The Theory of Knowledge
(Marxist Review September 1986)
By the ‘Theory of Knowledge’ we mean the most concrete exposition of dialectical logic. This means that from the outset, such a task involves major political responsibilities. It concerns the infinite movement and changes in the external world of nature, existing independently and outside our consciousness. The ground work for the dialectical training of our cadres must be outlined with the greatest care and concern in relation to our every-day practice.
Immediately we start speaking of the existence of the world beyond thought and independent of our will, we part company with all brands of idealism and formal thinking. For those professorial gentlemen who advance this view, and their countless muddleheaded followers, this world beyond thought is out-of-hand declared to be unknowable. So they occupy their time in the self-creation of abstract images to describe what they think it is. They simply transform the real material world, existing outside consciousness into an abstraction. The ‘factory’ which produces such images in bulk is called ‘bourgeois ideology’, and it works day in and day out through the capitalist media, world-wide.
Yet, the world beyond thought responds to the same objective dialectical laws as thought itself. (See the article on the ‘Practice of Eclecticism’, Marxist Review, Vol I, No.4). But although thought as subjective and the infinite external world are opposites, they are united in their response to the laws of dialectical nature. Such laws not only govern our thoughts, whether we are conscious of them or not, but the world beyond thought as well.
As the late Soviet philosopher, E. V. Ilyenkov wrote in his book on Dialectical Logic, pages 33 and 34:
‘It is in man that Nature really performs, in a self-evident way, that very activity that we are accustomed to call "thinking". In man, in the form of man, in his person, Nature itself thinks, and not at all some special substance, source. or principle instilled into it from outside. In man therefore, Nature thinks of itself, becomes aware of itself, senses itself, acts on itself. And the "reasoning", "consciousness", "idea", "sensation", "will", and all the other special actions that Descartes described as Modi of thought, are simply different modes of revealing a property inalienable from Nature as a whole one of its own attributes.’ (Emphasis in original.)
It is dialectical nature which performs through man, and which determines how men think and act in a class society such as capitalism, depending upon which class in society they belong to. The class struggle in society between the working class, the national liberation movements, and all the oppressed, with world imperialism is a law.-governed process, providing a constant external source for all our sensations. .
The Logic of Cognition
Therefore, the process of cognising the external world as a ‘whole’ is implicit in the IDENTITY of the source of a sensation, and its many-sided connections. These can in turn produce a stream of new sensations. This is because the sensation which begins with the Identity as an image may only reveal a ‘shade’ of its external source as a ‘particular’ or ‘part’. This ‘part’ is relative to other ‘parts’ which will become present to thought, since it contains in a one-sided way the ever-changing 'whole' as an absolute within the relative ‘part’ (‘opposite’). These self-related parts as opposites emerging from the IDENTITY of the original source of a sensation in the external world are concepts, which at each stage enable us to analyse the interaction of the ‘whole’ within the part and vice-versa. (See Marxist Review, Vol. 1 No.5, Determinations of Reflection.)
The Theory of Knowledge in its immediate unfolding can only be understood through the sequences of dialectical moments that start from the IDENTITY of the source of sensation in the external world. This is what Trotsky had in mind when he wrote: ‘Dialectical training of the mind, as necessary to a revolutionary fighter as finger exercises to a pianist, demands approaching all things as processes and not as motionless categories.’ (See Marxist Review, Vol, No.5, The Dialectics of Contradiction.)
Dialectical Logic must first of all demonstrate how thought itself scientifically develops. Therefore it is required to mentally reproduce from its origin in the external world, existing independently of consciousness, its own law governed ‘self-movement’. This can only be achieved through concepts which manifest the presence of the motion of the external world in the subjective activity of thought itself.
Such concepts are only developed from the every day practice of social beings themselves, as they abstract from nature such resources as are required for everyday life, under the capitalist mode of production. Whilst the objective world, existing independently of consciousness, cannot be reduced to an abstraction in thought, nevertheless it can only be understood through the subjective images of sensations whose source is in the objective external world. Permit us to remind our readers once again, what the dialectical abstraction process IS!
Logic as ‘Abstract Thought’
Let us start from Lenin with a quotation which we have used before in a previous article. He describes the process of cognition as: ‘From living Perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice’ (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38, p.171, emphasis in original). However there is a school of idealist thought which treats ‘living perception’ as a ‘combination of sensations’, amounting to their own self-created thought images, which they immediately liquidate into their practice.
They ignore the fact that ‘living perception’ as sensation has its source in the external world which can only be analysed through dialectical logic as the Theory of Knowledge, and that this is what Lenin meant when he wrote ‘abstract thought and from this to practice’. The idealist and revisionist schools are concerned with the advocation of PRAXIS, that is, the liquidation of their self-created thought images into practice. They avoid like the plague dialectical logic which is an exhibition of contradiction as a positive image of ‘antithesis’.
The bourgeois-trained professors, whilst willing to accept contradiction as a word in the dictionary, will avoid the physical implications of contradiction. They swim aimlessly along from one practice to the next, making up their images as they go blindly towards a contemplative passivity which leads directly into the swamp of subjective idealism.
They conveniently forget that human beings, in order to live, do in fact abstract the objects they need from nature. It is the material reality of these necessary practices which produce the abstract images of the objects they need. ‘Matter’, as Engels so rightly reminded us ‘is not a product of the mind’ (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 14, p.87), but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter, of the brain as ‘matter which thinks’,
Engels and Lenin on Logic
On pages 359-360 of Volume 38. Lenin defined the method of dialectical logic as follows:
‘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) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)’
We must analyse these sentences with some thoroughness. Engels, in Dialectics of Nature, defines dialectics in the following way:
‘Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature.' (Engels, Dialectics of Nature, p. 211).
It is followed on page 215, with a further quotation, which states: ‘That from the outset identity with itself requires difference from everything else as its complement, is self- evident. (Ibid)
This is underscored by Lenin on page 134 of Volume 38, when at the bottom of the page he wrote:
IDENTITY – DIFFERENCE – CONTRADICTION
(in particular antithesis) (ground)
In the original translation, the German word ‘Gegensatz’ under DIFFERENCE is crossed out because It means ‘opposition’ which is a scientific variant in the reflection process as ‘antithesis’.
The objective IDENTITY of the source of sensation in the external world is negated into DIFFERENCE as antithesis (see Marxist Review Vol.1. No.5 The Dialectics of Contradiction and Determinations of Reflection). This antithesis is the unity of negative IDENTITY as a positive image on the negative of DIFFERENCE, (sensation), which is Essence as contradiction. This is the IDENTITY and UNITY of opposites referred to by Lenin, ‘In this sense both are correct’.
This first negation, as Lenin explained approvingly from Hegel, is:
(Something, taken from the point of view of its immanent limit - from the point of view of its self-contradiction, a contradiction which drives it [this something], and leads it beyond its limits, is the Finite) (Vol. 38 p. 110)
It is, as Lenin explained on page 232 of Volume 38, ‘this indeterminate beginning’ which ‘it is impermissible to depreciate.’
The FINITE drives the first ‘simple’ negation beyond its limit and this negation has to be negated again back to the original external source of the IDENTITY of the sensation. Lenin continues on page 360 of Volume 38:
‘The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their "self- movement", in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. development is the struggle of opposites.’
The finite has been negated from the IDENTITY of the source of sensation in the external world. This is the source of the ‘self-movement’ which drives forward to negate its negation back into the infinite source of the sensation itself. This finite and infinite, through negation of the negation is ‘a unity of opposites’ whose ‘development is the struggle of opposites’. A further sensation (part) has to be negated into semblance.
Essence as Contradiction
Lenin explained semblance as:
(1) Nothing, non-existent, which exists = FINITE (indeterminate Beginning) = NOT-BEING.
(2) Being as moment = the ‘part’ which has just been negated as a (particular).
Lenin has previously referred to Semblance on page 98 of Volume 38 when he writes two important things. These arise from his study of Hegel.
(1) ‘The objectivity of Semblance.’
(2) ‘The necessity of contradiction’.
Lenin goes on to consider this in the box on the same page:
‘Is not the thought here that semblance also is objective, for it contains one of the aspects of the objective world? Not only Wesen (essence), but Schein, (semblance) too, is objective. There is a difference between the subjective and the objective, BUT IT, TOO, HAS ITS LIMITS.’
The ‘one of the aspects of the objective world’ is the Indeterminate beginning, the FINITE whose limits, as we have shown, negates the simple negation back to its infinite source. Lenin again returns to Hegel's conception of Semblance on page 134 of Vol 38
‘The more petty philosophers dispute whether essence or that which is immediately given should be taken as basis (Kant, Hume, all the Machists). Instead of or Hegel puts and, explaining the concrete content of this and.’
Semblance, then, is Essence and that which is immediately given, Lenin continues defining Essence: ‘That which shows itself’, he writes on page 133 of Volume 38. ‘is essence in one of its determinations, in one of its aspects, one of its moments. Essence seems to be just that. Semblance is the showing (Scheinen) of essence itself in itself.’
Further down on the same page in a small box, Lenin writes: ‘Semblance(that which shows itself) is the Reflection of Essence in (it) Itself’. Just a sentence above this box, Lenin quotes from Hegel approvingly: ‘ ... In this its self-movement Essence is Reflection. Semblance is the same as Reflection.’
Essence is a unity of negated IDENTITY which becomes a Positive image on the negative of DIFFERENCE (sensation) as CONTRADICTION which emerges in Semblance as REFLECTION. The heading of the chapter is 'Essence as Reflection in Itself'. (Vol.38, p.129.)
The “Self-Movement” of “Abstract Thought”
‘The result of the negation of the negation, this third term is not a quiescent third term, but, as this “unity” (of contradictions), “is self-mediating movement and activity ...”’(single quotes Lenin, double quotes Hegel, Vo1.38, p.230). This is Being as a moment in Semblance, which is the result of the ‘Third Term’. Lenin analyses this paragraph as follows:
‘The result of this dialectical transformation into the “third term”, into the synthesis, is a new premise, assertion, etc., which in turn becomes the source of a further analysis. But into it, into this “third” stage has already entered the “content” of cognition (“der Inhalt des Erkennens als solcher in den Kreis der Betrachtung eintritt - the content of cognition as such enters within the sphere of contemplation”) - and the method is extended into a system.
‘The beginning of all consideration, of the whole analysis - this first premise- now appears indeterminate, imperfect”; the need arises to prove. “derive” (ableiten) it and it turns out that:
‘this may seem equivalent to the demand for an infinite backward progress in proof and derivation - but, on the other hand, the new premise drives forward ... ‘ (Vo1.38 pp.230-231) The new premise ‘drives forward’ to the union of analysis and synthesis, which manifests the ‘self-movement’ of the ‘abstract thought’ process in Cognition (VoI.38, p.360).
(Marxist Review September 1986)
The objective external world constitutes the unity of opposites as ‘a single whole’. It is the external source of the quantity of an 'object' or 'objects' which provide, a) the cause of sensation, b) the ‘simple negation’, and c) Reflection which emerges in consciousness as sensation.
The ‘identity of opposites’ is the negative (identity of its self-related external source) which appears as a Positive (Difference) on the Negative of the finite image of sensation. Since the finite as quality is driven beyond its limits by the unity of opposites (negative/positive) which is Essence as contradiction, it negates the negation back to the infinite source of the sensation.
This is the dialectical process through which Reflection splits ‘a single whole’ (object), thus enabling the subject to analyse its contradictory parts. (See Lenin, Collected Works, Vo1.38, p.359.)
The ‘Indeterminate Beginning’ and Semblance
Since the world and its objective laws are cognisable, the ‘Theory of Knowledge’ reflects this reality in the dialectical movement of thought. All the objective dialectical laws are manifested in semblance (see article above, The Theory of Knowledge Part I).
These are: a) The laws of the unity struggle and interpenetration of opposites, b) The law of Quantity into Quality and vice versa, and c) The law of the negation of the negation. The ‘indeterminate beginning’, whilst being ‘an exhibition of contradiction’ as the unity of object (IDENTITY) as Negative and its Difference (Positive), is not yet the completion of the manifestation of the Objective dialectical laws and in subjective dialectical thought. Hence its ‘indeterminate’ nature.
The law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites - object/subject - is present but not the ‘struggle’ since, as Lenin explained on page 340 of Volume 38, ‘Development is the struggle of opposites’. These merge in semblance in the subjective activity of dialectical thought. (See article above, The Theory of Knowledge Part I).
Infinite Quantity has been negated into finite Quality but not vice versa which is finite quality into infinite quantity. This is dine through the negation of the negation back to the infinite quantitative source of the sensation. Thus negation of the negation becomes the driving force of a third negation of the negation as the ‘unity of contradictions’ (Lenin, Vol. 38, p.230.)
It is the third negation which is the beginning of the ‘union of analysis and synthesis’ with Semblance as a concept. Lenin explains Semblance on page 319 of Volume 38.
‘First of all impressions flash by, then Something emerges - afterwards the concepts of quality, (the determination of the thing, or the phenomenon) and quantity are developed.'
This means that further negation of the negation, with new ‘particulars’ (parts) ,emerging, in which the impressions which ‘flash by’ become more and more concrete.
‘Study and Reflection’
Lenin continues to explain:
‘After that study and reflection direct thought to cognition of identity - of difference - of Ground - of the Essence versus the Phenomenon - of causality, etc.’ (Ibid.) This means that the union of analysis and synthesis with the original external source of the sensation, not only negates the negation but enables the analysis of the negated particulars to proceed as self-related concepts.
The synthesis with the original source of the sensation, not only negates the negation but analyses the particulars negated as self-related concepts.
The synthesis with the original source of the sensation has simultaneously already negated Identity as a negative into new sensations which are abstract different (difference) images in which there is the antithesis of negative and positive whose unity is Essence as Contradiction. We will presently analyse ‘causality' in its dialectical relation to these ‘new parts’. Before doing this, we must complete the paragraph.
‘All these moments’, which Lenin refers to on page 319, he explains on page 147 Volume 38:
‘Concepts, as registration of individual aspects of the movement, of individual drops (= "things")’.
In the side margin of the same page he notes: - ‘The word "moment" is often used by Hegel in the sense of moment of connection .. .’ This refers to the linking together of concepts.
Lenin continues on page 319 of Volume 38: ‘(steps, stages, processes) of cognition move in the direction from the subject to the object, being tested in practice and arriving through this test at truth (= the Absolute Idea).’
The Absolute Within the Relative
Dialectical cognition develops out of the practice of waging the class struggle through the building of the Workers Revolutionary Party. This requires the constant development of the ‘Theory of Knowledge’ through the practice of Party building.
Lenin explained: ‘The distinction between subjectivism (scepticism, sophistry. etc.) and dialectics. Incidentally is that in (objective) dialectics the difference between the relative and the absolute is itself relative. For objective dialectics there is an absolute within the relative. For subjectivism and sophistry the relative is only relative and excludes the absolute.’ (Vol.38, p.360.)
That dialectical nature existed millions of years before man arrived on the scene is an absolute truth, which is manifested within the relative of our historically conditioned knowledge at any moment of dialectical cognition. The objective dialectical laws can be abstracted from a moment of cognition or over a given period of time; their source in dialectical nature is infinite.
Since they enable us to abstract knowledge from the dialectical self-relation between objective infinite quantity at the external source of sensation, and its ‘simple negation’ into the subject through the qualitative finite image of sensation itself. There are certain limits or 'nodal points' in the changes between Quantity (infinite) and Quality (finite) which allow for a dialectical unity of quantity and quality which is manifested through the category of Measure. [Exactly as original text – Ed]
The Category of Measure
Sometimes the quantity of an object or objects at the source of sensation can build up in a gradual way, which may not be directly reflected in the finite quality. The category of Measure manifests the limited unity of the properties of quantity (infinite in the external world) and finite quality in subjective thought. In the transition stage of this process, Measure is that gradualness which ‘explains nothing without leaps’. (Vol.38, p.123.)
We must constantly be alerted to perceive the nodal points of the unfolding of these ‘leaps’ through what Lenin described as ‘breaks in gradualness’ (Ibid.) Since Hegel was the first to elaborate Measure as a philosophical category, Lenin quotes approvingly from Hegel when he writes:
‘Quantum when it is taken as indifferent limit is that side from which an Existent Being can unsuspectedly be attacked and destroyed. It is the cunning of the Notion to seize it from this side, where its Quality does not appear to come into play; and this so much so that the aggrandisement of a state or of a property, and so on, which leads in the end to disaster for the state, or the owner of the property, may at first actually appear as their good fortune.’(Vol.38, p.122.)
Hegel's ‘Notion’ should materialistically read ‘Nature’, since it was the negation and product of his ‘absolute idea’.
The Sum and Unity of Opposites – A New Content
The negation of negation of different ‘particulars’ from the source of the original sensation constitutes ‘the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites’ (Vol.38, p.221). That will only apply if the union of analysis and synthesis is an active factor in the abstraction process of dialectical logic.
‘ ... the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites’ is a new content which in dialectical logic is Essence in Existence. The opposites in the sum and unity of opposites are different parts or sides of the original external source of sensation. Since Essence is contradiction, it means that we now have contradiction as Essence in which the objective dialectical laws are present at different levels ranging from the ‘low’ to the ‘high’.
Lenin approvingly quotes Hegel: ‘... Resolved Contradiction is, then, Grund, that is. Essence as unity of Positive and Negative ...’(VoI.38. p.136). In the article Determinations of Reflection, (Marxist Review Vol. 1 No.5) we outlined the movement from the ‘low’ to the ‘high’ through these subdivisions as Ground (Essence as Contradiction). We propose to rearrange our previous work so that the dialectical process is revealed more concretely.
‘1) Absolutely Ground - die Grundlage (the foundation) “Form and Matter”. “Content”.’ (Vo1.38, p.143.) This is the external world as the source of sensation (indeterminate beginning). Lenin explains this dialectical process as follows in the box at the top of the same page: ‘(1) Ordinary imagination grasps difference and contradiction, but not the transition from the one to the other, this however, is the most important.’ (Ibid) IDENTITY has already been negated (transition) into difference (sensation). The unity of the negative IDENTITY as a positive image on the negative image of sensation (DIFFERENCE) is Essence as Contradiction.
2) ‘Determinate Ground (as the ground [for] a determinate content)’ – Lenin again explains this dialectical process in the box on this page as follows:
‘Intelligence and understanding. Intelligence grasps contradiction, enunciates it. brings things into relation with one another, allows the “concept to show through the contradiction”, but does not express the concept of things and their relations.' (Ibid.)
The ‘concept of things and their relations’ starts with semblance. Referring again to the box at the top of the page we read:
3) ‘Its transition to Conditioning Mediation’ (Ibid) ‘The Thing-in- itself (transition to Existence). Note. “The Law of Ground”, the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites'. Lenin explains this dialectical process of analysis as follows:
‘Thinking reason (understanding) sharpens the blunt difference of variety, the mere manifold of imagination, into essential difference, into opposition. Only when raised to the peak of contradiction, do the manifold entities become active (regsam) and lively in relation to one another, - they receive, acquire that negativity which is the inherent pulsation of self-movement and vitality. (Ibid)
Form and Content
Provided we dialectically analyse the ‘parts’ which have their synthesis at the original source of sensation, the objective dialectical laws are manifested in the analysis of each ‘part’. The emergence of these parts as phenomena will be determined by objective ‘causality’, (see Vol.38, p.319), depending on the importance of the parts revealed through analysis in relation to the new content of essence as a unity of opposites. They have all been negated from that external source of sensation at different moments, so they will be analysed as opposites in self-relation to their external origin.
The new content which has emerged through the union of analysis and synthesis ‘in transition to existence’ is now Essence in Existence, a content which Hegel described, as Lenin noted, as ‘The Law of Ground’, which is the movement of ever-changing contradiction through concepts which have unfolded as parts. Because they are parts they contain the whole in a one sided way.
Lenin describes this dialectical process in the box on page 144 of Volume 38:
'Form is essential. Essence is formed. In one way or another also in dependence on Essence
Lenin further notes:
‘Essence as formless identity (of itself with itself) becomes matter. (Ibid.) It is the abstract product of dialectical logic which is in turn the product of the brain, of matter that thinks. Essence is formed through the union of analysis and synthesis which as form manifests the existence of a number of dialectically analysed ‘particulars’ (parts). It also incorporates the elements and processes, interacting with each other at the external source of the initial sensation. Both Form and Content, whilst they constitute two inseparable sides of any object or phenomenon, contain contradictions in themselves.
For example, over a certain period of time, the content (quality) can be undergoing changes but the form (Quantity) can appear to be unchanged. Ultimately however, things in the content will affect the form. In nature, especially, one and the same content can assume different forms. As Engels explains in Dialectics of Nature on page 205:
‘The whole of organic nature is continuous proof of the identity and inseparability of form and content.’
(Marxist Review, October 1986)
Starting from the external source of sensation, the individual perceives separate interconnected phenomena containing many sides and different ‘particular’ properties.
The use of dialectical logic through the union of analysis and synthesis enables the individual to separate the essential from the inessential ‘particulars’ from each other. .
Since the external source of the sensation is objective, it follows that the objective cause of the sensation will also exist in the external world.
The category of ‘causality’ is directly connected with our objective practice of building the Workers Revolutionary Party as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Contradiction a Unity of Opposites
As Lenin explains: ‘The thing (phenomenon, etc) emerges as the sum and unity of opposites.’ (Emphasis in original. See Marxist Review Vol. 1 No.5, Theory of Knowledge Part 2.)
The ‘thing’ is the form of its content which is the sum and unity of opposites. In dialectical logic it is ‘Essence-in-existence’ as the ‘effect’. The Thing as form manifests a dialectical unity of opposites with its content, whilst both the content (sum and unity of opposites) and the form (Thing) each contain contradiction and as such are relatively changing in their relations to each other.
Since ‘development is the struggle of opposites’, the sharpest conflict must emerge between them to the point explained by Lenin as ‘the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content’ (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.38, p.222.)
The process of cognition requires us to abstract the objective dialectical relationship in the changes between the concepts: Content and Form. Lenin explained this process as follows:
‘… human concepts are not fixed but are eternally in movement, they pass into one another, they flow into one another, otherwise they do not reflect living life. The analysis of concepts, the study of them, the “art of operating with them” (Engels) always demands study of the movement of concepts, of their connection, of their mutual transitions. (Vol. 38 p.253). Lenin continues on the same page:
‘In particular, dialectics is the study of the opposition of the Thing-in-itself (Ansich), of the essence, substratum, substance - from the appearance, from “Being-for-others”. (Here, too, we see a transition, a flow from the one to the other: the essence appears. The appearance is essential.)’ (Ibid.)
The Thing-in-itself is essence (sum and unity of opposites) ‘Being-for-others’ is its form.
‘Human thought goes endlessly deeper, from appearance to essence, from essence of the first order, as it were, to essence of the second order and so on without end.’ ( Ibid. Emphasis in original.)
‘Dialectics in the proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects: not only are appearances transitory, mobile, fluid, demarcated only by conventional boundaries, but the essence of things is so as well.’ (Vol.38, p.253-254. Emphasis original )
Thus, ‘the dialectical path of cognition’, ‘from living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice’ has as its content the transition from the individual to the particular and to the Universal which is contradiction, waging the class struggle through the practice of building our Party, (changing the external world - universal). It is the dialectical source of all the day-today problems of Party building.
Essence and Appearance
On page 148. Volume 38. Lenin writes: ‘The first phrase’, (and then he approvingly quotes Hegel),
“Essence must appear”. Lenin continues: ‘The appearance of Essence is (1) Existenz (Thing). Essence and appearance, however, do not coincide because they are different sides of an object.
Essence ‘is a sum and unity of opposites’ or the internal contradictions of the object which was initially at the external source of sensation. Dialectical logic enables the individual, through abstract thought, to establish the content of the most important properties or particulars of the object or objects at the source of the sensation, and the form (thing) in which they immediately appear.
The Essence and Appearance of the object or objects at the external source of sensation cannot be separated, since the content of Essence is the abstraction of self-related concepts as particulars (parts) of the original source. Essence which appears can and must be analysed from the form of its appearance, since this was the form of the object or objects whose appearance, was at the external source of sensation, and have been directly responsible for the sensation and subsequent sensations.
The dialectical process of cognition always proceeds from the appearance to the essence, that is, from the external sides of objects directly or indirectly appearing as the source of sensations. From the external Appearance of ‘things’ at the source of sensation, we abstract the law-governed connection of these ‘things’,
Appearance and Essence are a unity of interdependent self-related opposites. Any changes in essence, under these objective law-governed relations in the course of development must lead to changes in Appearance. Likewise, any changes in Appearance must lead to changes in essence. The unity as a law-governed process manifests itself either immediately or eventually in the transformation of one into the other.
Law and Essence – Concepts of the Same Kind
On the margin of page 150 of Volume 38, opposite a paragraph from Hegel which reads: ... ‘the thing-in-itself essentially has this External Reflection In Itself, ... ‘ Lenin comments on this as ‘the core = against subjectivism and the split between the Thing-in-itself and appearances’. The Thing-In-Itself Is Essence, and cannot be separated from its appearances.
In the box at the top of page 152 of Volume 38, Lenin explains: ‘Ergo, law and essence are concepts of the same kind (of the same order), or rather, of the same degree, expressing the deepening of man's knowledge of phenomena, the world, etc.’ (Emphasis in original.) On the side margin of the same page, Lenin notes that Law is essential appearance or essence in appearance.
On the previous page of Volume 38 (p.151), commenting on the opposite side margin on two paragraphs by Hegel, Lenin writes: ‘Law is the enduring (the persisting) in appearances. (Law is the identical in appearances). Law =the quiescent reflection of appearances. (Ibid)
In a box at the bottom of the same page. Lenin remarks: ‘This is remarkably materialistic and remarkably appropriate (with the word ‘ruhige’, [quiescent]) determination. Law takes the quiescent - and therefore law, every law, is narrow, incomplete, approximate’
On page 152 of Volume 38, Lenin comments: ‘The movement of the universe in appearances (Bewegung des erscheinenden Universums), in the essentiality of this movement is law’.
Appearance is a concept of dialectical logic, having a direct connection with the external world (universe) which provides it synthetically with a source of direct sensations. These are essentially connected with Essence by ‘law’ which is ‘a concept of the same kind as essence’, and directly and synthetically reflected into essence for analysis.
The ‘Totality’ of Appearance
As Lenin emphasises on the side margin:
‘(Law is the reflection of the essential in the movement of the universe) (appearance, totality) ((law = part)) The essential here is law is a part whilst Appearance is the totality. Appearance has a direct impact synthetically on Essence which analyses the part in the sensuous activity of Reflection.
In this way, essence as content, may be enriched or changed by the relation between the external world and the form of its Appearance. In this dialectical relation, as Lenin explains: ‘(Appearance is richer than law)’ because it represents the totality whereas ‘Law = part’ with direct connection to Essence. (Ibid )
Lenin expands this further on page 153 of Volume 38, when he writes: ‘The World in and for itself [Essence - our insertion] is identical with the World of Appearances, but at the same time it is opposite to it.'
The ‘World of Appearance’ is now the Absolute with the relative changes taking place in Essence. Lenin continues:
‘What is positive in the one is negative in the other. What is evil in the World of Appearances is good in the world which is in and for itself.’
This is a demonstration of the opposites of self-related concepts, especially important for analysing the class struggle. Lenin continues:
‘The essence here is that both the world of appearances and the world in itself are moments of man's knowledge of nature, stages, alterations or deepenings (of knowledge). The shifting of the world in itself further and further from the world of appearances - that is what is so far still not to be seen in Hegel.’
Lenin Stands Hegel on his ‘Materialist’ Feet
Lenin’s remarks here in this last sentence concern Hegel’s objective idealism where he equated the external world as the product of his absolute idea and ‘essence’ which was abstracted from his ‘absolute idea’, whereas the universal external world exists independently of the essence abstracted by the individual in dialectical logic. The infinite objective world exists independently of the subject and they have to be considered as identical (relative) but absolute opposites. At the end of the paragraph (Vol 38, p.153) Lenin, in an effort to stand Hegel on his materialist feet poses the question:
‘Have not Hegel's “moments” of the concept the significance of “moments” of transition?’ This refers to a previous quotation from Lenin which we have already used in this article as follow:
‘Here, too, we see a transition, a flow from the one to the other. The essence appears, the appearance is essential’ (Our emphasis). Lenin proceeds to quote Hegel
‘Thus law is essential relation’. (Hegel’s emphasis. Ibid).
In the next paragraph he (Lenin) explains how: (Vo1. 38 p.153) 'law is, relation. This NB for the Machists and other agnostics, and for Kantians etc. Relation of essences or between essences.’ (Vol. 38 p.153. Our bold emphasis)
Previously Lenin has defined the ‘subdivisions of essence as Semblance or Show (Schein), Appearance (Erscheinung) and Actuality (Wirklichkeit).' (Vo1.38 p.130.)
The relations between essences is law which, to repeat Lenin, are concepts of the same kind. On page 154 Lenin makes a note on Hegel’s Logic:
‘And the third chapter’ (“Essential Relation”) begins with the proposition, “The truth of Appearance is Essential Relation …”’
Whole and Parts
On page 154 Lenin notes:
‘Subdivisions: The relation of Whole to Parts, (sic!! (Page 268) this relation passes into the following one); Of Force to its Manifestation – of Inner to Outer – The transition to Substance, Actuality’
For Hegel the ‘whole’ was his ‘absolute idea’, hence Lenin's sarcasm. The categories of whole and part start from the cognition of the whole as the external source of sensation to the concept of semblance; the union of analysis and synthesis. The whole is broken down into a number of parts, which when analysed through dialectical logic are recreated into a new whole. (See Theory of Knowledge, Parts I and II)
The parts cannot be separated from the whole which in turn cannot be reduced to the sum-total of its parts. As we have already explained, each part contains the whole in a one-sided way. When synthesised the parts appear in a dialectically structured whole consisting of analysed parts. Lenin concludes the chapter on Appearance on page 155 of Volume 38:
‘The beginning of everything can be regarded as inner- passive - and at the same time outer.’
‘But what is interesting here is not that but something else: Hegel's criterion of dialectics that has accidentally slipped in: “In all natural, scientific and intellectual development”: here we have a grain of profound truth in the mystical integument of Hegelianism!’
This quotation from Hegel is heavily underlined in the last paragraph on page 154 of Volume 38.
(Marxist Review October 1986)
The content of Appearance is Essence which is ‘the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites’. Negation of negation. which establishes the union of analysis and synthesis, changes the content and form of each essential ‘opposite’ within this ‘unity’. The contradiction between con tent and form is also the self-related unity of content and form of each ‘opposite’.
It is essence as a manifestation of internal contradictions within ‘the thing’ of the original sensation. As such it is a summation of all the parts, sides and connections of the object or objects which were externally responsible for the sensation for the sensation.
Appearance of the Cause of Sensation
Appearance is the ‘thing’ ( object or objects) which caused the sensation whose Essence now ‘Appears’ As Lenin explains it, ‘Form is essential. Essence is formed.’ (Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 38, P 144.)
The form of the object which Appears is determined by its content, Essence. But it really is the form of the object or objects which were at the external source of the original sensation which through dialectical logic as the theory of knowledge has determined its own essence. Lenin refers to this process as;
‘1) The determination of the concept out of itself [the thing itself must be considered in its relations and in its development].’ (Vo1.38, p.221)
To explain it another way: what was the unity of the form and the content of the external cause of sensation, has now emerged as the unity of content (essence) with its form, Appearance.
Lenin emphasises this as the result of the ‘contradictory nature of the thing itself (das Andere seiner)’, [which means ‘the other of itself’ – GH], ‘the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon’ (Vol 38 p.221).
Whilst Appearance is the external form of Essence, they do not coincide and are not the same since each contains ‘these contradictory forces and tendencies’.
Essence, at this point, must not be understood as the sum total of form and content. It is to be analysed as a higher stage of Essence, which is content in the higher form of Appearance. Dialectical logic reveals it as an object or objects in the external world. Through negation of negation, we now reach Actuality, the highest stage of the essence of abstract thought (Vo1.38 p.171).
Essence in Actuality
When we refer to Actuality, we mean Reality where Essence is disclosed through the movement of concrete objects in the external world. Hegel described this process as ‘The sum-total, the entirety of the moments of Actuality which in its unfolding discloses itself to be necessity. (Vol.38 p.157) .
Lenin is materialistically specific when on the top of the next page in a box he writes: ‘The unfolding of the sum-total of the moments of actuality NB = the essence of dialectical cognition.' (Vo1.38 p, 158, our bold emphasis.) The first of these moments is possibility.
In Actuality possibility is a form without a content, a negative negation of this form. It is an Abstract outline of a new object, whose content is as yet unknown and concealed. It can only be realised through objective revolutionary practice. On page 157 of Volume 38 Lenin writes:
‘On the question of “possibility”, Hegel notes the emptiness of this category and says in the Encyclopaedia: “the sum-total of the moments of Actuality, which in its unfolding discloses it self to be Necessity.”’
Hegel continues on page 158 of Volume 38. ‘it happens to him, (dem Menschen to man), that from his activity there arises something quite different from what he had meant and willed’.
The Concept of Substance
‘Substance’, Lenin, emphasised, is ‘an important stage in the process of development of human knowledge of nature and matter’. (Vol.38, p.158.) Substance starts from the effect of ‘the sum and unity of opposites’ whose cause is the original external source of sensation. The ‘form and content’ changes within essence itself as the beginning of Substance. Lenin writes in the box on the top of page 159:
‘On the one hand, knowledge of matter must be deepened to knowledge (to the concept) of Substance in order to find the causes of phenomena. On the other hand, the actual cognition of the cause is the deepening of knowledge from the externality of phenomena to the Substance. Two types of examples should explain this: 1) from the history of natural science, and 2) from the history of philosophy. More exactly: it is not “examples” that should be here – comparais on n'est pas raison [comparison is not proof], but the quintessence of the history of both the one and the other + the history of technique.’
We have analysed the source of Substance in Essence from its cause in the external world to its effect in Essence as ‘the sum and unity of opposites’. Lenin quotes Hegel with approval, ‘Effect contains nothing whatever which cause does not contain’ and adds ‘und umgekehrt ([and vice versa), and again quotes Hegel approvingly: ‘It is the same fact which displays itself first as Cause and then as Effect, - here as peculiar persistence and there as positedness or determination in an Other. (Ibid.)
Causality and Substance
Lenin in the box at the end of page 159 of Volume 38, writes: ‘The all-sidedness and all-embracing character of the interconnection of the world, which is only one-sidedly, fragmentarily and incompletely expressed by causality.’
‘Causality [cause into effect and vice versa – GH] as usually understood by us’, writes Lenin on page 160 of Volume 38, ‘is only a small particle of universal interconnection, but (a materialist extension) a particle not of the subjective but of the objectively real interconnection.’
On page 161 of Volume 38, Lenin quotes from Hegel very approvingly:
‘But the movement of the Determinate Relation of Causality has now. resulted in this, that the cause is not merely extinguished in the effect, and with it the effect too (as happens in Formal Causality), - but the cause in its extinction, in the effect, becomes again; that effect vanishes into cause, but equally becomes again in it. Each of these determinations cancels itself in its positing and posits itself in its cancellation; what takes place is not an external transition of causality from one substratum to another, but this its becoming other is at the same time its own positing. Causality, then presupposes or conditions itself.’
In the box just underneath this paragraph from Hegel, Lenin stands him on his materialist feet. Hegel writes:
‘The movement of the relation of causality’
Lenin replies with a note ‘ = II fact: the movement of matter, respective the movement of history, grasped. mastered in its inner connection up to one or other degree of breadth or depth .. .' (VoI.38, p.161.)
Through a series of negation of negations substance has been developing from the ‘low to the high’, from essence of the lower order to essence of the higher order, from the sum and unity of opposites to Appearance and now to the Reality of Actuality. The ‘object’ or ‘objects’ which were at the original source of sensation now become more interconnected and visible in the Eternal world around us. The driving force in the development of the Substance is causality, (Cause into effect and vice versa), which is a self-related concept whose starting point was at the original source of sensation.
Substance simply draws the object or objects together in the course of their essence becoming actualised. They in turn change in motion from the ‘inner’ essence to the ‘outer’ essence and appear externally in real through reciprocal action. .
Reciprocity of Causality and Substance
Lenin quotes Hegel to emphasise this dialectical process: ‘At this point Reciprocity presents itself as a reciprocal causality of presupposed substances conditioning each other; each is, in relation to the other, at once active and passive substance.’(Vol. 38 p.161)
Lenin's continues to quote Hegel, with approval from the materialist standpoint: ‘Necessity and Causality have, then, vanished in it; they contain both the immediate identity (as connection and relation)’ To which Lenin notes in the side margin ‘connection and relation’.
Lenin further quotes Hegel with agreement: ‘... and the absolute substantiality of distincts, and therefore their contingency, the original unity of substantial variety, hence absolute contradiction. Necessity is Being, because it is; the self-unity of being, which has itself for ground;’ (Here Lenin quotes from Hegel in the margin: ‘unity of substance in the distinct’).
Hegel continues onto the next page, 162 of Volume 38: ‘the self-unity of Being, which has itself for ground; but conversely, because it has a ground, it is not Being [our bold emphasis). it is nothing whatever but Semblance, relation or mediation.’ (Emphasis in original.)
Engels explains this return to Semblance on page 216 of Dialectics of Nature: ‘Identity and difference, necessity and chance, cause and effect, the two main opposites* which treated separately, become transformed into one another. And then “first principles” must help.’
At the bottom of the page, the asterisk is explained as follows: ‘In the manuscript: die beiden Hauptgegensaetzten (two main opposites) Engels has in mind: (1) the antithesis of identity and difference, and (2) the antithesis of cause and effect. The words “necessity and chance” were written between the lines afterwards - Ed.'
The Anti-Thesis of Identity and Difference
The antithesis of Identity and Difference appears in Semblance as ‘Nothing, non-existent (Nichtigheit) which exists’. Cause and effect at the external source of sensation are also an antithesis which is contained in Essence and Substance, from which they emerge in Actuality as Causality and Reciprocity. The antithesis of necessity and chance will now emerge and be embodied. We will explain this in The Theory of Knowledge, Part V.
Hegel continues (quoted on p.161 of Vo1.38):. ‘ ... the original unity of substantial variety, hence absolute contradiction’ , Lenin emphasises Hegel in the side margin ‘unity of substance in the distinct.’
The reality of Actuality through ‘the unity of substance in the distinct’ has put on display the original object or objects at the external source of the initial sensation.
This series of articles on the Theory of Knowledge will be continued, especially inspired by what Lenin had to say in a commentary on the Marx-Engels Correspondence at the end of 1913:
‘If one were to attempt to define in a single word the focus, so to speak, of the whole correspondence, the central point at which the whole body of ideas expressed and discussed converges - that word would be dialectics. The application of materialist dialectics to the reshaping of all political economy from its foundations up, its application to history, natural science, philosophy and to the policy and tactics of the working class that was what interested Marx and Engels most of all, that was where they contributed what was most essential and new, and that was what constituted the masterly advance they made in the history of revolutionary thought.’ (Lenin, Collected Works Vo 19 p.554.)
Our opponents cannot adapt bourgeois idealism, no matter what form it takes, to the materialist dialectics of Marx and Engels.
Marxist Review November/December 1986
Dialectical Logic as the Theory of Knowledge starts with the reflection of the external world in thought through the Image of sensation. This image reveals in consciousness, which implicitly contains synthesis with the external world, the element of analysis. It is in reality the union of analysis and synthesis.
The Role of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge
The abstract image of sensation reflects the practical interaction between the individual, and the objects and phenomena in the world outside. This inclusion of practice in the Theory of Knowledge was one of the great contributions of Karl Marx to dialectical logic. In his eleven Theses on Feuerbach (Thesis Five) he wrote:
‘Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, appeals to sensuous contemplation; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical human-sensuous activity.’
Thesis Eight explains that:
‘Social Life is essentially practical. All mysteries which mislead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.’
Finally, in Thesis Eleven, Marx emphasises that:
‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.’
What Marx has stressed in his Theses on Feuerbach is the inseparable unity between the theory of knowledge and the individual’s practical nature. The difference between the dialectical process of cognition and practical activity is revealed in the latter.
The inseparable nature of practice and the theory of knowledge establishes the fundamental difference between the dialectical materialist method of training and all brands of idealist and metaphysical thinking. Practice is not just another concept in the process of Cognition, it is the most decisive category in the method of dialectical and historical materialism as a single whole.
Since practice cannot be separated from Cognition, it is therefore inseparable from the external source of Reflection. Individuals, through their practice, not only acquire knowledge through dialectical cognition, but are able to use this knowledge for its transformation through the conditions for the world socialist revolution. This is the interaction of the opposites, object and subject, through the immediate and on-going collective practice of social Beings in a class society with their historically given social practice in the past.
Against Self-Created Image Making
Materialist dialectics explains the object as that part of the class struggle in the capitalist system to which the subject as a revolutionary fighter directs his or her individual attention. Since all human Beings are part of nature, object and subject are manifested in this unity.
Lenin refers to such a unity in the process of cognition as The splitting of single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts (Collected Works Vol.38, p.359). As part of this Single whole, the object exists independently of the subject, who identifies the part in which their class interest lies. As we have already explained in previous articles, the cognition process is ‘from living perception to abstract thought and from this to practice’ (Vol.38, p.171). The theory of knowledge, (dialectical logic), can only be developed scientifically, provided the dialectical training of the individual enables them to cognise the objective laws of motion of the object or objects responsible for the sensation.
This dialectical method of training totally excludes all varieties of Kantian image-making, scepticism, Fichtean subjective-idealism and eclecticism as a guide to practice, or to be liquidated into practices. Neither can these images be self-created by the ‘blind activists’ who rush around from strike to strike or one form of activity to the next, making their images up as they go along. Impressionism and its content, empiricism, are ruled out as well.
The individual, we repeat, must scientifically grasp the laws of motion of the object or objects in the external world which caused the sensation. This is the first subjective image of the objective world, or as Lenin explains it, ‘The first universal concept (also = the first encountered universal concept). (See margin at the bottom of p.225 VoI.38). Sensation and perceptions develop from the activity of Social Beings and its reflection in the consciousness of the individual.
‘The Essence of Dialectical Cognition’
Identity of the external source of sensation, negated into Difference, constitutes the first antithesis in dialectical logic. Cause into effect and vice versa is the second antithesis - both of which have originated in the external world, becoming transformed into one another. The union of analysis and synthesis is the source of both Cause and Effect and vice-versa. Causality, which is incorporated into ‘the thing’ ... ‘as the sum and. unity of opposites’, (essence in existence).
This process constitutes the emergence of the category of Substance which is the inner unity of all the parts we have cognised in their self-development. Substance as matter (Being) is the opposite of thought, consciousness. Eclecticism as a method rejects and is opposed to substance, preferring instead to pre-select its own empty idealist images irrespective of their materialist content.
The appearance of Essence reveals the identity of the object at the external source of sensation. These objects or object now appear more precisely than when they were being analysed by the union of analysis and synthesis, through the development of substance from Causality into the Reciprocal relation (Reciprocity) of cause into effect and vice-versa.
In Reciprocity, ‘the essence of dialectical cognition’ (see top of p.158 ofVo1.38) as ‘the sum-total of the moments of actuality’ reproduce the object or objects responsible for the sensation.
Counter-posing of Appearance to Essence
The union of analysis and synthesis now requires the counter-posing of Appearance to Essence. Lenin explains the process of cognition in the following way on p.361 ofVo1.38: ‘
‘... Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs, the concepts of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say: John is a man, Fido is a dog, this is a leaf of a tree etc., we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counter-pose the one to the other.’
In Lenin's examples John is essence, Man is Appearance; Fido is essence, dog is Appearance; leaf is essence and tree is Appearance. Whether he is an old man or a young man, the essence is established because he answers to the name of ‘John’. The same is true of Lenin's other examples.
Causality and Reciprocity as Moments of Materialist Connection
At the bottom of page 162, Vol. 38, Lenin writes:
‘It is to be noted also that in the Encyclopaedia Hegel stresses the inadequacy and emptiness of the bare concept of “reciprocal action”,' and Lenin continues to quote Hegel on the next page to explain what the word ‘bare’ means.
‘Reciprocity is undoubtedly the proximate truth of the relation of cause and effect, and stands, so to say, on the threshold of the Notion, nevertheless, precisely on this account one should not rest content with applying this relation, insofar as it is a matter of conceptual cognition. If one gets no further than considering a given content merely from the point of view of reciprocity, then such an attitude is in fact quite without concept; it is then merely a matter of a dry fact, and the requirement of mediation, which is the point of immediate concern in applying the relation of causality, still remains unsatisfied.’
To which Lenin comments on the side margin of the same page: Mere “"reciprocity” = emptiness … the requirement of mediation, (of connection), that is the point at issue in applying the relation of causality.’ (our Emphasis)
Lenin, on the previous page, p.162 of Vol.38, explains in the box: . ‘When one reads Hegel on causality, it appears strange at first glance that he dwells so relatively lightly on this theme, beloved of the Kantians. Why? . because, indeed, for him causality is only one of the determinations of universal connection, which he had already covered earlier in his entire exposition much more deeply and all-sidedly; always and from the very outset emphasising this connection, the reciprocal transitions, etc., etc.’ (our bold emphasis)
Reciprocity as causality emphasises the emergence of connections and transitions, between the object or objects at the initial external source of sensation. Thus reality now becomes more concrete in the image or between the images of other objects in actuality. ..
The Antithesis of Chance and Necessity
This brings us to the final antithesis of chance and necessity before the ‘leap’ to the abstract notion, and again, as it were, to materialistically analyse Hegel idea of ‘connection’. On the bottom of page 163 of Vol.38 Lenin quotes Hegel in relation to the Spartans:
‘If, for example, we regard the customs of the Spartans as the effect of their constitution, and the latter, conversely, as the effect of their customs, such a view may perhaps be correct, but it is a conception that gives no final satisfaction, because in point of fact it enables neither the constitution nor the customs of this people to be understood. Such understanding can only come about when these two aspects, and likewise all the other special aspects of the life and the history of the Spartans are recognised to be grounded in this Notion.’ (Vol.38, pp.163-64.)
Lenin comments on the side margin at the bottom of p.163 of Vol.38 on Hegel's reference to the constitution and customs of the Spartan people ‘all the “special aspects” and the whole (“Begriff”)’ [Notion].
The ‘special aspects’ as understood by Lenin in a materialist way were connections from the low to the high, as follows: Essence as the ‘sum and unity of opposites’, Essence in the form of Appearance, substance, Causality, Reciprocity (Essence in Actuality).
The concept of Necessity and Chance is objective in dialectical logic, (abstract thought). It is governed by the objective laws of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa; unity and struggle, and the interpenetration of opposites; Negation of the Negation.
On page 217-218 of the 1976 edition of Dialectics of Nature by Engels, dialectical nature of ‘Chance and Necessity’ was explained as follows:
‘Another opposition in which metaphysics is entangled is that of chance and necessity. What can be more sharply contradictory than these two thought determinations? How is it possible that both are identical, that the accidental is necessary, and the necessary is also accidental?’ ... ‘And then it is declared that the necessary is the sole thing of scientific interest and that the accidental is a matter of indifference to science. Thereby all science comes to an end, for it has to investigate precisely that which we do not know. That is to say: what can be brought under general laws is regarded as necessary, and what cannot be so brought as accidental.’
Further on in the same section, p.220, Engels writes:
‘In contrast to such conceptions, [the separation of accident from chance - GH], Hegel came forward with the hitherto quite unheard-of propositions that the accidental has a cause because it is accidental, and just as much also has no cause because it is accidental; that the accidental is necessary, that necessity determines itself as chance and on the other hand, this chance is rather absolute necessity. (Logik, II, Book III 2: Reality).’
In Actuality, the dialectical processes which are described as necessary contain the cause of their contradictory connections within themselves as essence. Those whose causes exist outside of them, but are conditioned by their external connections to other objects are called chance which is objectively relative.
Chance is a form of the manifestation of necessity, since necessity itself does not exist in a pure form.
Necessity, which is the highest stage of Essence preparatory to the leap to the abstract notion, could be suddenly interrupted by chance in the form of an accident which may oblige us to make such tactical changes whilst we investigate and analyse the cause of the accident. When the necessary conditions are present in essence, the abstract notion emerges, oriented towards the needs of our revolutionary practice. The abstract notion is now in transition into the theoretical idea in the objective world of practice.
Marxist Review November/December 1986
The dialectical process of cognition is based upon the relations between the ‘individual’ and the universal’. These opposites are identical in their unity. As Lenin explains: ‘The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. (Lenin Collected Works Vo1.38, p.361). This identical nature of their unity is the source of infinite contradiction in the dialectically logical thinking of the ‘individual’. It constitutes the first objective law in materialist dialectics as ‘the unity, struggle, and interpenetration of the opposites’. The other two objective laws, the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa, and the negation of the negation are manifested within this Unity. These laws, as Engels emphasises, are abstracted ‘from the history of nature … human society … and thought’. (Engels, Dialectics of Nature, p.62).
The Unity of the Logical and the Historical
It the Abstraction of the law of negation of the negation three antithesis emerge in dialectical logic which manifest the three laws. These are the antithesis of Identity and Difference, Cause and Effect, and Necessity and Chance. Proceeding from the low to the high, three subdivisions of essence are immediately involved: Essence and Semblance, Essence and Appearance and Essence in Actuality. Their development through the union of analysis and synthesis has brought us to the leap to Part VI, the abstract Notion, whose opposite in the real world if the theoretical idea.
The theoretical idea consists of the unity of the logical with the historical, and is an objective process of practice itself. Such an approach requires a clear demarcation of the three subdivisions of essence and proof transition of one into the other. Their unity is the historical (universal) which contains within it the logical (individual-particular). In the theory of knowledge every process of development includes its own objective orientation own necessity which leads to a definite result. Therefore, the theoretical is the result of the union of analysis and synthesis. Like the antithesis of Identity and Difference, the categories logical and historical must be considered in their unity which incorporates the contradictions within the
Dialectical logic of the Theory of Knowledge negates the real process into the individual and subjective side of the objectively universal. Practice as the historical universal reflects its unity with the theory of knowledge, (logic), which guides our practice. In the unity of the historical and logical, essence, in its sub-divisions is relative, whilst the absolute of the law-governed relations between the individual and the universal is contained within this relative. Thus the theory of knowledge as a law-governed process becomes the logic of the concrete historical process itself. The East German philosopher Gudrun Richter expresses such a process as ‘historicising the logical and logicising the historical’. (The Law-Governed and the Historical Process Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1985, in German, p.75.)
The dialectical moment of the IDENTITY of the external source of sensation contains Difference when negated into sensation as a self-related concept. This incorporates the unity of the logical and the historical also as self related concepts. For the theory of knowledge, it boils down to Logical analysis according to the method given by Lenin:
‘Thinking reason (understanding) which sharpens the blunt difference of variety, the mere manifold of imagination, into essential difference, into opposition. Only when raised to the peak of contradiction, do the manifold entities become active (regsam) and lively in relation to one another, - they acquire that negativity which is the inherent pulsation of self-movement and vitality.' (Vol. 38, p.143, paragraph 3.)
In this dialectical relation, we analyse through the union of analysis and synthesis, the ‘particular’ or part in so far as it is both preserved and superseded in the thing as the sum and unity of opposite (Vol 38 p.221). Its future which emerges as ‘essence in existence’ reproduces the pre-conditions of its own future from the parts of sides of the original source of sensation, which in their synthesis with this source have been analysed and provided with both a form and a content for each part.
The ‘Logic’ Within the Split in 1985 of the WRP
In the split which took place in the Workers Revolutionary Party in the late autumn of 1985, the opportunist attempt was made to split the dialectical from the historical. It was falsely alleged that the author of these articles on the Theory of Knowledge was guilty of the ‘crime’ of Hegelianism in his work on materialist dialectics; that he ‘ignored’ historical materialism. Such a division between dialectical and historical materialism was not accidental. In the case of Slaughter and the American, D. North. they had never participated in the day by day practice of Party building, either the International Committee of the Fourth International and the Workers Revolutionary Party or, in the case of North, a party in the United States. Slaughter, from 1966 to the time of the split, adopted an eclectical attitude towards theory whilst he completely evaded practice of any kind towards the building of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
The American, D. North, when he became General Secretary of the section of the International Committee in the USA, acquired a section with well over 100 members which was built mainly by Wohlforth, who deserted to the US State Department-controlled Socialist Workers Party. Left to his own practice, North succeeded in reducing it to not more than 80 members. North had no difficulty in making a clique alliance with Slaughter. They both shared one thing in common - a political inability and refusal to engage in the revolutionary practice of building the sections of the ICFI. [International Committee of the Fourth International]
The Banda brothers, however, were different. For 35 years they contributed in a powerful practical way to building the Workers Revolutionary Party and the ICFI, in the best traditions of historical materialism. But in the world scientific outlook of materialist dialectics, they failed to understand its inseparable connection to the historical materialist role of such practice. Then, when the objective economic and political crisis of world imperialism headed by the United States was manifested in Thatcher's struggle to smash trade unionism Britain (the historical home of trade unionism) in the miners and printers, the Banda brothers became Fichtean subjective idealists.
This led to the brief formation of an unprincipled clique between North and Slaughter and the Bandas, which in a few weeks after the split broke up, with North expelling Slaughter and the Banda brothers simply retiring from active politics. Following the experience of the Haston, Grant and Lee clique in 1940’s, this was the most powerful manifestation of the blind alley political bankruptcy of clique politics.
The Unity of Dialectical and Historical Materialism
Lenin wrote Volume 14, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, between February and October 1908. It was published in book form in May 1909. In the new introduction by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU, it describes the situation that followed the defeat of the 1905 bourgeois revolution as follows:
‘In the bourgeois milieu, especially in the circles of the Intelligentsia, strong dissemination was given to the “God seeking”, a reactionary religious philosophical current, the ideas of which asserted that the Russian people had “lost God”, and that the task was to find him. In literature and in culture there were extolled the cult of individualism, a-politicism, “pure culture”, the repudiation of the revolutionary democratic traditions of Russian social thought. The forces of the counter revolution used every opportunity to slander the working class its party and to undermine the theoretical foundations of Marxism. In such conditions, the defence of Marxist philosophy was the most important and urgent task.’ (Introduction to the 1986 Russian edition Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.)
That is why in this ultra-reactionary period in history, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism became, and still is, Lenin's most important philosophical work Eight years after its publication, Lenin and Trotsky led the Bolshevik Party to power in the first successful Socialist Revolution in history. In the English edition of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism Lenin dwelt in some length on the inseparable nature of Dialectical and Historical Materialism. On page 326 Vo1.14. he writes:
‘Materialism in general recognises objectively real being (matter) as independent of the consciousness, sensation, experience, etc., of humanity. Historical materialism recognises social being as independent of the social consciousness of humanity. In both cases, consciousness is only the reflection of being [our emphasis], at best an approximately true (adequate perfectly exact) reflection of it. From this Marxist philosophy, which is cast from a single piece of steel, you cannot eliminate one basic premise, one essential part, without departing from objective truth, without falling prey to bourgeois-reactionary falsehood.’
The words dialectical materialism emphasise the ‘single piece of steel’ as the unity between dialectical and historical materialism. Likewise the ‘unity of the logical and the historical’ expresses the unity between the ‘dialectical’, (logic), and the ‘historical’, (materialism).
Lenin further explains that: ‘Marx and Engels, as they grew out of Feuerbach and matured in the fight against the scribblers, naturally paid most attention to crowning the structure of philosophical materialism, that is, not to the materialist epistemology but to the materialist conception of history. That is why Marx and Engels laid the emphasis in their works rather on dialectical materialism than on dialectical materialism, and insisted on historical materialism rather than on historical materialism.’ (Emphasis in original. Vo1.14, p.329.)
The Historical Source of Subjective Idealist
The attempt by the Banda, Slaughter, North clique to separate dialectical from historical materialism was a most reactionary approval of subjective idealist image making. These were to be pasted over the objective reality of the world class struggle as it is now unfolding within its ‘parts’, the class struggle in the capitalist countries throughout the world. But how, the question may well be asked, did the Bandas and Slaughter write so politically clearly on the struggle against Pablo, Thornett, the OCI and all the other political dregs of revisionism for some thirty to thirty- five years? In Slaughter's case, he compiled a six-volume history of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the last volume of which was published in 1975.
Hegel analyses such a process in a philosophically concrete way when he turns to the writings of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814):
‘The infinite limitation or check of Fichte's idealism refuses, perhaps, to be based on any Thing-in-itself, so that it becomes purely a determinateness in the Ego. But this determinateness is immediate and a limit to the Ego, which, transcending its externality, incorporates it; and though the Ego can pass beyond the limit, the latter has in it an aspect of indifference by virtue of which it contains an immediate not-Being of the Ego, though itself contained in the Ego.’ (VoI.38, p.132.)
Let us now analyse this paragraph sentence by sentence so that we may understand the subjective idealist method of Fichte, the Bandas, Slaughter, Hunter and Co.
a ) ‘The infinite limitation or check of Fichte's idealism refuses, perhaps, to be based on any Thing-in-itself, so that it becomes purely a determinateness in the Ego’.
Here Fichte was determinating his Ego in word forms which were empty without any Thing-in-itself for content. For over three decades, the Bandas and Slaughter assembled their word forms to the requirements of the historical propaganda needs of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the Socialist labour League and the Workers Revolutionary Party which was founded in 1973.
b) ‘But this determinateness is immediate and a limit to the Ego, which, transcending its externality, incorporates it; and though the Ego can pass beyond its limit, the latter has in it an aspect of indifference by virtue of which it contains an immediate not-being of the Ego, though itself contained in the Ego.’ (VoI.38, p.132, our emphasis of not- being.)
The empty word form ‘is immediate and a limit to the Ego’ because it does not contain a content. Nevertheless the Bandas, Slaughter, Hunter and Co carry on stringing together their empty word forms in requirement with the historical and propaganda needs of the ICFI and the Party.
What they fail to realise is that these empty word forms contain a content of ‘Not-Being’ - the ever-changing world economic and political crisis, whether they are aware of it or not. The build-up of such countless ‘not-beings’ have their revenge when the multitude of empty word forms, without them being able to recognise their not-Being content, blow-up in their faces, leaving them totally unprepared.
Pragmatism Versus Subjective Idealism
Then they rush to form a clique alliance with the American pragmatic hustler, North, who immediately sees the opportunity to do some pragmatic leg-work the ‘good old USA’! They despatch him on a tour of a handful of German pragmatists whilst he is in constant contact with an equal handful of Ceylonese and Australian pragmatists. At the Tenth Congress of the ICFI in January 1985 it was disclosed that in the November 1984 General Elections in Australia, they took state aid to help finance their election expenses. When this was criticised by Banda and Slaughter using their usual empty word forms of criticism, Mulgrew, Beams and Co. admitted the gross opportunism of their action.
After the split was over the pragmatist North lined up the small groups of pragmatists from West Germany, Ceylon, Australia and, of course, his own 80 members and proceeded to expel Slaughter and Banda for being accomplices to ‘immorality’. In this case it was a win 'on points' for US pragmatism over Fichtean subjective idealism.