Bhaskar and dialectics

Ralph Dumain rdumain at
Fri Feb 24 23:39:44 MST 1995

Tom Moylan writes:

>A friend has asked me to recommend a source for a good
>introduction to dialectics.  I couldn't immediately come up with
>one single work.  Does any one have a suggestion?

I'd like to know too, because when years ago people would ask me,
I couldn't think of anything to read without shame and
embarrassment.  I can, however, suggest what NOT to read.

Louis Proyect sez:

>I suggest George Novack's "Introduction to the Logic of
>Marxism". George, god rest his soul, was the house philosopher
>in the erstwhile Trotskyist SWP. It is 144 pages long and
>written for a working-class audience. As a matter of fact, just
>about everything George wrote is worth reading.

Many of Novack's books are worth reading.  In philosophy POLEMICS
IN MARXIST PHILOSOPHY is eloquent in its defense of materialism.
PRAGMATISM AND MARXISM is also worth checking out.  But
positively the worst thing Novack ever wrote, and has done much
damage over five decades as an introductory textbook for all
Trotskyists and Marx knows who else.  By no means is this book to
be recommended.  It is just a wretched mess of confusion, even
worse than Trotsky's own writings on the subject.  But such
confusion is not exclusive to Trotskyism.  John Somerville's THE
PHILOSOPHY OF MARXISM: AN EXPOSITION is much better known and as
exposition and is just as sickening inept or worse than Novack's
book.  (Somerville's criminal piece of Stalinist hackwork, SOVIET
PHILOSOPHY, is even more stomach-churning.)

The crucial problem of such expositions is a shamefully
incompetent exposition of dialectical logic vs. formal logic (why
the law of identity doesn't hold, etc.).  Such books make Marxists
look like idiots and we need a higher caliber of such literature.

The problem exists also among non-Marxists, eg. in the criticism
of Aristotelian logic by Alfred Korzybski (founder of the
reactionary general semantics movement.)  Which brings us back to
Aristotle.  I read an article 25 years ago in ETC., house organ of
the general semantics movement, by an author who sought to combat
the prejudice against Aristotle by quoting him to show that
Aristotle himself was aware of all the issues the semanticists
piss and moan about.

The Soviet textbooks on diamat are not so bad, because they
scrupulously avoid the ticklish problems of dialectical
logic/subjective dialectics and so usually avoid making themselves
look ridiculous.

Since we are on a roll, let's finally get back to Mao.
Eurocentrism is not the issue.  Mao's theory is as crude and
barbaric as his political practice.  Mao is no more worth reading
than Stalin is, possibly less.  Intellectually, Maoism is even
more debased than classic Stalinism, because more openly
nihilistic and irrational.  Remember, there will be no authentic
socialism in the world until the last Stalinist is strangled with
the entrails of the last Maoist.

There are some unorthodox teaching materials available, ie.
unorthodox from the standpoint of interpreting what dialectics is
about.  There was an excellent article several yeas ago in the
defunct journal URGENT TASKS:  "How to Think", which goes more
into a Hegelian Marxism than into the usual diamat.  It is
noteworthy because it addresses the novice without vulgarization
of abstract ideas or dumbing down.  URGENT TASKS bears the
indirect influence of C.L.R. James and Martin Glaberman style

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