`No contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism’

Interview with veteran Peruvian Marxist Hugo Blanco, conducted by Yásser Gómez for Mariátegui magazine, September 9, 2008. Translated by Sean Seymour Jones for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

“The Self-organised Legislative Coup of the FTA [Free Trade Agreement], Indigenous Peoples and Social Movements” was the name of the national gathering of originario [indigenous] peoples, peasant communities and social movements that took place in Lima. There Mariátegui magazine interviewed Hugo Blanco, who in the 1970s led land takeovers in La Convención, Cusco, before the agrarian reform of Juan Velasco Alvarado was implemented. Today he continues in political combat from the trenches together with the peasantry, and as director of the newspaper Lucha Indigena (Indigenous Struggle).

What is your analysis of the Peruvian indigenous movement?

Hugo Blanco: I believe that it is on the rise, as it is in

Bolivia and Mexico. Although I should admit that in Peru, we are a bit behind, but it isn’t because we are cowards, or clumsy. It’s just that here we have suffered twenty years of internal war, where close to 70,000 people have been killed, the greater part of them indigenous, including many of their leaders. That is why we are behind, but we are – let’s say — catching up and this isn’t accidental. Because it’s due to the fact that two fundamental pillars of our culture that have been attacked over 500 years, have never suffered with such intensity as they are suffering now. These are solidarity and collectivism. Now that they trying to destroy the communities, praising neoliberal individualism. That’s why, we feel more attacked than ever. And on the other hand there is also the assault on nature, because across the whole continent our indigenous culture is respectful of Mother Earth, for example Mapuche means Child of the Earth. That’s why, the indigenous movement reacts, moreover, in rejection of the latest legislative decrees that destroy the community, with which [the government] wants to hand over the lands to multinational companies, so, it is natural that the indigenous movement responds to that.Do you think [Bolivian President] Evo Morales is taking the correct road in his conciliatory attitude with the separatist oligarchy of the “half moon’’ [provinces in eastern Bolivia] or do you think he should be more tough with them?I believe that he cedes a lot, he says that he wants to avoid bloodshed and that’s why he tries to reconcile with the oligarchy, but they don’t want to reconcile at all. Then, each act of his, more or less conciliatory, is taken as a triumph by his enemies and in this way they advance further. This has been seen in many cases, for example having the Constituent Assembly have to get two-thirds [majority to approve the draft constitution].After that, until now, Morales hasn’t convoked the referendum for the Constituent Assembly, when there was the abuse of the indigenous people in

Sucre and as a response the indigenous proposed the takeover of highways, and Evo said don’t do that. When he called on the people to go to Santa Cruz and impede the referendum, the people were ready and later he said perhaps it’s better not to go.

So, the whole thing of saying something and then easing off afterwards frustrates the people and these frustrated people are dangerous. We have seen that despite this, and the existence of some ultraleft sectors that have called for a vote to remove Evo, such as Pukara magazine and the leadership of the COB [Bolivian Workers Central], Evo Morales obtained more votes than the 53% he won in the presidential elections of 2005.

We have to condemn those ultraleft sectors that stupidly called for a vote to remove Evo. Because if Evo leaves, who will come in? It wasn’t the COB that was going to enter into government, or the editors of Pukara, or El Mallku [Felipe Quispe], it was going to be the Santa Cruz oligarchy that would have got in and done the same thing that Pinochet did in Chile.

Do you think the thoughts of José Carlos Mariátegui continue to be valid for the struggle of the originario peoples in

Latin America?

In Peru all the left self-defines itself as Mariateguist, but it seems that none of these Mariateguists have read The Seven Interpretive Essays of the Peruvian Reality, Mariátegui’s fundamental work, in which two of his essays are dedicated to the indigenous issue: “The Indian Problem” and “The Problem of Land”. And they completely ignore the indigenous problem, that’s why, together with some comrades, we have started to publish the newspaper Lucha Indigena. And with these latest legislative decrees proposed by the APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana — American Revolutionary Popular Alliance) government, once again we are seeing what Maríategui said, that the problem of the Indian is the problem of land.

How involved are the police authorities with the drug trafficking in the coca-growing zone of

La Convención in Cusco?I have denounced in the pages of Lucha Indigena and on the radio, that in La Convención [the coca-growing zone of Cusco] they are manufacturing cocaine and the producers are the police chiefs of the zone and directors of ENACO (National Coca Company). I said that if that was a slander, that they prosecute me for that reason. And nobody said anything.I have gone to coca-growing zones like Valle del Río Apurímac y del Ene or Putina Punko (Sandia – Puno) and nobody has bothered me, but in (San Luis) La Convención when one travels by public transport and takes a few coca leaves to chew, they take it from you. In this area there are 18 soaking pools in order to produce cocaine. Nobody from the disinformation media dared to denounce it. Given I worked with the comrades from that district, who are growers of Huyro tea, they informed me about this.I went to confirm it, but the police didn’t let me enter that zone. I said to them: “I just came to see the soaking pools”. They replied to me: “The general has prohibited people from seeing those pools.” And those from ENACO, together with the police, are the ones that take coca leaves just metres from those pools.Once again, I want to denounce, through Maríategui magazine, that the heads of ENACO and of the police are the cocaine producers. Moreover, ENACO is a monopoly, the Political Constitution of Peru, in article 61, prohibits monopolies, it doesn’t specify any exception, such as if they are state or private. So it’s an unconstitutional organisation that buys coca leaves at a low price and sells them for four times as much. When the Andean parliament member and coca-grower leader Elsa Malpartida visited Putina Punko in 2007, the coca growers from the zone asked her for a tractor from the mayor, to destroy a landing strip that was used by drug traffickers. Who had constructed that air field? DEVIDA, the state organisation that supposedly fights against the illegal trafficking of drugs.What is your analysis of the anti-drugs policy of the Alan García government?

This policy of APRA serves North American interests, who with the justification of fighting the production of cocaine, puts its army in our territory. Because they are interested in political and military control over that big source of hydrocarbons that is the Peruvian Amazon, the biodiversity and above all the water of the Amazon. Just as the pretext in

Iraq was weapons of mass destruction, here the pretext is drug trafficking. Although they say that it is a humanitarian plan, that’s why they redeployed the US 4th Fleet that patrols the waters of the Caribbean.Does Marxism have relevance as a tool for the struggles of the Peruvian people?The fundamental thing that I learned from Marx is dialectical materialism. And I continue to use dialectical materialism, although there are many things with which I disagree with Marx. Because for Marx no human being is perfect, for Marx there were no bibles, reality is worth more than a thousand books, all of this is why I’m a Marxist.Besides, given that I’m a dialectical materialist, I understand that people suffer from the pressures of their environment and their time. That’s why I understand that he also suffered from Eurocentric pressures. For example he said that the conquest of

India by the English had been a progressive act and that it brought them closer to capitalism. I don’t agree with that.I don’t like to define myself as Marxist, because it isn’t a religion. But I have a lot to be grateful for to Marx, because he taught me dialectical materialism. And by being dialectical I know that the American reality is different to Europe. That’s why I try to interpret American reality as an American. Therefore, for me, there isn’t any contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism.

148 comments on “`No contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism’

  1. It’s a shame to find this third world activist adopting the pseudo-science of dialectical materialism. What is very telling is this sentence:

    ‘The fundamental thing that I learned from Marx is dialectical materialism.’

    So Marx needn’t have bothered writing three volumes of Capital and everything else; the key to the truth of the universe is through Dialectical Materialism!

    It is Dialectical Materialism that puts Marxists out there with nutritionists, psychoanalysists and other practitioners of pseudo-science. It seems we cannot have a class-based approach to analysing history without the albatross of DM hanging round our necks.

    Check out http://www.anti-dialectics.org/1.html

  2. It seems to me that dialectical materialism is much misunderstood- it is simply the idea that there is an objective reality which exists beyond our descriptions of it that we get to know through trial and error, experimentation, interaction with the environment.

    Thus ideas and representations of reality checked against material data we evolve succesive aproximations of what that reality may be.

    This is not some mystic key or any other such nonsense but a description of how human beings come to understand ourselves in relation to our environment.

  3. I think the philosophical insights and adaptions of Karl Marx are useful, for example, economic categories are established by inter-relationships, the notion of contradiction is also very useful.

    However I have some problems with Engels approach to dialectics and all the deterministic readings of Marxism with a dialectical which is some crazy positivist Hegalian spiritual think…I am just rereading Marx’s Ecology by John Bellamy Foster which I would recommend.

    I think the debate about the indigenous and Marxism is a big important one…

  4. Derek:

    “the notion of contradiction is also very useful.”

    Given that this use of ‘contradiction’ derives from a series of crass logical blunders Hegel committed in his ‘Logic’ (wherein he confused the so-called ‘law of identity’ stated negatively with the ‘law of contradiction’), there is no justification for us Marxists to continue to employ it.

    Indeed, after 25 years researching this ‘theory’, I have yet to come across a single dialectician who can explain what this term means (without stipulatively re-defining the ordinary word “contradiction” in order to do so).

    Finally, even if we could make sense of this Hegelian notion, it’s use actually prevents us from understanding change. In fact, if dialectics were true, change could not happen. On that see here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

  5. All contradiction means is that we make models of the world and sometimes we have make adjustments to those models because the data don’t fit. This is not all mystical, crass logical blunder, or preventing us from understanding change.

    A very powerful model of change for example is the theory of evolution- based on a scientific understanding of the world.

  6. Goodness on said:

    dialectics is the logic of motion through the conflict of unified opposites i.e. contradiction. Chance and necessity perhaps being the most universal and obvious/non-obvious example. formal logic is the logic of fixed, unchanging things. materialism speaks for itself. Nothing mystical or even complicated. Change is a class issue.

  7. Goodness on said:

    Jason: that’s a slightly idealist interpretation of contradiction if you don’t mind me saying. Contradiction is a property of the material world.

  8. Jason:

    “All contradiction means is that we make models of the world and sometimes we have make adjustments to those models because the data don’t fit. This is not all mystical, crass logical blunder, or preventing us from understanding change.”

    This looks like yet another attempt at a stipulative re-definition. The question is: why use this word then? What has what you say got to do with “contradiction”?

    And surely you are not suggesting that the alleged ‘internal contradictions’ of capitalism are merely “models of the world and sometimes we have make adjustments to those models because the data don’t fit”?

    Is this what causes the regular crises?

    In fact, I am not sure you have given this much thought.

    “This is not all mystical, crass logical blunder, or preventing us from understanding change.”

    Well, as I have shown (at the link I posted above), ‘contradictions’ as they appear in Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, and Mao would actually prevent change.

    And here I have outlined the crass errors I accuse Hegel of committing:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/Outline_of_errors_Hegel_committed_01.htm

    “A very powerful model of change for example is the theory of evolution- based on a scientific understanding of the world.”

    I agree, but this theory has nothing whatsoever to do with dialectics — which is why it works.

  9. Goodness:

    “dialectics is the logic of motion through the conflict of unified opposites i.e. contradiction. Chance and necessity perhaps being the most universal and obvious/non-obvious example. formal logic is the logic of fixed, unchanging things. materialism speaks for itself. Nothing mystical or even complicated. Change is a class issue.”

    1. If dialectics were true, change would be impossible. I have demonstrated why that is so at the link I posted above.

    2. Only someone ignorant of Formal Logic would say what you say of it (and it is apparent that you have merely copied this off other dialecticians who in turn copied it off Hegel, Engels and Trotsky without checking it). In fact, I’d like you to quote one modern logic text that supports what you allege. Even Aristotelian logic could cope with change. Modern Logic (especially Temporal and Modal Logic) cope with change admirably well, and does not operate with ‘fixed categories’. All this and more is substantiated in extensive detail here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2004.htm

    3. Dialectics is indeed a modern form of Hermetic Mysticism; check out the similarities between its core theses and the those that modern day Hermeticists accept:

    http://www.gnostic.org/kybalionhtm/kybalion.htm

    On Hegel’s Hermeticism, see here:

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/magee.htm

    Yes, I know that dialecticians claim they have upended Hegel (putting him the ‘right way up’), and that they have stripped away the ‘mystical shell’ to leave the ‘rational core’ etc., etc., but that does not affect their incapacity to explain its core concepts (which remain a mystery to this day) — nor does it affect the fact that they accept in principle to cracked logic Hegel cobbled-together which was the core of his mystical system.

    There are other reasons why dialectics is a modern form of mysticism, but the above will do for the purposes of this thread.

  10. Mike:

    “Jason just ignore ‘Rosa’ ’she’ is a basket case.”

    Ah, yet another dialectician who cannot defend this mystical ‘theory’, but has to resort to abuse.

  11. Goodness:

    “Jason: that’s a slightly idealist interpretation of contradiction if you don’t mind me saying. Contradiction is a property of the material world.”

    And yet we still do not know what these mysterious ‘contradictions’ are.

  12. I think this thread nicely illustrates the usual routine involved with dialectics. You can see each dialectitian has their own perception of dialectics, which inevitably leads to a conflict with other dialectitians. Sounds Dialectical? – Except nothing new emerges from this. In 1000 years this argument will have repeated itself an unlimited number of times almost identically. The usual sort of argument going along the lines of:

    ‘- that’s a slightly idealist interpretation of contradiction if you don’t mind me saying. Contradiction is a property of the material world.’

    If you take up dialectics, this is all you’ve got to look forward to.

  13. It is not an idealist intepretation at all. It is the opposite- when our models, our ideas, about the world fail then they need to be updated.

    #7 “dialectics is the logic of motion through the conflict of unified opposites i.e. contradiction. Chance and necessity perhaps being the most universal and obvious/non-obvious example.”

    What does that mean? It’s just a fancy way of saying things change- yes but we know this through careful observation and theorising- i.e. a materialist scientific method which is what dialiectical materialism means if it means anything.

    #10 “And surely you are not suggesting that the alleged ‘internal contradictions’ of capitalism are merely “models of the world and sometimes we have make adjustments to those models because the data don’t fit”?

    Is this what causes the regular crises?”

    We were talking about materialism and science. Capitalism is a human made way of administering goods and people in society. It has undergone regualr crises- these are observable. The fact that cpaitlaism means that billions of people are denied access to even basic resources means that we should change that way of ordering society. There may be a general link in the sense that both science and politics should be based on observation, rational throught, discussion and evidence but that is it.

  14. Jason:

    “We were talking about materialism and science. Capitalism is a human made way of administering goods and people in society. It has undergone regualr crises- these are observable. The fact that cpaitlaism means that billions of people are denied access to even basic resources means that we should change that way of ordering society. There may be a general link in the sense that both science and politics should be based on observation, rational throught, discussion and evidence but that is it.”

    Yes, but what has this got to do with ‘contradiction’?

    You said they were this:

    “models of the world and sometimes we have make adjustments to those models because the data don’t fit”

    But, and once again, how do these cause the crises in capitalism? Are you saying that the way we think and/or adjust our ideas cause economic crises?

  15. Contradiction and dialectics do seem something really useful from Marx, although I am reluctant to have a long philosophical argument about them today to be frank, interesting that the logic chopping is more important to some than the struggle for ecology, human rights and just waged by my amigo Hugo Blanco

  16. mark anthony france on said:

    #17 Derek Wall…. Yes Derek Hugo is absolutely right in situating the situation in Peru as one of ‘catching up’ with developments across the American Continent…
    The disastorous announcement by the isolated and sectarian leadership of Sendero Luminoso [the Shining Path] of a state of Strategic Equilbrium in the early 1990’s led to a brutal war and brutal struggle for power with the imposition of acts of Terror by both Fujimoros State and the Indeginous Peruvian highland peasants organised in Sendero…. The defeat of Sendero and the exhaustion of ordinary people after a decade of dirty war…. was inevitable.
    Hugo is part of the process to rebuild a new powerful movement capabled of learning lessons and making alliances and linking to a powerful heritage of enviromental awareness that go back to the days of the INCA civilisation.

    Hugo’s capacity to be an inspirational leader is linked to his profound and deep understanding of the contradictions in Peruvian society in this his guiding thread remains dialectical materialism…. I agree with you and I too “am reluctant to have a long philosophical arguement”….
    Last year I visited Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetry for the first time [cost £3.50 to get in!]….I noticed that the headstone was ingraved with “Philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it”

    Hugo Blanco…. has been engaged in the struggle to “change it” for 50 years and we have a lot to learn from him.

  17. Derek Wall:

    “Contradiction and dialectics do seem something really useful from Marx, although I am reluctant to have a long philosophical argument about them today to be frank, interesting that the logic chopping is more important to some than the struggle for ecology, human rights and just waged by my amigo Hugo Blanco”

    Unfortunately, since we are told that ‘truth is tested in practice’, and we have witnessed little other than 150 years of the almost total failure of Dialectical Marxism (all four internationals have gone down the pan, 1917 has been reversed, Marxist parties (particularly Trotskyist ones) are deeply divided (the recent fragmentation of Respect being just the latest example)), this implies that dialectics has been refuted by history.

    Hence, it is not surprise to find then that this ‘theory’ cannot be defended, since it is so confused, it is in fact impossible to decide if it is true or false; it does not make it that far.

    So, the commendable struggles you mention would in fact benefit from the exclusion of this ‘theory’ from Marxism.

    On the other hand, if you want to witness another 150 years of dialectical failure, then by all means cling on to this ever so successful ‘theory’.

    In that case, we still await a clear explanation of what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is.

  18. Goodness on said:

    Jason: you suggest that the contradiction is between reality and our ideas of reality. That is idealist. Contradictions, i.e. unified opposites, exist as a property of the material world independent of our consciousness of them.

    Rosa: formal logic can only deal with motion and change through a string of formal syllogisms which must eventually lead to error or absurdity because ultimately the premises or fundations themselves are changing.

  19. Mark:

    “Last year I visited Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetry for the first time [cost £3.50 to get in!]….I noticed that the headstone was ingraved with “Philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it”.”

    And it is even more interesting to note that in Das Kapital, Marx abandoned ‘the dialectic’ as it has traditionally been understood by generations of his epigones. [Proof will be supplied on request.]

    The ‘rational core’ of Hegel’s ‘method’ is in fact non-existent.

  20. Goodness:

    “Rosa: formal logic can only deal with motion and change through a string of formal syllogisms which must eventually lead to error or absurdity because ultimately the premises or foundations themselves are changing.”

    Again, this shows how out-of-date (or defective, or both) your knowledge of Formal Logic is.

    Sure, Aristotelian Logic deals with syllogisms, but modern logic (which now covers about 99.9% of the field) does not. Modern logicians can construct arguments of mind-numbing complexity (all capable of handling change — in view of the fact that they all use variables (all of which can change) — a device invented by Aristotle 1500 years before Descartes introduced these into algebra, so even his logic can handle change) none of which are syllogisms.

    I give several examples of this here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2004.htm

    Now there is no excuse for this self-inflicted ignorance; there are plenty of sites on the Internet that will reveal just a fraction of this complexity.

    Even worse, dialectical logic cannot cope with change, and, as I noted earlier, if dialectical materialism were true, change would be impossible.

    Proof here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

  21. Goodness on said:

    Don’t be such an anti-intellectual Andy. You sound like a Palindrone. Clearly you’ve got it in for the liberal elite this week.

    Rosa: `The rational core of Hegel’s method is in factn non-existent.’

    That’s a bold statement. Sounds like a prejudice rather than a reasoned arguement.

  22. Goodness on said:

    Rosa: those methods you mention are half-way houses to dialectics adopted due to the obvious weaknesses of formal logic.

  23. Andy:

    “Feel free to take this discussioon elsewhere to a forum where anyone gives a damn.”

    I am sorry Andy, but I have kept clear of your site for many months, and have deliberately avoided hogging the discussion on this topic until now.

    But, why post an article on dialectical materialism if you do not want it discusssed?

    However, anyone who does want to dicsuss this ‘theory’ is welcome to nip over to RevLeft, where I have been wiping the floor with dialecticians now for the last three years:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/philosophy-f33/index.html

  24. Goodness:

    “Rosa: those methods you mention are half-way houses to dialectics adopted due to the obvious weaknesses of formal logic.”

    No they are not, since dialectical logic is shot through with error and confusion (as the incapacity of comrades here to explain what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is well attests). So, these methods are not a ‘half-way’ house; they are in fact a refutation of the mantta that formal logic [FL] cannot account for change. It can, and far better than the obscure jargon that Hegel invented to fix something that was not broken.

    Indeed, ordinary langauge does this even better than FL.

    And you keep asserting that FL has ‘weaknesses’ but you have yet to show that it has any.

  25. Goodness:

    “Rosa: `The rational core of Hegel’s method is in factn non-existent.’

    That’s a bold statement. Sounds like a prejudice rather than a reasoned arguement.”

    Maybe so, maybe not (I did say I would supply proof on request!).

    Now, I do not want to stretch Andy’s hospitality beyond breaking point, so I will merely say that the proof you require can be found here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1158574&postcount=73

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1158816&postcount=75

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1161443&postcount=114

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1163222&postcount=124

  26. Goodness on said:

    So far I’m getting a lot of bold assertions and very little arguement Rosa. Also, I think I have explained contradiction three times now.

  27. Goodness on said:

    Here is a simple example: becoming is the unity of being and not being. It is to be found in every situation that you would care to mention unless it is indeed you who is outlawing movement.

  28. Equally you can’t just say Marx=Hegal, likewise if he draws on Spinoza that may or may not be call but is probably not the key issue on the streets of Lima.

  29. #26

    “why post an article on dialectical materialism”

    I didn’t.

    And nor did Derak, the intersting meat of the article is Blanco’s views about South American politics.

  30. Andy, apologies, but it is at this site: so why was it published if you did nit want this theory discussed?

    Sure, the ‘meat’ of the article is as you say, but the headline isn’t, and Blanco specifically attributes his abilty to theorise clearly to this theory.

  31. Goodness:

    “So far I’m getting a lot of bold assertions and very little arguement Rosa. Also, I think I have explained contradiction three times now.”

    Well, that is all you have given up to now (except I have posted links to places where you will find all the proof you need, and more).

    And where have you explained this obscure notion?

  32. Rosa

    You have proved yourself incabable of discussing theory in a concrete way that relates to the real world, all you do is academic and boring waffle.

    You critique of dialectics is facile and juvenile, but becasue it is also irrelevent I can’t be bothered to debate it with you.

  33. Goodness:

    “Here is a simple example: becoming is the unity of being and not being. It is to be found in every situation that you would care to mention unless it is indeed you who is outlawing movement.”

    Your first sentence is a dogmatic assertion (copied form Hegel, who also failed to prove it).

    Indeed, this is part of Hegel’s crass logic: he nominalised the present participle of the verb ‘to be’ and built a mystical theory out of that neat verbal trick. St Anselm did the same sort of thing to’prove’ ‘god’ exists.

    Now, if Any will give me the space, I will happily set out in painful detail my proof that dialectics actually prevents change.

    But, he is not going to do that, so if you want to read my proof, go here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

  34. Andy:

    “You have proved yourself incabable of discussing theory in a concrete way that relates to the real world, all you do is academic and boring waffle.

    You critique of dialectics is facile and juvenile, but becasue it is also irrelevent I can’t be bothered to debate it with you.”

    1. If this theory makes no sense to begin with (which I have shown is indeed the case), then it is in fact impossible to apply it ‘concretely’.

    2. You have never ‘debated’ it with me, nor are you here. So how you know so much about it?

    3. In what way is my work ‘facile’ and ‘juvenile’?

    4. If this theory has presided over 150 years of almost total failure (which it has), then it is vitally important we address it, since continued adherence to it threatens to usher in another 150 years of failure. In that case, this is eminently practical.

  35. I think this would be poor comment on an article on Marxist philosophy, it has fairly limited relevence here.

    contradiction between ‘use values’ and ‘exchange values’ is one line which I think promotes thought.

    Likewise a philosophical approach that explains identity in terms of relationships is useful, something found in ecology and Marxism.

    Yes old style diamat does not work, but what you see is what you get empiricism is pretty limited…shit here I go debating with an apparent philosophy troll.

  36. Derek:

    “contradiction between ‘use values’ and ‘exchange values’ is one line which I think promotes thought.”

    But this isn’t a ‘contradiction’, unless you are using this word in a new and as yet unexplained way.

    “shit here I go debating with an apparent philosophy troll.”

    Yes, and all you dialecticians can do is post abuse. You certainly cannot defend your ‘theory’.

  37. mark anthony france on said:

    41# Rosa Lichtenstein
    the ‘dialectical materialists’ might not be keen on ‘defending your theory’… Can you defend your ‘practice’?

    “Marxism considers itself the conscious expression of the unconscious historical process. But the “unconscious” process, in the historico-philosophical sense of the term—not in the psychological—coincides with its conscious expression only at its highest point, when the masses, by sheer elemental pressure, break through the social routine and give victorious expression to the deepest needs of historical development. And at such moments the highest theoretical consciousness of the epoch merges with the immediate action of those oppressed masses who are farthest away from theory. The creative union of the conscious with the unconscious is what one usually calls “inspiration”. Revolution is the inspired frenzy of history.

    Every real writer knows creative moments, when something stronger than himself is guiding his hand; every real orator experiences moments when someone stronger than the self of his everyday existence speaks through him. This is “inspiration”. It derives from the highest creative effort of all one’s forces. The unconscious rises from its deep well and bends the conscious mind to its will, merging it with itself in some greater synthesis.

    The utmost spiritual vigour likewise infuses at times all personal activity connected with the movement of the masses. This was true for the leaders in the October days. The hidden strength of the organism, its most deeply rooted instincts, its power of scent inherited from animal forebears—all these rose and broke through the psychic routine to join forces with the higher historico-philosophical abstractions in the service of the revolution. Both these processes, affecting the individual and the mass, were based on the union of the conscious with the unconscious: the union of instinct—the mainspring of the will—with the higher theories of thought.[24]

    lovely bit of mystiscism for you Rosa from Trokskies My Life

  38. #37 Rosa I think you are labouring under a gigantic misapprehension. ‘Dialectical materialism’ is simply another term for the scientific method. This in no sense contradicts formal logic and it is an absolute nonsense to claim that it has ‘presided over 150 years of almost total failure – – DNA? advances in medecine? understanding of the brain? neurochemistry? computing technologies?

    ‘Dialectical’ was used to distinguish it from a version of scientism that attempted to explain everything including culture, psychology, sociology, history in over reductive terms. However, there have been great advances since then in all these fields. Trotsky’s writing is great poetry and perhaps contains some genuine insights that in no way contradicts the complex all-rounded picture emerging from scientific understandings of the world and ourselves.

  39. “You have proved yourself incabable of discussing theory in a concrete way that relates to the real world, all you do is academic and boring waffle.

    You critique of dialectics is facile and juvenile, but becasue it is also irrelevent I can’t be bothered to debate it with you.”

    I found this rather disappointing from Andy. I think it’s incredibly pompous and ignorant of Rosa’s efforts. It’s funny that you have expressed your desire for this debate to ‘go somewhere else’. I take it then that you are indeed a dialectiatian.

    There are too few left-wingers in the world. Marxism is regarded by many as a psuedo-science; what are you going to do about it? I think cutting out the mystical dialectics is essential. That’s the relevance of it.

  40. #44 You claim that the idea of materialism is mysticism yet offer no evidence for this.

    Marxism may be regarded by some as a pseudo-science- so what should we do? We should say that on any rational evidence capitalism is failing billions of people all over the world and point to examples of how workers organising in unions, in campaigns, in dircet action can begin to improve conditions in their lives. This is not necessarily science but is consistent with a scientific world view that we should proceed by reason and evidence. That is the relevance of defending the idea that there is a world independent of our descriptions of it- the opposite of mysticism though not in any sense denying the importance of art, feeling or emotion in human life. But you didn’t respond to any of my other points so I;ll leave it there.

  41. Alex #44

    This debate generates more heat than light, and in particular whenever any one does make a telling point aganst “Rosa” (s)he says, ahh but you have to read my whole thesis.

    All i see is Rosa continually hijacking debate about substantive issues in order to prosecute a very abstract dispute about philosophy.

    There is a logicall falacy at the heart of Rosa’s approach – if dialectics is so mystifying and has so little impact on analysing and understsanding the concrete issues in the real world, then we do not need to look towards dialectics in order to discover the motivations for the failures and mistakes of the labour movement.

    It is also hradly a great insight that marxist philospohy employs its own specialist vocabulary, ( a good example is the use of “metaphycis” in marxist philosophy to mean something quite different from metaphysics in non-Marxist philosophy). in the terms understood by marxists the word “contradiction” is taken to mean interpenetrating and opposed processes of change. They are contradictory in the sense that no one process can proceed to exhaustion without complex interaction with the other interrelated processes which alters its outcome.

    There is no mystification there – indeed the related concepts of emergent properties and sytem level behaviour would be accessible to most practicing engineers and scientists.

  42. Jason:

    “You claim that the idea of materialism is mysticism yet offer no evidence for this. ”

    Nice try. I said ‘Dialectical Materialism’ is a pseudo-science. It is materialism that has been undermined by DM.

    Which brings me to my next point: If we can call Robert Brenner a Marxist, then where in his essay ‘Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe’, does he make an Dialectical argument? Where does the mystical idea that ‘everything in the universe is interconnected’ or any other Dialectical concept come in to play in this or any of his other works? If he had resorted to such dubious meta-physical/philosophical concepts, his critics would have torn his work apart. Same applies to Eric Hobsbawm. If DM is not good enough for their work, then why is it suitable for other Marxists like our Hugo Blanco?

    Your major logical fallacy is when you assert that Marxism is synonymous with Dialectical Materialism. Or Jason’s case, that Historical Materialism is synonymous Dialectical Materialism.

    Andy, you have called for left-activists to get away from old habits and dogmas about ‘revolutionary’ parties and so on. So why do you find it so difficult to see Dialectics for what it is? Dialectics is just nonsensical word-play.

    You also cannot deny that your own understanding of Dialectics will not agree with other peoples perception Dialectics. Don’t you find that lack of coherence telling? I made this point in an earlier post on this thread.

    I found Rosa’s work very valuable. I feel it is an important step to reviving Marxism and/or left wing activism. This we can all agree is what we want.

  43. #45 As far as I can see there is no difference between dailectical materialism and science- they are differnet terms for the same endeavour an attempot to understand the world through experience, reason and change our opinions in the light of them.

    Reviving left-wing activism is a very desirable aim but I think debates about science are probably not key to it. More important is reorgansing working class struggle, rebuilding campaigns and class conscsiousness from the bottom up, reconnecting with workers’ everyday concerns. Of course open-minded polite discussion about all sorts of issues such as advances in science, evoltuion, medecine, the revitalisation of capitalism and the possible unravelling of some of this in the current crisis- all of these play a role. Of the little I’ve seen of Rosa’s site it has nothing to do with this but speaks in highly abstract terms bearing no apparent relation to any of these matters. In fact that really is a problem of many variants of Marxism- its use of alien codes and rituals only understandable to the intitiated few. I suggest we break with that tradition!

  44. We could have a Roy Bhaskar thread looking at the philosophy of knowledge from a Marxist perspective but it ain’t what Hugo’s interview is about….and I suspect it isn’t the biggest dilemma for the left at present.

  45. The major issue for the left is that it is tiny. How can we convince more people and grow a movement?

    And Derek, Your Dialectics can be a potential threat in the battle against climate change. Can you imagine a man-made global warming denier resorting to discrediting the Green Party and the campaign against CO2 emissions on the grounds that its male-principle speaker believes the science on global warming to be dialectical? This is purely hypothetical of course, but it does illustrate the incompatibility of dialectics with science and history, as the scientists and academics involved will be the first to deny the involvement of dialectics in their work. But I would imagine the damage would be mostly against any movement built around the climate change science. Unless of course you don’t consider the science behind Climate Change to be dialectical.

    Perhaps just like with class struggles: We have lots of good history on class struggles, but the mystifying and discrediting influence of dialectics has prevented people from building a movement from it. So I believe Rosa does have a point.

  46. #51 Alex

    you shouldn’t confuse dialectics with Lysenkoism. First rate and internationally renowned scientists like JBS Haldane have promoted dialectical materialism; as of course have more contemptarary scientists like Stephen Rose.

    It is Lysenkoism to believe that scientific knoeldge can be derived from philosopical pronciples, but that is a bastardisation of both science and marxism (although it does have an interesting historical story in its own right)

    In terms of a theory of scientific knowledge then the marxist thoery of science can hold its own with other strands of scientific realism in terms of accounting for the relationship of science as a social practice impacting upon the understanding of observed phenomena in an actually exsting world. It is an obscure debate, and I cannot see how the science of climate change is in any possible way discredited by different interretatioons of the philosophy of science.

    It is completely untrue that working scientists would “be the first to deny the involvement of dialectics in their work” – most working scientists are utterly agnostic about different philosophical interpretations of science.

    this is part of the problem with Rosa’s amateur approach – which doesn’t relate to the exceedingly large body of existing work discussing these very issues.

    And Rosa has been completely unable to explain any actual historical example of the workers movement taking a wrong turn based upon dialectics. It is a ridiculous over-estimatioon of the importnace of the practical importnace of philospohy on politcal activity.

  47. #42

    Mark:

    “the ‘dialectical materialists’ might not be keen on ‘defending your theory’… Can you defend your ‘practice’?”

    I do not have a theory over an above Historical Materialism (with every trace of Hegel/Spinoza/Kant/… removed).

    So, I do not know what you mean by “my (i.e., Rosa’s) theory”.

    Then you ask can I defend my practice.

    Answer: “No”.

    But, why would I want to defend it?

    The question is, can you dialecticians defend your theory –, or even so much as tell us what just one core concept of yours means — such as ‘dialectical contradiction’?

    The last 200 years in fact returns a resounding “No!”; your theory is just as much a mystery to you as it is to us genuine materialists.

    The rest if what you say seems to me to be yet more avoiding tactics, for I do not disagree with much of what Trotsky says.

  48. #43:

    Jason:

    “‘Dialectical materialism’ is simply another term for the scientific method. This in no sense contradicts formal logic and it is an absolute nonsense to claim that it has ‘presided over 150 years of almost total failure – – DNA? advances in medicine? understanding of the brain? neurochemistry? computing technologies?”

    You wish!

    However, I deny this, and so would the vast majority of scientists. The scientific method does not appeal to the “unity of opposites”, the “negation of the negation”, “dialectical contradictions”, and the rest of the mystical baggage Hegel dreamt up.

    The rest of what you say does not seem relevant.

  49. #46

    Andy:

    “the terms understood by marxists the word “contradiction” is taken to mean interpenetrating and opposed processes of change. They are contradictory in the sense that no one process can proceed to exhaustion without complex interaction with the other interrelated processes which alters its outcome.”

    As I noted, the only thing that dialecticians can offer in response to a request that they tell us what the term “dialectical contradiction” means is a stipulative re-definition.

    But this in no way tells us why you have all appropriated this word in this way.

    And yet we all already know why you have: it’s just tradition, and it is one based on the mystical musings and defective logic Hegel inflicted on humanity. There is no other rationale for using this word in this way.

    Even worse, this use of this word actually *prevents* change for occurring.

    “Not so!”, comrades might respond. Unfortunately this is so. I would, if I were given the space here, proceed to demonstrate this, so unless and until Andy allows me to do so, I can merely invite comrades to read this short section of one of my Essays:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

    However, Andy left a key idea out of his attempt to ‘define’ this obscure Hegelian concept. Fortunately, Marx added it for us:

    “The simple form of value itself contains the polar opposition between, and the union of, use-value and exchange-value…. [Marx writes that] ‘the relative form of value and the equivalent form are two inseparable moments, which belong to and mutually condition each other…but at the same time they are mutually exclusive and opposed extremes.’ Concerning the first he observes that the value of linen cannot be expressed in linen; 20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen is not an expression of value. ‘The value of linen can therefore only be expressed relatively, that is in another commodity. The relative form of the value of the linen therefore presupposes that some other commodity confronts it in the equivalent form.’ Concerning the second: ‘on the other hand, this other commodity which figures as the equivalent, cannot simultaneously be in the relative form of value… The same commodity cannot, therefore, simultaneously appear in both forms in the same expression of value. These forms rather exclude each other as polar opposites.'”
    Comrades will note that Marx adds that such ‘contradictions’ “at the same time they are mutually exclusive and opposed extremes”.

    Unfortunately, if these “mutually exclude” one another they cannot co-exist and so cannot change anything. On the other hand if they do co-exist, they cannot “mutually exclude” one another, and so cannot be ‘contradictions’.

    So, even if we knew what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is (that is, over and above an arbitrary and convenient re-definition of the ordinary word), they cannot exist and so cannot change anything — or if they do exist, they cannot be ‘contradictions’.

  50. Incidentally, the quotation I gave was from Scott Meikle’s, ‘Dialectical Contradiction And Necessity’, in Mepham and Ruben (1979), pp.5-33.

    Mepham, J., and Ruben, D-H. (1979), (eds.), Issues In Marxist Philosophy, Volume One: Dialectics And Method (Harvester Press).

    The qutations from Marx come from volume One of Das Kapital, the “mutually exclude” phrase appearing on page 58 (foot of the page) of Volume 35 of the Collected Works.

  51. Rosa

    You are a boring auti-didact obsessive.

    Engels emphatically did not derive scientific knowledge from philosophical principles, because he was a politician and a philosopher, and not a working scientist.

    the endeavour of working scientists judging the correctness of scientific theories based upon a class line starts with Lysenko; and itself has an interesting pedigree as part of the struggle to develop a Russian agricultural science, faced with no native history of scientific farming, and a shortage of qualified experts. The necessity of boosting agricultural production was indeed part of a political struggle, and it is easy of overlook the fact that Lysenko’s rise to fame was based upon empirical success in his farm trials.

    Ultimately Lysenko’s theories proved to be bad science, but we should also remember that prior to the discovery of DNA the life sciences lacked a convoncing account of the mechanism of inheritance, and Lysenko’s actually sciecne as no worse than many other academics who bow to the prevailing fundinig and political climate. the difference is that Lysenko explicity used the language of dialectical materialism to demonise his critics. Interestingly it was in the CPGB that the greatest opposition to Lysenkoism appeared on the communist movement – perhaps due to strong native traditions of English empiricism.

    Except for the brief twenty year period of high Stalinism, there has never been any tradition in the working sciences of theorising based upon the Marxist philospohy of science.

    The most useful theory of scientific knowledge to account for the impact of social factors upon the divergence of Soviet life sciences and life sciences in the West is indeed Marxism, and Engels was a great provider of insight into the way ideological processes affect science.

  52. Andy:

    “You are a boring auti-didact obsessive.”

    Yes, I can just imagine someone like you responding to Das Kapital this way:

    “Herr Marx, you are a boring and obsessive anti-Capitalist”.

    Not a very profound criticism, is it?

    “Engels emphatically did not derive scientific knowledge from philosophical principles, because he was a politician and a philosopher, and not a working scientist.”

    Oh yes he did. Plenty of proof at that link I posted. I double dog dare you to read it.

    The rest of what you say I do not contest — except to add that Lysenko was merely doing what all dialecticians do.

    Incidentally, Marx’s quotation (from #56)can be found here:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S3a

  53. Rosa

    You are incapable it seems of understanding the distinction that Engels was not a working scientist. He was a philospoher who wrote about the physical world as part of his philosophial enquiries,and based upon extensive reading by him of the leading science of the day, to which he deferred.

    Your obsessive and irrational approach is revealled when you say “Lysenko was merely doing what all dialecticians do.”

    So in your view, there was no difference between Lysenko and JBS Haldane?

    It is simply an insult to the many thousands of working scientists who have been supporters of the soocialist and communist movements to say that their adherence to dialectical materialism means that they are all Lysenkoists.

  54. Andy:

    “You are incapable it seems of understanding the distinction that Engels was not a working scientist. He was a philosopher who wrote about the physical world as part of his philosophical enquiries, and based upon extensive reading by him of the leading science of the day, to which he deferred.”

    I know he was not a working scientist, but he was a rather poor philosopher.

    However, like all other dialecticians that did not stop him from deriving dozens of a priori scientific theses (true for all of reality, for all of time) from ‘dialectics’.

    “Your obsessive and irrational approach is revealed when you say “Lysenko was merely doing what all dialecticians do.””

    I take it that this means you can’t respond rationally to what I have to say.

    “So in your view, there was no difference between Lysenko and JBS Haldane?”

    As far as a propensity to derive a priori ‘scientific’ theses from dialectics is concerned, not much.

    A better comparison is between Lysenko and J D Bernal, a dialectician who continued to defend Lysenko (against the ‘geneticists’) into the 1950s.

    “It is simply an insult to the many thousands of working scientists who have been supporters of the socialist and communist movements to say that their adherence to dialectical materialism means that they are all Lysenkoists.”

    On the contrary, it is an insult to the workers’ movement that this lot swallowed this mystical ‘theory’ — and, like you, cannot defend it (without sinking into abuse).

    And where did I say they were all Lysenkoists?

    They are, however, all dialecticians, and dialecticians all do what Engels and Hegel did: impose dialectics on nature.

  55. Rosa

    People are rude to you because you assume that an unwillingness to debate philosophy is proof of inability to do so whereas it is just that we don’t want to – for several reasons – not least of which is that you are an obsessive and so any “debate” with you would be interminable. But also becasue you have failed to provide any argument of why it is important, other than some personal bad experience you had with the SWP leadership justifying a turn you disagrred with years ago by a bogus refereence to dialectics. Get over it.

  56. mark anthony france on said:

    #61..Derek…Yes Derek Hugo is absolutely right in situating the situation in Peru as one of ‘catching up’ with developments across the American Continent…
    The disastorous announcement by the isolated and sectarian leadership of Sendero Luminoso [the Shining Path] of a state of Strategic Equilbrium in the early 1990’s led to a brutal war and brutal struggle for power with the imposition of acts of Terror by both Fujimoros State and the Indeginous Peruvian highland peasants organised in Sendero…. The defeat of Sendero and the exhaustion of ordinary people after a decade of dirty war…. was inevitable.
    Hugo is part of the process to rebuild a new powerful movement capabled of learning lessons and making alliances and linking to a powerful heritage of enviromental awareness that go back to the days of the INCA civilisation.

    Hugo’s capacity to be an inspirational leader is linked to his profound and deep understanding of the contradictions in Peruvian society in this his guiding thread remains dialectical materialism…. I agree with you and I too “am reluctant to have a long philosophical arguement”….
    Last year I visited Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetry for the first time [cost £3.50 to get in!]….I noticed that the headstone was ingraved with “Philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it”

    Hugo Blanco…. has been engaged in the struggle to “change it” for 50 years and we have a lot to learn from him.

    #62 Andy… Charlie was a bit of a snob especially when he still had some of Jenny’s family money to spend but Freddie was much more relaxed and it eventually rubbed off on Charlie and he had a really positive effect on Eleanor who was quite ‘common’ in her manners.

    #64.. Rosa… Still Avoiding I See! Your obsessive critique of dialectical materialism without proposing an alternative method of understanding the world and developing a praxis to work for change in reality is a way of avoiding life. I suggest a pratical course of Taoist inspired training to reorientate your chi and align your chakra’s… and maybe re-emmersion in campaigning political activity. Best wishes

  57. Incidently, I remember one of JBS halldane’s defences of the theory of dialectics started off with an apology saying he wasn’t able to consult his reference books becasue he was fighting on the front line in the defence of madrid.

    That is how to combine theory and practice.

  58. mark anthony france on said:

    67# Hey Andy
    Running the SU site, juggling work and kids and engaging in philosphical debate makes you as heroic as JBS Haldane!
    … I used to like the stuff that George Novak did for the American SWP on Dialectics and Philosophy… George Novak was not a trained academic and active in the ‘struggle’ . I lost all my books in 1991 when I went to Cuba but I remember an very good piece by Novack in a collection entitled Polemics in Marxist Philosphy… brilliant critque of Satre’s Critque of Dialectical Reason…
    I used to “liberate” books an lot and give them away and remember that one that went down well with novice revolutionary’s was Novak “The Logic of Marxism”…
    I miss all that Philosophy stuff but can’t be bothered to engage in debate around abstractions.
    Saw Hugo Blanco once in Camden Town Hall in 1979 [i think]…. a chunky chap!

  59. God I love this stuff. I especially love the notion that Rosa is in personal possession of the correct definition of the word contradiction.

  60. mark anthony france on said:

    #69 johng … God… mmmmmm God is dead! or maybe not! I love this stuff as well… if were not careful we will be talking about the negation of the negation being viewed as more of cyclical conception which over time takes the form of a spiral similar in structure to a Double Helix rising upwards like a ladder for us to climb so that one day over the rainbow way up high theres a place that I heard of once in a lullaby.

  61. mark anthony france on said:

    #70 Andy…you are a hero!… a sturdy west country ploughboy… who one day will be commemorated by a 120 foot tall socialist realist statue next to the M4 with arms streched up to the heavens like a bigger version of Larkin outside the GPO in O’Connel street in Dublin…. with the inscription..
    “Let us triangulate!”

  62. mark anthony france on said:

    Oh by the way just had the local paper on the blower asking ‘how many members does Bromsgrove RESPECT have’…. I said ‘er …well … just me actually’….the journalist said ‘how can you have a ‘March on the Council house then?’ … I said “well actually the leaflet called for a Lobby not a march”…. The journalist seemed very posh…. and there was a sort of ‘clash of civilisations’ going on. So to lighten the atmosphere I said [as they sounded middle aged] “do you remember Wolfy Smith and the Tooting Popular Front”…. She was still laughing when she hung up the phone!

  63. Andy:

    “People are rude to you because you assume that an unwillingness to debate philosophy is proof of inability to do so whereas it is just that we don’t want to – for several reasons – not least of which is that you are an obsessive and so any “debate” with you would be interminable. But also becasue you have failed to provide any argument of why it is important, other than some personal bad experience you had with the SWP leadership justifying a turn you disagrred with years ago by a bogus refereence to dialectics. Get over it.”

    As I said: still avoiding. Any old excuse will do.

  64. Mark:

    “Your obsessive critique of dialectical materialism without proposing an alternative method of understanding the world and developing a praxis to work for change in reality is a way of avoiding life. I suggest a pratical course of Taoist inspired training to reorientate your chi and align your chakra’s… and maybe re-emmersion in campaigning political activity. Best wishes”

    1. We do not need an ‘alternative’; Historical Materialism is fine by itself (provided the mytical Hegelian gobbledygook has been excised).

    2. I am as ‘obsessive’ as Marx was in his work. If that’s a crime, I plead guilty.

    3. Taoism? More mystical gobbledygook?! Give me a break! No wonder you like ‘dialectics’.

  65. Andy:

    “That is how to combine theory and practice.”

    Except: 150 years of practice has refuted this theory (or perhaps you have forgotten that Spain was a glorious dialectical failure too?).

  66. Mr G (as if he hasn’t had enough public humiliation from me):

    “I especially love the notion that Rosa is in personal possession of the correct definition of the word contradiction.”

    I might be, and then again I might not, but one thing is for certain, mystics like you cannot explain the term ‘dialectical contradiction’.

  67. Mark:

    “God… mmmmmm God is dead! or maybe not! I love this stuff as well… if were not careful we will be talking about the negation of the negation being viewed as more of cyclical conception which over time takes the form of a spiral similar in structure to a Double Helix rising upwards like a ladder for us to climb so that one day over the rainbow way up high theres a place that I heard of once in a lullaby”

    Ah, yet more a priori whimsy masquerading as produndity…

  68. charlotte badger on said:

    my old nan used to say [on the topic of dialectical contradiction] “it’s 6 to one and half a dozen to the other” nuff said.

  69. 73 Mark, you can borrow my megaphone if you want to appear to be a bigger formation in Bromsgrove!

    Did anyone see the Paul Merton POW sketch where, everytime someone escaped, he made a ‘replacement’ out of sacks and plant pots. Until there was just him left, working rows of hundreds of articulated dummies with bits of string…?

    72 is there reallt a statue of Philip Larkin in Dublin?

  70. charlotte badger on said:

    #82… Rob M…. what a coincidence I was actually… doing a search under your name and HOTS on Google to see if I could get a contact e-mail …. as actually your megaphone might come in Handy next Wednesday in Bromsgrove!
    The trouble is your all the way in Tamworth… message me to arrange transfer of the Midlands Popular Peoples Party Collective Megaphone… mafrance@hotmail.co.uk

    The Larkin Statue is lovely….. and it was the pose I had in mind for Andy… but I am veering towards Andy’s prefered design with the hitchikers sign…
    Going to Cardiff is a good idea…Torchwood… the secret base established by Fidel staffed by genetically engineered Dialectcal Materialists… who have been acting as ‘sleepers’ in the proletarian heartlands of Swindon, Bromsgrove and Tamworth….

    I fact a good title for Andy’s new book would be “A hitchikers guide to Dialectics”

    What about a Rob M statue in Leicester or Tamworth what design would people suggest…I was thinking one in the image of DangerMouse’s sidekick Penfold??

  71. Alex Naysmith on said:

    I don’t accept Andy’s reassurances that dialectics doesn’t interfere with the scientific method. On this thread alone there has been no shortage of bombastic proclamations of dialectics being a science. So it is obviously not true that Dialectics and science are separate in the minds of dialecticians.

    I’m beginning to wonder if adherence to dialectics has more to do with it being a part of an individual’s identity rather than based on any rational decision making. For an analogy, consider Christians. They believe in the holy trinity, they would argue that God is a fundamental part of science; there would be no universe without God. Likewise with dialecticians, they argue that the universe is composed of contradictions; there would be no universe without contradictions. How can one be regarded as more scientific than the other or more effective in making the world a better place? You cannot argue that philosophy makes observations about science: observations about science already come under the topic of history of science. You cannot observe science without those observations becoming a science in itself and dialectics will have nothing to do with it.

    My main ambition is to convince as many people as possible in understanding the class structure of society, their place in it, and how to go about changing it. The practice of making people adopt the pseudo-science of dialectics has not been very successful at all. For the past forty years participation in far-left politics has continuously fallen. Convincing yourselves that dialectics is valuable doesn’t make materialism more appealing to others. Dialectics is in no position to attack the ideologies of right-wing and free market capitalism as you cannot fight ideology with ideology.

  72. Charlotte:

    “I fact a good title for Andy’s new book would be “A hitchikers guide to Dialectics””

    If it’s anything like the many hundreds of similar books and articles of this ‘theory’ that I have had to endure over the last 25 years, may I suggest this title: “A Parrots’ Guide to Dialectics” since the bast majority not only say the same things year in year out, they all repeat the same tired old errors.

  73. That should, of course, read:

    If it’s anything like the many hundreds of similar books and articles of this ‘theory’ that I have had to endure over the last 25 years, may I suggest this title: “A Parrot’s Guide to Dialectics” since the vast majority not only say the same things year in year out, they all repeat the same tired old errors.

  74. Rosa still keeps her very personal definition of the word contradiction to herself I see. Its not for mere mortals.

  75. Mr G:

    “Rosa still keeps her very personal definition of the word contradiction to herself I see. Its not for mere mortals.”

    Or you mystics — you know too little logic.

  76. You obviously missed my earlier reply to you (hence your need to repaet the same irrelevant point.

    “#77 Mr G (as if he hasn’t had enough public humiliation from me):

    “I especially love the notion that Rosa is in personal possession of the correct definition of the word contradiction.”

    I might be, and then again I might not, but one thing is for certain, mystics like you cannot explain the term ‘dialectical contradiction’.”

  77. Goodness on said:

    The dialectical laws are the most general laws of the motion of matter i.e. with all particularity abstracted out of them. These can then be consciously re-applied to the study of any particular form of motion you care to examine and thereby provide a richer understanding of the material world.

    Unity and struggle of opposites;

    Negation of the negation;

    Transformation of quanity into quality and vice versa.

  78. Badness on said:

    Goodness.. gracious me! the trouble with most erstwhile dialectial materialists is that they are engaged in a movement to transform quality [a handful of marxist cadre] into quantity [a mass party capable of extercising hegemony]…
    the negation of the negation usually happenes everytime you get two dialecticians in the same room immediately begins the struggle of the opposites leading of course to ever expanding unity or a process of splitting….
    The transformation that is most needed is perhaps a dose of humility.

  79. 96, I prefer a little humidity…

    86, Charlotte, you’re off my Xmas card list for the statue quip, as is your mate Woody Woodpecker.

  80. This is all very odd isn’t it.

    It seems looking at Rosa’s website and from Alex’s points above that what is being questioned is not just dialectical materialism, but the whole value of a philospohy of knowledge.

    On Rosa’s site babeuf says that there should be no philospohy, and Allex above says that there is no need for a philospohy of science,

    But there is a need for a philospohy f science in order to inform an understanding of which theories are more true than others – what is true and what is not true, and it is therefore interesting that on Rosa’s site Rosa himself launches an attack on scientific realism itself – the idea that the currently established sceintific theories are broadly truth approximate:
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%20010_01.htm#Converges-On-The-Truth

    Rosa quotes from philospoher, laudan.

    I discussed laudan myslf two years ago here:
    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=288

    If you remember a while back, I referred to a debate on Dave Osler’s Blog whereby leading SWP blogger, Lenin, rejected the idea that objective truth exists, or rather that it can be approximately knowable. This is a fundamental rejection of a key tenet of Marxism. There has been a contribution to a similar debate in last week’s Weekly Worker, but sadly the article by “Chris Knight” in defence of science is a bit disappointing. Thanks to Matthew at The point is, for bringing the article to my attention.

    The argument becomes a bit technical, but worth persevering with, as it is relevant to the whole situation we are in with competing left groups all proclaiming they are the way, the truth and the life.

    Knight says: “In the final analysis, no doubt, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. What happens when we try out a new hypothesis? Does it prove to be empowering? Does it lessen mental effort in solving intellectual problems? In other words, does the hypothesis add to the power – be it purely intellectual or practical as well – of scientists in the relevant field? If it does, then everyone should ultimately come to recognise the fact. Assuming intellectual efficiency to be our criterion (and we will not be scientists otherwise), support for the theory will spread. Internal coherence (agreement between the theory’s parts) will find expression in widespread social agreement. Such a capacity to produce agreement is the ultimate social test of science.”

    This type of argument in defence of scientific realism was dealt a body blow by Laudan’s theory of “pessimistic induction”. Laudan basically points out that using tests like the one by Kuhn approvingly quoted here, lots of false theories like the phlogiston theory of chemistry or the caloric theory of heat, were accepted as truth.

    To say that “capacity to produce agreement” is the arbiter of truth-likeness, is a dangerous concession to the idea that truth is only what we agree it to be. Indeed “Chris Knight” concludes: “ if Marxism is genuine science, it ought to be possible to demonstrate this potential in purely theoretical terms in advance.” Thus he rejects not only the philosphical position of scientific realism that the predictive powers of theories must be empirically established, but also the actual practice of working scienctists that hypotheses are not accepted unless they are repeatably verified by experiment

    Before we go any further it is worth stating what the scientific realist philosophical position, (which is defended by but not exclusive to Marxists) actually is. In a nut shell we argue that currently successful scientific theories are approximately true. In the evocative image by the philosopher, Sellars, scientific theories are “cutting the world at its joints”

    This is worth looking at because if a prolific writer in the SWP, like the blogger “Lenin” argues that the truth of concepts such as atoms is unknowable, then all truth is unknowable, and all we have is language. In which case we are in the very scary world where the truth is determined by power relations, and where the ends totally justify the means. Only recently in the comments box of the Sheridan story in this blog, SWP blogger Snowball referred to “the truth” in question marks. As Ed correctly says in reply: “the position you’re taking here is reminiscent of those references to ‘revolutionary truth’ (ie what it is politically expedient to promote as the ‘truth’) as opposed to ‘bourgeois truth’ (as in what actually happened) which have unfortunate historical associations”

    (skip the next two paragraphs if you are not interested in philosophy) Laudan actually made an important contribution to the defence of scientific realism by attacking a weak chink in some interpretations of it, and therefore refining how we interpret evidence. Laudan correctly points out that when it comes to observing scientific theories, observing their consequences is neither necessary nor sufficient for empirical support. That is not all logical consequences of a hypothesis are supportive (for example quick recovery from a cold after prayer would not prove the hypothesis of the power of prayer), and conversely a hypothesis can be supported by evidence not among its logical consequences (If a theory T entailed some evidence E, then if T was part of a wider theory H, then E indirectly supports H, even though E is not entailed by H)

    Thus Laudan challenges naïve empiricists who would argue that if there are two theories T and T’ that both explain the evidence E, then the best we can do is argue that the theories are empirically adequate, and we cannot distinguish if either is approximately true. In defence of scientific realism (supported here by Laudan) we must say that theories that explain the empirical evidence must also conform to theoretical virtues, such as coherence with other established theories, completeness, unifying power and the capacity to generate novel predictions.

    So is Marxism a science? To which I would answer it could be, but usually isn’t. If we mean by Marxism a social theory that seeks to establish its own approximate truth through examination of the evidence, and through self-critical evaluation of its own theoretical virtues, including coherence, then Marxism is a science. However, there must be a number of caveats. Firstly, that the development of evidence involves the art of seeking to change the world though political activity, and it is extremely hard to evaluate the impact of such activity, and what evidence is gathered is subjective . Secondly, the research resources of the Marxist left, including academics, are puny compared to the complexity of the society we are seeking to understand, so any theories we develop are likely to be only highly flawed approximations to the truth; thirdly the problem of organisational conservatism on defending false aspects of theories. When we take these caveats into account we can see the inadequacy of all those arguments that start: “As Marxists we should, or as Marxists we must … “

    The last factor I mention, organisational conservatism is perhaps the most important. Precisely because the empirical evidence is sparse, or subject to other interpretations that are equally consistent with the evidence, then the question of “theoretical virtues” are of elevated importance. Alex Callinicos includes a useful discussion of this in his short book on Trotskyism, discussing the question of progressive and regressive problem shifts derived from Lakatos. If the consequence of a theory entails evidence consistent with an unrelated theory then this is a progressive problem shift, that supports a presumption towards truth-likeness. If however, defence of a theory involves rejection of parts of other mature ands established theories, then we are involved in a regressive problem shift (That doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong as all theories are only truth approximations and can be refined – but a regressive problem shift should raise a presumption of truth-unlikeness requiring further research.)

    Yet the various Leninist groups, the SWP, CWI, USFI etc, all derive their justification for separateness by defining themselves as having a coherent world vision based upon a unique or semi unique interpretation of Marxism, often deriving from very partial and incomplete evidence. How could it be different? How could a few amateur researchers, with scarcely any access to evidence, really develop theories that were sufficiently supported empirically; and sufficiently theoretically virtuous in the technical sense; to explain social phenomenon as complex as the degeneration of the Soviet Union? Yet on the basis of these differing interpretations, each of these groups has developed a distinct Weltanshauung that is largely hermetically sealed. For example, if we look at the theoretical writings of the IS tendency, they only refer to works within their own “tradition”, or to the old grey beards. The same can be said of the Mandelite tradition, or the Taafeites. In other words, the left groups deliberately eschew an attempt to develop a scientific exposure of their theories to a discussion of their theoretical virtues – again in the technical sense of what degree they are consistent, consilient, lacking ad hoc features, etc.

    This is because each of these groups endeavour to establish that their theoretical tradition, and their reason for separateness, is and always has been correct. What is more there is a belief that the tactical decisions of the leadership bodies are always correct or defensible – but why should that be so? This is not a scientific realist approach, and inevitably involves regressive problem shifts, and increasing cognitive dissonance.

  81. Goodness:

    “The dialectical laws are the most general laws of the motion of matter i.e. with all particularity abstracted out of them. These can then be consciously re-applied to the study of any particular form of motion you care to examine and thereby provide a richer understanding of the material world.

    Unity and struggle of opposites;

    Negation of the negation;

    Transformation of quanity into quality and vice versa.”

    As I said earlier:

    “If it’s anything like the many hundreds of similar books and articles of this ‘theory’ that I have had to endure over the last 25 years, may I suggest this title: “A Parrot’s Guide to Dialectics” since the vast majority not only say the same things year in year out, they all repeat the same tired old errors.”

    Thanks for confirming my assessment of you lot.

    None of these ‘laws’ work. Proof here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm

  82. Goodness on said:

    `None of these ‘laws’ work.’

    That’s a strange way of putting it. What do you mean they don’t `work’?

  83. Andy, thanks for that long response. It seems you know more about the Philosophny of Science than you do about logic (or even about how to defend dialectics).

    You also need to know that I do not base my attack on ‘Convergent Realism’ (and not, note, Scientific Realism) solely on Laudan.

    I do reference several other sources of legitimate skepticism (and, as I say in the Essay you clearly skim-read, I will be devoting considerably more space to this topic in an Essay to be published in 2009).

    I will, however, and again unlike you, read what you have to say with due care, and get back to you.

    My detailed argument about Philosophy (and why it is full merely of ruling-class hot air) can be found here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2011_01.htm

    You are invited to try to criticise that (if you can…).

  84. Goodness:

    “That’s a strange way of putting it. What do you mean they don’t `work’?”

    Well, you can find out what I mean if you read an article I had published in ‘Weekly Worker’ last year:

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/688/dialetics.htm

    Jack Conrad tried to reply to me:

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/711/marxistthinking.html

    To which I responded:

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

    Or, you can find a brief summary of my ojections here:

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

    Or an even briefer one here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/Anti-D_For_Dummies%2001.htm

  85. Goodness on said:

    Can’t you just say why you think they don’t `work’ rather than posting all these links?

    I just think it’s strange to say the dialectical laws don’t `work’ when for Marxists they have an ontological existence as well as an epistemological one i.e. they are not just a theory they actually exist through matter external to our consciousness of it in the way that evolution happens it is not just a theory of what is happening.

  86. Well, it seems that you are attacking ‘Lenin’ and Knight not me, for I do not, and would not argue as these two do (but, from what I know of ‘Lenin’, I would question your interpretation of his views).

    I am quite happy with scientific truth (I just refuse to tart that up with the pleonastic phrase “objective truth”, for reasons I enter into detail in Essay Thirteen Part One — link below).

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page_13%2001.htm#Objectivity

    And I think you have interpreted Laudan incorrectly, for he too criticises the criteria you advance for delineating the nature of scientific ‘objectivity’, namely:

    “we must say that theories that explain the empirical evidence must also conform to theoretical virtues, such as coherence with other established theories, completeness, unifying power and the capacity to generate novel predictions.”

    Perhaps you have not read Laudan’s “Science at the bar — Causes for concern” (‘Science Technology and Human Values’, volume 7, number 41, 1982, pp.16-19) where he criticises those who use your criteria, or ones like them.

    You might also like to examine the other works I referenced which either support the so-called ‘Pessimistic Meta-Induction’ (i.e., Laudan’s original argument) and/or criticise your criteria (and thus undermine the sort of metaphysical scientific realism you seem to accept):

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001943/

    Stanford, P. (2000), ‘An Antirealist Explanation Of The Success Of Science’, Philosophy of Science 67, pp.266-84.

    ——–, (2001), ‘Refusing The Devil’s Bargain: What Kind Of Underdetermination Should We Take Seriously?’, in Barrett and Alexander (2001), pp.1-12.

    ——–, (2003), ‘No Refuge For Realism: Selective Confirmation And The History Of Science’, in Mitchell (2003), pp.913-25.

    ——–, (2006), Exceeding Our Grasp. Science, History, And The Problem Of Unconceived Alternatives (Oxford University Press).

    Barrett, J., and Alexander, J. (2001), (eds.), PSA 2000, Part 1, Supplement to Philosophy of Science 68, 3 (University of Chicago Press).

    [PSA = Philosophy of Science Association; the PSA volumes comprise papers submitted to its biennial meeting.]

    Mitchell, S. (2003) (ed.), PSA 2002, 1, Philosophy of Science 70, 5 (University of Chicago Press).

    Kukla, A, (1998), Studies In Scientific Realism (Oxford University Press).

    Kukla, A., and Walmsley, J. (2004), ‘A Theory’s Predictive Success Does Not Warrant Belief In The Unobservable Entities In Postulates’, in Hitchcock (2004), pp.133-48.

    Hitchcock, C. (2004) (ed.), Contemporary Debates In The Philosophy Of Science (Blackwell).

    But, what about your actual argument?

    “Laudan actually made an important contribution to the defence of scientific realism by attacking a weak chink in some interpretations of it, and therefore refining how we interpret evidence. Laudan correctly points out that when it comes to observing scientific theories, observing their consequences is neither necessary nor sufficient for empirical support. That is not all logical consequences of a hypothesis are supportive (for example quick recovery from a cold after prayer would not prove the hypothesis of the power of prayer), and conversely a hypothesis can be supported by evidence not among its logical consequences (If a theory T entailed some evidence E, then if T was part of a wider theory H, then E indirectly supports H, even though E is not entailed by H)

    “Thus Laudan challenges naïve empiricists who would argue that if there are two theories T and T’ that both explain the evidence E, then the best we can do is argue that the theories are empirically adequate, and we cannot distinguish if either is approximately true. In defence of scientific realism (supported here by Laudan) we must say that theories that explain the empirical evidence must also conform to theoretical virtues, such as coherence with other established theories, completeness, unifying power and the capacity to generate novel predictions.”

    As I said, I am not sure you have read Laudan correctly, for he is not a scientific realist:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Laudan

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationality-historicist/

    However, despite this, I have to say that I can’t see how what you attribute to him actually supports scientific realism, indeed, Laudan himself attacks these criteria (as I noted above):

    “such as coherence with other established theories, completeness, unifying power and the capacity to generate novel predictions.”

    Laudan is in fact a Kuhnian/Lakatosian ‘problem solver’, not a scientific realist.

    Anyway, I can see constructive empiricists like Bas van Fraassen agreeing with you about this:

    “That is not all logical consequences of a hypothesis are supportive (for example quick recovery from a cold after prayer would not prove the hypothesis of the power of prayer), and conversely a hypothesis can be supported by evidence not among its logical consequences (If a theory T entailed some evidence E, then if T was part of a wider theory H, then E indirectly supports H, even though E is not entailed by H).”

    Moreover, even those who are sceptical about metaphysical scientific realism (like me) would not object to this, so I do not know why you are quoting it against me.

    As Laudan himself notes, this argument does not imply that the entities postulated by theory H actually exist (and he cites numerous cases from the History of Science in support).

    But, even if you were right in all you say, none of this has any bearing at all on the veracity dialectical materialism, which, if we needed a general theory of change, would not make even the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates, so confused is it.

    Of course, this does not affect the scientific nature of Marxism, which I fully accept. On that see the discussion here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/historical-materialism-scientific-t92796/index.html
    Nor its truth (which I also accept).

    So, all that was wasted effort on your part!

    Better luck next time…

  87. Goodness:

    “Can’t you just say why you think they don’t `work’ rather than posting all these links?

    I just think it’s strange to say the dialectical laws don’t `work’ when for Marxists they have an ontological existence as well as an epistemological one i.e. they are not just a theory they actually exist through matter external to our consciousness of it in the way that evolution happens it is not just a theory of what is happening.”

    1. I set my site up so that I could explain my ideas clearly for comrades like you.

    2. If you have a look at my last post you will see that I largely do this, anyway.

    3. I know that Marxist in general accept these ‘laws’, but that no more means they work (or if you prefer, “are ture”) than it means that creationists are right when, for example, they tell us that fossils were laid down in the Genesis Flood.

    4. If you can’t be bothered to read my work, and if Andy allows it, I will post a brief summary of the reasons why I said what I did about these bogus ‘dialectical laws’.

    Is that what you want?

  88. Noah:

    “Mee-ow! But I have to add that I’ve had several cats, and they didn’t work at all. They didn’t even catch mice.”

    I actually borrowed that argument from prominent philosophers of science (whose work I referenced).

    But, thanks for confirming your incapacity to argue coherently.

  89. Noah:

    “Hey Andy, ta v. much for posting the link to Rosa’s article in which she disproves the idea that scientific truth can be evaluated through practice, by asserting that theories are equivalent to cats!”

    Where do I assert that theories are “equivalent to cats”?

  90. Rosa #104

    Of course laudan is not a scientific realist, I would regard him as an opponent of scientific realism, that is why I argue that he strengthens the defence of scientific realism by pickig off a weak argument in favour of it, in the same way a lion strengthens the herd by taking the weaklings.

    We improve our knowlwedge by refinement in philosphy as well as science.

    BTW my interpretaion of “lenin” is spot on, young Richard is opposed to dialectics, and also opposed to the idea that the concepts like atoms and molecules have counterparts i an atally existing world that can be accesible by any mechanism except language.

    Of course my earlier articel is not a critique of you Rosa, i didn’t know you existed when i wrote it. The point of the argument is that a theory of knowledge is necessary – i.e philosophy, in order to defend the scientific method.

    It seems your discipples refute the need for philospohy at all, which of course then provides no defence against ideologically inspired false theories of knowledge

  91. The point here Rosa is that you have sided with an idealist philospher, laudan, who is objectivley an opponent of materialism, and of science.

    If this is the direction that your revision of marxism to remove the dialectic takes you, well at least we know it is a well trodden path.

  92. Goodness on said:

    Rosa: Is the universe totally random or totally determined or does chance find its expression in necessity? If chance finds its expression in necessity what are the laws of that necessity? The dialectical laws are the product of a few thousands years of human thought and their synthesis with materialist philosophy and their application to an understanding of history and capitalism was the genius of Marx and Engels.

    But please answer those questions without links. Thanks.

  93. Incidently Rosa

    Yur whole argument is based upon a logical fallacy. You say on your web site that around the argument of the “new mood” in the SWP (who can forget those “39 manchertser nurses” who went on stike) in about 1987/1988 the SWP adopted dialectical materialism and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour.

    but that is just not true, there was no change around that time relating to philosophy. You are obvioulsy extrapolatng from your own personal exerience, and the arfguments that supprounded you – not from something that was happening in the wider party.

  94. Goodness on said:

    One last thing, it was formal logic’s insistance on the law of the excluded middle that prevented materialism from developing and it fell into disrepute in the form of mechanical materialism. It took an idealist to systematise the dialectical laws, Hegel, because the materialists simply couldn’t grasp the fluidity and contradictory nature of the material world.

  95. Andy,

    None of Rosa’s arguments are derived from experiences involving the SWP.

    Why don’t you try and use some non ad-hominem responses for a change?

    Could I perhaps attribute your adherence to dialectics purely as a result of something that occurred in your life?

  96. I can imagine my comrades in Lima having a good look here to see if the British left have any useful advice for advancing the struggle in Peru.

    Most Marxists bar say analytical Marxists and Althusserians find some form of dialectical materialism of value…shit I responding to the philosophy troll again.

    I don’t think Hugo Blanco would see himself as a methodologist, although unlike most of us he has actually led a fairly serious Marxist rebellion back in 1962…equally the indigenous in Peru in 2008 have been pretty impressive in revolting against Alan Garcia’s government.

    Don’t think dialectical materialism has held them back…

  97. Andy:

    “Of course my earlier article is not a critique of you Rosa, I didn’t know you existed when I wrote it. The point of the argument is that a theory of knowledge is necessary – i.e., philosophy, in order to defend the scientific method.”

    And yet you posted it as if it were a response to me, which is still isn’t.

    And, your defence of the ‘theory of knowledge” is itself still without a defence (except you just say we need one). If wishes were horses…

    But, the scientific method does not need ‘defending’. Anything thrown up in its defence will, of course, be less certain than the knowledge science itself delivers. If anything, the ‘theory of knowledge’ needs defending by science.

    “Of course Laudan is not a scientific realist, I would regard him as an opponent of scientific realism, that is why I argue that he strengthens the defence of scientific realism by picking off a weak argument in favour of it, in the same way a lion strengthens the herd by taking the weaklings.”

    And yet you have ignored his serious objections to the criteria you advance for ‘scientific objectivity’ — and he detailed these in ‘A Confutation of Convergent Realism’, too.

    “It seems your disciples refute the need for philosophy at all, which of course then provides no defence against ideologically inspired false theories of knowledge”

    1. I have no ‘disciples’, but if I did have any, I’d disown them forthwith.

    2. All I can say about this:

    “which of course then provides no defence against ideologically inspired false theories of knowledge”

    is that if we had to rely on you dialecticians, we’d be sunk, whatever one thinks about other ‘theories of knowledge’.

    And, since you seem incapable of defending this ‘theory’ of yours, I rather think science can do without your help.

    “Your whole argument is based upon a logical fallacy. You say on your web site that around the argument of the “new mood” in the SWP (who can forget those “39 Manchester nurses” who went on strike) in about 1987/1988 the SWP adopted dialectical materialism and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour.

    “but that is just not true, there was no change around that time relating to philosophy. You are obviously extrapolating from your own personal experience, and the arguments that surrounded you – not from something that was happening in the wider party.”

    Unfortunately, the documentary evidence says differently.

    [And where do I say this:

    “and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour”?

    Nowhere, that’s where.]

    But, even if you were right, this would not be a ‘logical error’, but a factual one.

    I did say your grasp of logic was not too reassuring…

  98. Andy:

    “The point here Rosa is that you have sided with an idealist philospher, laudan, who is objectivley an opponent of materialism, and of science.

    If this is the direction that your revision of marxism to remove the dialectic takes you, well at least we know it is a well trodden path.”

    And Hegel, of course, was a scientific realist, I presume?

    [Laudan is not an Idealist, anyway.]

  99. Noah:

    “Er, Rosa, do you not propose that theories are equivalent to cats? You put forward an argument by analogy, in which a the success in practice of a cat fails to show that it is a ‘true’ cat; thereby proving that the success in practice of a theory does not make the theory true.

    If you are not asserting that a theory is equivalent to a cat, your argument is worth less than a tin of Whiskas.

    Rosa #107: “I actually borrowed that argument from prominent philosophers of science…”

    I’m glad you only borrowed it. Because if you had actually bought it, I would have to break it to you that you’ve been done.”

    1. No, I did not assert, nor imply, that scientific theories were equivalent to cats.

    2. My argument is about the survial of theories in certain ideological and epistemological environements, and I use an analogy with organisms that survive to illustrate this. But I could just as well have raised an analogy with non-scientitifc beliefs that survive, or with religious ideologies that do. But the cat analogy seemed down to earth to me, and so, readily comprehensible by anyone who reads what I have to say with some intelligence.

    3. Once more, you do not argue against me, but try (weakly) to parody me. Do you actually have an argument, or are you the joke you appear to be?

  100. Goodness:

    “Rosa: Is the universe totally random or totally determined or does chance find its expression in necessity? If chance finds its expression in necessity what are the laws of that necessity? The dialectical laws are the product of a few thousands years of human thought and their synthesis with materialist philosophy and their application to an understanding of history and capitalism was the genius of Marx and Engels.

    But please answer those questions without links. Thanks.”

    1. I do no know since I am not a scientist.

    2. The ‘laws’ of dialectics are in fact the product of the unsupported musings of a handful of mystics. The vast majority of scientists do not recognise them (even if they have ever heard of them).

    3. Marx abandoned these’ laws’ when he wrote Das Kapital.

    “One last thing, it was formal logic’s insistence on the law of the excluded middle that prevented materialism from developing and it fell into disrepute in the form of mechanical materialism. It took an idealist to systematise the dialectical laws, Hegel, because the materialists simply couldn’t grasp the fluidity and contradictory nature of the material world.”

    Well, dialecticians like to tell us such fairy tales. but we have yet to see the proof.

    The so-called ‘law of excluded middle’ does not in fact preclude change (a fable you have been told, and obviously swallowed whole), in fact we use it to determine when things have changed. Indeed, as I alleged earlier, if dialectical ‘logic’ were the case, change would be impossible.

    I’d post a link, but you seem to be allergic to them.

    So, with respect to my last allegation, do you want me to prove it? [Will Andy allow me the space?]

  101. Derek:

    “Most Marxists bar say analytical Marxists and Althusserians find some form of dialectical materialism of value…shit I responding to the philosophy troll again.”

    1. I know that 99.9% of Marxists accept this theory; but so what? When has a show of hands ever determined truth?

    2. You really are a sterotypical dialectical boor, aren’t you. All you can do spit abuse. You clearly cannot defend your ‘theory’.

  102. #115 Alex says:

    None of Rosa’s arguments are derived from experiences involving the SWP.

    Why don’t you try and use some non ad-hominem responses for a change?

    t

    This is a bit of a ridiculous position from Alex given hat Rosa himslef saysthat he began the project becasue of experiences in the SWP
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2001.htm

    In the section on Rosa’s web-site caleld “why I started this project”, Rosa writes

    almost as soon as I joined this party, the leadership did an about-face and suddenly discovered a new-found liking for DM, and articles expounding Engels’s confused philosophical ideas began to appear in their publications. Although I now think I understand why this happened, at the time this turn of events was thoroughly dismaying. I could not understand why Marxists I had come to respect for the clarity of their political, historical and economic analyses had suddenly grown fond of Dialectical Mysticism.

    As things turned out, I was soon able to witness at first-hand the baleful effect that DM and DL [Dialectical Logic] has had on revolutionary politics — in this case, on local party activists in XXXX. Several of the latter (in the run up to the defeat of the Poll Tax, and the under direction of the party leadership) began to behave in a most uncharacteristic and aggressive manner, especially toward less ‘active’ comrades. To be sure, any revolutionary group requires commitment from its members, but there are ways of motivating people that do not involve treating them merely as means to a particular end.

    These activists now declared that (among other things) ‘dialectical’ thinking meant there were no fixed or rigid principles in revolutionary politics — not even, one presumes, the belief that the emancipation of the working-class is the act of the working-class (although, somewhat inconsistently, not one of them drew that conclusion). Everything it seemed had now to be bent toward the ‘concrete’ practical exigencies of the class struggle. Abstract ideas were ruled-out of court — except, of course, for that abstract idea. Only the concrete mattered, even if no one could say what that was without using yet more abstractions.

    In practice, this novel turn to the ‘concrete’ meant that several long-standing members of the party were harangued until they either abandoned revolutionary activity altogether, or they adapted to the “new mood” (as the wider political milieu in the UK was then called by Party YYYY).

    In the latter eventuality, it meant that they had to conform to a suicidally increased rate of activity geared around the fight against the Poll Tax, whether or not they or their families suffered as a consequence. At meetings, one by one, comrades were subjected to a series of grossly unfair public hectoring sessions (in a small way reminiscent of the sort of things that went on in the Chinese “Cultural Revolution” — minus the physical violence). These were conducted with no little vehemence by several party ‘attack dogs’ (working as a sort of ‘political tag team’) until the ‘victims’ either buckled under the strain, or gave up and left the party.

    ‘Dialectical’ arguments of remarkable inconsistency were used to ‘justify’ every convoluted change of emphasis, and counter every objection (declaring them one and all “abstract”), no matter how reasonable these might otherwise have seemed. Comrades who were normally quite level-headed became almost monomaniacal in their zeal to search out and re-educate those who were not quite 100% with the program. [For some reason these comrades left me alone, probably because I was highly active at the time, and perhaps because I knew a little philosophy, and could defend myself.]

  103. #117 Rosa asks:

    [And where do I say this:

    “and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour”?

    Nowhere, that’s where.]

    Well, as I have already quoted: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2001.htm

    “I could not understand why Marxists I had come to respect for the clarity of their political, historical and economic analyses had suddenly grown fond of Dialectical Mysticism.”

    It is not a word for word quote, but the spirit of the thing is there.

  104. #117

    Rosa: “But, even if you were right, this would not be a ‘logical error’, but a factual one.”

    No, it is a logical error, because you are predicating your theory that dialectical materialism has a woeful effect upon the practice of Marxist parties upon the presumed condition that dialectical materialism actually had a substantive influcne on the practice of the SWP, and other parties.

    If the truth of the precondition fails then the the statements concluded upon that predicate fails.

  105. Andy before he was rumbled:

    “and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour”?

    And after:

    “It is not a word for word quote, but the spirit of the thing is there.”

    In other words I do not say this, nor do I imply it.

    And as far as that long quotation form Essay One is concerned, I was clearly reporting what began a train of thought (as my words actually say!). There is nothing in that passage to suggest (except to the mendacious) that I based all the conclusions I arrived at 20 years later on my experiences. Indeed, as the documentary evidence I referenced shows (which you just ignore), and as my arguments confirm, this is in fact the opposite of what I have done.

    But your attempt to deflect attention from the fact that you can’t defend dialectics, but have to raise what amount to side issues in order to try to do that, hasn’t succeeded — or rather, it will do so only with respect to those who are half-asleep to begin with.

    So: still adopting avoiding tactics, are you?

  106. Andy:

    “No, it is a logical error, because you are predicating your theory that dialectical materialism has a woeful effect upon the practice of Marxist parties upon the presumed condition that dialectical materialism actually had a substantive influence on the practice of the SWP, and other parties.

    If the truth of the precondition fails then the predicate fails.”

    But that is not the error you originally alluded to:

    “Your whole argument is based upon a logical fallacy. You say on your web site that around the argument of the “new mood” in the SWP (who can forget those “39 Manchester nurses” who went on strike) in about 1987/1988 the SWP adopted dialectical materialism and rejected some sort of proletarian hard-nosed vigour.

    “but that is just not true, there was no change around that time relating to philosophy. You are obviously extrapolating from your own personal experience, and the arguments that surrounded you – not from something that was happening in the wider party.”

    Here you merely allege there was “no change around that time relating to philosophy”, and that i was “extrapolating from your own personal experience, and the arguments that surrounded you”, when, as I have shown, this is factually wrong.

    Anyway, even if you were right, you must know (but perhaps you do not?) that it is quite alright in logic to argue from false premisses to false or true conclusions.

    So, even supposing you have not changed your tack, and that I have reasoned exactly as you say, that still would not be an error of logic.

    Nice try — only it wasn’t.

  107. Noah:

    “You constructed an analogy, in order to prove your point that the success in practice of a scientific theory does not mean that it is true.”

    You clearly think that analogies are identities, or equivalence statements.

    In that case, sunshine, you are the odd one here.

    “In your analogy, the part of the scientific theory is represented by a cat. The cat is successful, but nevertheless is not thereby shown to be a ‘true’ cat.

    As you suggest, you could have chosen a non-feline example- eg, a toad or a walrus, to represent the scientific theory in your analogy.

    Either way. If the animal which you chose is not equivalent to a scientific theory then your argument by analogy has no validity.”

    Yes, and I dealt with that objection in the original Essay, and in my reply to you above (which you clearly did not read too carefully).

    “I did comprehend it. And like I said, it’s not worth a tin of Whiskas.”

    Maybe so, maybe not. But, either way: my argument is still underpriced compared to your frivolous response.

  108. prianikoff on said:

    “Dialectics and materialism comprise the basic elements of the Marxist cognition of the world. But this by no means implies that they can be applied in any field of knowledge like an ever-ready master-key. The dialectic cannot be imposed on facts, it must be derived from the facts, from their nature and their development. Only painstaking work on boundless material gave Marx the ability to erect the dialectical system of economics on the concept of value as realized labor. Marx’s historical works, and even his newspaper articles, are constructed in the same way. One can apply dialectical materialism to new fields of knowledge only while mastering them from within. Bourgeois science can be cleaned up only by mastering bourgeois science. You will achieve nothing here by wild criticism or naked command. Assimilation and application go hand in hand here with critical re-working. We have the method, but there is enough work to last generations.”

    Leon Trotsky – Culture and Socialism – 1927

  109. John Wight on said:

    Prianikoff:

    “Dialectics and materialism comprise the basic elements of the Marxist cognition of the world. But this by no means implies that they can be applied in any field of knowledge like an ever-ready master-key. The dialectic cannot be imposed on facts, it must be derived from the facts,

    Reply:

    Precisely. Dialectical materialism is a system of understanding wholly derived from observation and investigation. It reveals the development of nature as a process, with each stage a causal link to the next stage, and so on, sometimes linear in trajectory, other times not, moving at different speeds in relation to the changes in environment and other co-factors, with the overall development progressive. It has taught us how to think, not what to think, though many have mistake the latter for the former – as is evidently the case with Rosa.

  110. Rosa

    As you seem to think it is important whether or not I am “good at logic”, I should point out that I do have a post-graduate degree from Oxford university on formal mathematical proofs of predicate logical models of complex systems. Engineering is a harsh discipline because that which is designed is subject to the test that it has to actually work as designed and be experienced as working by neutral observers in the actually existing world.

    Predicate logic is also superior to the porpositional logic that you employ, because it avoids the fuzzy and confused thinking that you exhibit. You argue that ” it is quite alright in logic to argue from false premisses to false or true conclusions.”

    This is true in the sense that the line of reasoning as pure thought can be sound, but the degree of truth approximilty of a line of reasonsing deriving from false propositions will be much less valid. In the propositional logic you follow, any valid chain of argument can be sound, becasue the axioms upon which that line of reasoning are deduced are either ambiguous, or you are indifferent to their approximation to actually existing facts in the real world.

    More usefully, in predicate logic, the axioms upon which the reasoning is based must both the true and unambiguoisly constrained, and only those statements deducible from these true and constrained axioms are valid.

    predicate logic is therefre superior for reasoning about the actualy existing word, rather than propositional logic that is limited really to arguing about the process of reasoning itself. What is more, the formal mathematical expression of predicate logic allows for much more rigorous reasoning.

    Firstly, you have not “proven” that there was a shift towards dialectical materialsism in the SWP around 1987. What you have referred to is an increase in references to diamat in the SWP’s theoretical publications at that time.

    I am sure that you will recall that this is a period where the SWP had effectively become a propaganda group (although it always sought to relate that propaganda to concrete political developments in the world); and there were a number of rather contrived theoretical debates in this period to keep the intellectual life of the party alive. Think of the aquatic ape argument, the argument about whether gays are self oppressed, whether working class men benefit from the oppression of women, and many other examples.

    At this time there were three debates about philosophy in the SWP. One about the relationship between base and superstructure ( a debate in which all the participants subscribed to diamat); a debate about the relationship between Class and Class consciousness, or whether Lukacs’s theories of how ideas change are applicable; and a debate about whether there is a dialectic in nature.

    Certainly this did lead to a layer of middle cadre in the party absorbing a veneer of poorly understood marxist jargon; and there may well have been an increase in the use of fallacious cod-philospohy to justify the various twists and turns that followed Cliff’s wheezes and get rich quick schemes. But fundamentaly this was a cosmetic change.

    In particular, you wil note no change in personnel at the top of the party, and no change in philospohical outlook from those that were there. Chris harman was the leading theoretician both before and after the period you claim there was a change. In particular i would refer you to Chriss harman’s pamphlet from 1969 “party and Class” that is thorougghly informed by diamat, and was the most signicficant theoretical conception of the IS’s party project.

    Your argument proceeds in a thoroughly unsound way.

    Having observed that there was an increae in references to diamat in the party’s publications in this particular period, you have not demonstarted that this was either the consequence of increasing influence of diamat; nor that the consequence ws that diamat informed the strategic nor tactic decisions of the SWP.

    You start from the proposition, A, that all hitherto existing Marxist parties follow diamat.
    You then assume propostion B, that all hitherto existing marxist parties have been failures.

    Then you make the logical error of assuming that B entails A, without explaining mechanism nor causality.

  111. #120 It is suprising that Rosa expects to be taken seriously when he writes this here, in reply to a question about the applicablity of his theories to the real world:

    1. I do no know since I am not a scientist.

    2. The ‘laws’ of dialectics are in fact the product of the unsupported musings of a handful of mystics. The vast majority of scientists do not recognise them (even if they have ever heard of them).

    #117 “the scientific method does not need ‘defending’. Anything thrown up in its defence will, of course, be less certain than the knowledge science itself delivers”

    Rosa is agina completly wrong. Of course the majority of working scientists are not acquainted with different philospohical theories of knowledge. But that doesn’t mean they are indifferent to the defence of the scientific method. Nor does it mean that science is a socialy and idelogically neytral field that can speak for itself. In rejecting the dialectic Rosa has also rejected the greatest theoretical acheivement of marxism in understanding science, that the collective project of sceintific research is a social one, existing within specific ideological and class relations. So while the underlying experience of actualy existing reality is not affected by ideology, both the practice of science, and the assumptions in the creation of hypotheses can be ideological. But marxists would go further and argue that notwithstanding the ideological interaction of sceince as a social process, this doesn’t prevent the mature theiries that both correspond to repeatable experimentation, and that are theoreticial virtuous, from being broadly true.

    Nor does it mean scientists are hostile to philospophy or dialectics – indeed it is interesting that many of the most prominent popualrisers of science – people like Stephen Rose and Stephen Gould – are adherents of dialectical materialsism. Both of whom (like JBS Haldane before them) are acccomplshed and prominent scentists in theie fields. In truth Rosa displays an ignorance of how working scientists reason, and how theories are propagated and become accpeted.

    For example over the question of climate change, the populist opposition to theories that climate change is man made derives from ignorance of the way scientific theories gain acceptance as truth approximate.

    So in the popular journalistic mind (Channel Four’s (RCP)sceptic programs by Durkin spring to mind) there is an inability to weigh the relative merits of the two sides of the argument. Working scientists do indeed need help here from those who can argue why some scientific theories are more valid than others; and why the accepted and mature scientific theories are broadly truth aproximate.

    But not for Rosa, who argues http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2002.htm#Engels-Ignores

    in his classic text Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, [Engels]had this to say:

    “Dialectics…prevails throughout nature…. [T]he motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature.” [Engels (1954), p.211. Bold emphases added.]

    But, how could Engels possibly have known all of this? How could he have known that nature does not operate “metaphysically”, say, in distant regions of space and time, way beyond the edges of the known Universe of his day? Indeed, how could he have been so sure that, for example, there are no changeless objects anywhere in the entire universe?4 How could he have been so certain that the “life of nature” is indeed the result of a “conflict of opposites” — or that some processes (in the whole of reality, for all of time) were/are not governed by non-dialectical factors? Where is his “carefully” collected evidence about every object and event in nature, past, present and future?5

    here Rosa adopts a specifically anti-science approach, equivelent to the RCP/Spiked’s climate change scepticism.

    Englel’s statement was based upon the (still prevailing today) scientific consensus, and is derived from Engel’s study of the mature and accepted sceintific theories of his day.

    So while it is true in terms of propositional logic that the accpted scientific theories are based upon observable conditions, and that logically there may be some non-observed phenomenon that refure them, this argument is actualy at heart a mystical attack on science, and upon materialism.

    Rosa’s stance based upon propositional logic is unable to defend the existing practice of science. The idea that the understood laws of science may operate differently “in distant regions of space and time, way beyond the edges of the known Universe ” is God-creating nonsense.

    Indeed it is worth pointing out the degree to which many parts of dialecticall reasoning are common sense to scientists, and that propositional logic struggles to cope.

    For example, over the question of levels of abstraction: physics, chemistry, biology exist as seperate disciplines, and no one seeks to reduce biology to physics, because the difference of scale of the systems under study is so great. So the idea that quantative change make a qualitative change is indeed a bedrock of our entire system of sience.

  112. Such effort wasted on a zero.

    I note btw that there are no references to ‘diamat’ in IS or SWP publications. In point of fact IS/SWP theoreticians, from whom there is no single view on questions of philosophy as is proven by debates around the views expressed by callinicos from time to time, are more likely to mention Historical Materialism and to distance themselves from anything resembling ‘diamat’. The use of which by your good self is clearly an attempt to push the SWP into the Kautsky-Stalin school of anti-Marxism.

  113. #136 “Such effort wasted on a zero.”

    All sport is in the final analysis futile.

    Rosa’s website is theough a gift that keeps on giving as as ource of unintentional humour.

    I can’t help thinking of the vast fortune that must have been spent on tin foil hats.

  114. Incidently, way up in this thread Alex naysmith asked Derek Wall whether his adherence to the dialectic would discredit climate change science.

    Quite the opposite is the case, the real problem is Rosa’s argument that “the scientific method does not need ‘defending’. Anything thrown up in its defence will, of course, be less certain than the knowledge science itself delivers” ”

    I took up this issue before here:

    http://www.socialistunity.com/?cat=61

  115. Noah:

    “The problem is that your analogy between theories and cats doesn’t work.

    Though for you, no doubt that isn’t a problem!

    Now I have to feed the moggy & go to bed.”

    So you say — but you have yet to show why.

  116. #133 — John Wight:

    “Precisely. Dialectical materialism is a system of understanding wholly derived from observation and investigation. It reveals the development of nature as a process, with each stage a causal link to the next stage, and so on, sometimes linear in trajectory, other times not, moving at different speeds in relation to the changes in environment and other co-factors, with the overall development progressive. It has taught us how to think, not what to think, though many have mistake the latter for the former – as is evidently the case with Rosa.”

    Unfortunately, the evidence suggests otherwise. See the link I posted above, for proof.

    And, this ‘theory’ does not work, either. For example, see here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm

    As I noted above, if we needed a general theory of change, dialectical materialism would not make the bottom of the reserve list of likely candidates. In fact, in most places, it is far too confused for anyone to be able to say whether it is indeed true or false.

    If you doubt that, then my Essays should severely bruise those doubts.

  117. #138 — KS:

    “Perhaps because the moggy is hungry and he is tired? What more reason do you need?”

    Yes, and that also disproves the entire Marxist corpus.

    Or — it does for clowns, like you.

  118. #134 — Andy:

    “As you seem to think it is important whether or not I am “good at logic”, I should point out that I do have a post-graduate degree from Oxford university on formal mathematical proofs of predicate logical models of complex systems. Engineering is a harsh discipline because that which is designed is subject to the test that it has to actually work as designed and be experienced as working by neutral observers in the actually existing world.

    Predicate logic is also superior to the propositional logic that you employ, because it avoids the fuzzy and confused thinking that you exhibit. You argue that ” it is quite alright in logic to argue from false premisses to false or true conclusions.””

    Fine, my apologies to you; I too have a mathematics degree.

    However, by the way you argue (for example, that an argument can be logically defective if it has false premisses), suggests that you were taught by incompetents, or you have forgotten the basics.

    This merely confirms it:

    “This is true in the sense that the line of reasoning as pure thought can be sound, but the degree of truth approximilty of a line of reasoning deriving from false propositions will be much less valid. In the propositional logic you follow, any valid chain of argument can be sound, because the axioms upon which that line of reasoning are deduced are either ambiguous, or you are indifferent to their approximation to actually existing facts in the real world.”

    I think you have forgotten what “validity” means, or you have confused it with “soundness” and/or “proof”. If you think differently, perhaps you can quote a single logical textbook that defines “validity” in the way you are using it. I can quote dozens in support of the way logicians actually employ this term.

    “More usefully, in predicate logic, the axioms upon which the reasoning is based must both the true and unambiguously constrained, and only those statements deducible from these true and constrained axioms are valid.

    predicate logic is therefore superior for reasoning about the actually existing word, rather than propositional logic that is limited really to arguing about the process of reasoning itself. What is more, the formal mathematical expression of predicate logic allows for much more rigorous reasoning.”

    Maybe so, but where is your proof that I only use the propositional calculus?

    Nowhere, for what you say is yet more fantasy.

    “Firstly, you have not “proven” that there was a shift towards dialectical materialism in the SWP around 1987. What you have referred to is an increase in references to diamat in the SWP’s theoretical publications at that time.”

    OK, find me one reference to ‘dialectical materialism’ [DM] (other than a passing reference) in SWP literature prior to John Molyneux’s article (referenced at my site) in 1985:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm#UK-SWP

    I have in fact been reading SWP literature since the late 1970s, and I have never seen DM appear in it — and since I joined the SWP in the mid-1980s, I made it a habit of asking comrades if this theory has been explained in their literature before I joined. Older hands have since informed me that Tony Cliff (among others) used to lecture on this ‘theory’ at ‘Marxism’, but that was it. As far as they knew, it seldom if ever cropped up in their publications. And that is because prominent comrades were more into Lukacs work at that time, as you note below.

    I note your reference to the change in party leadership, but not even Chris Harman mentioned DM to 1987.

    But, in any case, you have my thesis wrong — it is not that the SWP did not accept DM prior to 1985, it is that it assumed a much more important role after 1985 (since I argue that comrades turn more overtly to DM when in defeat — as indeed you have done here, after the collapse of Respect). And they do so because it supplies then with consolation for the fact that Dialectical Marxism is such a long-term failure.

    Details here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm

    “I am sure that you will recall that this is a period where the SWP had effectively become a propaganda group (although it always sought to relate that propaganda to concrete political developments in the world); and there were a number of rather contrived theoretical debates in this period to keep the intellectual life of the party alive. Think of the aquatic ape argument, the argument about whether gays are self oppressed, whether working class men benefit from the oppression of women, and many other examples.”

    Indeed, but DM never featured in any of this. If you know otherwise, please do not be shy in referencing your claim, as I have done in Essay Nine Part Two.

    “At this time there were three debates about philosophy in the SWP. One about the relationship between base and superstructure ( a debate in which all the participants subscribed to diamat); a debate about the relationship between Class and Class consciousness, or whether Lukács’s theories of how ideas change are applicable; and a debate about whether there is a dialectic in nature.

    Certainly this did lead to a layer of middle cadre in the party absorbing a veneer of poorly understood marxist jargon; and there may well have been an increase in the use of fallacious cod-philosophy to justify the various twists and turns that followed Cliff’s wheezes and get rich quick schemes. But fundamentally this was a cosmetic change.

    In particular, you will note no change in personnel at the top of the party, and no change in philosophical outlook from those that were there. Chris Harman was the leading theoretician both before and after the period you claim there was a change. In particular i would refer you to Chris Harman’s pamphlet from 1969 “party and Class” that is thoroughly informed by diamat, and was the most significant theoretical conception of the IS’s party project.”

    Now, I have read that pamphlet, and I do not recall any reference to DM in it. I will check it again, but I suspect that you have changed ground here, for I have never denied that SWP theorists applied ‘the dialectic’ to human history. My point is that this ‘theory’ applied cosmically, to nature (i.e. DM), only became important in their literature after 1985 — as the documentary evidence shows.

    “Your argument proceeds in a thoroughly unsound way.

    Having observed that there was an increase in references to diamat in the party’s publications in this particular period, you have not demonstrated that this was either the consequence of increasing influence of diamat; nor that the consequence was that diamat informed the strategic nor tactic decisions of the SWP.

    You start from the proposition, A, that all hitherto existing Marxist parties follow diamat.

    You then assume proposition B, that all hitherto existing marxist parties have been failures.

    Then you make the logical error of assuming that B entails A, without explaining mechanism nor causality.”

    But your judgement of my argument is based on a misreading of it, as I have shown. The above is not my argument.

    It is more like this:

    DM is a thoroughly confused theory. Hence, it either has no practical applications, or if it is used, its effects are all exclusively negative. This is not surprising since it is based on a theory that is demonstrably of ruling-class provenance.

    I then proceed to argue that most Marxists accept this ‘theory’, but it only becomes important to them in times of defeat (or isolation); at other times they tend to forget about it (since it is so impractical). So, Engels only ‘discovered’ his fondness for DM after 1868 and the demise of Chartism and the defeat of the Paris Commune. Similarly, Lenin only became a serious dialectician after 1905; Trotsky — after he was expelled from the USSR, his political quarantine (and after the revolutions in China and Spain were defeated). The same is true of Stalin and Mao.

    In fact, after 1917 and the civil war, younger comrades in the former USSR argued that all of philosophy (and not just dialectics) was a ruling-class con (which is a crude version of my theory). The change came in 1925 with the defeat of these ‘crude materialists’ by Deborin (which, as I am sure you know, was part of Stalin’s attempt to impose the will of the bureaucracy on the CPSU). You can find the details in Essay Nine Part Two.

    I nowhere argue that moist of these characters abandoned ‘the dialectic’, or that they eschewed philosophy (since, as petty-bourgeois theorists, they had been educated in ruling–class society to see the world the way ‘our rulers’ have always seen it, illustrating why Marx said that the “ruling ideas were always those of the ruling-class”), only that they overtly turned to DM (the cosmic form of this ‘theory’) in times of defeat, etc.

  119. Goodness on said:

    `The problenm is that Trotsky does in fact apply ‘the dialectic’ as a ‘master-key’, and he does impose it on the facts, as do the vast majority of dialecticians who have published on this.’

    Trotsky was most insistent, as was Marx, Engles and Lenin before him, on the admission of empirical evidence into our understanding. We start with a semi-apriori approach to events, with a dialectical materialist understanding, but we cannot apply to or discover the dialectic in our subject without admitting the evidence.

    Rosa, I can see how a committed philosophical empiricist like yourself would be wound up by the anti-empirical arrogance of the SWP and other sects (even though they are actually empiricists themselves) who think they know it all before they’ve even looked at something properly. But please don’t tar all us dialecticians with the same brush. Let the evidence in and take a chill pill.

    Now, do you have to be a physicist to have an opinion on whether the motion of the universe is totally random or totally pre-determined? Just give us an opinion.

  120. Andy, #122

    Nowhere in Rosa’s exposition are there arguments drawn from past experiences. It’s no good saying ‘Rosa rejects dialectics because this happened to her etc etc.’ People reject dialectics because it cannot be substantiated or ever be made to make sense. Rosa’s web page provides an excellent resource drawing on a large number of works from Philosophers and Marxists to illustrate this. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss me as a disciple just because you cannot reply adequately to the arguments put to you. What is at stake here is the take up of Marxist ideas.

    You have demonstrated yourself to be just as conservative, dogmatic and wrapped up in tradition as the next acolyte, traditions that will impress no-one but that dwindling 2000 people or so comprised mostly from the previous generation. Again, Derek draws on events from the past to argue that things are looking up today. I cannot possibly conceive of any future mass-movement with dialectics at its heart, with everyone believing that the universe is composed of contradictions with opposites inter-penetrating and quantity turning into quality and vice versa. It’s extremely grandiose and without any available explanation one can only disregard it as nonsense. It’s up to you if you want to keep this mystical aura for the purposes of bonding with other mystics, but I hardly think it is the best way to promote Marxism.

    And it sure as hell will not defend climate change science from ideological attack. It would most likely form the entry point for opponents to attack it if dialectics had anything to do with it.

  121. #135 — Andy:

    “#120 It is surprising that Rosa expects to be taken seriously when he writes this here, in reply to a question about the applicability of his theories to the real world:”

    I do not have a theory (and you would know why that is so if you read even Essay One (which you quote often) with due care) other than Historical Materialism.

    So, if you want to be ‘taken seriously’ as a critic of my views, you at least need to get that basic idea right.

    [And I see that, like many other comrades, you too have confused me with my ex-partner.]

    “Rosa is agina completly wrong. Of course the majority of working scientists are not acquainted with different philospohical theories of knowledge. But that doesn’t mean they are indifferent to the defence of the scientific method. Nor does it mean that science is a socialy and idelogically neytral field that can speak for itself. In rejecting the dialectic Rosa has also rejected the greatest theoretical acheivement of marxism in understanding science, that the collective project of sceintific research is a social one, existing within specific ideological and class relations. So while the underlying experience of actualy existing reality is not affected by ideology, both the practice of science, and the assumptions in the creation of hypotheses can be ideological. But marxists would go further and argue that notwithstanding the ideological interaction of sceince as a social process, this doesn’t prevent the mature theiries that both correspond to repeatable experimentation, and that are theoreticial virtuous, from being broadly true.”

    What is the relevance has this to anything I have said? I did not deny this. In fact, what you say here merely underlines my case that “the ruling ideas are always those of the ruling-class”. The fact that scientists, educated in this system, find they have to appeal to philosophy to defend a practice that does not need defending (or which can only be defended by an appeal to arguments that are less certain than scientific knowledge is itself) is a confirmation of my argument.

    As is your emotive response to my attack on these “ruling ideas”.

    Now you *are* getting desperate:

    “Nor does it mean scientists are hostile to philospophy or dialectics – indeed it is interesting that many of the most prominent popualrisers of science – people like Stephen Rose and Stephen Gould – are adherents of dialectical materialsism. Both of whom (like JBS Haldane before them) are acccomplshed and prominent scentists in theie fields. In truth Rosa displays an ignorance of how working scientists reason, and how theories are propagated and become accpeted.”

    Perhaps you can reveal to us the original data of your survey of the scientific community (the members of which, it seems, must be ‘unconscious’ dialecticians on your view). In fact, in view of the further fact that ‘conscious dialecticians’ have proven to be such long-term failures, while in contrast (as you seem to be alleging) ‘unconscious dialecticians’ are such well-confirmed successes, you lot might well be advised to emulate them, and become ‘unconscious dialecticians, too.

    In which case, this latest post at your site is not helping. Drop all reference to this ‘theory’ (my point) and watch the successes of *genuine science* begin to come our way. [However, I suspect that you dialecticians have done so much damage to Marxism, that this might also prove to be elusive…]

    “For example over the question of climate change, the populist opposition to theories that climate change is man made derives from ignorance of the way scientific theories gain acceptance as truth approximate.”

    This is an interesting argument, but maybe not in the way you meant it to be. In fact, it is rather like Flat Earthers appealing to a few of the features of science to prove that all scientists are indeed Flat Earthers!

    Unless you can show that scientists *explicitly* use concepts that are exclusive to DM (‘internal contradictions’, ‘unity of opposites’, ‘negation of the negation’, ‘quantity passing over into quality’, etc. etc) your argument won’t wash.

    It is quite clear to all (accept you ‘true believers’) that the vast majority of scientists not only do not use dialectics, they have never even heard of it. Indeed, there is just as much proof that scientists are ‘unconscious Buddhists’ (perhaps more) than that they are ‘unconscious dialecticians’. In fact, if scientists began to use this ‘theory’ of yours (or its ‘method’) science would grind to a halt.

    You can find the proof of that here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2011_01.htm

    “here Rosa adopts a specifically anti-science approach, equivelent to the RCP/Spiked’s climate change scepticism.
    Englel’s statement was based upon the (still prevailing today) scientific consensus, and is derived from Engel’s study of the mature and accepted sceintific theories of his day.”

    I deal with that argument in the Essay you quoted (and which you clearly skim-read). In fact, Engels based his ‘theory’ on Hegel (who also based his on previous mystics), and only referred to ‘evidence’ that seemed to support his ‘theory’ (which it doesn’t do anyway).

    Here are a few of the dogmatic things Engels had to say, for which no amount of evidence would suffice:

    “Dialectics…prevails throughout nature…. [T]he motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature.” [Engels (1954) ‘Dialectics of Nature’, p.211.]

    “Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted….

    “A motionless state of matter therefore proves to be one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas….” [Engels (1976), ‘Anti-Dühring’, p.74.]

    “The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa…[operates] in nature, in a manner fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion….

    “Hence, it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion…. In this form, therefore, Hegel’s mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious.

    “Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe….

    “Dialectics, so called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature…. [M]otion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature….

    “The whole theory of gravity rests on saying that attraction is the essence of matter. This is necessarily false. Where there is attraction, it must be complemented by repulsion. Hence already Hegel was quite right in saying that the essence of matter is attraction and repulsion….

    “The visible system of stars, the solar system, terrestrial masses, molecules and atoms, and finally ether particles, form each of them [a definite group]. It does not alter the case that intermediate links can be found between the separate groups…. These intermediate links prove only that there are no leaps in nature, precisely because nature is composed entirely of leaps.” [Engels (1954), pp.17, 63, 69, 211, 244, 271.]

    Much more of this sort of stuff here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2002.htm#Engels

    Based on the science of his day, Engels cannot possibly have known all this, but he was quite happy to impose it on nature.

    Had this been based on the evidence, he would have said things like:

    “Evidence so far suggests that motion is what we call “the mode of existence of matter”. Never anywhere has matter without motion been observed, but it is too early to say if this must always be the case…. Matter without motion is not inconceivable, nor is motion without matter, we just haven’t witnessed either yet….” [Re-vamped version of Engels (1976), p.74.]

    As I noted above, the main ‘evidence’ for Engels mystical ideas was his perusal of Hegel’s ‘Logic’. He then scraped around for ‘evidence’ to support these a priori theses. Even then, the ‘evidence’ he accumulated (which ‘evidence’ would have looked thin even in an undergraduate paper!) does not in fact support his ‘theory’.

    And now you have to invent to make your criticisms seem to stick:

    “So while it is true in terms of propositional logic that the accpted scientific theories are based upon observable conditions, and that logically there may be some non-observed phenomenon that refure them, this argument is actualy at heart a mystical attack on science, and upon materialism.

    Rosa’s stance based upon propositional logic is unable to defend the existing practice of science. The idea that the understood laws of science may operate differently “in distant regions of space and time, way beyond the edges of the known Universe ” is God-creating nonsense.”

    Once more, where is your evidence that I base what I say on the propositional Calculus? In fact, if you examine this essay, you will soon see that this is the opposite of the truth:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2004.htm

    Even more to the point, my argument against this ‘theory’ of yours does not fundamentally depend on modern logic (predicate logic or propositional logic) — I just use it to refute a few of the wild things comrades like you like to say about logic.

    “Indeed it is worth pointing out the degree to which many parts of dialecticall reasoning are common sense to scientists, and that propositional logic struggles to cope.

    For example, over the question of levels of abstraction: physics, chemistry, biology exist as seperate disciplines, and no one seeks to reduce biology to physics, because the difference of scale of the systems under study is so great. So the idea that quantative change make a qualitative change is indeed a bedrock of our entire system of sience.”

    I have exposed the errors here, too, in these Essays:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2003_02.htm

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2011%2002.htm

    This comment is unfortunate, too:

    “quantative change make a qualitative change is indeed a bedrock of our entire system of science.”

    Since this is not Engels ‘law’. He says such changes are “impossible” any other way, and that is not the case, as this Essay shows:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm

    There are in fact countless changes in nature that do not obey this ‘law’ (you will find these detailed in the above Essay). Moreover, many things do not change in ‘leaps’ either. For example, metals and plastics change slowly from solid to liquid when heated. So does butter, glass, chocolate…

  122. #137 – Andy:

    “All sport is in the final analysis futile.

    Rosa’s website is theough a gift that keeps on giving as as ource of unintentional humour.

    I can’t help thinking of the vast fortune that must have been spent on tin foil hats.”

    So, your only ‘arguments’ against me turn out to be one or more of the following:

    1. You invent things to put in my mouth (which I do not believe, nor which can be inferred from what I have said), and imagine by refuting that, you have refuted me.

    2. Yet more abuse.

    You have in fact yet to address a single one of my arguments against your ‘theory’.

    No surprise there too!

  123. Goodness:

    “Trotsky was most insistent, as was Marx, Engels and Lenin before him, on the admission of empirical evidence into our understanding. We start with a semi-apriori approach to events, with a dialectical materialist understanding, but we cannot apply to or discover the dialectic in our subject without admitting the evidence.”

    Sure, they all say things like this, but in their writings they do the exact opposite, and impose this ‘theory’ on nature and society.

    Proof here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2002.htm

    I am sorry, but if you are ever to be cured of this Hermetic virus, you are just going to have to be brave and click on a link.

    Anyway, in post #148 above I have quoted *a few* of the places where Engels does just this (even while he too assured he would not do it).

    “Rosa, I can see how a committed philosophical empiricist like yourself would be wound up by the anti-empirical arrogance of the SWP and other sects (even though they are actually empiricists themselves) who think they know it all before they’ve even looked at something properly. But please don’t tar all us dialecticians with the same brush. Let the evidence in and take a chill pill.”

    I am not an empiricist. Whatever gave you that idea?

    In fact, I reject all philosophical theories as so much hot air.

    And what ‘evidence’? What I have seen up to now would be rejected even if it were to appear in a first year undergraduate paper.

    This is what I have published in reply to Brian Jones’s criticism of a letter of mine that was published last month in ‘The International Socialist Review’:

    http://www.isreview.org/issues/61/letters.shtml

    “I made the point in Essay Seven Part One that Dialectical Materialism [DM] relies for its ‘veracity’ on what I have called “Mickey Mouse Science”. Anyone who has studied or practiced genuine science knows the great care and attention to detail that has to be devoted by researchers, often over many years or decades, if they want to add to, or alter, even relatively minor areas of current knowledge, let alone establish a new law. This was the case in Engels’s day, just as it is the case today. Moreover, the concepts used by scientists have to be precise and analytically sound. The use of primary data is essential (or at least it has to be reviewed or referenced by scientists) and supporting evidence has to be extensive, meticulously recorded and subject not only to public scrutiny, but peer review.

    In contrast, the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in Creationist literature is rightly the target of derision by scientists and Marxists alike. And yet, when it comes to DM, we find in Engels’s writings (and those of subsequent dialecticians) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels supplied no original data, and what little evidence he presented in support of his ‘Law’ would have been rejected as amateurish in the extreme if it had appeared in an undergraduate science paper, let alone in a research document –, even in his day! It is salutary, therefore, to compare Engel’s approach to scientific proof with that of Darwin, whose classic work is a model of clarity and original research. Darwin presented the scientific community with extensive evidence, which has been added to greatly in the last 150 years.

    The picture is almost the exact opposite when we turn to consider not just the paucity of evidence illustrating (it certainly does not prove) Engels’s first ‘Law’, the transformation of quantity into quality [Q/Q], but the total lack of clarity in the concepts used. In Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature, for example, we are not told what a “quality” is, nor how long a dialectical “node” is supposed to last. Furthermore, we are left completely in the dark what the phrase “addition” of matter and energy means, nor are we told what the energetic (thermodynamic) boundaries are to any of the systems under consideration. Indeed, we are not even told what constitutes a system, nor what counts as that system “developing”!

    Moreover, supporting ‘evidence’ alone is considered; problem cases are just ignored. In this, too, DM resembles Creation ‘Science’.

    Again, unlike genuine science, the situation as not changed much in dialectical circles in the last 140 years. This led me to observe (in an earlier Essay):

    Moreover, this Law is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can use it in whatever way they please. If this is difficult to believe, ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a “nodal point” is supposed to last. As seems clear, if no one knows, anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be “nodal”!

    And, it really isn’t good enough for dialectically-inclined readers to dismiss this as mere pedantry. Can you imagine a genuine scientist refusing to say how long a crucially important interval in her theory is supposed to be, and accusing you of “pedantry” for even asking?”

    You can read the rest of my reply here:

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

    “Now, do you have to be a physicist to have an opinion on whether the motion of the universe is totally random or totally pre-determined? Just give us an opinion.”

    In fact, I deny that these words can be used of nature.

    Here is why:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/freedom-state-mind-t56836/index.html?t=56836

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=894937&postcount=2

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/determinism-t69238/index.html

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/free-t92118/index.html

    Once more, sorry about the links, but aversion therapy is in fact quite useful.

  124. Rosa

    You are a ridiculous figure, and you attempts to argue about science prove just how out of your depth you are. Especially when you say #147:

    “Unless you can show that scientists *explicitly* use concepts that are exclusive to DM (’internal contradictions’, ‘unity of opposites’, ‘negation of the negation’, ‘quantity passing over into quality’, etc. etc) your argument won’t wash.”

    Becasue you are arguing against such a ridiculous straw man that the only people who fall into it are those who are already totally discredited, such as Paul Kammerer and Lysenko.

    Contradiction (Widerspruch in the original) or literally “speaking against” is the concept that there can be more than one competing process in a complex system (in Hegelian language, a differentiated unity).

    All serious science proceeds from the idea that there are complex interactions of processes (internal contradictions) and that processes oppose one another. It is easy to show that the seemingly mystical terminology of hegel in fact corresopndes to many common sense platitudes about the irreducibility of any one proccess and the interpenetration and mutual dependence of processes in complex systems.

    Marxist philosophy is a method of reasoning about such complex interacting processes, providing a toolbox of mental concepts. Becasue complex interacting processes also appear in the real world, then some of the mechanisms by which complex processes can be understood to interact will also be truth approximate to the real world. Reasoning about Interpenetrating opposites and such like is just sharpening the tools in the box, as it helps to understand the mechanisms by which processes interact. it doesnnot determine that any particulat thesis and antithesis will produce any particular sythesis, nor pre-determine by which “law” the processes will interact.

    Your examples are also ridiculous. You say, in contradiction to everything we know: “many things do not change in ‘leaps’ either. For example, metals and plastics change slowly from solid to liquid when heated. So does butter, glass, chocolate…”

    Fritsly you seem ignorant that glass is alsways a liquid, butter I am not sure about, I suspect it may always be a liquid, but it may be a suspension. I am sure that both butter and glass flow even in their apparently solid form.(in reality still liquid with very high viscosity)

    but more substantively you are just wrong. metals do have a specific, measurable and deterministic melting point, dependent upon temperature and pressure, which is to do with the degree of excitation of the constituent molecules, and there is indeed a point where the internal order within the relationship of those molecules makes a qualitative change from solid to liquid, and from liquid to gas. the degree of viscosity of a liquid will change with temperature and pressure, but you cannot increase the degree of viscosity of a solid, and gas has no viscosity at all. So there is no gradual change, but a transformative one between the different states of matter. If you are saying that for any given mass of matter then the transformation is not simulatanous, and therefore appears gradual, well of course. Not only does this refelct unevenness of temperature and pressure, bt it is also dependent upon the fact that there is non-determinism at the molecular level.

    Other examples you give are equally naive about science. Broadly, most of Engels pronouncements about matter that you quote are consistent with Newtonian physics