rates through time etc.
This universal form of motion can be grasped through the related concepts of Thesis, Anti-
To summarise this account of the Law of the Negation of the Negation, we can say that we begin with Intensive Quantitative Negation, a gradual increase or decrease of Quality through time, (Alteration), the existing Quantity being continually negated by a new Quantity, but a Limit is reached at which this process is brought to an end by a sudden Qualitative negation, the ceasing to be of one Quality and the coming to be of another. It is important to be clear however that it is the process of Intensive Quantitative Negation itself that is Negated by the Qualitative leap, not one of the opposites by the other. This is a common misunderstanding.
It is clear from this that nothing lasts for ever, that everything is in a state of coming into being and passing away, changing and approaching the end of its existence. The key to the understanding of dialectical logic, however, is to grasp that these two processes do not happen in sequence one after the other, but both progress simultaneously. Every thing, in every moment, is in a state of coming into being and passing away through transformation into something different. Every thing is at once itself and the other of itself, a living, existing Contradiction. Identity is the Positive side of this contradiction, and Difference is the Negative side. The concept of Contradiction is the fundamental principle of dialectics, the “datum” concept. Contradiction is the driving life principle within all movement and transitions of all things, including human social conditions and human thought, into their opposites. Further, we see that matter is infinite and in continuous motion and our exposition of the laws so far expresses this only in a finite way. The continuous motion of matter manifests a repetition of the laws as an endless process of development into higher forms of Existence, (qualities), the coming into Being and passing away of things and ever more complex forms of motion, thus:-
Affirmation→Negation→Negation of Negation
(Quantitative) Qualitative Leap
to new Affirmation→Negation→Negation of Negation
(Quantitative) Qualitative Leap
to new Affirmation→
It is well known that the dialectical materialist method, Marxism, came into being as a result of the materialist critique by Marx of the work of the German philosopher, Frederick Hegel. Dialectics proper began with Hegel, although the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was also an originator. Hegel was an idealist, but he was a master of the dialectic and therefore it is necessary to study his work closely. In order to make the leap from the formal, metaphysical logic which is the dominating method in present society, to the dialectical method, and to grasp the basic laws of motion we have described, we must study Hegel. He begins with the doctrine of Being.
As we have explained above, “affirmation” is a positing or thesis, “this thing is …”, and this is precisely the concept of Being. It does not imply the existence of any real, definite thing, but only the fact that things do exist. Hegel regards Being as the most universal and abstract concept and takes it as the starting point of his system of logic:-
"Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relative to another; it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. It would not be held fast in its purity if it contained any determination or content which could be distinguished in it or by which it could be distinguished from an other. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing" (Science of Logic, Humanity Books, page 82, F. Hegel)
So Being is identical to Nothing, its own opposite or negation, its passing away. Hegel then goes on to give the other side of the picture.
"Nothing, pure nothing: It is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content-
Those who seriously struggle to master dialectics must master this concept of Nothing. It is pure emptiness with no internal differentiation, the exact opposite of Being. But the very fact that we can describe it is proof enough that it has Being as a thought form and must therefore hold objective meaning. As Hegel goes on to explain, Being and Nothing, although they are the same, are also distinct:-
"Pure being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. What is the truth is neither being nor nothing, but that being – does not pass over but has passed over-
“Does not pass over but has passed over”; If two things are already one and the same, then we must accept that they have already passed into each other. But what is the result of the vanishing of opposites?
“The resultant equilibrium of coming-
Here we see the law of the Negation of the Negation laid bare. The first, (quantitative), Negation, Becoming, is clearly a process which takes place through time, but if this process reaches a limit, ceases, if the vanishing vanishes, then it itself, the process as such, has been negated. But why do we describe the second Negation, the Negation of the first, as a Qualitative leap? Precisely because it is a stable result. Being, something which is stable, definite, Determinate Being, as opposed to Being as such which is the same as Nothing, has fixed limits in all respects, and limits imply a “beyond”, some other which is not the thing in question, and differentiation between things in this way can only be made by use of the concept of Quality. A boundary or limit is the meeting point of two different qualities.
With practice and a degree of self-
The true relationship between the world of human thought, and the world of matter to which it is related as an opposite within, has been scientifically stated as follows:-
“It is in man that nature really performs, in a self-
From this it is evident that, taken at the universal level, the totality of human thought must be seen as difference within the identity of Nature as a whole. However, we are here discussing the nature of the relationship of thought to the material world at the level of the individual.
Now since we are discussing the question of how the human mind grasps, or cognizes, the External World, then the relation of opposites we are concerned with is that between the external world which is the source or cause of sensation, and sensation itself. We have said that thought processes behave in exactly the same way as do the material processes of the external world, through the unity and conflict, interpenetration and transformation of opposites. We consider the external world and sensation as dialectically related opposites in unity and conflict. However, we cannot reflect the whole world in sensation all at once, rather we experience a continual stream of sensations caused by the individual, finite things which come before us. In our science of dialectical materialism we refer to each such thing as the Identity of the Source of Sensation, and they are reflected in the form of thought Images in sensation, the Identity being cause and the Image effect. Sensation begins as a purely physical response, on the retina of the eye, the ear-
In order to describe the further development of this thought image, as indeed the development of any thing, be it some material thing in the external world or a thought, we must follow its motion according to the law of the negation of the negation. This first negation of the external world into the image in sensation, quite obviously changes sensation since a new image has come into being, and this is difference within sensation. This new state of sensation contradicts, quantitatively negates, the previous state. But the image is only a reflection of the outer form of the thing in the external world, the identity of the source of sensation. Hence we describe this first moment of perception, in so far as it is a single moment in our process of cognition in general, as the Indeterminate Beginning, and for a true understanding of the thing in the external world we must concentrate our attention on the identity to complete our knowledge of it. This can be described as a movement from thought back outwards to the external world, a negation of the indeterminate beginning into a new moment of connection with the original identity. But time as passed and the identity has now changed, and it is the quantity of change through time that provides us with the new knowledge of the identity. We may have to return our thought back to the external world in this way just once or repeatedly for a greater or lesser period of time, but a point will come when this quantitative increase reaches a limit and sufficient change has taken place to reveal the inner content as opposed to its outer form. At this point the quantitative process is negated by a qualitative leap to a new moment of understanding. The negation is negated and a new affirmation is posited. The point at which some new reflection of the Identity causes the leap is called the third term. (Please accept this term as simply a name for this moment of cognition. To achieve a degree of simplicity, we shall not attempt to explain why it is called the “third term” here.)
At this point it is most helpful to refer to Lenin’s philosophical notes, because he gives a step by step interpretation of Hegel’s dialectic from the materialist standpoint:-
“The result of the negation of the negation, this third term is ‘not a quiescent third term, but, as this unity’ (of contradictions), ‘is self-
The two contradictions Lenin refers to are:-
a) The contradiction contained in difference in sensation at the indeterminate beginning. (New image)
b) The contradiction between the indeterminate beginning and the image in sensation at the Third term. (Time has passed)
To grasp this moment in the process of cognition, of which Lenin speaks, is a crucial step in grasping the dialectical materialist method. Firstly, we note that he speaks of Unity, not Identity. These two contradictory moments undoubtedly form a unity because, generally speaking they are the same thing, one and the same process, the reflection of the external world in thought as an image in sensation, as explained above. But, more concretely speaking, they are distinct from each other, because each is a separate case of this process of reflection, each taken at a different moment in time. The thing has changed and the second reflection therefore contradicts the first.
To explain a little further: We know that motion, or change of any kind, can only be perceived by comparing the successive positions of a moving body, or perhaps the changes taking place within it, by taking it at different moments of time and comparing the two images. The Difference between the thing at the two moments tells us the truth of the thing, the law of its motion.
As Hegel, (quoted by Lenin), explains, this process, taken as one whole, is “self mediating movement and activity, because each contradictory moment tells us about the other, shines a light on it as it were. The first moment, which has of course now passed away in time but remains as an image in thought, tells us about the second, its shape, colour, its outer form in general. The second moment tells us about the first -
Lenin further notes:-
“The result of this dialectical transformation into the ‘third’ term, into the synthesis, is a new premise, assertion etc., [Affirmation], which in turn becomes a source of a further analysis … ” (Ibid.)
What is the synthesis that has taken place? Clearly it is the synthesis between the two moments of reflection which are quantitatively different, the first at the indeterminate beginning, and the second at the third term, and synthesis, we know, is the coming together of two things, the overcoming of the quantitative, first negation, by a negation of this negation itself. The result of this negation of negation is a qualitative leap in our understanding of the identity in the external world to the point where we can definitely say what it is. We shall explain the nature of this leap.
We call such a new affirmation as this a “thing-
“These two moments thus constitute Semblance: Nullity, which however persists, and Being, which however is Moment; or again negativity which is in itself, and reflected immediacy. Consequently these moments are the moments of Essence itself.” (Op. Cit., page 132)
How does Nullity persist? We remember that the third term is a synthesis of the indeterminate beginning and the identity of the source of sensation at a later moment in time, and this later moment is of course the present. At this point the past has gone, has been rendered null, but lives on, persists, as the Form of the thing, which remains unchanged. The new moment is what it has become, through the changed inner Content of the Form. Why is Being the same as Moment? Upon careful consideration we can understand that only the present is in Being – the past moment has gone and in no sense can be considered to be in Being, and the same can be said of the future, it has not yet come into Being. Hence to be strictly scientific we must consider the Being of this thing as a single moment. Each side of Semblance is "not" the other, is the negative of the other. But since these two sides are united in one moment this negativity is contained inside them, is "in-
Lenin, quoting Hegel, goes into the question of Essence on the next page:
“Thus Semblance is Essence itself, but Essence in a determinateness, and this in such a manner that determinateness is only its moment; Essence is the showing of itself in itself.”
The category of Essence is the fundamental principle upon which all determinate being rests, the deepest truth of any thing, and it must be explained carefully. At the third term the form is the form of the thing as it was at the moment of the indeterminate beginning, (nullity which persists), and its inner content (matter) is that which is in Being at the third term. But it is the matter which gives rise to forms, and forms are forms of matter. In an individual case such as this, it is this form which encompasses this matter, and this matter which takes this form. Each makes the other what it is, mediates it, and it is in this sense that we use the term Reflection. Clearly, this reflection is the very deepest truth of the thing in Semblance, and that is why Semblance is Essence itself. Essence, of course, is the deepest truth of all Being, and is obviously universal, everywhere, but one moment of Semblance is only one "case" of it, a particular determination of it. Semblance is Essence "in a determinateness". Since Essence is everywhere and, in consonance with the motion of matter, is in eternal change, then any particular determination of it is only its moment, because all things, determinations, come into being and pass away in time. Finally, Lenin says, "Essence is the showing of itself in itself." Hegel sometimes refers to Essence as "shine" or "show". This is how we experience it. The inner truth of any thing shines out of it, shows from within it. But as we have explained, since the two sides of the thing-
But we remember that this thing-
“The unessential, seeming, superficial, vanishes more often, does not hold so ‘tightly’, does not ‘sit so firmly’ as ‘Essence’; the movement of a river – the foam above and the deep current below. But even the foam is an expression of Essence!” (Page 130).
Undoubtedly, foam would not be foam were it not comprised of water which is its Essence, what it really is, but he who has only seen foam does not yet know what water is. The foam is “the showing of Essence”, the full truth of which is for the moment not present to the senses, is hidden, remains “in-
“Essence … contains Semblance within itself, as infinite internal movement … in this its self movement Essence is the same as Reflection. Semblance is the same as Reflection.” (Vol. 38, page 133).
As we have said, Semblance is “self mediating”, that is, its two sides or aspects are Outer Form and Inner Content which reflect each other. Each is the whole; there is no part of the content which is not form, and the form comprises the whole content. So far as Essence is concerned, this is the moment of first affirmation, thesis. Below, we shall show how this first affirmation of Essence becomes quantitatively and qualitatively negated into a new affirmation through the law of the negation of the negation. As Lenin remarks, “the method is extended into as system”. This system is explained in Part Two.
The Descent From the Concrete to the Abstract
In Part I of this article we began by explaining that we do not perceive the whole world at once, but only individual things within it, and that any thing which impinges on our senses is reflected into sensation as an indeterminate thought image. The thing in the external world, the identity of the source of sensation, and the image it causes in thought, are dialectical opposites in cause and effect relation. Identity, (objective, external world), is cause and has been negated into Difference in sensation, which is effect. This indeterminate beginning is determinated by a second moment of perception of the same Identity which has now changed, is different, and by grasping this difference in relation to the image already in thought, the indeterminate beginning becomes determinate in the moment of Semblance which is a form taken by the inner truth of the thing, its Essence, which is only present to the senses in an "illusory" form.
We went on, in Part I, to explain that we are now fully conscious of the thing in the external world, and can now say definitely what it is, but we are not fully cognisant of its inner truth, its Essence. The reason for this is that we were obliged to take the thing in isolation from the rest of the world of which it is a part, torn out of its context and separate from all the other things with which it is interconnected and which it reflects; it is the "foam" rather than the water. It is precisely this Reflection of the combined totality of the other things with which the thing is connected, in the thing itself, which is its real and complete truth, the Essence of the thing, so that in order to discover this Essence we must restore this reflection by placing the thing back in its context and interconnections in the world of which it is a part.
The Sum and Unity of Opposites
We have said that we cannot perceive the whole world all at once, that thought begins from some individual thing that impinges on our senses, the identity of the source of sensation. Since we start from a part, now determinated in Semblance, how, in the first instance, can we know anything more about the whole world of which it is a part? Lenin notes as follows:-
“First of all impressions flash by, then something emerges, -
These impressions are thought images of the other things in the external world to which the thing-
We see in the paper that a bank has gone bankrupt. This is the identity of the source of sensation with its effect, the indeterminate beginning. The next day we read that the government has bailed the bank out with public money to prevent the whole banking system collapsing in a domino effect. This is the third term which gives rise to the moment of Semblance, the crisis of the British finance system as a thing-
Lenin refers to the result of this process of accumulation of knowledge as a sum and unity of opposites. As a unity we consider the whole picture we are building in thought from the point of view of its form, and the sum of its parts, (opposites), is its content. There are different sides or aspects to this process which develop simultaneously, as it were in harmony, which must be understood. We shall deal with them one at a time.
Individual, Particular, Universal
The individual thing-
Analysis and Synthesis
In this process we negated things, (forms), in the external world into thought one at a time as separate abstractions, and separating a thing into its constituent parts in this way is analysis; but we placed them into a unity in the sum and unity of opposites, and putting things together into a sum is synthesis. In this process analysis and synthesis find repeated moments of Identity and are continually transformed into each other, but in consideration of the process as a whole analysis is the outer form and synthesis is its inner content. We say it is analysis containing synthesis.
From Concrete to Abstract
In order to fully understand the whole process we must consider how the beginning is concrete, and how the concrete becomes transformed into its opposite, the abstract.
We must begin by clarifying the meaning of the twin concepts of the concrete and the abstract, since they are widely misunderstood due to the false understanding placed on them by formal, anti-
For dialectical materialism things in the external world are both concrete and abstract, depending on their degree of development. In so far as it helps to know it, the etymological root of the word concrete is the Latin concretus which means mixed, connected up in a system of parts, while abstract comes from abstractus, which means withdrawn or isolated. The abstract is the one-
Concepts and Categories
A concept is a determinate thought image, a reflection of some thing or phenomena existing in the external world independently of consciousness. A category is a thought determination which is a reflection of the mode of existence, motion and change of things and phenomena in the external world. Concepts arise immediately, a posteriori, in the process of cognition. Categories are mediated thought forms which arose in the historical process of man’s cognition of the external world, and are now considered valid a priori for all objects of experience.
Aristotle seems to have been the first person to set out a number of categories. There were ten in all, Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Place, Time, Position, State, Action, Suffering. They were derived empirically from the work of previous philosophers who used them intuitively and while they provided for much sounder logic they remained essentially unscientific because the relation between them was not properly understood at the time. Further work to determinate categories was done by philosophers such as Spinoza and Kant, but it was Hegel who placed them on a truly scientific basis.
In his Philosophical Notes, Lenin refers to Hegel’s scientific determination of the system of categories as follows:
“The categories have to be derived (and not taken arbitrarily or mechanically) (not by ‘exposition’, not by ‘assurances’, but with proofs) (24) proceeding from the simplest, most fundamental (Being, Nothing, Becoming (das Werden)) (without taking others) – here, in them, ‘in this germ, the whole development’” (Collected Works, Vol. 38, page 94)
We have described above how Hegel derived the process of logical development from the very first and simplest moment, Being, and he took this as the first and simplest category. Then he demonstrated that Being and Nothing are the same, so that the category Nothing is derived from the category Being, and is thus proved true. In this way Hegel developed the whole series of scientific categories, proving and deriving each in turn.
Categories and Concepts are self-
We have said that the thing-
However, we next proceed to negate the things with which this thing is connected in the external world into Semblance as a sum and unity of opposites, and as the content builds up Essence, which is in-
We next take unsecured debt as the Essence of the whole, we take it a priori as the truth, in order to understand this whole, and in this way the Concept Essence, unsecured debt, is transformed back to Essence as a Category. In this way the Concept and the Category, in this case Essence, are transformed into each other during the process of cognition.
The accumulation of the sum and unity of opposites is a process of first, quantitative negation. Our original conception of the thing-
Clearly, every part of the world contains parts within itself and this differentiation into parts goes on to infinity. The physicists are still trying to find the last particle, and although we have no wish to disappoint them we have to say that they never will, because that which does not contain contradiction does not Exist. Contradiction is the cause of Existence. So what should be considered a part, and what a whole? The answer is that every Existence is both whole and part according to the relation in which it is taken. We can take it as a whole in relation to its parts, it which case it determines the Essence of those parts. We can take it as a part within a whole, in which case its Essence is determined by the whole of which it is a part. Any part of a whole relates to each of the other parts as they exist in unity within the whole, not directly.
There is often confusion between the concept of Being and the concept of Existence. Being and Existence relate as genus and species; all Existence is Being, but not all Being is Existence. All dogs are animals, but not all animals are dogs. Being is the immediate, a word which, with the attachment of the prefix “im”, reverses the meaning, mediated becoming not-
The Ascent From the Abstract to the Concrete
It is for this reason that Lenin, following Hegel, describes the process we have explained so far as the path from the outer to the inner, the path of knowledge which begins empirically from the outer form of the thing and penetrates to its inner content and truth, its Essence. But having penetrated to the inner truth of the world we perceive we hold it in consciousness as a universal abstraction. Existence here must be likened to the acorn, not the oak tree -
We must take each and every aspect of our abstract picture of the world, our sum and unity of opposites as a unity in Existence, and place it in unity with its corresponding reality in the external, material world, thus filling our abstract reflection with material content. In other words, we must travel our path of cognition, from the outer to the inner, from concrete to abstract, in the reverse direction, the path from the inner to the outer, from the abstract to the concrete, and we shall become fully conscious of the concrete reality corresponding to our abstract conception.
There is a difference between the path from the outer to the inner and the opposite process, the path from the inner to the outer. Whereas in the former we analysed the world into parts and synthesised these into a whole in Existence, (analysis containing synthesis), with the latter we take the whole to the parts. We take our conception of the world as an abstract whole in Existence, and place it in relation with each part in the external world in turn, in a series of negations form thought to the external world and back. We synthesis the parts into the whole, but in order to do so we must take each part from the external world, and this is analysis. Now synthesis is the outer form and analysis is inner content – it is a process of synthesis containing analysis.
The importance of the leap from the path from the outer to the inner, to the path from the inner to the outer, is explained by Professor E.V. Ilyenkov. Speaking of the former, in which we negate the parts of the world one at a time into the sum and unity of opposites as abstractions, he says:-
“The reduction of the concrete fullness of reality to its abridged (abstract) expression in consciousness is, self-
Ilyenkov then goes on to explain how we must proceed through the path from the inner to the outer in order to complete a concrete picture of the world from the abstractions we have made:-
“The definitions which the theoretician organises into a system are not, of course, borrowed ready made from the previous phase (or stage) of cognition. His task is by no means restricted to a purely formal synthesis of ready-
Separate abstract definitions, whose synthesis yields the ‘concrete in thought’, are formed in the course of ascent from the abstract to the concrete itself. Thus the theoretical process leading to the attainment of concrete knowledge is always, in each separate link as well as in the whole, also a process of reduction of the concrete to the abstract.” (Ibid.)
The separate abstractions are of course the sum and unity of opposites which we negated into thought through the path from the outer to the inner, the descent from the concrete to the abstract. We “critically analyse them … check them with the facts" by negating the whole picture they now form as Existence back to the external world and synthesise this with each part as we find it in the present in the external world, filing it with concrete content. This is the path from the inner to the outer, the ascent from the abstract to the concrete.
Let us return to our hypothetical case. Our starting point was the concrete thing-
In this way, through continual negations from thought to the external world and back, which involve the continual transformation of the abstract to the concrete and back, and similarly with respect to analysis and synthesis, we build up a scientific theory of the world as a real Existence. We begin to see what a powerful method dialectical materialism is.
From Existence to Appearance
It is apparent from what Hegel says that Existence is two sided. Its outer side is Form and its inner side is Matter. Both are the whole, but the whole as seen from two different aspects. What is positive in the one is negative in the other and vice versa. An Existence, a “Thing”, seen in its inner aspect, Matter, is reflection-
“The World in and for itself is identical to the World of Appearances, but at the same time is opposite to it. What is positive in the one is negative in the other.”
How is such a thing reflected subjectively in human consciousness? On a previous page Lenin quotes Hegel as follows:
“The latter, (thing-
The thing itself is fully determined and cannot take on more than one identity, but its reflection in some other thing depends on the nature of that thing. In relation to the eye, a thing may be determined as coloured red, but in itself it is certainly not; it is simply reflecting light at a certain frequency, and the fact that it is being seen by the eye as coloured red will not change that – it remains indifferent. Similarly, the Form of motion of the sun is its circulation of the Earth while the opposite is the truth. These are the outer Forms of Existence in which the inner Content, the Essence, does appear to us but in a contradictory form, and we call this the world of Appearance.
Earlier, we said that the first moment, or determination, of Essence was Semblance, and that as the process of cognition advances Essence takes on more determinate forms in accordance with the law of the negation of the negation. Its first moment, Semblance, is quantitatively negated as content is added through the path from the outer to the inner to the moment of Existence, which in this relation is Difference within the Identity of Semblance. This quantitative negation is itself negated through the synthesis of Semblance and Existence in the Qualitative leap to Appearance, a higher and more developed moment of Essence. Appearance is the unity of Semblance and Existence, Semblance remaining the outer Form.
From Appearance to Law
Appearance is a manifestation of Essence. In Appearance it is precisely Essence which appears. Essence, we know, is Reflection in-
From empirical experience, on a historical time scale, we have learned that many Appearances occur in many different places and repeatedly in the same way. Indeed, we can predict the occurrence of such Appearances with complete certainty when the conditions which give rise to them are present. Such experience gives rise to the concept of Law. Lenin quotes from Hegel:
“Hence Law is not beyond Appearance, but is immediately present in it; the realm of Laws is the quiescent reflection of the existing or Appearing world …” (page 151, Vol. 38)
As an example, Isaac Newton perceived that bodies released from height moved towards the centre of the earth. This was Appearance and it was certainly a demonstration of the law of gravity, that is, Law was immediately present in the Appearance. By way of further negations from the external world to thought and back, and by practical experiment, he abstracted a law of motion from the world of Appearance, the Law which was "immediately present" in the Appearance was mediated by human consciousness, and Newton was able to express it in the form of a simple equation,
s = ut -
where s is distance, u is initial velocity, t is time, and g the acceleration due to gravity, (32.2 feet/sec²). Further to this, it was by way of exhaustive study of the external world that Marx abstracted the laws of bourgeois society, laws such as the labour theory of value, the law of the declining rate of profit, and so on. Ultimately through further generalisation of the laws discovered by the positive sciences the laws of dialectics we gave in the first part were formulated in the first place by Engels. Lenin further remarks:
“Law takes the quiescent, and therefore law, every law, is narrow, incomplete, approximate” (Ibid.)
Law takes the “quiescent” motion, the mutual motion between interconnected things, (the apple and the Earth), but since laws are derived empirically they are circumscribed by the limits of our experience. We thought Newton’s law of gravity was universally true to eternity, until Einstein came along and showed that it was only true at speeds which were insignificant relative to the speed of light and in gravitational fields similar to our own.
From Law to Causality
Law manifests the mutual behaviour of opposites, the way they move and change in a “quiescent” way. The nature of the motion of Newton’s apple was entirely the same, was quiescent, with the nature of the motion of the Earth. The Earth moved towards the apple at the same time as the apple moved towards the Earth, but because the mass of the Earth is so much greater than that of the apple, only the motion of the apple “Appeared”. But Law was certainly present in that Appearance.
There is another side to the Appearance of the mutually determined motion of opposites in unity. Where there is an exact balance in the mutual reflection no change of motion occurs. This condition we know as equilibrium, and where there is no relative motion between the observer and the thing observed we say it is “stationary”. Motion always Appears as the domination of one opposite by the other, a condition we know as Cause and Effect relation. In our above example, the Earth Appeared as Cause and the apple as effect, but we know that this was only Appearance and that each opposite moved in a quiescent way according to its own nature. Lenin addresses this question:-
“When one reads Hegel on causality, it appears strange at first glance that he dwells so relatively lightly on this theme, beloved of the Kantians. Why? Because, indeed, for him causality is only one of the determinations of universal connection, which he had already covered earlier, in his entire exposition, much more deeply and all-
The explanation of Hegel’s depreciation of the Law of Causality is given very clearly by Engels:-
“The first thing that strikes us in considering matter in motion is the inter-
But Engels goes on :-
“Reciprocal action is the first thing we encounter when we consider matter in motion as a whole from the standpoint of modern natural science. We see a series of forms of motion, heat, light, electricity, magnetism, chemical union and decomposition … all of which pass into one another, mutually determine one another, are in one place cause and in another effect, the sum total of the motion in all its changing forms remaining the same (Spinoza: substance is causa sui strikingly expresses the reciprocal action). Mechanical motion becomes transformed into heat, electricity, magnetism, light etc., and vice versa. Thus natural science confirms what Hegel has said, that reciprocal action is the true causa finalis of things. We cannot go back further than to the knowledge of this reciprocal action, for the very reason that there is nothing behind to know. If we know the forms of motion of matter (for which it is true there is still very much lacking, in view of the short time that natural science has existed), then we know matter itself, and therewith our knowledge is complete … Only from this universal reciprocal action do we arrive at the real causal relation. In order to understand the separate phenomena, we have to tear them out of their general inter-
The all sided, mutually interconnected nature of the infinite world of matter in motion is only one-
From Causality to Substance
The concept of Substance to which Engels refers is an important moment in the process of cognition of the external world. Motion is the mode of existence of matter in its infinite Being, but considered in this way matter is an abstraction. We gave above the aphorism concerning fruit; you can eat apples or pears but you cannot eat fruit as such. “Matter itself cannot be seen of felt”, Hegel advises us, “what is seen or felt is some form of matter”. We began our analysis of the motion of matter by observing that motion as such, (the mode of existence of matter in general), takes definite, persisting forms which we designate laws of motion. Consideration of a quantity of such law governed motion in the external world over a period of time reveals a form which is common to them all, the relation of opposites as mutual cause and effect. A particular form of cause/effect relation, (law of motion), is therefore the mode of existence of a particular form of matter, a Substance. In general, substance is understood as the inner unity of the motion of matter, and a quantity of matter which is united in a common form of inner motion, comprises a substance. Substance as such, (Abstract), is the active cause of all its own forms, (Concrete particular forms), precisely because motion is the mode of existence of matter.
In our every-
At this point it is as well to pause and remind ourselves that the process of cognition we are describing moves according to the dialectical laws of motion. Each concept is negated into the next through the law of the negation of the negation, but this is only so because the development of the external world proceeds in this way. In a note Lenin remarks:-
“The totality of all sides of the phenomenon, of the reality and their (reciprocal) relations – that is what truth is composed of. The relations (=transitions = contradictions) of notions = the main content of logic, by which these concepts (and their relations, transitions, contradictions) are shown as reflections of the objective world. The dialectics of things produces the dialectics of ideas, and not vice versa.”
(Vol.38, page 196)
To continue: Matter in motion according to the law of cause and effect takes the form of Substances which are themselves in unity and conflict and mutually negate each other, also according to the law of cause and effect. We generally think of Cause as active and Effect as passive. But where two Substances are in such relation both are active causes of their own forms. As an empirical example, the effect of a hot substance in contact with water will be to change the water into steam, but in the overall result water, (the affected substance), is just as much active cause as the hot substance, because it is its nature to turn into steam and nothing else. Here, the difference between cause and effect has vanished, they have found a moment of Identity, have been synthesised into a single concept, Reciprocity. In our dialectical elaboration of the process of cognition, we find that the Law of Cause and Effect, (Identity), is quantitatively negated into Substance as Difference within Identity, and the qualitative negation of this negation, Synthesis, posits the concept of Reciprocity.
Quoting Hegel, Lenin informs us that Actuality is the unity Essence and Existence. (Vol. 38. page 156). The later, we remember, is the dialectical unity of all the parts of the external world as we negated them into Semblance as the sum and unity of opposites. Existence united these parts as a whole as a thought abstraction in human consciousness. They did not contain the real objective content of the external world as existing in the present. As we proceed through the path from the inner to the outer we ascend from the abstract to the concrete, building up the quantity of content, Essence, from the external world within abstract Existence. This is a process of quantitative negation of Existence as an abstract concept, filling it with concrete content containing Essence. This process reaches a limit and is negated by the qualitative leap to Actuality, the synthesis (“unity”), of Essence and Existence.
We have mentioned above that during the process of cognition Essence unfolds through the moments of Semblance, Appearance, and Actuality. Taking the process of cognition in this more general way this manifests the law of the negation of the negation. Semblance is the outer form and Essence is posited “in-
“The World in and for itself is identical to the World of Appearances, but at the same time is opposite to it. What is positive in the one is negative in the other.” (Page 153, Vol. 38)
We gave this quote above, and sited as example the relative motion of the sun and the earth. Historically, the Appearance was the rotation of the sun about the earth, but with further negation of the external world into human thought, (thanks to such as Copernicus), we now know that the opposite is true. Now it is the Essence itself which Appears and this is Actuality. With the quantitative increase of Essence as concrete content of the external world, (“intro-
We now have a picture of the world in its movement and life. We know what is happening, and the Possibilities in the situation present themselves. The concept of Possibility expresses the objective tendency of development inherent in existing phenomena, (Actuality), the presence of the conditions necessary for new things to happen, new forms to come into being. Actuality, as a developed form of Existence, is the unity of reflection-
“Now, since any content can be brought to this form, [Possibility as a determination of reflection-
It is perhaps here, above all, that the scientific method of dialectical materialism is of such crucial importance. How can we tell what possibilities a situation contains? How many guesses will we have to make before we get it right? What might be the disastrous cost of our mistakes? Indeed, will we ever get it right? If we proceed on the old unscientific subjective idealist method there is no guarantee that we will ever get it right, ever, precisely because it is not a scientific method. However, if we proceed correctly according to the dialectical materialist method we can isolate the developments which must necessarily arise from the possibilities in any situation.
Possibility is a determination of the relation of reflection-
Let us take Hegel’s example of the moon and consider it as relation of reflection-
In this way, by scientifically negating the Possibilities which present themselves in the external world, in particular for us all the developments of the class struggle, into Necessity, it is possible to make reasonably accurate predictions of future events, and here is the enormous advantage the dialectical materialist has over the idealist and formal thinker, because they have no idea of the real truth of the world and can never tell correctly what the necessary outcome of any situation will be, they can only guess and base themselves on quite accidental circumstances. This is the secret of Lenin’s remarkable prescience; he accurately foresaw events and was always prepared to meet them in advance.
Up to now our thought has been in direct connection with the external world in the present moment, reflecting and interacting with it through negations from the external world to thought and from thought back to the external world, and we have built up a picture of the world in its movement and truth. But there is more to consciousness than this, there is also our whole body of knowledge that we have built up in our previous lives, knowledge of things we have not directly experienced ourselves, of the past as well as the present, together with a comprehensive ideological outlook which is the result of social experience. Taken as the consciousness of society as a single whole in this general way this level of consciousness is the Notion, (Universal), but we also speak of the Notion as the consciousness of individuals, (Particular), and with respect to single things and phenomena, (Individual). It is the generalised thought image of an object or phenomena in the external world, retained in consciousness without immediate action of the objects or phenomena on the senses.
On page 167 of Volume 38 Lenin quotes Hegel as saying, with respect to the Notion, “Being and Essence are the moments of its becoming.” Then Lenin makes a critical note: “Should be inverted: concepts are the highest product of the brain, the highest product of matter.”
Here we see the conflict between Hegel’s idealism and Lenin’s materialism; let us describe Hegel’s method first. His Science of Logic is divided into three parts, The Doctrine of Being, The Doctrine of Essence, and The Doctrine of the Notion. It is easy to see that the whole logic manifests the law of the negation of the negation. Being is affirmation, something is, Essence is its inner truth, its motion, what it is becoming, and therefore the negation of Being, (not-
“The Notion must not here be considered as an act of self-
Hegel’s meaning is that when the Absolute Idea has progressed the unfolding of the universe so far that organic life has come into being, then it is possible for the Notion to exist, because there are thinking brains in which it can arise. But Lenin corrects Hegel from the materialist standpoint. In the margin he makes a comment of the greatest importance. “The ‘eve’ of the transformation of objective idealism into materialism. For materialism it is indeed true that the Notion emerges at that stage in the history of the universe at which thinking beings have evolved, but for materialism, logical thought, and therefore the Notion, have evolved as a result of the infinite movement of matter and they are not its cause; thought is the highest product of the motion of matter and not its first principle and cause. The “transformation of objective idealism into materialism” is accomplished by reading Hegel’s statement materialistically instead of idealistically. It is a moment of Identity between objective idealism and materialism, through which the former is negated into the latter. This is what Lenin means by “should be inverted”.
So now we have two things in connection, (unity), the picture of the external world, the objective, as it is and as we sense it in the present, which we have developed through the process of cognition, and our body of knowledge, the subjective, the Notion, which we have carried forward from the past. The present is a finite moment in time, the Individual, and the Notion is the Universal, the infinite movement of human thought. This unity is the direct connection between thought and the external world, but unlike the direct connection which occurred at the Indeterminate Beginning in which the movement was from the external world the thought, now the movement is in the opposite direction, from thought to the external world. In this movement, (negation), the empirical knowledge we have gained through the process of cognition is the Difference, (negation), within the Universal, the Notion, which is Identity. This negation is now negated through the synthesis of the Notion, (Subjective) and the Objective, (empirical knowledge), in a new concept, the Idea. On page 194 of Volume 38 Lenin explains the Idea thus:-
“The Idea (read: man’s knowledge) is the coincidence (conformity) of Notion and objectivity (the “universal”). This first. Secondly, the Idea is the relation of subjectivity (=man) which is for itself (=independent, as it were) to the objectivity which is distinct (from the Idea)…”
So the idea is the relation between two separate things, thought, (man), and the external world. This is the Theoretical Idea. Lenin goes on:-
“Subjectivity is the impulse to destroy this separation (of the Idea from the object).”
The “impulse”, often referred to as the subjective impulse, expresses mankind’s need to change nature to subordinate it to his needs, the instinctive struggle with nature in order to survive. All creatures have this need, but only man does it at this conscious level. The result of the destruction of the separation of the Idea from the object, the synthesis of the two, is the Practical Idea. For Marxism, the highest point of theory is practice, for two reasons: Firstly, it provides the only reliable proof that our Theoretical Idea is correct. Engels explains this in Dialectics of Nature:-
“If we are able to prove the correctness of our conception of a natural process by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and making it serve our own purposes into the bargain, then there is an end to the Kantian incomprehensible ‘thing-
Secondly, and just as importantly, our knowledge of the world we are trying to change through practice is never quite complete, hence the result of our practice is never quite what we expect, and this difference, between what we expect and what actually happens, is a source of new knowledge which enables us to quickly correct and adjust our practice to achieve a better result. Finally, our attitude to the result of our practice must be strictly objective and materialist. By our practice we change the world, negate out a new form or forms, but just because these are our own creations, that doesn’t mean we know all about them because while we may bring a new form into Being it is the external world that provides its content, and this cannot be fully known in advance. Nor can we predict what secondary changes will result from our immediate practice. Hence we must step back and perceive the change we have wrought as a new Identity of our source of sensation and negate in into thought as a new Indeterminate Beginning just as we did right at the beginning of the process of cognition, and begin the whole process again. And so on.
We have explained that the external world exists independently of human consciousness and thought is a reflection of it. The world is in constant movement and change, and it is obvious that a change must occur before thought can reflect it, so that thought always lags behind the changing external world. This is true at both the individual and universal level, the indeterminate beginning and the Notion. However, with our scientific method we can progressively reduce this lag, achieving ever closer approximations of the truth, the world-
III. Practice -
We have explained, at the end of the second part, the relation between theory and practice. When we put our idea into practice we negate out a new form or forms in the physically existing external world. The form of the idea and the new form in the external world are at first identical, (in so far as the idea is rational in itself), but the content of the new form is different, contradicts the form, and at first we can have no knowledge of this contradictory content which is supplied not from our thought but objectively from the external world. We must treat this new form as a new identity of the source of sensation and begin the process of analysis again from the beginning. If, as a result of such analysis, we find that the result of our practice confirms our theory, that is, the idea was correct, then we have made a real step forward in our knowledge of the world, and, at the same time, changed the world in such a way as to prepare the way for a fresh theoretical advance. Marx explains this in his Theses on Feuerbach; the second thesis is as follows:-
“The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. In practice man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-
This reminds us of the example of alizarin given by Engels and which is quoted in Part One. The Ninth Thesis runs as follows:-
“The highest point attained by contemplative materialism, [Feuerbach], that is, materialism which does not understand sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals in ‘civil society’”.
The Tenth Thesis which follows expresses the qualitative leap Marx made towards a scientific social theory:-
“The standpoint of the old materialism is “civil” society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or socialised humanity.”
The study of "socialised humanity", of course, is concretised in the method of historical materialism, the understanding that the history of the human race is the history of the struggle between classes. And finally, the eleventh and most famous of the Theses says:-
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”
So far we have considered the process of cognition as such, the process as we think of it as the consciousness of the individual, but we do not exist as individuals, we exist as members of society, and every individual person’s consciousness, (the Notion), is a part or fragment of social consciousness, the consciousness of society taken as a unified whole, the Notion taken at the universal level, which arises from the unity and conflict between man and the rest of nature as dialectical opposites. This takes the form of our collective practice, the struggle against the rest of nature to survive as a species, organised collective labour. The method of cognising the external world we have outlined, therefore, cannot be successfully adopted in a consistent way by a single individual, it can only be done by a collective of individuals who co-
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century the Marxists were organised, rather loosely, in the Second International. There were leaders such as Kautsky in Germany, Adler in Austria, Harry Quelch in England and Plekhanov, Martov, Lenin and Trotsky in Czarist Russia. There were many Marxist and socialist organisations spread out across Russia, and Lenin took the lead in the struggle to unite them into one centrally organised and led party, The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. In 1903 they met in a congress to work out a constitution for the party, and two alternative proposals for the conditions for membership were proposed, one by Martov and one by Lenin. Here is Martov’s proposal:-
“A member of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party is one who, accepting its programme, works actively to accomplish its aims under the control and direction of the organs of the Party.”
Lenin’s proposal was:-
“A member of the Party is one who accepts its programme and who supports the Party both financially and by personal participation in one of the Party organisations.”
Lenin thought Martov’s proposal was flawed. The “organs” of the Party were its publications, news-
In a pamphlet entitled One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Lenin records the long and convoluted debate in minute detail and explains what the disagreement was really about. In the first place, Lenin insisted that the Party had to be based on the principle of centralism, that is, it must have a central Council or Committee which was invested with the authority to instruct the local organisations or branches in their organisation and day to day work. Martov insisted that branches must be autonomous, that is, free to decide their own rules and working practice. Secondly, Lenin insisted that the Central Council must be elected by all the members at an annual congress which would be the highest body of the Party, whereas Martov wanted the editorial board of the central organ, which would not be elected by the whole membership, to be the leading body. Martov described Lenin’s idea as being dictatorial and bureaucratic, and Lenin countered by describing Martov’s idea as a concession to the “flabby and vacillating individualism” of the middle class intellectual, and in essence anarchistic. Plekhanov, who agreed with Lenin, put it this way:-
“If that were so, [that is, if the local committees or organisations were autonomous in shaping their organisation, in drawing up their rules], they would be autonomous in relation to the whole, to the Party. That is not even a Bundist view, it is a downright anarchistic view. That is how the anarchists argue: the rights of individuals are unlimited; they may conflict; every individual determines the limits of his rights for himself. The limits of autonomy should be determined not by the group itself, but by the whole of which it forms a part. The Bund was a striking instance of the violation of this principle. Hence, the limits of autonomy are determined by the Congress, or by the highest body set up by the Congress. The authority of the central institution should rest on moral and intellectual prestige.” (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, V.I. Lenin, Progress Publishers pamphlet, page 162)
The Bund was the union of Jewish workers which tried and failed to win a position of autonomy for itself within the Party. By this time, as we have mentioned previously, Lenin had made a thorough-
“How many times Comrade Martov and various other “Mensheviks” have convicted me, no less childishly, of the following ‘contradiction’. They quote a passage from What is to be Done? or A Letter to a Comrade which speaks of ideological influence, a struggle for influence etc., and contrast it to the “bureaucratic” method of influencing by means of the rules, to the “autocratic” tendency to rely on authority, and the like. How naїve they are! They have already forgotten that previously our Party was not a formally organised whole, but merely a sum of separate groups, and therefore no other relations except those of ideological influence were possible between these groups. Now we have become an organised Party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower Party bodies to higher ones.” (Op. cit., page 163. What is to be Done and A letter to a Comrade are previous works by Lenin which dealt with a different situation and did not address the problem of uniting the groups into one party.)
The “transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority” is the Essence of the matter. If our idea for the Party is correct and put consistently into practice we shall have a scientifically guided organisation with the necessary degree of central authority for united and determined struggle, fit to make history and transform the world in such a way as to ensure the further survival of humanity; but if the idea is wrong, the theory of the Party incorrect, or if the idea is correct but we do not adopt the correct practice, we shall repeat the mistakes of Martov and the Mensheviks and become, as the historical record shows, a reactionary force and a fatal danger to humanity. How can we ever forget the horrendous Stalinist dictatorship of the Soviet Union which unfolded into a historical disaster. The plethora of “Socialist”, “Marxist” and “Communist” parties of which we are all painfully aware provides so many examples of organisations which failed to grasp the dialectical laws of nature and base themselves upon them and consequently which degenerated into formal cliques with the most bizarre practices. The Labour Party with its hopelessly muddled and bureaucratic structure and procedures is a classic example. Lenin describes how, in nature, the parts of a thing relate to the whole according to the dialectical motion of matter:-
“The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts is the essence (one of the “essentials”, one of the principle, if not the principle, characteristics or features) of dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter (Aristotle in his Metaphysics continually grapples with it and combats Heraclitus and Heraclitean ideas).” V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 38, page 359)
Lenin goes on to refer to various confirmations of this conception to be found in nature and in the sciences, such as the differential and the integral in mathematics, the positive and negative in electrical theory, and the class struggle in society. He goes on:-
‘The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their “unity”, -
How can we construct the Party in such a way that it becomes a “unity of opposites” that gives the best possible free expression of these dialectical laws of nature? How best to arrange the relation between the whole and its constituent parts as a unity of diverse and contradictory parts? How can we make the Party into a living, physically existing mirror image of our practical dialectical materialist method? In other words, what should be the formal rules and constitution of the Party?
The obvious way to unite local organisations, branches, and individuals into a single whole for collective practice based on commonly agreed theory is by the democratic method ; free and open discussion leading to proposals for action, which are then subject to a voting system to decide the majority view. Every individual has the right to participate, but once the vote is taken this right is transformed into its opposite, responsibility. Now all members must abide by the majority decision whether they agree with it or not, otherwise a democratic society or organisation would be unable to function in a unified way, we should descend into anarchy, and at worst would be paralyzed. There is nothing new in this method; it is the essential principle of bourgeois society and was discovered long ago. It is, abstractly speaking, a reflection of the laws of the motion of matter, or more particularly in this case, the laws of motion of human society. But there is a difference between the way it actually operates in bourgeois society, in parliaments, political parties, trade unions and so on, and the way in which it functioned in the Bolshevik Party according to Lenin’s method, the way in which our party must function. According to the bourgeois subjective idealist outlook, the democratic method is seen as nothing but a mental construction, some-
“In one point, however, the history of the development of society proves to be essentially different from that of nature. In nature – in so far as we ignore man’s reaction upon nature – there are only blind, unconscious agencies acting upon one another, out of whose interplay the general law comes into operation. Nothing of all that happens – whether in the innumerable apparent accidents observable upon the surface, or in the ultimate results which confirm the regularity inherent in these accidents – happens as a consciously desired aim. In the history of society, on the contrary, the actors are all endowed with consciousness, are men acting with deliberation or passion, working towards definite goals; nothing happens without a conscious purpose, without an intended end. But this distinction, important as it is for historical investigation, particularly of single epochs and events, cannot alter the fact that the course of history is governed by inner general laws. For here, also, on the whole, in spite of the consciously desired aims of all individuals, accident apparently reigns on the surface. That which is willed happens but rarely; in the majority of instances the numerous desired ends cross and conflict with one another, or these ends themselves are from the outset incapable of realization or the means of attaining them are insufficient. Thus the conflicts of innumerable individual wills and individual actions in the domain of history produce a state of affairs entirely analogous to that prevailing in the realm of unconscious nature. The ends of the actions are intended, but the results which actually follow from these actions are not intended; or when they do seem to correspond to the end intended, they ultimately have consequences quite other than those intended. Historical events thus appear on the whole to be likewise governed by chance. But where on the surface accident holds sway, there actually it is always governed by inner, hidden laws and it is only a matter of discovering these laws.” (F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy.)
The conflicting forces in a democratic system, of course, are the efforts of all the individuals and groupings within the organisation or society to get their own way, achieve their own ends by any means, win the majority, and so on. The “cut and thrust of the debate”, as it has somewhat romantically been put. But the subjective idealist has no idea that the rules of democracy, the conduct of debate and the decision making process, must necessarily reflect the objective dialectical laws of motion of the organisation, the relation of the parts to the whole, the movement and life of this whole which is objective and more or less independent of the wills of the individual members. Hence, as history shows with respect to all the democratic institutions of bourgeois society, political parties, parliaments, trade unions etc., democracy never works perfectly, in fact most of the time it works only partially at best, suffers all the slings and arrows of contempt for majority decisions, dishonesty, lies, bribery and corruption, and careerism is the openly accepted norm. In times of extreme economic crisis democracy becomes completely impossible and fascist dictatorship must replace it. We have suffered this kind of behaviour ad infinitum from our capitalists, bankers, politicians of all hues, trade union leaders and so on, and we are all heartily sick of it. We call this kind of behaviour on the part of labour and trade union leaders opportunism, which for Marxists has a more concrete meaning than the normal vulgar every day use; in Form it is the use of positions of elected office, power and responsibility for personal gain, and the Essence of this form is the struggle to reach subjectively determined objectives by un-
This is manifestly not the kind of party the working class needs to achieve its emancipation. As Engels explains, for as long as we are not conscious of the dialectical laws of nature, human society and thought, then the result of our practice will be a series of accidents and we shall be dogged by unexpected failures and disasters. We must be conscious of the laws of motion of society in general, with particular respect to the present state of capitalist crisis, and the revolutionary class struggle in all its twists and turns, its relatively stagnant moments and its sudden unexpected leaps, in the most immediate and sensitive way, and we must work in accordance with these laws, and make them work for us instead of against us. This means, of course, a party based on the dialectical materialist theory and practice that we have outlined, and the question of how such a party is the be brought into Being is the crucial question for mankind in general and for the working class in particular, since the working class, due to its relation to society as a whole which results from the present form of the relation of humanity to the rest of nature, is the only class subjectively motivated and therefore capable of solving the question and therefore the only revolutionary class. How must we begin?
The necessity for effective training in materialist dialectics for every individual member becomes obvious when we consider the functioning of the Party as a whole. In order for the individual to participate in the democratic centralist life of the Party, and for the Party as a whole to function properly, every individual, or at least a substantial majority of them, must understand the dialectical relationship of the parts, (the individual member, the branches and various committees), to the whole, the Party. Without such training, the individual will inevitably relate to other individuals directly, as individuals, instead of relating to them through the whole, the Party, that is, as political beings of a particular kind. Communists do not address each other as “comrade” for nothing, it is our way of continually reminding ourselves that only political relations are permissible, and that all manifestations of opportunism, personal relations and clique ties are the kiss of death to the Party. In the approach to building the Party, therefore, the very first practice must be the training of individuals in the practical dialectical materialist method, and we shall not be ready to actually launch the Party till a well trained and strongly united group of such individuals has been brought into Being. Most importantly, as will be seen at a glance at the constitution below in the appendix, participation in such training will be a condition of Party membership, and that the leadership is constitutionally obliged to lead the education and training work.
Since our Party must be based on our scientific method, then our practical idea is the method taken as a whole, in-
The correct method of cadre training was perfected by Gerry Healy. It was not based on what he referred to as “teacher – pupil relations”, but from the first moment was a democratic centralist practice, the dialectical materialist method made real, an actual material reality developing according to the natural laws of dialectical motion. Such an organisation is the cell, or DNA of the required revolutionary leadership for the working class and no other method will bring the desired result.
Below, in the appendix, we give a proposed constitution for the Party. In order to act as a conduit for our practical method as a living process the material form of the Party must be a unity of parts which reflects all the living moments of the process of cognition, so that the process lives as the collective consciousness of the Party through the interaction of its various material parts. “The splitting of a whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts … is the Essence of dialectics”, says Lenin. (Collected Works, Vol. 38, page 359.) The main parts of the Party are the Political Committee, the Central Committee, the branches, the individual members and the Congress. The branches are, of course, reflections of the particular local conditions which are parts of the general political situation taken as a whole, the crisis of capitalism and the class struggle. Each area has its own particular and different content, e.g., the closure of a factory, and taken together they constitute a sum and unity of opposites. In our cognition of the life of the Party we have now moved from the individual to the particular, from the concrete to the abstract, and the completion of the path from the outer to the inner. At such a moment we find that the content of the forms of the opposites, the branches, which is the collective knowledge and political understanding of their members, is different and contradictory from Branch the Branch, and as the quantity and intensity of contradiction builds up a point of intensity is reached which makes necessary the calling of the Congress. This is the leap to the path from the inner to the outer, and the ascent from the abstract to the concrete can begin.
For the non-
Let us see how to proceed scientifically, now that we have begun the ascent from the abstract to the concrete, the path from the inner to the outer, as a practice. It is necessary to bring the Congress into Existence in the dialectical sense, not the formal, mechanical sense. “We shall reserve for such Being as is mediated the term Existence”, says Hegel in his Science of Logic. The philosophical concept of Mediation, we know, expresses the way in which the truth of a thing is revealed through its reflection of its opposite by which it is Mediated. For the Congress to come into Mediated Being, Existence, therefore, all the parts it contains must reflect each other. The Central Committee must reflect all the branches, and each branch must reflect the Central Committee and every other branch to the degree necessary to bring the Congress into Existence. This requires great care, patience and sensitivity of the part of the Party leaders in the conduct of the pre-
In a more general way the relations between the parts of the Party may take the form of minority rights as determined under section 8, paragraphs b) and c) on democratic rights, which provide for the rights of minorities. This right is absolutely necessary and the members must defend it to the death, for a double reason. Firstly, it is a clear case of what Lenin referred to as the “transition of the power of ideas into the power of authority”. A minority has no essential relation with any formal part or authoritative organisation within the Party, it is simply based on the commonality of an idea across a number individual members whatever their branch or whatever formal appointments they may or may not hold. In fighting for their idea they seek to make it the majority view of the Party as expressed through the formal organisation, and upon achieving this objective the power of an idea is transformed into the power of authority, since all members are obliged to abide by majority decisions. Secondly, any really new, revolutionising idea comes into being as Difference within the Identity of the Party and must of necessity begin as a minority view. Stifling of such a minority would bring the objective law governed movement and life of the Party to an end.
In the Congress it is the Party as a whole that is now in Existence as a moment of Semblance containing the sum and unity of opposites. But this is a new experience. We can now really see the Party as a whole, a large mass of people united for a common purpose, greeting each other, bonding, exchanging experiences, thoughts and ideas in the course of the discussion. The leap from Semblance to Appearance takes place. Semblance now unfolds to the point where, as explained above, Essence comes into Existence. The Essence of such a moment is the collective consciousness and intentions of all the members, which remains hidden at first, and it must conflict with the Appearance, which still has the Form of the past of the Party, the old ideas, the leaders elected at the last congress, the existing constitution, and so on. We are aware of this Essence, this process of change; the Essence which was locked up in the thing-
The key consideration is the difference between non-
It will be seen at glance at the constitution below that it has been deliberately written to ensure this. Section 4, on the congress, has been carefully thought out to ensure free movement in the relations between the whole and the parts. Branches affect the whole by instructing their delegates to present their collective point of view and seek certain objectives, make proposals, elect particular leaders and so on. The branches through their delegate, (parts), are cause and the Party, (whole), effect. (Within the branch it is the same relation between the individual member and the branch). However, the delegate is free to be influenced by the discussion and vote and act accordingly, and here the Party, (whole), is cause and the branch, (part), through the delegate and his report back, is effect.
Once the congress is actually in session all the parts, even the individual members, are interacting with each other if only indirectly through delegates. However, the individuals do not exist as such, they only exist as members of branches, or committees, or officers of some kind, but most importantly, as individuals with particular and differing bodies of knowledge and points of view. In their unity they form a concrete whole, and the inner unity of the motion of matter, (see reciprocity in Part II), is Substance. The Congress is the Substance of the Party. That is to say, the content of the agenda and debate, the resolutions passed and so on, will be specific, dealing with the political, economic and social issues of the moment, the world, the class struggle as Existence itself. However, since we have proceeded in a scientific way to this point, we can, unlike the non-
The movement of the Congress, (Party), now takes the form of consideration of all the Possible courses of action open to it, that is to say, all the proposals and other items for consideration on the agenda are subjected to the decision making process. But once the votes are taken, and the majority position on all questions reached, then Possibility is transformed into Necessity; now the Party must proceed to act in a united way basing itself upon these decisions as the Theoretical Idea. However, in order to proceed to Practice the Congress must be concluded and the members must return to their areas. The Congress, now no longer an Actuality, lives on as the content of the newly constituted Central Committee, which, at its first meeting, formulates specific direction for the immediate and fully concrete Party practice in the Branch areas, the Practical Idea. Now at last the Ascent from the Abstract to the Concrete, the path from the inner to the outer, is complete.
The Being of such a party will be the method made real, clothed in flesh and blood; the two, the physically existing Party as a living process and the theory in the collective consciousness of the members, will be as mirror images, so that the question arises, which is cause and which effect? Historically, the method was cause and the Party effect, since it was through the dialectical materialist method that the party was conceived and made real through the practice of Marx and Engels, and Lenin and his close associates. It should never be forgotten that democratic centralism is the result of Marxist theory and practice, the “idea alienated”, the power of ideas translated into the power of organisation and authority, and that the Party Constitution and practice must forever be subordinated to the philosophical life of the Party. Formally speaking the Congress is the highest body of the Party, but dialectically speaking the Education system stands even higher, and it is this relation that makes the transition of the power of ideas into the power of authority possible. However, the original creation of the Party was a finite historical moment, while the life of the Party is an infinite process. Once in Being it stands opposed to us as the External World, a part within the whole world, the means through which we collectively perceive the world through our practice. Hegel describes such a process as “the alienated idea returning to itself”. In this sense cause and effect are reversed, the Party is now cause and our collective consciousness is effect. Learning from our practice we shall continually change and develop our philosophy and political perspectives, make changes to our Constitution as necessary, and revolutionise our practice. In this infinite process cause and effect will continually be transformed into each other in reciprocal fashion.
Now that we have considered the task of building the Party in the abstract, we can concretise our ideas on the matter to a limited extent. A team of trained dialectical materialists will be required to launch the Party proper, hence the first task is to unite as many individuals as possible in an organisation whose sole purposed is the training of individuals in our method, the creation of the cell of the Party, or its DNA. Under the right conditions the Party proper can be launched, and in doing so we must from the outset be conscious of the dialectical relation between the Party and the class upon which it rests, the revolutionary working class. In the first place we must understand that the Party is not brought to the class from outside, but arises from within it, as Difference within its Identity. However, it must be understood that the working class creates its organisations in spontaneous fashion, to meet immediate needs. The consciousness of the working class is thoroughly bourgeois and often hostile to theory as such, consequently revolutionary theory must be brought to the working class from outside and historically speaking this has been the case. The working class inherits knowledge and political theory from the bourgeoisie and middle class in the historical sense, simply because the latter class existed before the former. Marx, Engels and other revolutionary theorists were surely bourgeois intellectuals, and it is this revolutionary theory which must be brought to the working class party. It will be done in struggle against bourgeois consciousness and anti-
Since it is essentially a party of a class, the working class which transcends all national boundaries, then it will be an international party, not at all to be identified directly with any particular country. In the first instance we shall have to work within our immediate surroundings, but it is essential that work to establish an international party must begin at the beginning and never cease. That must be the Essence of the work and the general orientation. All national questions are relative to class questions.
The living relation between the Party and the class will consist in the unfolding of the Difference within the Identity, quantitative negation, where the class is Identity and the Party is Difference. Inevitably we shall begin as a tiny isolated minority and it will be necessary to recruit members and equip ourselves with all the necessary material resources to sink roots into the class and win its allegiance. The most important requirement for this is the daily newspaper, and not just for reporting and campaigning purposes, as Lenin explains:-
“The role of a newspaper, however, is not limited solely to the dissemination of ideas, to political education, and to the enlistment of political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organiser. In this last respect it may be likened to the scaffolding round a building under construction, which marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, enabling them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organised labour. With the aid of a newspaper, and through it, a permanent organisation will naturally take shape that will engage, not only in local activities, but in regular general work, and will train its members to follow political events carefully, appraise their significance and their effect on the various strata of the population, and develop effective means for the revolutionary party to influence those events.” (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, page 22)
The work of distributing and selling the newspaper through the branch structure of the organisation is of course what imparts to it the nature of a scaffolding, and brings every member into contact with the masses in the act of selling, training every individual member in political work. It is through this kind of work that the Party will penetrate the class as an opposite, (Difference), within it, raising the level of class consciousness and practice from the spontaneous struggle for defence of its living conditions and rights to the understanding that only a revolutionary struggle for working class political power can offer the possibility of emancipation. It is a question of giving conscious expression to the unconscious processes of the class struggle:-
“The connection between distribution [of wealth] and the material conditions of existence of society at any period lies so much in the nature of things that it is always reflected in popular instinct. So long as a mode of production still describes an ascending curve of development, it is enthusiastically welcomed even by those who come off worst from its corresponding mode of distribution. This was the case with the English workers in the beginnings of modern industry…. Only when the mode of production in question has already described a good part of its descending curve, when it has half outlived its day, when the conditions of its existence have to a large extent disappeared, and its successor is already knocking at the door – it is only at this stage that the constantly increasing inequality of distribution appears as unjust, it is only then that the appeal is made to the facts which have had their day to so-
Our Party must be the scientific institution for the achievement of this purpose, to show that capitalism has completed its descending curve and that the transition to socialism is a historic necessity, and it must win the allegiance of the working and middle class and lead the political struggle for the socialist transformation of society. But the working class is not passive, mere inert clay to be moulded by its leadership, it has its own movement and life and does struggle spontaneously against the injustices of decaying capitalism, and in doing so seeks to organise itself, typically by building soviets, and to appoint leaders. In other words, the working class instinctively seeks out the Party and penetrates it by providing personnel and resources. Leon Trotsky, the unchallengeable authority on such processes, draws the appropriate lesson from historical experience:-
“The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political programme, and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the masses. The fundamental political process of a revolution thus consists in the gradual comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis – the active orientation of the masses by the method of successive approximations. The different stages of a revolutionary process, certified by a change of parties in which the more extreme always supersedes the less, expresses the growing pressure to the left of the masses – so long as the swing of the movement does not run into objective obstacles.” (L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Sphere Books Ltd., Vol. 1, page 16)
Thus in such moments of history the Party and the class as dialectical opposites reciprocally interpenetrate till a moment of Identity is reached which gives rise to the qualitative leap, the revolutionary transformation of the class structure of society. But it is not an automatic process, hence Trotsky’s warning concerning objective obstacles; as Engels has informed us, “in the history of society, on the contrary, the actors are all endowed with consciousness”. Each new moment in the process must be negated into the consciousness of the Party and synthesised into new theory as a guide to practice, according to our scientific dialectical materialist practical method. Here is the road to the emancipation of the working class and the transition to socialism, the first and "lower" stage of communist classless society, a society in which the Party, along with the state, will in time become unnecessary, “unreal” in the Hegelian sense, and will surely cease to exist. For the present however, the revolutionary Party as the living embodiment of the practical method of dialectical materialism is the essential requirement for the further survival and evolution of the human race.
CONSTITUTION OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PARTY
The aim of the Party is to prepare and mobilise the working class for the struggle to replace the present parliamentary system, which is the political system proper to capitalism, with a soviet democracy which is necessary to ensure true government by the people and the transformation of the economic system from capitalism to socialism.
The Party bases its theory and practice on the understanding that such political and social transformation as outlined in a) is necessary for the solution of the social, economic, political and environmental challenges presented to humanity, and that the appropriate methodology and body of knowledge for this purpose is present in scientific Marxism
c) Individual membership is conditional on active participation in the Party education and training work, involving serious study of the philosophical basis of scientific Marxism, dialectical materialism
d) The Marxist Party 2009 is constitutionally and fundamentally opposed to all forms of terrorism and adventurist political theory and practice and is firmly based on the acceptance that it will only achieve its objectives by winning the firm and lasting support of a substantial majority of the people, in particular that of the working class
Any person who accepts the programme, policy and constitution of the Party, agrees to participate in the Marxist education programme, agrees to work under the direction of the appropriate national and local organisation and pays financial subscriptions is
eligible for membership. Applicants for membership will first serve three months candidate membership as a period of integration into the Party. Candidate members have discussion rights and work with local bodies of the Party, pay minimum subscriptions, but have no vote. At the end of the three months, either full membership of a further candidate period of three months will be decided by the branch of which the candidate is a member. No renewal of candidate membership will follow.
a) The Branches are the constituent parts of the Party. Each Branch shall consist of three or more members, based on locality of place of work, and is collectively responsible for education, organisation and control of all the work of its members, including that in other organisations.
b) Each Branch shall have the right to decide its own membership and shall meet at least once per two weeks, and elect its officers at least annually. These shall consist of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Publications Organiser. These officers shall be formed as the Branch Committee which is responsible for the work of the Branch between Branch Meetings, both practical and theoretical, (educational). Only the Branch Meeting can take policy decisions, and Branch policy shall be limited to concretisation of National policy to reflect local conditions.
c) The Branch Committee is responsible for leading and organising the educational work at local level, in particular for holding regular classes for instruction and discussion in the spirit of scientific Marxism, dialectical materialism.
4. NATIONAL CONGRESS
a) A National Congress of the membership represented by delegates from Branches shall be convened at least once per year, and shall constitute the highest body of the Party.
b) Delegates shall be elected on the basis of one for every seven members or part thereof, so that each Branch shall be entitled to at least one delegate. Where a minority exists in a Branch it shall have proportional representation of delegates to the National Congress.
c) Not withstanding any mandate or instruction delegates to a National Congress may have received from their respective Branches, they shall participate with a free vote. Delegates who vote in contrary fashion to established Branch policy or to any mandate of instruction they may have received from their Branch are strictly obliged to fully explain their reason on reporting back the Branch.
d) Decisions at National Congress shall be reached by simple majority and shall be binding on all Party members whether present at the Congress or not.
The Central Committee shall convene a National Congress at the request of one third of the Branches or one third of the members through recorded vote of Branches. The Central Committee will facilitate inter-
f) Only the National Congress can amend the Constitution.
g) The Central Committee shall open pre-
5. CENTRAL COMMITTEE AND POLITICAL COMMITTEE
a) The National Congress shall elect the Central committee consisting of full members and alternate members in the following way:-
Congress shall elect a Panel Committee, consisting of one member elected by the retiring Central committee and two members nominated and elected directly from the floor of the Congress. Nominations for the Central Committee shall be taken from the floor of the Congress from which the Panel Committee shall draw up a commended list. Amendments to the list shall be taken from the floor of the Congress and voting shall take place with each delegate voting once per nominee up to the limit of the number required for the Central Committee, as set by the preferred list.
b) In proportion to the support it has amongst delegates, a minority at Congress shall have rights to seats on the Central Committee, and allowance must be made for this in the Panel Committee's preferred list.
c) Alternate members do not carry a vote on Central Committee decisions except where an alternate member replaces an absent full member.
d) The Central Committee shall elect a Political Committee and other committees as necessary.
e) The Central Committee is responsible for providing leadership for the educational and training work, in particular for organising education classes nationally and locally, in the science of Marxism, dialectical materialism.
f) Between Congresses full authority shall be vested in the Central Committee, which shall implement the policy agreed by the National Congress and make decisions necessary to develop the work of the Party. It shall meet at least every two months, and more frequently if the Political Committee thinks it necessary.
g) The Political Committee shall carry full powers of the Central Committee between meetings of the Central Committee. The Political Committee shall meet at least once a month. The Political Committee shall publish an internal bulletin for dissemination of information and discussion, and for publication of the views of constitutional minorities in accordance with clause 8)c) below.
h) The Central Committee shall appoint directors and shareholders of such companies that may be established and such directors and shareholders will hold property in trust on behalf of the Party. Members appointed as company directors must present regular reports of all company business to the Central Committee. No property may be acquired or disposed of, other than in the normal course of trade, nor can there be carried out any financial loans of borrowings, without the approval of the Central committee.
6. DISTRICT COMMITTEE
District Committees shall be elected for co-
7. FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
a) Members' financial contributions shall be fixed in accordance with the financial position of each individual member. The minimum contribution shall be 50p per week except in circumstances which in the collective opinion of the Branch warrant a lower contribution.
b) Members more that 8 weeks in arrears will be lapsed unless there are some special circumstances which in the collective opinion of the Branch are responsible for the arrears.
c) Only fully paid up members shall be eligible as delegates to the National Congress, unless there are some special circumstances which in the collective opinion of the Branch are responsible for the arrears.
d) The Central Committee has the power to make such financial levies as are necessary for the function of the organisation.
8. DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
a) The majority decisions of any body in the Party are binding on all the members within it.
b) Whilst carrying out majority decisions all members have the right to express dissenting opinion within the Party but not outside it, and to organise as a minority within the Party. The procedure for the establishment of a minority shall be as follows:-
A member shall submit to his appropriate body, Branch, Central Committee, Political Committee, a motion expressing his disagreement; a member seeking a minority right shall discuss any disagreement with the Political committee, and then if necessary the Central committee. If after such discussion the member is still in disagreement he shall have the right to seek support for his views throughout the Party in accordance with clause 8(c) next below.
c) Any member claiming minority rights under clause 8(b) shall have the right to circularise the members through the Central Committee with any material stating his views and to appeal to the higher bodies against any decision with which he disagrees. The internal bulletin shall be used as a medium for spreading such dissenting opinion, and material submitted for discussion shall be published within twenty-
a) Disciplinary action, including censure, suspension of membership for a period not exceeding three months, and expulsion, may be taken by any body having jurisdiction against any member committing a breach of discipline such as serious disregard for a majority decision of the body, or acting in a manner detrimental to the interests of the Party or the working class. Since expulsion from a Branch is expulsion from the Party, Branches must inform the Central Committee of their intention to expel an individual in advance of their final decision. (See clause 3(b) above)
b) A member has the right to be present and defend himself before a decision on disciplinary action against him is taken. Any member subject to disciplinary action must be given written notice of the charges to be made against him.
c) Any member subject to disciplinary action is entitled to appeal to the Political Committee, the Central Committee, and the National Congress verbally and in writing. Disciplinary action is meanwhile upheld.
d) The National Congress shall elect a Control Commission of three members who shall not be members of the Central Committee. The Control commission shall have the powers to conduct any investigation that the Central Committee or the National Congress thinks necessary, and shall be fully assisted by any members having responsibility for the general security of the Party. It shall enquire into the complaint of any individual member and shall present its findings to the Central Committee or the Political committee for action. The Control Commission is responsible to the National congress for its work.
e) The Central committee and the Political Committee have the powers to protect the Party by conducting whatever investigations they consider necessary, and may suspend members for up to sixty days for such investigation, at the end of which period members affected must be either charged in accordance with the Constitution or restored to full Party membership.
f) Any member involved in political collaboration with non-
a) The Party publications are the tools for building the Party. All members are required to participate in the work of sale and distribution as a means of winning political support, recruiting new members, raising finance and securing all possible material support.
b) All publications of the Party shall be issued under the authority of the Central Committee.
c) In accordance with its responsibility for education in Marxist dialectical materialist theory and practice, the Central committee shall maintain a bulletin for internal theoretical and political discussion and all members shall have the right to submit material to be included. The editorial staff of the bulletin shall either publish such material or return it to the member who submitted it with written criticism.
Terry Button, January 2012