Thread: Dialectical materialism

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  1. #1
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    Default Dialectical materialism

    Hi all, I've noticed the trend towards two things regarding 'diamat'.

    1) It is a myth, or, its not really evident in Marx/Engels writings.

    2) Even if it is there, its a load of crap.

    The second I get. There might be plenty of good arguments as to why diamat isn't any good. The first of which I'd also say is directed towards Hegel and the dialectic method in general - that its a theory that, whilst being intuitive, has no defensible, rational basis. Or whatever.

    But the first, I'm not getting. So, what are the major reasons people give for denying diamat as a Marxist philosophy/theory of history? Surely, most of it would be a lack of textual evidence, yes? What is said about the simple 'implication' or gleaning of diamat from Marx/Engels writings - is this for some reason infeasible or something?

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    Um... As a trotskyist I actually am a Dialectical Materialist... (DiaMat, the specifically stalinist doctrine is like all, used to justify the zigzags of the bureaucracy).

    So... yeah.

    But I am new here, so I might be into what is considered 'correct' among the cliques and stuff here.
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    It's very much present in Engels, and I don't think that anybody contests that.
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    Rosa will be here in a nanosec to answer your question.
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    No one has ever disputed that the dialectical method was used by Engels. No one except Rosa has ever denied that Marx used it as well, although her evidence that Marx abandoned it at some point is rather scant.

    But Marx's dialectical method really has very little to do with Hegel. You have to judge it on its own terms, without reference to Hegel or his idealism.
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    But Marx's dialectical method really has very little to do with Hegel. You have to judge it on its own terms, without reference to Hegel or his idealism.
    I really disagree there. The basic laws of dialectics, and the method of thought as a whole is extremely similar and entirely dependent on Hegel's. What marx did was separate it from all the idealistic crap and apply it to the world outside the mind as a world outside the mind.

    That said, Engels notes on a few occasions, most memorably for me in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy and Dialectics of Nature, that Hegel at his most consistently dialectical is materalist.

    I think that says a lot.
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    Vincent, your intuitions about dialectical materialism are correct, and several comrades, including myself, have systematically demolished this theory over the last three-and-a-half years over in the Philosophy section -- indeed, I have done this even more so at my site (links in my signature).

    In addition, I have posted links to all the threads at RevLeft where this theory has been shredded here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/RevLeft.htm

    And, there is enough evidence to show that Marx rejected this 'theory' by the time he came to write Das Kapital, as I have shown several times, for example, here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...4&postcount=73

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...6&postcount=75

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...&postcount=114

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...&postcount=124
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    RP:

    No one except Rosa has ever denied that Marx used it as well, although her evidence that Marx abandoned it at some point is rather scant.
    It can't be 'scant' if Marx himself indicated he had abandoned it, as you lot understand it.

    But Marx's dialectical method really has very little to do with Hegel. You have to judge it on its own terms, without reference to Hegel or his idealism.
    Not according to Lenin:

    "It is impossible to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961) Philosophical Notebooks, p.180. Bold added.]
    Which means that no one has ever understood Das Kapital, since, as Lenin himself points out, there are many sections of Hegel's 'Logic' that not even he understood!
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    Gracchvs:

    The basic laws of dialectics, and the method of thought as a whole is extremely similar and entirely dependent on Hegel's. What marx did was separate it from all the idealistic crap and apply it to the world outside the mind as a world outside the mind.

    That said, Engels notes on a few occasions, most memorably for me in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy and Dialectics of Nature, that Hegel at his most consistently dialectical is materalist.
    This certainly agrees with what Lenin said; unfortunatley, since not one single dialectical thesis makes the slightest sense, that would doom Marxism to incoherence. On that see here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/RevLeft.htm

    Or my site (links in my signature).

    Hence, it's a good job that Marx waved this mystical 'theory' goodbye.

    And I say this as Trotskyist myself.
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    Vincent, your intuitions about dialectical materialism are correct, and several comrades, including myself, have systematically demolished this theory
    No you haven't Rosa stop telling fibs.
    "We stand with great emotion before the millions who gave their lives for the world communist movement, the invincible revolutionaries of the heroic proletarian history, before the uprisings of working men and women and poor farmers – the mass creators of history.

    Their example vindicates human existence."

    - from 'Statement of the Central Committee of the KKE (On the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia 1917)'
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    Cummanach:

    No you haven't Rosa stop telling fibs.
    This from the comrade who had to ignore a whole page of quotations from the dialectical classics, and then make stuff up about them, in order to try to rescue this drowning 'theory'.

    And this is quite apart from the fact that you could not show where my argument went wrong (either about dialectics making change impossible, or about Marx abandoning 'dialectics', as you lot understand it).
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    Apart from Rosa, I was looking at this, from http://marxmyths.org/jordan/index.php

    The myth that Karl Marx formulated a fully worked-out method and philosophical system called “dialectical materialism” is the core claim of Marxism, but it has no basis at all in the writings of Karl Marx and but a slim basis in the writings of Frederick Engels. It is widely recognised now that Marx was not a philosopher and the term “dialectical materialism” was invented after his death. Cyril Smith, for example, has written along similar lines in "Marx at the Millenium". However, Zbigniew Jordan was one of the first to call this myth into question. Jordan also deepened the intensifying debate over the role of Frederick Engels in creating rather than just transmitting, the Marxist canon.
    Now, AJP Taylor says, in his introduction to some edition of the Communist Manifesto, that Marx (in his own words) found Hegelianism standing on its head and put it right way up. Obviously this is referring, essentially, to Marx's move away from Hegel's 'ideas', and towards the material.

    This is where I drew the link, but I understand, Random Precision, that dialectical materialism should be considered in its own light - it may have a family resemblance to the Hegelian dialectic, but this by itself wil not ever constitute an argument against it, especially given what appears to be Marx's extensive revision of the Hegelian thought.

    This from a thread you posted above, Rosa:
    So, the 'rational core' of the dialectic has not one atom of Hegel in it, and Marx merely 'coquetted' with a few bits of Hegelian jargon in Das Kapital.

    That is hardly a ringing endorsement of this mystical theory.
    So, would you say there is something that Marx referred to as a dialectic, but wasn't Hegelian, and probably wasn't dialectical anyway?

    Lastly, Rosa: I realise you've worked on this, and I don't mean to accuse you of anything here. I know there has been a history of anti-dialectics here (redstar2k...), and now you are claiming that perhaps Marx dropped DM at some stage. Intuitivly - and just intuitivly - it looks like this: 'Dialectical materialism is rubbish, but Marx was great wasn't he? Well, maybe Marx never adopted it, really, in the first place! Solved!'. That just how it looks to an outsider, and I realise that you have made a case and aren't just being silly.
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    Vincent:

    So, would you say there is something that Marx referred to as a dialectic, but wasn't Hegelian, and probably wasn't dialectical anyway?
    In fact, Marx's dialectical method more closely resembles that of Kant and Aristotle.

    Lastly, Rosa: I realise you've worked on this, and I don't mean to accuse you of anything here. I know there has been a history of anti-dialectics here (redstar2k...), and now you are claiming that perhaps Marx dropped DM at some stage. Intuitivly - and just intuitivly - it looks like this: 'Dialectical materialism is rubbish, but Marx was great wasn't he? Well, maybe Marx never adopted it, really, in the first place! Solved!'. That just how it looks to an outsider, and I realise that you have made a case and aren't just being silly.
    Well, you have to distinguish between 'Dialectical Materialism' as applied to everything in the entire universe (Engel's position, and the view of most of the dialecticians who post here) and the 'dialectic' that applies only to human development (a minority view among dialecticians here -- BTB holds this view, and I suspect RP does as well, but I am not sure about him).

    It is much easier to show that Marx never accepted the former view, but did accept the latter.

    [The term 'Dialectical Marxism' was in fact invented by Plekhanov years after Marx died.]

    While it is quite clear that he accepted the latter view in his early work, my claim is that, by the time he wrote Das Kapital, he waved goodbye to the lot.

    Now, if it should turn out that I am wrong, all that will do is damage Marx's reputation, since it will implicate him in accepting a 'theory' that makes not one ounce of sense and which if true would make change impossible.

    On the latter claim, see here:

    Quotes:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...0&postcount=76

    Argument:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...1&postcount=77
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    While it is quite clear that he accepted the latter view in his early work, my claim is that, by the time he wrote Das Kapital, he waved goodbye to the lot.
    Would you disagree with Robert Tucker (in The Marx-Engels Reader) in saying:
    Shortly after adumberating the materialist conception of history in the 1844 manuscripts, and formulating is comprehensivly in Part I of The German Ideology, Marx turned the the economic studies that would preoccupy him in the ensuing years. This did not signify any change of interests or outlook, but was the logical outgrowth of the position taken in his earlier writings. If the thesis on 'alienated labor' was to be made scientifically cognent and if the expectation of coming proletarian revolution was to be based up on it, he needed to show the capital-labour relationship, which he took to be the core of the bourgeois socio-economic system, to be dialectically self-destructive, i.e. transitory by virtue of its inner dynamics of development. The first work in which he attempted this analysis was Wage Labour and Capital.
    I realise this refers to WLC, and not Capital, but does your argument apply to this as well?

    If not, do you advocate the 'primacy' of Capital over something like WLC as the best representation of Marx's economics?
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    My criticism applies only to dialectics as it is represented in the books and articles I quoted (in the links above), none of which were from Marx.

    Traditionally, Marx has been associated with this theory (as Tucker rightly notes), but it is quite easy to repair Marx's version by dropping the Hegelian jargon, and replacing it with the many hundreds (if not thousands) of words we have in ordinary language that allow us to speak of change in almost limitless detail.

    Does that answer your question?

    do you advocate the 'primacy' of Capital over something like WLC as the best representation of Marx's economics?
    Certainly.
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    Thanks, Rosa, that does answer my questions.
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    Perhaps I have a lot more Marx to read...but it does seem that Marx's dialectical method is just historical materialism, which only vaguely resembles what I know about Hegel and has nothing to do with Engel's three laws of dialectics. It seems like we could easily apply some of Marx's own criticism of Hegelians to Engels.
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    Perhaps I have a lot more Marx to read...but it does seem that Marx's dialectical method is just historical materialism, which only vaguely resembles what I know about Hegel and has nothing to do with Engel's three laws of dialectics. It seems like we could easily apply some of Marx's own criticism of Hegelians to Engels.
    That what I thought - that Marx's dialectical materialism was just the foundation of historical materialism. My picture was that Marx and Engels had very different ideas on dialectics, but the most significant was Marx's historical materialism - which, I thought, was stated as being in opposition to Hegel.
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    Vincent:

    that Marx's dialectical materialism was just the foundation of historical materialism.
    Is this what you still think?
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    Vincent:



    Is this what you still think?
    Well, to some extent. Assuming I'm right in saying that the materialist conception of history is - what appears to be - simply dialectical materialism applied to history, then my original perception is that dialectical materialism was the foundation of historical materialism.

    However, if I reject dialectical materialism, I would still need to provide a basis for historical materialism - I think. If I accept that DM can be removed from Marx's writings, and 'replaced' sufficiently with something else, then whatever that is will need to support historical materialism. Correct?

    But perhaps I'm confused, and it might be the case that rejecting DM means also rejecting the materialist conception of history...?
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