Gerry Healy



From Hegel to Lenin and Trotsky

The Doctrine of Essence (Part Three)

Ninth in a series of articles dealing with Lenin’s treatment of Hegel’s Science of Logic

News Line 13 August 1981

By G. Healy

   Lenin once wrote that the task of Marxists was ‘to pursue your own line and to combat the whole line of the forces and classes hostile to us.’ (P. 343. Vol. 14, Collected Works.)

   This is indeed the essence of the policies pursued by the workers Revolutionary Party towards all of its opponents – the revisionists, Stalinists and right wing allies – inside and outside the working class movement. We are, historically speaking, the revolutionary vanguard of the working class as a revolutionary class. We are not a part of the left-reformist Bennite swamp which dubiously lays claims to leadership of that class.

   Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, during their lifetimes. loudly proclaimed their partisanship for the dialectical materialist method. The workers Revolutionary Party follows firmly in their footsteps. We are indeed in good company when it comes to draining the swamp of the self-generated confusion of its treacherous, opportunist leadership.

Dialectical Training

   The dialectical materialist method is especially suitable for training the revolutionary cadres and leaders of our Party. We say, with al the emphasis we can muster, that such training is only possible for those who are totally dedicated to the emancipation of the working class from the starvation and nuclear nightmare of world imperialism, today in its death agony.

   The supreme task ahead for the revolutionary youth is to become professional revolutionaries, trained in the struggle to develop dialectical materialism as the mainspring of Marxism, the world scientific outlook. We warmly subscribe to the remarks of Engels over one hundred years ago, when he placed his emphasis on such dialectical training:

   ‘So long as we take care to train and use our senses properly, and to keep our action within the limits prescribed by perceptions properly made and properly used, so long shall we find that the results of our action proves the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the things perceived.’ (Quoted by Lenin,  P.116 Vol.14 Collected Works.)

   ‘Not in one single instance so far have we been led to the conclusion that out sense perceptions, scientifically controlled, induce in our minds ideas respecting the outer world that are, by their very nature, at variance with reality, or that there is an inherent incompatibility between the outer world and our sense perception of it.’ (Ibid.)

   We proudly reaffirm our support for Trotsky when he insisted that:

   ‘Dialectical training of the mind, as necessary to a revolutionary fighter as finger exercises to a pianist, demands approaching all problems as processes and not as motionless categories.’ (P. 70, In Defence of Marxism)

The ‘Single Whole’

   In his essay, On the Question of Dialectics, Lenin developed the basic revolutionary materialist elements for dialectical training:

   ‘One of the principle characteristics’, he wrote, the essence of dialectics, is ‘the splitting of the single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts.’ (P. 359, Vol. 38, Collected Works.)

   The ‘single whole’ is the ‘Universal’, and Lenin goes on, ‘the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the Universal.’ That connection is established by man through the objective practice of the use of his Labour to create his own means of subsistence in order to live.  On page 361 Lenin adds:

   ‘The Universal exists only in the individual and through the individual.’

   This Connection, [The movement from the Universal to the individual, as opposed to that given in the previous paragraph, from the Individual to the Universal – Ed.], is established through sensuous reflection.

   Dialectical training can only be assimilated when we have clearly understood the meaning of the moments of dialectical Reflection, i.e., Identity, Difference and Contradiction. (See page 134, Vol. 38)

   Through external reflection we form a mental image of the ‘single whole’ which has its source in the external world. Such images can never be derived by thought out of thought, but only from the external world.

   ‘Our sensation, our consciousness’, wrote Lenin, ‘is only an image of the external world – an image cannot exist without the thing images. The latter exists independently of that which images it. (P. 69, Vol. 14, Collected Works)

   Sensation, however, is secondary to the materiality of the objective world, because the world ‘in itself’ is a world that exists ‘without us’. Sensation therefore is the action of a thing in itself existing objectively outside us, upon our senses. Feuerbach explained that the thing in itself is an ‘abstraction from reality’, that is, a world existing outside us. (See page 118, Vol. 14)

The Law of Identity

   The law of Identity refers to the immediacy of sensation. It is a positive moment in which the image of the ‘single whole’, (Universal). is reflected inwards ‘through the individual’.

   Positive ‘identity’ through sensation is the first part of the ‘single whole’ to be revealed through Cognition. For the purpose of analysis, we can better understand the dialectical movement of Reflection if we call ‘Identity’ +A. This immediately reveals the negative of its ‘Difference’ which we call –A. The negative of difference is then transplanted on the abstract knowledge we already possess, which can also be described as  -A.

   We then have two negatives representing different moments. The immediate, (-A), is the negative of identity. This negative now becomes the essential with identity which has vanished into it becoming the unessential. The second negative of the knowledge we already possess is called ‘Other of the first’, -A. Both negatives, representing different moments are opposites. Lenin refers to these when he writes:

   ‘The identity of opposites (it would be more correct perhaps to say their unity, although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct). (P. 359, Vol. 38)

   The identity is related to the different moments they represent which, measured in time, make them opposites. On the other hand, -A of immediate identity, is translated onto the –A of the ‘first’, knowledge we already possessed. In that sense they are a unity which incorporated  CONTRADICTION.

The Importance of Ground

   Lenin reproduces three important quotations from Hegel explaining the difference between the TRUTH embodied in this contradiction and the real dangers which are rampant today, especially in the ranks of the revisionists and the well-meaning muddleheaded dinosaurs from the old ‘propaganda school’, (with respect to the dinosaur who had as mall head). Let us take a look at the quotation of ‘truth’ first.

   ‘Truth, too, is Positive, as knowledge corresponding with its object, but it is this self-equality only insofar as knowledge has already taken up a negative attitude to the Other, has penetrated the object and transcended that negation which the object is.’ (P. 137, Vol. 38)

   The first part of the quotation which says ‘Truth, too, is positive, as knowledge corresponding with its object but is this self equality …’

   ‘Self equality’ here  refers to the equality of the Universal and the individual as ‘identical opposites’.

   The second part of the quotation which says : ‘Only in so far as knowledge has already taken up a negative attitude to the Other, has penetrated the object and transcended that negation which the object is.’

   This refers to the negation of the negative,  -A (Difference) of Positive Truth (Identity), +A as transplanted on the Negative of the knowledge we already possess, (DIFFERENCE), -A into the third term A.

   The dialectical movement of external Reflection negated, (Negation of Negation), the combined negatives of the Contradiction towards the new Positive of Appearance. It has in this way penetrated to object ‘A’ and already transcended it in the movement of reflection towards Appearance.

   The continuous particles of matter from the external world which were ATTRACTED into the image whose source is in the external world , perceived initially through external Reflection, have now, through the negation of the combined negative of Contradiction, negated into ‘A’, been transformed into Repulsion. They have therefore transcended the object ‘A’ and are interpenetrating the knowledge we already possessed.

Error and Ignorance.

   ‘Error’, writes Hegel, ‘is a Positive as affirming that which is not in and for itself.’ In Identity and Difference remain mere moments of reflection and are not grounded in ‘A’, then Error is a Positive . (See page137 volume 38)

   It is at this point that impressionism takes over and the exchange of images in debate without any consideration for reality goes on. Revisionist groups become transformed into left image making factories, but completely isolated from the real struggle of the working class as we have seen in their attitude towards the campaign against ‘cuts’ in local government spending.

   The old propagandists write their long-winded articles full of quotations but which cannot replace the need for constant dialectical analysis of day to day events. Mere reflection by itself simply leads to crude impressionism and idealist intuition.

   ‘Ignorance’, on the other hand, arises when we take the determinations of Reflection not in their self-relation but in a way in which the Positive impulse simply confronts its own negative outside their self-relation. Hegel warns about this danger when he writes:

   ‘It is of the greatest importance to recognise this nature of the determinations of Reflection which have been considered here, that their truth consists only in their relation to each other , and therefore in the fact that each contains the other in its own concept.’ (See page 137 Vol. 38)

   If the ‘opposites’ simply confront one another in a way which is outside their self-relation, then those who pursue this position can create a false impression, that a real struggle over principles is going on when all that is happening is a verbal diversion. The upshot of all this is that those involved simply keep anybody interested ignorant of the real issues.

Positive and Negative

   Lenin quotes Hegel, [as follows – Ed.], to show that it is not enough to compare Positive and Negative as if they were the same. (See page 136 Vol. 38)

   ‘Even a slight experience in reflective thought will perceive that, if anything has just been determined as Positive, it straightaway turns into Negative if any progress is made from that base, and conversely that a Negative determination turns into Positive; that reflective thought becomes confused in these determinations and contradicts itself. Insufficient acquaintance with the nature of these determinations leads to the conclusion that this confusion is a fault which should not occur, and attributes it to a subjective error. And in fact this transition does remain mere confusion in so far as the necessity for this metamorphosis is not present to consciousness.’

   As in the case of Identity and Difference the negatives have to be synthesised, (grounded), into absolute essence. If Positive and Negative merely remain moments of External Reflection to be reflectively grounded on each other, then only confusion can emerge.

   The Negative of the Positive, (other of immediate), must be transplanted, (Negated), on the negative ‘Other of the First’, (our own abstract knowledge). The contradiction contained within the double negative is synthesised into ground through the negation of the negation and becomes absolute objective essence (Semblance). This is then called the ‘thing-in-itself’.

   From being a ‘thing’ in reflection it is now grounded (synthesised) ‘in itself’ A thing that is not grounded remains a moment of external reflection characterised by the terms ‘likeness’ and ‘unlikeness’, depending upon the way you superficially look at them. What is ‘likeness’ for one individual could be ‘unlikeness’ for another – because confined to mere reflection, they are the same.

   The parts of the ‘single whole’, Identity and Difference, may also be described as the parts ‘Cause’ and ‘Effect’. Synthesis (ground) reflects a ‘Cause’ and ‘Effect’ driving force for connections. ‘Cause’ and ‘Effect’ is like a pivot, as it were, for the synthetic analysis of the brain. It directs and unites them.

   Practice causes Cognition to proceed from one ‘Cause’ and ‘Effect’ connection to another, from the material entity of one property to another. From this process, the category of content emerges. Content itself constitutes the totality of all interconnections and consequent changes in material entity. These Constant interactions are the source of Substance in philosophy.