Left Opposition 103163.3011 at compuserve.com
Mon Nov 27 18:57:23 MST 1995

Dear Comrades;

I have recently been monitoring the rantings of Barkley Rosser regarding
dialectical materialism -- Marxist or not.  Many of our esteemed contributors
have played along with Rosser.  However, the one thing that has been lacking up
to this point is an analysis of why he thinks the way he does.

All of Rosser's efforts are geared toward one conclusion:  that Marx and Engels
were not dialectical materialists, and that Lenin (and Stalin [?]) were the true
developers of dialectical materialist thought.  As is typical to such argument
meant to demolish Marx under the guise of saving him, Rosser establishes an
all-too-familiar "straw man" to beat on.  Rosser prefers to use Lysenkoism -- a
school of Stalinist science which rejected Mendel's law and claimed everything
learned was actually inherited.  (We'll deal with the dialectic of Lysenko

Rosser's arguments begin with sarcasm (on this we can relate), and end with
demagogy and a twisting of the truth.


A consistent thread throughout all of his postings are his reference to Stalin's
development of Leninist theory.  It is from here that Rosser's errors in
perspective begin.  To claim Stalin as the heir to Leninism is to commit the
most eggregious error in theory.  It is understandable that Rosser would believe
the things he does -- including the conclusion that Marx and Engels weren't
dialectical materialists.

It's an easy syllogism:  the so-called "socialist camp" of the former Soviet
Union and Central Europe has collapsed, this camp followed the teachings of
Stalin, Stalin claimed to be the heir of Lenin, and Lenin espoused dialectical
materialism; therefore, Lenin's theory (!) of dialectical materialism leads to
Stalinism.  However -- as the second part of this Gordian knot goes -- since
Marx and Engels are good guys, and Lenin's evil "dialectical marerialism" led to
the collapse of the ex-USSR (see above), Marx and Engels couldn't have believed
in that kind of evil theory.

You can substitute any number of things in the first slot -- the "socialist
camp" squished formal democratic rights, broke strikes, purged dissent,
repressed nationalities, etc., ad nauseam.  And, if you follow this logic, as it
appears Rosser does, the conclusions come naturally.

Rosser apparently has accepted a degree from the Stalin School of Falsification,
and has now completed his graduate studies in the Volkogonov School of Advanced
Theoretical Revisionism.  He sees Lenin and Stalin as the great purveyors of
"DIAMAT," and thus the brigands of the revoultionary movement.

Rosser has left Trotsky out of the picture.  We can only imagine his view on
Trotsky, Trotskyism, the Fourth International, etc.  Could it be that he lumps
Trotsky with Lenin and Stalin, like many anarcho- socialists (more anarcho- than
socialist) do.  Or, has he just forgotten about Trotsky, due to huge gaps in the
History lesson he received from Stalin's school.  (Or, does Rosser think Trotsky
was a Nazi?  Was Trotsky laying British mines?)


Lysenkoism was a natural outgrowth of the Stalinist bureaucracy.  After all, the
Stalinists could use an "agronomist" like Lysenko, who could justify
"scientifically" the existence of a bureaucracy and the smashing of the workers'
political power.  If you "prove" that those bureaucrats in power deserved to be
there because of their "inherent abilities," then you could justify anything.
But to accept Lysenkoism as a genuine expression of dialectical materialism is
to fall into the trap set by the bureaucracy itself.   Lysenko's attempt to meld
Darwin and Marx fasiled because he violated the first rule in the scientific
method:  never tailor your results to match your hypothesis.  This is where
Lysenko failed.

But, there are contradictions in Lysenko's theory.  Some which have positive
results.  There are aspects of biology and physiology that are genetic which
have been historically thought of as "learned behavior."  For fear of beating a
dead horse (sorry, Ralph), homosexuality comes to mind.  Until 1974, the
American Psychiatric Association defined homosexuality as a "mental disorder"
learned in society.  Under Lysenkoism, homosexuality would be defined
(correctly) as a genetic trait, as natural as hair or eye color.  Given a
choice, I'll take Lysenko over the APA any day.

Naturally, I believe there are few positive aspects to Lysenkoism; in general,
Lysenko was a creature of the apparatus, with the mission of justifying the
bureaucracy "scientifically."  But, as the dialectic works, there are some
contradictory elements of the theory -- A equals A and Not-A.

Rosser's vilification of Lysenko as a lackey for the Stalinist "dialectical
materialists" rings hollow.  One can only speculate about Rosser's "conversion."
We could all make assumptions, but only Rosser can answer this question.


Rosser's attacks against Engels are most enlightening.  He has made scathing
attacks against Engels' book "Dialectics of Nature."  In a mocking tone, Rosser
jokes about Engels' attempts to explain, in a dialectical materialist method,
how nature works.  Rosser's mock is revealing.

Despite any criticisms one may have of Engels method in "Dialectics of Nature,"
it was an honest attempt to apply dialectics to physical reality.  Rosser's
attack, however, is not simply against "Dialectics of Nature."  It is against
Engels and Marxism itself.  The nature of Rosser's attack was to "throw the baby
out with the bath water."  It is to say:  even though Marx and Engels are "good
guys," their attempts at applying dialectics are nothing but dirty Bolshevik

it's only a small step for Rosser to go the way of Gitlow, Pepper and Burnham.
Albeit, he won't quite have the status or incentive to do so; maybe that's why
he hasn't done it yet.  Remember, Yeltsin was Moscow CPSU leader for years
before becoming the modern Russian Bonaparte.

Rosser's mechanical method and simple, formal logic have led him to choose a
path which will lead him out of this list on his own inertia.  This list -- in
an historical sense -- is only a way-station for him.  Eventually he'll even
grow to reject Marx and Engels (which he doesn't seem to do now) and cast them
into the same abyss he has flung Lenin into.

Well, the flame sign is on.  I'm sure some of the "desktop revolutionaries" out
there will be warming up all morning just to torch a peice of my "OrthoTrot"
behind.  Flame on.  I'll be waiting.

With Bolshevik-Leninist Greetings;
Martin Sayles (FKA Doug Piranha)
103163.3011 at compuserve.com

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