LENIN, HEGEL, & DIAMAT - REPLY TO TROTTER

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Wed Nov 29 21:55:03 MST 1995


>It still seems to me that Lenin was upholding a theory of merely
>contemplative materialism in MAEC of the sort that Marx
criticized
>Feuerbach and Buechner for in his Paris days.

How so?

>The reason that Korsch accused Lenin of returning to Kant pure
and
>simple seems to involve the idea that Lenin was resurrecting
>an almost kantian subject-object dualism, with absolute
separation >of mind (consciousness) and matter (being), the former
being only
>a reflection of the latter.

Nonsense.  The subject-object distinction is neither dualistic nor
Kantian.  Without the distinction you have subjective idealism.
Materialism is premised on such a distinction.  The
thing-in-itself for materialism is neither mysterious nor
unknowable.  What sloppy-ass shit.

>The truly dialectical (and revolutionary) view upholds, according
>to Lukacs, *identity* of subject and object (totality).

Nonsense!  Not surprising that an anarchist would think so, given
that they live entirely in a subjective reality.  Lukacs later
admitted his subjective-idealist mistake.

>Consciousness then becomes an active agent, a co-creator of
social >reality, and not just a passive reflection of purely
*objective*
>processes.

Non sequitur.  The mind's activity is neither guaranteed by
subject-object identity nor precluded by materialism.  As for
consciousness, there are a number of aspects to be considered --
perception, theoretical activity, etc.  Lenin was not an
empiricist, so naturally his theory of perception would not be
identical to his views on hypothetico-deductive thinking.

>The view that Lenin adopted seems to have had political
>consequences, linked with the ideology of
>'consciousness-from-outside': the proletariat in Leninist theory
>is no longer a true subject, but once again an object under the
>tutelage of the Party

Non sequitur and childish drivel.  Once again the old saw that
objective reality is totalitarian, subjectivism is freedom.  So
tiresome.

>in *Lenin as Philosopher*: "...a combination of middle-class
>materialism and the marxian doctrine of social development,
>adorned with some dialectic terminology--was, under the name
>'Leninism,' proclaimed the official State-philosophy.......

Quite so.  There was no "Leninism" when Lenin was alive.  There is
not sufficient context here, but it looks like Pannekoek's
criticism is directed to Lenin's successors.

>What did Marx say about this? He seems to have been of two minds
>about it, at different times: "Natural science will in time
>subsume the science of man just as the science of man will
subsume >natural science: there will be one science" (1844
Manuscripts).
>This sounds as if it would be consonant with diamat.

Interesting proposition.  How would this be possible for the
subject -- i.e. science as human activity -- to be unitary unless
the object were in some sense not also, or will have become so?

>But he also said, in a more hegelian mode, that the sciences
>"would be superfluous if the form in which they appear
>coincided directly with their reality" (subject-object identity,
>and even the sublation [*Aufhebung*] of science!).

More non sequiturs.  Marx is talking about the appearance-reality
distinction, or as he puts it, phenomenal forms viz. real
relations.  All science operates on this distinction, not on
subject-object identity.  Marx is saying that if appearance
(perceived phenomena) were identical to essence (the structure of
matter, scientific laws), no science, i.e. construction of
theories, would be needed.

>I wonder then how Ralph can say that he sees no conflict between
>the different phases of Lenin's thinking represented by MAEC on
>the one hand, and the *Hegel Notebooks* on the other. If not,
then >why would Lenin have remarked in the latter work that none
of the
>Marxists for the last half-century (preceding 1915) truly
>understood Marx and dialectics (presumably including himself)?

At last, a question worth answering.  But first, consider your
question: where is the conflict, and what is the meaning of the
latter statement?  If Lenin came to understand something about
dialectics he did not before, how does this contradict MAEC?
Define the problem first.  For my part, I will deal with this
matter in an upcoming post.

>If Ralph is willing to say that Althusser can be judged just by
>the kind of people who admire him, what can he say about the kind
>of people who admire diamat?

Being ...

>99% of them .... have been stalinoids .....

This would mean that all the Trotskyists are Stalinoids and a
whole bunch of freelancers are too.  Granting for the sake of
argument that you are correct, what are we to make of this?

Well, diamat appeals to people who like a unified, scientific,
coherent view of the world.  This was as true of working class
autodidacts at the dawn of our century (remember Dietzgen, too) as
it has been of despotic bureaucratic types.  That accounts for the
attraction of all these people to diamat.  Not surprisingly, a
subset -- maybe the lion's share for all I know -- of such people
are also going to be people who think in terms of rational
administration, technocracy, bureaucracy, who have a love for a
kind of rationalism which encompasses a
bureaucratic-administrative orientation to society as well as a
scientific understanding of nature. "Nature, Society, and Thought"
fits into a nice neat package for some people, don't it?  This is
not exactly shocking.  The question is, where is the problem?  Is
there something _wrong in_ diamat, or is there something _right
that is missing_ from it in the way in which the bureaucratic
types conceive it?  I've had a certain practical experience here,
having read much of this literature and knowing the political
orientation of many of the people who produced it.  Perhaps one
can precisely calibrate both the good and bad characteristics of
the type of people who gravitate toward diamat, as of course we
could concerning people who gravitate to mathematics or physics or
artificial intelligence or many other things.

>Is it because Ralph feels that, in order to combat the influence
>of the porkchop preachers, the masses first have to be won over
to >a simple materialism, and only later can they understand
>dialectics?

No!  In the here and now, precisely the opposite is the case.  Why
religion exists in the USA in 1995 is not the same why as why
religion existed in the USSR in 1917.  It is precisely because of
the alienation that exists in a highly advanced technological
society that religion is felt to make sense here and now.  I know
the American atheist movement well, which has never advanced
beyond the 19th century, and they do not understand this.  Simple
materialism is not going to address the problem now.  But this is
a whole other topic for discussion.

I really shouldn't take this discussion so personally that I fly
off the handle, but I do.  It's not just the disagreement
involved, which could be productive and stimulating in other
situations, it's the shallow, lame, banal, mediocre, blind,
unimaginative, and sloppy thinking behind all this silliness that
really gets my goat.  I'm really appalled at the level of this
discussion.  It's so old and trite.

However, the question of what Lenin learned from his study of
Hegel that is new, that adds or alters how he thought before, is a
question worth answering.  I shall return to it.  But here is one
hint: MAEC demarcates materialism from idealism and fights for the
former.  In his notebooks Lenin discovers among other things a new
relationship between materialism and idealism, in which the latter
is not simply false but a misbegotten disguise or anticipation of
the former.  Now here is a rhetorical question for you: does the
later approach to idealism _contradict_ the former, or does it
_presuppose_ it?  Now go and sin no more.


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