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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
(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.
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.
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
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
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
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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