Notes on dialectics - C.L.R. James

C.L.R. James out of print major work written in 1948 and circulated within the Johnson Forest Tendency. James continued to recommend it as essential reading to members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in the early 1970s.

Submitted by UseValueNotExc… on March 8, 2021

Notes on Dialectics is his key theoretical work. It is one of the most complex and original Marxist documents ever to come out of the U.S., where James lived from 1938-1953. It provides a thorough reexamination of the Hegelian foundations of Marxist theory and a new interpretation of the history of the labor movement through a close engagement with Hegel's Logic.

Its influence has been deeply felt through privately circulated mimeographed editions, this is its first publication in book form [in 1980], with a new introduction by the author.

James aims at making Hegel’s Logic — a thorough study of which Lenin saw as essential for understanding Marx’s Capital — ‘a part of our Marxist thinking today’. Close textual and explanatory reference to the Science of Logic itself, and to Marx’s and Lenin's use of ‘dialectic’, provide a conceptual framework for examining the history of the workers’ movement and the Internationals; and James concludes that Trotsky’s Marxism, that of the Fourth International, was inadequate for the post-war world.

This book’s central and prophetic concerns - the revolutionary nature of the proletariat, the state and the party - are just as important in the present world crisis as they were when it was first written.

‘C.L.R. James is one of those rare individuals whom history proves right. It is more than a misjudgment to think of him as a black professor, as a black historian, or indeed as the premier intellectual product of the West Indies. To think of him as such is to circumscribe and to limit the achievements of one of the Marxist thinkers of our time who has kept the thread of the Marxist science weaving through the internationalist concerns of a lifetime’ — Race Today

Introduction 7

Hegel’s Preface to the First Edition of The Science of Logic 12
Understanding and Reason 16
Reason 18
Some Historical Observations on Understanding 24
Consciousness 25
Preface to the Second Edition 27
Dialectical Thought in Practical Life 33
Understanding 39
Dialectic 47
The Natural Moments of Thought 47
Consciousness and the Object 51
Object of the Investigation 57
Method of the Investigation 62

The Hegelian Logic 67
The Doctrine of Being 67
The Doctrine of Essence 74
Identity, Difference and Contradiction 82
Contradiction 87
Ground: the Proof of the Absolute 95
Review and Leninist Interlude 98
Appearance and Actuality 106
Essence in Action
i. Lenin after 1914 113
ii. Marxism today 115
The Doctrine of the Notion 119
Leninism and the Notion 134
Lenin After 1917 142
Leninism and Ourselves 147
The Universals of 1948 150
Trotskyism: Synthetic Cognition 157
The Absolute Idea 162
The Leap 171
Dialectic in Action
What We Propose to Do 181
The French Revolution in Historical Logic 184
Form and Content 210
Cause and Effect 211
Practice 223
Notes 228