On "objectively anti-imperialist" etc (was Re: [Marxism] Supporting the resistance? (from xxxx)

Carlos A. Rivera cerejota at optonline.net
Wed Apr 27 23:06:04 MDT 2005

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Isaac Curtis" <Isaac_Curtis at umit.maine.edu>

>I am confused about the use of the term "objective."
> I understand that Louis' language is talking about being objectively 
> anti-imperialist, which is our goal, not objectively supporting "[Bush's] 
> enemies."  Yet it seems clear that Rose is correct (and those of us who 
> take that stance openly admit
> among ourselves) that we are objectively supporting those enemies in the 
> process of objectively opposing imperialism.  Are we not in the case of 
> Afghanistan, objectively supporting the repression of women by opposing 
> imperialism?

No, and stating so is to to misunderstand dialectics.

>  Doesn't this
> application of the term lend itself to ridiculous and uninstructive 
> analyses like that of Gideon Rose?

Nope, because Gideon Rose's reading is a vulgar form of marxism, or in 
reality a form of Hegelian, not dialectical, materialism.

> What is the difference between his application of the term and that of 
> Louis?

In essence, Louis is using the term in a dialectical materialist kind of way 
(even if he would hit me upside the head with a proverbial trout for 
describing it as such).

Now, to try and not to bury you in jargon, and to point you in useful 
reading materials, I suggest you read "Theses on Feurbach" which  in general 
explains point by point de difference between the "objective" as seen by the 
(left-)Hegelians and the "objective" as seen by Marx, Engels & Co, and to 
"The Nature of Brain-Work" by Joseph Dietzgen (which both Marx and Engels 
attribute original authorship of dialectical materialism). I believe both 
are available at the MIA (marx.org/marxists.org)

In a short mathematical metaphore, and over-simplification:

1) Hegelian materialist logic:

a = a and whatever "a" is being transformed to.

Objectivity is defined as the object itself, but rather than a static object 
as Aristotelian logic and derivatives have it, as a constantly transforming 
object.. The subject is conditioned by the object, and the object exist as 
pure contemplation, not as sensous activity, as subjectivity itself.

Ortega y Gasset gave a pretty good summation of Hegelianism when he said "I 
am myself and my circumstances". He is not his internal subjectiveness, but 
his "objective" self as transformed by circumstances.

Rose uses the term "objectively" in this limited, inmaterial, sense; he 
observes reality, yet sees it not as a relationship to be transformed 
socially, but as a smug sophism to support his own interests.

He confuses Hegel with Marx, an error that eve many a Marxist, including at 
times even Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, has done. Mao, interestingly, 
conciously vacilated between Hegel and Marx on this, maybe because "Eastern 
Dialectics" had a similar metaphysical connection to religion that Hegel's 

From Hegel's "Philosophy of Rights", (mind you, these are rather indirect 
examples, because they are not attempts at explaining the logic, but 
examples of the actual *use* of the logic, with some relevance to Rose's use 
of "objectively"):

§ 41
A person must translate his freedom into an external sphere in order to 
exist as Idea. Personality is the first, still wholly abstract, 
determination of the absolute and infinite will, and therefore this sphere 
distinct from the person, the sphere capable of embodying his freedom, is 
likewise determined as what is immediately different and separable from him.

Addition: The rationale of property is to be found not in the satisfaction 
of needs but in the supersession of the pure subjectivity of personality. In 
his property a person exists for the first time as reason. Even if my 
freedom is here realised first of all in an external thing, and so falsely 
realised, nevertheless abstract personality in its immediacy can have no 
other embodiment save one characterised by immediacy.

§ 42

What is immediately different from free mind is that which, both for mind 
and in itself, is the external pure and simple, a thing, something not free, 
not personal, without rights.

Remark: 'Thing', like 'the objective', has two opposed meanings. If we say 
that's the thing' or 'the thing is what matters, not the person', 'thing' 
means what is substantive. On the other hand, when 'thing' is contrasted 
with 'Person' as such, not with the particular subject, it means the 
opposite of what is substantive, i.e. that whose determinate character lies 
in its pure externality. From the point of view of free mind, which must, of 
course, be distinguished from mere consciousness, the external is external 
absolutely, and it is for this reason that the determinate character 
assigned to nature by the concept is inherent externality.

Addition: Since a thing lacks subjectivity, it is external not merely to the 
subject but to itself. Space and time are external in this way. As sentient, 
I am myself external, spatial, and temporal. As receptive of sensuous 
intuitions, I receive them from something which is external to itself. An 
animal can intuit, but the soul of an animal has for its object not its 
soul, itself, but something external.

§ 82

In contract the principle of rightness is present as something posited, 
while its inner universality is there as something common in the 
arbitrariness and particular will of the parties. This appearance of right, 
in which right and its essential embodiment, the particular will, correspond 
immediately, i.e. fortuitously, proceeds in wrong to become a show, an 
opposition between the principle of rightness and the particular will as 
that in which right becomes particularised. But the truth of this show is 
its nullity and the fact that right reasserts itself by negating this 
negation of itself. In this process the right is mediated by returning into 
itself out of the negation of itself; thereby it makes itself actual and 
valid, while at the start it was only implicit and something immediate.

Addition: The principle of rightness, the universal will, receives its 
essential determinate character through the particular will, and so is in 
relation with something which is inessential. This is the relation of 
essence to its appearance. Even if the appearance corresponds with the 
essence, still, looked at from another point of view, it fails to correspond 
with it, since appearance is the stage of contingency, essence related to 
the inessential. In wrong, however, appearance proceeds to become a show. A 
show is a determinate existence inadequate to the essence, the empty 
disjunction and positing of the essence, so that in both essence and show 
the distinction of the one from the other is present as sheer difference. 
The show, therefore, is the falsity which disappears in claiming independent 
existence; and in the course of the show's disappearance the essence reveals 
itself as essence, i.e. as the authority of the show. The essence has 
negated that which negated it and so is corroborated. Wrong is a show of 
this kind, and, when it disappears, it acquires the character of something 
fixed and valid. What is here called the essence is just the principle of 
rightness, and in contrast with it the particular will annuls itself as a 
falsity. Hitherto the being of the right has been immediate only, but now it 
is actual because it returns out of its negation. The actual is the 
effectual; in its otherness it still holds fast to itself, while anything 
immediate remains susceptible of negation.

§ 83

When right is something particular and therefore manifold in contrast with 
its implicit universality and simplicity, it acquires the form of a show.

(a) This show of right is implicit or immediate - non-malicious wrong or a 
civil offence;

(b) right is made a show by the agent himself - fraud;

(c) the agent makes it a nullity altogether - crime.

Addition: Wrong is thus the show of the essence, putting itself as 
self-subsistent. If the show is only implicit and not explicit also, i.e. if 
the wrong passes in my eyes as right, the wrong is non-malicious. The show 
here is a show from the point of view of the right but not from my point of 

The second type of wrong is fraud. Here the wrong is not a show from the 
point of view of the principle of rightness. The position is that I am 
making a show to deceive the other party. In fraud the right is in my eyes 
only a show. In the first case, the wrong was a show from the point of view 
of the right. In the second case, from my own point of view, from the point 
of view of wrong, right is only a show.

Finally, the third type of wrong is crime. This is wrong both in itself and 
from my point of view. But here I will the wrong and make no use of even a 
show of right. I do not intend the other against whom the crime is committed 
to regard the absolutely wrong as right. The distinction between crime and 
fraud is that in the latter the form of acting still implies a recognition 
of the right, and this is just what is lacking in crime.

§ 346

History is mind clothing itself with the form of events or the immediate 
actuality of nature. The stages of its development are therefore presented 
as immediate natural principles. These, because they are natural, are a 
plurality external to one another, and they are present therefore in such a 
way that each of them is assigned to one nation in the external form of its 
geographical and anthropological conditions.

§ 351

The same consideration justifies civilised nations in regarding and treating 
as barbarians those who lag behind them in institutions which are the 
essential moments of the state. Thus a pastoral people may treat hunters as 
barbarians, and both of these are barbarians from the point of view of 
agriculturists, &c. The civilised nation is conscious that the rights of 
barbarians are unequal to its own and treats their autonomy as only a 

Remark: When wars and disputes arise in such circumstances, the trait which 
gives them a significance for world history is the fact that they am 
struggles for recognition in connection with something of specific intrinsic 

2) Dialectical materialism:

a = the dialectical struggle of "a" and whatever "a" is being transformed 

Objectivity is the object itself as defined as a cluster of subjective 
elements which are themselves in constant dialectical tranformation and 
hence objects themselves. The subject is no longer conditioned by the 
object, but it is is both an object and the subject, and the object is the 
both the sensous expression and the contemplated thing, and the contemplated 
thing is continually transformed by the sensous expression of other objects 
and viceversa.

Think of Hegelian dialectics as an osciloscope wave, and dialectical 
materialism as a fractal, and you see the difference between Louis'  and 
Rose's use of "objevtively". Or the wave/particle nature of light, which is 
my favorite real life example of dialectical materialism at work. Hegel 
would have viewed light as a particle moving in a waveform, while light is 
in itself both wave *and* particle.

From Theses on Feurbach, on what is relevant:
The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of Feuerbach 
included - is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in 
the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human 
activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to 
materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism - which, 
of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.

Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, 
but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, 
in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the 
only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in 
its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance 
of "revolutionary", of "practical-critical", activity.


The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and 
upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is 
essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, 
divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or 
self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as 
revolutionary practice.


The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism 
which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is 
contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.

The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of 
the new is human society, or social humanity.

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point 
is to change it.

>  Is there a difference between that use of the term and the use in
> objectively describing characteristics, such as the exploitative nature of 
> capitalism?

Not in dialectical materialist terms. Yet Rose is preocupied with 
objectively sustaining the reality that keeps him in privilege, while Louis 
is actually preocupied with the *revolutionary* or more mathematically, the 
*radical* transformation of society.

One thing this very interesting post exposes is that even semingly learned, 
well read, and honest people, who are not adverse to a socialist message, 
can still have trouble grasping ideologically charged dense slogans such as 
"Victory to the Resistance!".

Imagine then trying to organize that large percentage of the population 
which consistently appears in polls as thinking that Saddam Hussein was 
behind the 9-11 attacks by raising as your recruiting slogan "Victory to the 
Resistance!". Good luck, you'll need it, even if it sounds mystifying and 

Hell, my favorite slogan is "Abolish Alienated Work!" Yet to try to recruit 
with it, when even cadre who could be my grandfathers have trouble 
understanding it, is a futile excercise in intellectual snobbery.


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