Part Two Problems of the Marxist-Leninist Theory of Dialectics
In order to overcome the weaknesses, or rather defects, of any philosophical system, it is necessary to understand them. Marx demonstrated this sort of understanding in relation to Hegel, and thereby went much further in matters of logic than either Hegel or his materialist antipode Feuerbach.
Marx, Engels, and Lenin showed both the historical contribution of Hegel and the historically conditioned limitations of his scientific advances, the clearly drawn boundary across which the Hegelian dialectic could not step, and the illusions, whose power it was incapable of overcoming despite all the strength of its creators mind. Hegels greatness, like his limitations, was due on the whole to his having exhausted the possibilities of developing dialectics on the basis of idealism, within the limits of the premises that idealism imposed on scientific thinking. Irrespective of his intentions, Hegel showed, with exceptional clarity, that idealism led thinking up a blind alley and doomed even dialectically enlightened thought to hopeless circling within itself, to an endless procedure of self-expression and self-consciousness. For Hegel, (precisely because he was a most consistent and unhypocritical idealist, who thereby disclosed the secret of every other, inconsistent and incomplete idealism) being, i.e. the world of nature and history existing outside thought and independently of it, was inevitably transformed into a mere pretext for demonstrating the logical art, into an inexhaustible reservoir of examples confirming over and over again the same schemas and categories of logic. As the young Marx remarked, the matter of logic (die Sache der Logik) fenced the logic of the matter (die Logik der Sache) [Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Law] off from Hegel, and therefore both the Prussian monarch and the louse on the monarchs head could equally well serve the idealist dialectician as examples illustrating the category real individuality in and for itself.
With such an approach both a boiling tea-kettle and the Great French Revolution were only examples illustrating the relation of the categories of quality and quantity; but any empirical reality impinging on the eye, however fortuitous it might be in itself, was thereby converted into an external embodiment of absolute reason, into one of the necessary dialectical stages of its self-differentiation.
The profound flaws in the Hegelian dialectic were directly linked with idealism, due to which the dialectic was readily transformed into ingenious, logically subtle apologies for everything that existed. It is therefore necessary to look into all these circumstances more closely.
Hegel actually counterposed man and his real thought to impersonal, featureless absolute thought as some force existing for ages, in accordance with which the act of divine creation of the world and man had occurred. He also understood logic as absolute form, in relation to which the real world and real human thought proved to be something essentially derivative, secondary and created.
In that, too, the idealism of Hegels conception of thinking was revealed; and it was the specifically Hegelian objective idealism that converted thought into some new god, into some supernatural force existing outside man and dominating him. This specifically Hegelian illusion, however, did not at all express an idea simply taken uncritically by Hegel from religion, or a simple atavism of religious consciousness, as Feuerbach suggested, but a much more profound and serious circumstance.
The fact is that the Hegelian conception of thought represented an uncritical description of the real position of things formed on the soil of a narrowly professional form of the division of social labour, that is to say, on the division of mental work from physical labour, from immediately practical, sensuously objective activity.
Under the spontaneously developing division of social labour there arose of necessity a peculiar inversion of the real relations between human individuals and their collective forces and collectively developed faculties, i.e. the universal (social) means of the activity, an inversion known in philosophy as estrangement or alienation. Here, in social reality, and not at all simply in the fantasies of religiously minded people and idealist philosophers, universal (collectively realised) modes of action were organised as special social institutions, established in the form of trades and professions, and of a kind of caste with its own special rituals, language, traditions, and other immanent structures of a quite impersonal and featureless character.
As a result, the separate human individual did not prove to be the bearer, i.e. to be the subject, of this or that universal faculty (active power), but, on the contrary. this active power, which was becoming more and more estranged from him, appeared as the subject, dictating the means and forms of his occupation to each individual from outside. The individual as such was thus transformed into a kind of slave, into a speaking tool of alienated universally human forces and faculties, means of activity personified as money and capital, and further as the state, law, religion, and so on.
The same fate also befell thought. It, too, became a special occupation, the lot for life of professional scholars, of professionals in mental, theoretical work. Science is thought transformed in certain conditions into a special profession. Given universal alienation, thought achieved the heights and levels of development needed for society as a whole only in the sphere of science (i.e. within the community of scholars), and in that form was really opposed to the majority of human beings and not simply opposed to them but also dictating to them what they must do from the standpoint of science, and how they must do it, and what and how they must think, etc., etc. The scientist, the professional theoretician, lays down the law to them not in his own name, personally, but in the name of .Science, in the name of the Concept, in the name of an absolutely universal, collective, impersonal power, appearing before other people as its trusted representative and plenipotentiary.
On that soil, too, there arose all the specific illusions of the professionals of mental, theoretical work, illusions that acquired their most conscious expression precisely in the philosophy of objective idealism, i.e. of the self-consciousness of alienated thought.
It will readily be noted that Hegel, in his logic, quite exactly expressed, in scholastically disguised form, the fundamental features of human life activity: mans faculty (as a thinking creature) to look at himself from outside as it were, as something other, as a special object; or in other words to transform the schemas of his own activity into its own object. (That is the very special feature of man which the young Marx recognised as follows, and that in the course of a critique of Hegel: The animal is immediately one with its life activity. It does not distinguish itself from it. It is its life activity. Man makes his life-activity itself the object of his will and of his consciousness. He has conscious life activity. It is not a determination with which he directly merges).
Since Hegel looked upon this feature of human life activity exclusively through the eyes of logic, he registered it solely to the extent that it was already transformed into a scheme of thought, into a logical schema, into a rule in accordance with which man more or less consciously built this or that specific activity (be it in the material of language or something else). He therefore registered things, and the position of things (acts) located outside the individuals consciousness and beyond his will (Dinge und Sache), exclusively as moments, as metamorphoses of thought (subjective activity), realised and realisable in natural, physical material, including in that also the organic body of man himself. The special feature of human life activity described above in Marxs words also appeared in the Hegelian representation as a scheme of thought realised by man, as a logical figure.
The real picture of human life activity obtained here is a topsy-turvy, upside-down representation. In reality man thinks because that is his real life activity. Hegel said the contrary, that real human life activity was such because man thought in accordance with a definite schema. All determinations of human life activity, naturally, and through it the position of things outside mans head, were only fixed here insofar as they were posited by thought, and appeared as the result of thought.
This is only natural because the logician who specially studied thought was no longer interested in things (or the position of things) as such, as a reality existing before, outside of, and independently of man and his activity (the logician did not look on reality at all as the physicist or biologist, economist or astronomer did), but in things as, and as what, they appeared as a result of the activity of a thinking being, of the subject, as the product of thought understood as an activity, the specific product of which was the concept.
So Hegel was guilty of remaining a pure logician just there where the standpoint of logic was inadequate. This peculiar professional blindness of the logician showed up primarily in the fact that he looked upon practice, i.e. the real, sensuously objective activity of man, solely as a criterion of truth, solely as the verifying authority for thought, for the mental, theoretical work completed before and independently of practice, or rather for the results of that work.
Practice there was thus also understand abstractly, was only illuminated from that aspect, and in those characteristics, which it owed in fact to thought, because it was the act of realising a certain intention, plan, idea, concept, or some aim selected in advance, was absolutely not analysed as such in a determination of its own, not dependent on some thought. All the results of peoples practical activity things made by human labour, and historical events and their consequences were correspondingly only taken into account insofar as they embodied or objectified some idea or another. In a conception of the historical process as a whole such a point of view was understandably the purest (absolute) idealism. As regards logic, however, the science of thought, it was not only justified but was the sole rational position.
In fact, can we reproach the logician for abstracting everything in the most rigorous fashion that had nothing to do with the subject matter of his investigation, and for paying attention to any fact only insofar as it could be understood as the consequence, as the form of disclosure, of his subject matter, of the subject matter of his science, i.e. of thought? To reproach the professional logician for the fact that the matter of logic concerned him more than the logic of the matter, (i.e. the logic of any other concrete sphere of human activity) would be as stupid as to reproach the chemist for excessive attention to the matter of chemistry. But Marxs words above, directed at Hegel, concealed quite another meaning.
The fault of the narrow professional was not at all his rigorous limitation of thought to the framework of the subject matter of his science, but his incapacity to see clearly the boundaries of the competence of his science associated with this limitation of his view of things.
The same applied to Hegel, the typical professional logician. As a logician he was right to look upon a statement or a fact exclusively from the standpoint of the abstract schemas of thought revealed in it, when the logic of any matter interested him only insofar as it was revealed in it in general. The mysticism of Hegels logic, and at the same time its insidious feature, which Marx called his false positivism, began where the special standpoint of the logician ex professo was adopted and distinguished from the sole scientific standpoint from the heights of which only the ultimate, most profound, most cherished, and most important truth accessible in general to man and to humanity was allegedly discovered.
As a logician Hegel was quite right in looking on any phenomenon in the development of human culture as an act disclosing the power of thought. But it was the work of a moment, by adding a little something to that view (admissible and natural in logic), namely that the essence of the phenomena in themselves from which the special, logical abstractions were drawn was expressed just in those abstractions, for the truth to be transformed into a lie. The exact results of a chemical investigation of the composition of the colours used to paint the Sistine Madonna would be converted into such a lie the moment the chemist looked on them as the sole scientific explanation of the unique synthesis created by Raphaels brush.
Abstractions that quite precisely expressed (described) the forms and schemas of the flow of thought in all forms of its concrete realisation were immediately and directly passed off as schemas of the process that had created the whole diversity of human culture, in which they were discovered. As a result the whole mystique of Hegels conception of thought was concentrated in a single point In considering all the manifold forms of human culture as a result of manifestation of the faculty to think that functions in man, he lost any chance of understanding from where in general this unique faculty, and its schemas and rules, appeared in man. By raising thought to the rank of a divine power and force impelling man to historical creation from within, Hegel simply passed off the absence of a reply to this reasonable question as the only possible answer to it.
The sensuously objective activity of the millions of people who by their labour created the body of culture, the self-consciousness of which is scientific thought, remained outside Hegels field of view, seemed to him the prehistory of thought. The external world therefore appeared as the initial material for producing the concept, as something that had to be processed by means of existing concepts in order to concretise them.
Thought was thus transformed into the only active and creative force, and the external world into its field of application. Naturally, if the sensuously objective activity (practice) of social man was represented as the consequence, as the external objectification of ideas, plans, and concepts created by thought (i.e. by persons occupied in mental work), it became in principle impossible to say either what was the source of thought in the head of theoreticians or how it arose.
Thought was, Hegel replied; and to ask about its origin from something else was to ask a futile question. It was, it operated in man, and gradually arrived at awareness of its own activities, and of their schemas and laws. Logic was selfconsciousness of, this creative principle, of this infinite creative power, of this absolute form, which had never arisen from anywhere. In man this creative force was only revealed, objectified, and estranged so as then in logic to cognise itself as such, as the universal creative force.
That was the whole secret of Hegels objective idealism. In logic, consequently, objective idealism means the absence of any answer whatsoever to the question from whence thought originates. In the form of logic, defined as a system o eternal and absolute schemas of every kind of creative activity, Hegel deified real human thought and its logical forms and patterns.
That was at once the strength and the weakness of his conception of thought and logic. Its strength was that he idolised (i.e. defined as given outside time, as absolute) the nevertheless real logical forms and laws of human thought discovered by him through study of human spiritual and material culture. Its weakness was that, for all that, he idolised the logical forms and laws of human thought, i.e. declared them absolute, without even allowing the problem of their origin to be posed.
The fact was that idealism, i.e. the view of thought as a universal faculty that was only aroused to self-consciousness in man and did not arise in the exact and strict sense from the soil of definite conditions formed outside him and independently of him, led to a number of absolutely unresolvable problems in logic itself.
While making an exceptionally important advance in understanding of the logical forms of thought, Hegel stopped halfway, and even turned back, as soon as he was faced with the question of the inter-relation of sensuously perceived forms of the embodiment of the minds activity (thought), in which the mind (or spirit) became the object of consideration for itself. Thus he refused to recognise the word (speech, language) as the sole form of the effective being of the spirit, of the external disclosure of the creative power of thought. Nevertheless, he continued to consider it the principal, most adequate form, the form in which thought was counterposed to itself.
In the beginning was the Word in respect of human thought (the thinking mind of man) Hegel maintained the Biblical position unsullied, accepting it as something self-evident and making it the basic principle of all subsequent construction, or rather reconstruction, of the development of the thinking spirit to selfconsciousness.
The thinking mind of man was first aroused (i e. counterposed itself to everything else) precisely in the word and through the word, as the faculty of naming, and therefore took shape primarily as the kingdom of names and titles. The word also functioned as the first objective reality of thought activity. both in essence and in time, as the initial and immediate form of being of the spirit for itself.
This appeared clearly as follows: one finite spirit (the thought of the individual) made itself the subject matter (object) of another, also finite, spirit in the word and through the word. Having arisen from the mind as a definitely articulated sound, the word on being heard was again converted into spirit, into the state of the thinking mind of another person. The vibrations of the ambient air (the audible word) also proved to be only the pure mediator between the two states of the spirit, the mode of the relation of spirit to spirit, or, expressing it in Hegelian language, of the spirit to itself.
The word (speech) functioned here as the first tool of the external objectification of thought, which the thinking spirit created from itself in order to become the object for itself (in the image of another thinking spirit). The real tool the stone axe or cutting tool, scraper or wooden plough began to appear as the second and secondary, derived tool of the same process of objectification as the sensuously objective metamorphosis of thought.
Thus Hegel saw in the word the form of the actual being of the thinking spirit in which the latter manifested its own creative force (faculty) before everything, before and independently of the real moulding of nature by labour. Labour only realised what the thinking spirit had found in itself in the course of utterance, in the course of its dialogue with itself. But in this interpretation the dialogue proved to be only a monologue of the thinking spirit, only its mode of manifestation.
In the Phenomenology of Mind all history therefore began with an analysis of the contradiction that arose between thought (insofar as it expressed itself in the words here and now) and all its other content not yet expressed in words. The Science of Logic also suggested this schema, and contained the same, though implicit premise at its very beginning. Thought, it was suggested there, had realised and was realising itself primarily in and through the word. So it was no accident that the consummation of all the phenomenological and logical history of the thinking spirit consisted in returning to the starting point: the thinking spirit achieved its absolutely exact and perfect representation, naturally in the printed word in a treatise on logic, in the Science of Logic.
Hegel therefore also maintained the following in logic: It is in human Language that the Forms of Thought are manifested and laid down in the first instance. In our day it cannot be too often recalled, that what distinguishes man from the beasts is the faculty of Thought. Language has penetrated into whatever becomes for man something inner becomes, that is, an idea, something which he makes his very own; and what man transforms to Language contains concealed, or mixed up with other things, or worked out to clearness a Category.... [Science of Logic, pp 39-40]
That was the deepest root of Hegels idealism. By that step thought as an activity taking place in the head in the form, precisely, of inner speech, was converted into the starting point for understanding all the phenomena of culture, both spiritual and material, including all historical events, social, economic, and political structures, and so on and so forth. The whole world of the products of human labour and all history, then began to be interpreted as a process taking place from the power of thought. The whole grandiose conception of the history of the estrangement (objectification) of the creative energy of thought and its inverse mastering of the fruits of its labour (disobjectification), which began with the word and completed its cycle in the word, was just the history outlined in the Science of Logic.
The clue to Hegels conception is not so very complicated. The idea that man thought initially, and then only really acted served as the foundation of his schema. Hence also the schema word act thing made by the act again word (this time a verbally expressed report on what had been done). And further, there was a new cycle according to the same schema, but on a new basis, owing to which the movement had the form not of a circle but of a spiral each turn of which, however, both began and ended at one and the same point, in a word.
The rational kernel and at the same time the mystifying feature of the schema described here are most easily considered by analogy (although it is more than a simple analogy) with the metamorphoses that political economy brings out when analysing commodity-money circulation. Just as accumulated labour concentrated in machines, in the instruments and products of labour, functions in the form of capital, in the form of self-expanding value, for which the individual capitalist functions as executor, so too scientific knowledge, i.e, the accumulated mental labour of society functions in the form of Science, i.e. the same sort of impersonal and featureless anonymous force. The individual professional theoretician functions as the representative of the self-developing power of knowledge. His social function boils down to being the individual embodiment of the universal spiritual wealth accumulated over centuries and millennia of mental labour. He functions as the animated tool of a process that is completed independently of his individual consciousness and his individual will, the process of the increase of knowledge. He does not think here as such Knowledge, which has taken root in his head during his education, thinks. He does not control the concept; rather the Concept controls him, determining both the direction of his research and the modes and forms of his activity.
There is the same turning upside down as in the sphere of material production based on exchange value, the same real mystification of the relations between the universal and the particular in which the abstract universal is not an aspect or property of the sensuously concrete (in this case living man) but rather the contrary, the sensuous concrete, individual man proves to be only an abstract, one-sided embodiment of the universal (in this case Knowledge, Concept, Science). This is not simply an analogy with what happens in the world of relations founded on value, but the same social process, only in the sphere of mental rather than material production. This inversion, by which the sensibly concrete is regarded as a form of manifestation of the abstract and general, instead of the abstract and general being regarded on the contrary as a property of the concrete, is characteristic of the expression of value. At the same time, it makes the expression of value difficult to understand. If I say: Roman law and German law are both law, that is self-evident. If, on the other hand, I say: the law, which is an abstraction, is realised as such in Roman law and in German law which are concrete laws, the connection between the abstract and the concrete becomes mystical. [Capital, Vol I, p771]
So Hegels idealism was not in the least the fruit of religious fantasy or of a religiously oriented imagination. It was only an uncritical description of the real state of things, on the soil of which the professional theoretician, the narrow specialist of mental labour, operated (thought). The forms of his philosophy were the practically inevitable illusions (even practically useful) that he inevitably created in his own work, illusions that were fed by the objective position of that work in society, and reflected its position. It was the knowledge acquired by him as concepts immediately in the course of his education, i.e. in the form of verbal-sign expressions, which was for him the beginning (starting point) of his specific activity, and the end, its specific goal, its real entelechy.
But the analogy we have used enables us also to understands another circumstance, i.e. the mechanism itself of the inversion or turning upside down described above. The pattern of commodity-money circulation is, as we know, expressed by the formula C M C. The commodity (C) appears in it as both the beginning and the end of the cycle, and money (M) as its mediating link, as the metamorphosis of the commodity. But at a certain point in the self-closing cyclical movement C M C M C M... and so on, money ceases to be a simple intermediary, the means of circulation of the mass of commodities and suddenly discloses an enigmatic faculty for self-expansion. Schematically this phenomenon is expressed in the formula as follows: M C M. The Commodity, the real starting point of the process as a whole, acquires the former role of money, the role of intermediary and means of the transient metamorphosis of money, in which the latter is embodied in order to complete the act of self-expansion. Money, having acquired so mysterious a property, is also capital, and in the form of the latter acquires the occult quality of being able to add value to itself and suddenly presents itself as substance endowed with an independent motion of its own, a substance of which commodities and money are themselves merely forms. In the formula M C M value appears as an automatically operating subject, as the substance-subject of the whole cyclic movement, constantly returning to its starting point; value is here the active factor in a process in which, while continually assuming by turns the form of money and the form of commodities, it at the same time changes in magnitude, gives birth to surplus value, so that the original value spontaneously expands [Capital Vol I] and this happens in itself.
In his Science of Logic, Hegel recorded the same situation, only not in regard to value but to knowledge (understanding, truth). In fact he dealt with the process of accumulation of knowledge, because the concept is also accumulated knowledge, the constant capital, so to say, of thought, which always appears in science in the form of the word. Hence, too, the idea of knowledge, analogous to the idea of value, as a self-expanding substance, as a subject-substance.
Thus we are dealing not with the abstract fantasies of an idealist but with the same uncritical description of the real process of the production and accumulation of knowledge as the theory of political economy, which takes as the starting point of its explanation an exactly recorded but not understood fact. The fact is that money, appearing as the form of movement of capital, as the starting point and goal of the whole cyclical process of coming back to itself, discloses a mysterious, occult faculty for self-expansion and self-development. This fact, left unexplained, becomes mysterious and occult; and a property is ascribed to it that in fact belongs to quite another process that is expressed (reflected) in its form.
In disclosing the secret of the self-expansion of value, i.e. the secret of the production and accumulation of surplus value, in Capital Marx employed (and not by chance, but deliberately and consciously) the whole terminology of Hegelian logic given above, and of Hegels conception of thought. The fact is that the idealist illusion created by Hegel the logician had the same nature as the practically necessary (practically true) illusions that entrap the mind of man caught up in the process of the creation and accumulation of surplus value, which is not understood by him and takes place independently of his consciousness and will. The logical and socio-historical patterns of the origin of these illusions were objectively and subjectively the same.
For the capitalist a certain sum of money (a certain value indispensably expressed in money form) is the starting point of all his further activity as a capitalist, and therefore the formal goal of his special activity. From where this sum of money arose, originally, with its occult properties, and how, may have no special interest for him.
Something analogous also happens with the professional theoretician, with the person who represents personified knowledge, science, the concept. For him, the knowledge accumulated by humanity, and recorded moreover in verbal, sign form, also appears simultaneously as the starting point and as the goal of his special work.
From his point of view, naturally, the concept makes itself out to be a self-developing substance, an automatically operating subject, the subject substance of all its changes, and of all its metamorphoses.
Hence, from the real form of the life activity of the professional theoretician there also grow all the practically necessary illusions about thought and concept that were systematically expressed in Hegels Science of Logic. The Hegelian logic described the system of the objective forms of thought within the limits of which revolved the process of extended reproduction of the concept, which never began, in its developed forms, from the very beginning, but took place as the perfecting of already existing concepts, as the transformation of already accumulated theoretical knowledge, as its increment. The concept was always already presupposed here in the form of a jumping-off point for new conquests, since it was a matter of extending the sphere of the cognised, and in that the initial concepts played a most active role.
If the separate forms of the manifestation that expanding, growing knowledge drew by turns into its living circulation were recorded, the following definitions would be obtained: science (accumulated knowledge) is words (the language of science); science is the things created on the basis of knowledge, i.e. the objectified, materialised force of knowledge. Knowledge becomes the subject of a certain process in which, here, while constantly changing its verbal form into an objective material one it alters its magnitude and its scale, throws off as surplus (added) knowledge from itself as the initial knowledge, and self-develops. For the movement in which knowledge unites new knowledge to itself is its own movement, and its expansion is consequently self-expansion, self-intensification, self-development. It has acquired the occult faculty of creating knowledge by virtue of the fact that it is itself knowledge.
By analogy with the production and accumulation of surplus value, logical forms (the real forms of the production of knowledge) began therefore to appear here as forms of the self-development of knowledge, and so were mystified. The mystification consisted in the pattern or scheme that expressed the features of the activity of the professional theoretician, being accepted and passed off as the pattern of development of knowledge in general.
So, we see, it was the same mystification as in political economy, in analysing which Marx stressed that his investigation did not begin with an analysis of value, but with analysis of a commodity.
From the logical standpoint that is most important in principle, because it was the analysis of a commodity that bared the secret of the birth and origin of value, and then also the secret of its manifestation in money, in money form. In the contrary case, the secret of the birth of value was unresolvable in principle.
The same thing took place with the concept of thought in the Hegelian scheme. Hegel recorded those features that were actually realised in the process of thought in its developed form, in the form of science, as a special (isolated) sphere of the division of social labour, and the formula that there quite accurately reflected the surface of the process appeared as follows: word act word (W A W), in which by word, is understood verbally recorded knowledge, knowledge in its universal form, in the form of the language of science, in the form of formulae, diagrams, symbols, models of all kinds, blueprints, etc., etc.
A really critical mastering of Hegels logic, carefully preserving all its positive features and purging it of mystic worship of pure thought and the divine concept, proved only to be within the power of Marx and Engels. No other philosophical system since Hegel has been able to handle it as a tool of criticism, since not one of them has adopted the standpoint of a revolutionary, critical attitude to the objective conditions that feed the illusions of idealism, i.e. to the situation of the estrangement (alienation) of the real, active faculties of man from the majority of individuals, the situation in which all the universal (social) forces, i.e. the active faculties of social man, appear as forces independent of the majority of individuals and dominating them as external necessity, as forces monopolised by more or less narrow groups, strata, and classes of society.
The sole path to a real, critical mastering of Hegels conception of thought lay through a revolutionary, critical attitude to the world of alienation, i.e. to the world of commodity-capitalist relations. Only along that path could the objective-idealist illusions of Hegels conception be really explained, and not simply attacked by such biting epithets (that equally explained nothing) as mystical nonsense, theological atavism, and others of that kind.
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