Excerts from Raya Dunayevskaya's Philosophy & Revolution
Raya Dunayevskaya, 1973
Preface to Philosophy & Revolution
The Hegelian Logic
New Thoughts on the Dialectics of Organisation and Philosophy
... Along with the battle I'm currently having with myself on the Absolutes (and I've had this battle ever since 1953 when I first "defined" the Absolute as the new society), I am now changing my attitude to Lenin "” specifically on Chapter 2 of Section Three of the Science of Logic, "The Idea of Cognition." The debate I'm having with myself centers on the different ways Hegel writes on the Idea of Cognition in the Science of Logic (hereafter referred to as Science), and the way it is expressed in his Encyclopedia (smaller Logic), paragraphs 225 "” 35 with focus on § 233 "” 35. The fact that the smaller Logic does the same type of abbreviation with the Absolute Idea as it does with the Idea of Cognition turning that magnificent and most profound chapter of the Science into paragraphs 236 "” 44 and that § 244 in the smaller Logic was the one Lenin preferred to the final paragraph of the Absolute Idea in the Science, has had me "debating" Lenin ever since 1953. That year may seem far away but its essence without the polemics was actually given in my paper at the 1974 Hegel Society of America conference.
Whether or not Lenin had a right to "mis-read" the difference in Hegel's two articulations in the Science and in the smaller Logic, isn't it true that Hegel by creating the sub-section [b] "Volition " which does not appear in the Science, left open the door for a future generation of Marxists to become so enthralled with Chapter 2 "The Idea of Cognition" "” which ended with the pronouncement that Practice was higher than Theory "” that they saw an identity of the two versions? These Marxists weren't Kantians believing that all contradictions will be solved by actions of "men of good will."
There is no reason I think for introducing a new sub-heading which lets Marxists think that now that practice is "higher" than theory and that "Will " not as wilfulness but as action, is their province they do not need to study Hegel further.
Please bear with me as I go through Lenin's interpretation of that chapter with focus on this sub-section so that we know precisely what is at issue. Indeed when I began talking to myself in 1953 objecting to Lenin's dismissal of the last half of the final paragraph of the Absolute Idea in the Science as "unimportant " preferring § 244 of the smaller Logic "” "go forth freely as Nature" "” I explained that Lenin could have said that because he hadn't suffered through Stalinism. I was happy that there was one Marxist revolutionary who had dug into Hegel's Absolute Idea.
Now then, when Lenin seemed to have completed his Abstract, and writes "End of the Logic. 12/17/1914" (Vol. 38, p. 233), he doesn't really end. At the end of that he refers you to the fact that he ended his study of the Science with § 244 of the smaller Logic "” and he means it. Clearly, it wasn't only the last half of a paragraph of the Absolute Idea in the Science that Lenin dismissed. The truth is that Lenin had begun seriously to consult the smaller Logic at the section on the Idea, which begins in the smaller Logic with § 213. When Lenin completed Chapter 2, "The Idea of Cognition," he didn't really go to Chapter 3, "The Absolute Idea," but first proceeded for seven pages with his own "translation" (interpretation). This is on pp. 212 "” 19 of Vol. 38 of his Collected Works.
Lenin there divided each page into two. One side he called "Practice in the Theory of Knowledge"; on the other side, he wrote: "Alias, Man's consciousness not only reflects the objective world, but creates it." I was so enamoured with his "Hegelianism" that I never stopped repeating it. Presently, however, I'm paying a great deal more attention to what he did in that division of the page into two, with these "translations." Thus, 1) "Notion = Man"; 2) "Otherness which is in itself = Nature independent of man"; 3) "Absolute Idea = objective truth." When Lenin reaches the final section of Chapter 2, "The Idea of the Good," he writes, "end of Ch. 2, Transition to Ch. 3, 'The Absolute Idea.' " But I consider that he is still only on the threshold of the Absolute Idea. Indeed, all that follows p. 219 in his Notes shows that to be true, and explains why Lenin proceeded on his own after the end of his Notes on the Absolute Idea, and returned to the smaller Logic.
Thus when Lenin writes that he had reached the end of the Absolute Idea [in the Science] and quotes § 244 [of the Encyclopaedia Logic] as the true end, because it is "objective," he proceeds to the smaller Logic and reaches § 244, to which he had already referred. Although he continued his commentaries as he was reading and quoting Absolute Idea from the Science, it was not either Absolute Idea or Absolute Method that his sixteen-point definition of the dialectic ends on: "15) the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content. 16) the transition of quantity into quality and vice-versa. (15 and 16 are examples of 9)." No wonder the preceding Point 14 referred to absolute negativity as if it were only "the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation)."
Outside of Marx himself, the whole question of the negation of the negation was ignored by all "orthodox Marxists." Or worse, it was made into a vulgar materialism, as with Stalin, who denied that it was a fundamental law of dialectics. Here, specifically, we see the case of Lenin, who had gone back to Hegel, and had stressed that it was impossible to understand Capital, especially its first chapter, without reading the whole of the Science, and yet the whole point that Hegel was developing on unresolved contradiction, of "two worlds in opposition, one a realm of subjectivity in the pure regions of transparent thought, the other a realm of objectivity in the element of an externally manifold actuality that is an undisclosed realm of darkness," (Miller translation, p. 820), did not faze Lenin because he felt that the objective, the Practical Idea, is that resolution. Nor was he fazed by the fact that Hegel had said that "the complete elaboration of the unresolved contradiction between that absolute end and the limitation of this actuality that insuperably opposes it, has been considered in detail in the Phenomenology.... " (The reference is to pp. 611 ff. of the Phenomenology, Baillie translation.). . .
Nothing, in fact, led Lenin back to the Idea of Theory and away from dependence on the Practical Idea, not even when Hegel writes: "The practical Idea still lacks the moment of the theoretical Idea. . . . For the practical Idea, on the contrary, this actuality, which at the same time confronts it as an insuperable limitation, ranks as something intrinsically worthless that must first receive its true determination and sole worth through the ends of the good. Hence it is only the will itself that stands in the way of the attainment of its goal for it separates itself from cognition and external reality for the will does not receive the form of a true being; the Idea of the good can therefore find its integration only in the Idea of the true." (p. 821, Miller translation)....
I cannot blame Hegel for what "orthodox Marxists" have done to his dialectic.... To fully follow out this question we need, in one respect, another journey back in time "” to 1953 when, in the parting from Lenin on the vanguard party, I had delved into the three final syllogisms of the Philosophy of Mind .... [I]n my paper to the Hegel Society of America in 1974, where I critique Adorno's Negative Dialectics "” which I called "one-dimensionality of thought" "” I said that he had substituted "a permanent critique not alone for absolute negativity, but also for 'permanent revolution' itself:" I had become so enamoured with Hegel's three final syllogisms that I was searching all over the "West" for dialogue on them.
Finally in the 1970s, after Reinhart Klemens Maurer had published his Hegel und das Ende der Geschichte, which took up those final syllogisms, I tried to get him involved, his sharp critique of Marcuse notwithstanding. Maurer was anxious to establish the fact, however, that he was not only non-Marxist, but not wholly "Hegelian." In any case, he clearly was not interested in any dialogue with me, and he told a young colleague of mine who went to see him that "I am not married to Hegel." But as I made clear at the 1974 HSA conference, I do not think it important whether someone has written a serious new study of those three final syllogisms because of a new stage of scholarship, or because the "movement of freedom surged up from below and was followed by new cognition studies."
The point is that as late as the late 1970s, A. V. Miller wrote me calling my attention to the fact that he had not corrected an error in Wallace's translation of § 575 of Philosophy of Mind. He pointed out that Wallace had translated sie as if it were sich, whereas in fact it should have read "sunders" not itself, but them. That, however, was not my problem. The sundering was what was crucial to me; the fact that Nature turns out to be the mediation was certainly no problem to any "materialist"; the form of the transition which was departing from the course of necessity was the exciting part. In introducing those three new syllogisms in 1830, Hegel first (§ 575) poses the structure of the Encyclopaedia merely factually "” Logic-Nature-Mind. It should have been obvious (but obviously was not) that it is not Logic but Nature which is the mediation.
Paragraph 576 was the real leap as the syllogism was the standpoint of Mind itself. In the early 1950s I had never stopped quoting the end of that paragraph: "philosophy appears as subjective cognition, of which liberty is the aim, and which is itself the way to produce it." It justified my happiness at Hegel's magnificent critique of the concept of One in the Hindu religion which he called both "featureless unity of abstract thought," and its extreme opposite, "long-winded weary story of its particular detail" (§ 573). In the following § 574 we face Hegel's counter-position of what I consider his most profound historic concept "” and by history I mean not only past, or even history-in-the-making, the present, but as future "” "SELF-THINKING IDEA."
My "labour, patience, and suffering of the negative" those thirty-three years hasn't exactly earned me applause either from the post-Marx Marxists, or from the Hegelians, who are busy calling to my attention that the final syllogism (§ 577) speaks about the "eternal Idea," "eternally setting itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind," fairly disregarding what is just a phrase in that sentence: "it is the nature of the fact, which causes the movement and development, yet this same movement is equally the action of cognition."
. . . The "eternal Idea" to me is not eternality, but ceaseless motion, the movement itself. Far from me "subverting" Hegel, it is Hegel who made Absolute Method the "self-thinking Idea." George Armstrong Kelly, in his book, Hegel's Retreat from Eleusis, said that "for the complex linkage of culture, politics and philosophy, within the matrix of the 'Absolute Idea', Mme. Dunayevskaya proposes to substitute an unchained dialectic which she baptises 'Absolute Method,' a method that 'becomes irresistible . . . because our hunger for theory arises from the totality of the present global crisis.' "
The "eternal Idea" in Philosophy of Mind not only reinforced my view of Absolute Method in Science of Logic, but now that I am digging into another subject for my new work on "Dialectics of Organisation," which will take sharp issue with Lenin, both on the Idea of Cognition and on the Absolute Idea, I consider that Marx's concept of "revolution in permanence" is the "eternal Idea."
July 3, 1986
. . . [As to] my latest self-critique on Organisation . . . on that question I also see Hegel in a new way. That is to say, the dialectical relationship of principles (in this case the Christian doctrine) and the organisation (the Church) are analysed as if they were inseparables. All this occurs, not in the context of a philosophy of religion so much as in the context of the great dividing line between himself and all other philosophers that he initiated with the Phenomenology of Mind, on the relationship of objectivity/subjectivity, immediacy/mediation, particular/universal, history and the "Eternal." This addition to the Logic "” the Third Attitude to Objectivity "” I see in a totally new way.
I can't hide, of course, that though it's not the Absolute, I'm enamoured with that early section of the Encyclopaedia outline of Logic, because it was written after Hegel had already developed Absolute Knowledge, Absolute Idea, Absolute Method.
Here history makes its presence felt, by no accident, after the Absolutes both in the Phenomenology and in the Science of Logic, as well as in anticipation that he is finally developing the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Mind. Indeed, that to me is what made possible the very form of compression of those innumerable polemical observations on other philosophers and philosophies into just three attitudes to objectivity.
This time, as we know, a single attitude, the first, embraces everything preceding the modern age. Further emphasis on this compression is evident when Hegel comes to the modern age and includes both empiricism and criticism in the Second Attitude.
My attraction to the Third Attitude was not due to the fact that it was directed against those who placed faith above philosophy "” the Intuitionists. (I'm not renewing the old debate, just because I'm an atheist; atheism, to me, is one more form of godliness, without God.) Rather, the attraction for me continues to be the Dialectic. Far from expressing a sequence of never-ending progression, the Hegelian dialectic lets retrogression appear as translucent as progression and indeed makes it very nearly inevitable if one ever tries to escape regression by mere faith.
Here again, history enters, this time to let Hegel create varying views of Intuitionalism, depending on which historic period is at issue. Intuitionalism is "progressive" in the period of Descartes because then empiricism opened the doors wide to science. On the other hand, it became regressive in the period of Jacobi.
It is here that I saw a different concept of Organisation when it comes to the Church than either in all of Hegel's many oppositions to the clergy's dominance in academia....
The Third Attitude begins (§ 61) with a critique of Kant whose universality was abstract so that Reason appeared hardly more than a conclusion with "the categories left out of account." Equally wrong, Hegel continues, is the "extreme theory on the opposite side, which holds thought to be an act of the particular only, and on that ground declares it incapable of apprehending the Truth."
In praising Descartes, Hegel points not only to the fact that empiricism opened the door to science, but that Descartes clearly knew that his famous "Cogito ergo sum" wasn't a syllogism, simply because it had the word "therefore" in it. This becomes important because Hegel's critique could then be directed against the one-sidedness of Intuitionalists, for equating mind to mere consciousness, and that "what I discover in my consciousness is thus exaggerated into a fact of consciousness of all, and even passed off for the very nature of mind" (§ 71). That too is by no means the whole of the critique. What excited me most about this attitude to objectivity is the manner in which Hegel brings in Organisation. As early as § 63 Hegel had lashed out against Jacobi's faith, in contrast to Faith: "The two things are radically distinct. Firstly, the Christian faith comprises in it an authority of the Church; but the faith of Jacobi's philosophy has no other authority than that of personal revelation." As we see, Hegel now has suddenly equated Organisation to Principle, Doctrine: "And, secondly, the Christian faith is a copious body of objective truth, a system of knowledge and doctrine; while the scope of the philosophic faith is so utterly indefinite, that, while it has room for faith of the Christian, it equally admits belief in the divinity of the Dalai Lama, the ox, or the monkey...."
Hegel proceeds (§75): "And to show that in point of fact there is a knowledge which advances neither by unmixed immediacy nor unmixed mediation, we can point to the example of the Logic and the whole of philosophy."
In a word, we're back at the Dialectic and it's only after that (s76) that Hegel uses the word reactionary in relationship to the whole school of Jacobi, that is to the historic period, "The Recent German Philosophy." "Philosophy of course tolerates no mere assertions or conceits, and checks the free play of argumentative seesaw" (§ 77). Freedom and Revolution (which word I "borrowed" from Hegel's very first sentence on "The Recent German Philosophy") will hew out a new path. In this way I see the dialectic flow in the Third Attitude to Objectivity from a critique of the one-sidedness of the Intuitionalists to organisational responsibility.
The Shock of Recognition and the Philosophic Ambivalence of Lenin
Alias: Man's cognition not only reflects the objective world, but creates it. Lenin, Dec. 1914
The group of editors and contributors of the magazine Under the Banner of Marxism should, in my opinion, be a kind of "Society of Materialist Friends of Hegelian Dialectics." Lenin, 1922
The simultaneity of the outbreak of World War I and the German Social Democracy's voting war credits to the Kaiser's government took from Lenin the philosophic ground on which he had stood, and which he had thought so impregnable. August 4, 1914, had smashed to smithereens the concepts all tendencies in the Marxist movement had held in common.
Up to August 4 all had agreed that the material conditions laid the basis for the creation of a new social order, that the more advanced the material conditions, the better prepared would the proletariat be for taking over power from the bourgeoisie; and the larger the mass Party and the more mature its Marxist leadership, the surer would be the road to revolution. The material was the real and the explanation for the ideal. To believe anything else was philosophic idealism, bourgeois apologetics, clerical obscurantism.
After that date Marxist revolutionaries were faced with a shocking new development: the Marxist leaders were the ones responsible for the workers being set against each other rather than against their real enemy, world capitalism. Making the situation even worse was the fact that these leaders were recognised as such by the entire International, Bolsheviks included, and were the head of what was then the largest mass party, the German Social Democracy. Moreover, this took place in the most technologically advanced country at that time. Confronted with the inadequacy of all previous conceptions regarding the relationship between the material base and the level of consciousness, the subjective and the objective, the universal and the particular, Lenin was forced to search for a new philosophy. Had Hegel never existed, Lenin would have had to invent him, since the Hegelian dialectic was to provide Lenin with the basis for the reconstruction of his philosophical perspective. It was not that Lenin had any doubts concerning his opposition to any "indiscriminate unity" and would not abandon the most extreme and unequivocal of slogans: the defeat of one's own country is the lesser evil; turn the imperialist war into a civil war. (This position was in conflict, however, with that of other revolutionaries of the time who, being so overwhelmed by the collapse of the Second International, considered it necessary to limit the "struggle for peace" to one which would unite all the tendencies that had not betrayed revolutionary internationalism.) Thus, for Lenin, what was needed was not to pick up the pieces of what once was, but, rather, to separate entirely from the Second International, with the creation of a Third. The events of 1914 did not cast doubt on his Bolshevik politics and organisation; what was put into question was the old materialism, lacking the principle of the "transformation into its opposite," "the dialectic proper." This was what Lenin was to emphasise in the Hegelian dialectic.
While other revolutionaries ran around without reorganising their thinking, Lenin was eagerly looking for a new philosophical perspective. Thus, as soon as he reached Bern in September 1914, even with the war in full force, Lenin headed for the library to grapple with the works of Hegel, especially his Science of Logic. For so uncompromising a revolutionary as Lenin to spend his days in the Bern Library while the whole world "” including the Marxist movement "” was going to pieces must have indeed presented a strange and incomprehensible sight. Nevertheless, for an entire year Lenin studied Hegel's Logic. And just as his slogan "turn the imperialist war into a civil war" became the political Great Divide in Marxism, so his Abstract of Hegel's Logic became the philosophic foundation for all serious writing that Lenin was to do during the rest of his life: from Imperialism and State and Revolution on the eve of November 1917, through the works written during the Revolution, to his Will.
Intercommunication between the ages makes for an exciting happening when the mind of a revolutionary materialist activist-theoretician is pitted against the mind of a bourgeois idealist philosopher, as the latter, in his labours through 2000 years of Western thought, revealed the revolutionary dialectic. So let us go adventuring with Lenin as he encounters Hegel.
At first Lenin is very wary in his approach, forever reminding himself that he was reading Hegel "materialistically," and as such was "consigning God and the philosophic rabble that defends God to the rubbish heap." At the same time, however, he was hit with the shock of recognition that the Hegelian dialectic was revolutionary, and that Hegel's dialectic, in fact, preceded Marx's own "application" of it in the Communist Manifesto. "Who would believe," Lenin exclaimed,
that this [movement and self-movement] is the core of Hegelianism, of abstract and abstruse (difficult, absurd?) Hegelianism? ... The idea of universal movement and change (1813 Logic) was disclosed before its application to life and society. It was proclaimed in reference to society (1847) earlier than in relation to man (1859).
To grasp the full impact on Lenin of this reading of Hegel, we must keep in mind that Lenin did not know Marx's now famous 1844 Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts. As he read The Science of Logic, Lenin was thinking about Marx's Capital on the one hand and, on the other hand, his struggle with "vulgar materialism." Thus, even as he was arguing with Hegel and designating the section, Being-for-Self in the Doctrine of Being, as "dark waters," he continued to say:
The idea of the transformation of the ideal into the real is profound. Very important for history. But also in the personal life of man it is evident that there is much truth in this. Against vulgar materialism. NB. The difference of the ideal from the material is also not unconditional, not uberschwenglich.
It was this discovery of the relationship between the ideal and the material in Hegel which led Lenin to see that the revolutionary spirit in the dialectic was not superimposed upon Hegel by Marx, but was in Hegel. While reading the Doctrine of Being, he had already stressed the identity of and the transformation into opposites: "Dialectic is the doctrine of the identity of opposites "” how they can be and how they become "” under which conditions they become identical, transforming one into the other . . .". While analysing the Doctrine of Essence, the emphasis was first and foremost on the self-movement. As he continued with his comments on the Law of Contradiction, his stress was not so much on the identity of opposites as on the transition from one to the other and the sharpening of the contradiction on the one hand and, on the other hand, such comprehensive knowledge of totality that even causality, that bugbear of "neo-empiricism," becomes but a "moment" of the whole:
Cause and effect, ergo, only moments of every kind of interdependence, connection (of the universal), the concatenation of events are only links in the chain of the development of matter.
NB. All-sidedness and all-embracing character of world connection are only one-sidedly, desultorily and incompletely expressed by causality.
In the final section on Essence Lenin broke with the kind of materialism and inconsistent empiricism that overstressed science and the category of causality to explain the relationship of mind and matter, even as "iron economic laws" and "essence" had constantly been contrasted to "appearance" as if thereby the totality of a problem had been exhausted. What became crucial for Lenin now was the Hegelian concept of "moments," or intrinsic as well as external stages in the process of knowledge and history:
The essence is that both the world of appearance and the world which is in itself are essentially moments of the knowledge of nature by man, steps, changes in (or deepening of) knowledge.
Lenin also kept up a running argument with himself. Clearly, the activist, the Party man, the materialist was undergoing "absolute negativity" as he drew to a conclusion his new appreciation of the dialectic. At the same time as he mercilessly criticised Hegel's "mysticism and empty pedantry," he also tirelessly stressed the profundity of the dialectic, "the idea of genius." By reliving the shock of recognition Lenin experienced in finding the revolutionary dialectic in Hegel, we become witness to the transfusion of the lifeblood of the dialectic "” the transformation of reality as well as of thought. By the time Lenin reached the Doctrine of the Notion "” and it is here that he broke with his own philosophic past "” Lenin underscored the materialist elements present in Hegel:
When Hegel tries "” sometimes even strains himself and worries to death "” to subsume the purposeful activity of man under the categories of logic, saying that this activity is the "syllogism," that the subject plays the role of some sort of "member" in the logical "figure" of the syllogism, etc., then this is not only a strain, not only a game. There is here a very deep content, purely materialistic. It is necessary to turn this around: The practical activity of man, repeated billions of times, must lead the consciousness of man to the repetition of the various logical figures in order that these can achieve the significance of an axiom. This nota bene.
Lenin's Abstract of Hegel's Science of Logic reveals a mind in action, arguing with itself as well as with Hegel, advising himself "to return to" Hegel, "to work out" ideas, history, science, Marx's Capital, current theories, and leaping into the Notion which he translated as "NB. Freedom = subjectivity ('or') goal, consciousness, striving NB." Precisely because of this, the Abstract is an exciting experience also for his readers.
So strong is the illumination cast on the relationship of philosophy to revolution in Lenin's day that the challenges of our day also become translucent, exposing the ossification of philosophy, the stifling of the dialectics of liberation. It is for this that the Russian philosophers will not forgive Lenin. Hence, they have continued unabated their underhanded criticism of Lenin's Philosophic Notebooks, even on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth, by blurring the distinction, nay, Lenin's totally new departure
in philosophy in 1914 from the vulgarly materialistic photocopy theory he had elaborated in his 1908 publication, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, toward an exaltation of the self-development of thought. Where Lenin writes, "Alias: Man's cognition not only reflects the objective world, but creates it", Academician B. M. Kedrov, Director of the Institute of History of Science and Technology, reduces Lenin's new appreciation of "idealism" to philistine talk of semantics:
What is fundamental here is the word "alias," meaning otherwise or in other words, followed by a colon. This can only mean one thing, a paraphrase of the preceding note on Hegel's views.... If the meaning of the word "alias" and the colon following it are considered, it will doubtless become clear that in that phrase Lenin merely set forth, briefly, the view of another, not his own.
Professor Kedrov's zeal to deny that Lenin's 1914 Philosophic Notebooks "are in fundamental contravention of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism" has led him to such cheap reductionism that there is nothing left for him to do "in defence" of Lenin but to attribute to him his (Kedrov's) philistinism: "Lenin categorically rejects and acidly ridicules the slightest slip by Hegel in the direction of ascribing to an idea, to a thought, to consciousness the ability to create the world." With this single stroke Kedrov deludes himself into believing that he has closed the new philosophic frontiers Lenin had opened.
Being the genius of the concrete that he was, however, Lenin himself pinpointed the precise place where the new philosophic frontiers opened themselves for him. On January 5, 1915, with the World War on full blast, he wrote to the Granat Encyclopaedia (for which he had written the essay "Karl Marx"), asking whether it was still possible to make "certain corrections in the section on dialectics.... I have been studying this question of dialectics for the last month and a half, and I could add something to it if there was time...." Lenin had begun his Abstract of Hegel's Science of Logic in September 1914. The essay is dated July-November 1914. The Abstract was not completed until December 17, 1914. As his letter to Granat shows, he felt dissatisfied with his analysis of the dialectic. In her Memoirs Krupskaya notes that Lenin continued with his study of Hegel after completing the essay on Marx. But the best witness of just when he felt he had made the breakthrough is Lenin himself, not only in letters, but in the Abstract itself.
No sooner had Lenin designated the first section on the Notion by saying, "these parts of the work should be called: a best means of getting a headache," than he also emphasised the following: "NB. Hegel's analysis of the Syllogism (I-P-U, individual, particular, universal, P-I-U, etc.) is reminiscent of Marx's imitation of Hegel in Chapter I". Lenin proceeds with his comments on the close relationship between Marx's Capital and Hegel's Logic:
If Marx did not leave a Logic (with a capital letter), he left the logic of Capital, and this should be especially utilised on the given question. In Capital, the logic, dialectic and theory of knowledge of materialism (3 words are not necessary: they are one and the same) are applied to one science, taking all that is valuable in Hegel and moving it forward. (Volume 38 LCW p. 353)
Long before he arrives at that conclusion, Lenin feels the need to separate himself, first from Plekhanov, and suddenly even from his own philosophic past. Three aphorisms quickly follow one another:
(1) Plekhanov criticises Kantianism (and agnosticism in general) more from the vulgar materialistic than the dialectic materialistic point of view.... (2) At the beginning of the 20th century Marxists criticised the Kantians and Humists more in Feuerbachian (and Buchnerian), than in an Hegelian manner.
It is impossible fully to grasp Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, if you have not studied through and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, none of the Marxists for the past half century have understood Marx!! (p. 340)
The epigones who deny that Lenin was also thinking of himself must explain what Lenin meant by the additional remark alongside the first two aphorisms, i.e., "Concerning the question of the criticism of modern Kantianism, Machism, etc.?" Was it not his own Materialism and Empirio-Criticism which dealt so extensively with "Machism"? The point is not, of course, simply to mention names for their own sake, much less to investigate whether the aphorisms contain exaggerations. No one had written more profoundly than Lenin on Marx's Capital, especially on Volume II, and Lenin certainly did not mean that all students of Capital must first labor through the two volumes of The Science of Logic. What was crucial was Lenin's break with old concepts, which is nowhere more sharply expressed than in his commentary that "Cognition not only reflects the world, but creates it." Because that shows just how far Lenin has travelled from the photocopy theory of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Academician Kedrov went into his philistine reductionism. Unfortunately, "the West's" built-in deafness to Lenin's break with his philosophic past "” where cognition was assigned no other role than "reflecting" the objective, the material "” has produced an intellectual incapacity to cope with Communist emasculation of Lenin's philosophic legacy.
Lenin had not, of course, diverted either from Marxist materialist roots or from his revolutionary views on class consciousness. Rather, Lenin had gained from Hegel a totally new understanding of the unity of materialism and idealism. It was this new understanding that subsequently permeated Lenin's post-1915 writings in philosophy, politics, economics, and organisation. Always stressing the concrete, Lenin interpreted Hegel's remark about the "non-actuality of the world" to mean: "The world does not satisfy man, and man decides to change it by his activity."
As we see, Lenin had not soared into abstraction in gaining a new appreciation of idealism. It is simply that in this new understanding of Hegel, the notion of the Absolute Idea has lost its sinister connotations. This is due neither to Lenin's conversion from a revolutionary materialist to a "bourgeois idealist," nor to any acceptance of a Hegelian concept of God or some self-unfolding "World Spirit." Rather, Lenin saw that although Hegel dealt only with thought-entities, the movement of "pure thought" does not just "reflect" reality. The dialectic of both is a process and the Absolute is "absolute negativity." Lenin's grasp of the second negation, which Hegel called "the turning point," led Lenin to question Hegel's diversion to the numbers game, i.e., whether the dialectic is a "triplicity" or "quadruplicity," with the resulting contrast of "simple" and "absolute." Lenin commented: "The difference is not clear to me; is not the absolute equivalent to the more concrete?" thus interpreting both absolute and relative as developmental "moments."
When Lenin finished reading The Science of Logic, he was no longer disturbed by the notion of the Absolute Idea's "going to nature." Instead, he claimed that, in so doing, Hegel "stretches a hand to materialism." He writes:
It is noteworthy that the whole chapter on the "Absolute Idea" scarcely says a word about God (hardly ever had a "divine" "Notion" slipped out accidentally) and apart from that "” this NB. "” it contains almost nothing that is specifically idealism, but has for its main subject the dialectical method.... And one thing more: in this most idealistic of Hegel's works there is the least idealism and the most materialism. "Contradictory," but a fact!
Lenin did not feel the kind of excitement that he had experienced in reading the Logic when he turned to Hegel's History of Philosophy. But it is in this stage that he completed the break with Plekhanov:
NB. Work out: Plekhanov probably wrote nearly 1,000 pages (Beltov + against Bogdanov + against Kantians + basic questions, etc., etc. on philosophy [dialectic]). There is in them nil about the Larger Logic, its thoughts (i.e., dialectic proper, as a philosophic science) nil!! (LCW Vol 38, p. 354)
Lenin had not, of course, come with a blank mind to the study of The Science of Logic. Naturally his aphorism about none being able to understand the first chapter of Capital who had not understood the whole of the Logic is not to be taken literally.
Of course, even when he was a philosophical follower of Plekhanov, who never understood "the dialectic proper," he was a practicing dialectician. Of course, the actual contradictions in Tsarist Russia prepared him for all these new conceptions of the dialectic. What was new was the scope, the universality, the internationalism. This time he was concerned not only with Russia, but with all the international problems of imperialism, and with the selfdetermination of nations on a world scale, and above all, the dialectic as transformation into opposite, the significance of the relation of philosophy to revolution. As a matter of fact, when he first insisted that the transformation of the ideal into the real was "profound, very important for history," Lenin was still in the Doctrine of Being. But where to all Marxists, including Engels, Being meant commodity exchange, to Lenin it meant not letting mechanical materialism erect impassable barriers between ideal and real. Not that we need fear that in Lenin's new evaluation of idealism there is either "sheer Hegelianism" or Maoist voluntarism. The reader's adventuring comes from having become witness to Lenin's mind in action, which saw ever new aspects of the dialectic, at every level, be it in Being or Essence. Indeed, in the latter sphere, it was not the contrast of Essence to Appearance that he exalted but, as we saw, self-movement, self-activity, self-development. It was not so much essence versus appearance as it was that the one and the other are "moments" (the emphasis is Lenin's) of a totality.
Lenin had not stopped at Essence, not because he was "smarter" than Engels, but because he lived in a totally different historic period. Because the betrayal of socialism came from within the socialist movement, the dialectical principle of transformation into opposite, the discernment of the counter-revolution within the revolution became pivotal; the uniqueness of dialectics as self-movement, self-activity, self-development was that it had to be "applied" not only against betrayers and reformists, but also in criticism of revolutionaries who would look at the subjective and objective as two separate worlds. And because "absolute negativity" goes hand in hand with the dialectical movement of the transformation into opposite, it is the greatest threat to any existing society. It is this, just this, which accounts for Russian theoreticians' attempts to mummify rather than develop Lenin on the dialectic.
As against the Russian theoreticians' vulgar materialism, so great is Lenin's new appreciation of dialectics that even his references to "clerical obscurantism," a "sterile flower," are expanded to mean "a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge."
The last quotation was from Lenin's only article specifically on the dialectic, as against Lenin's comments in the margins of the quotations from Hegel. Though likewise not prepared for publication, "On Dialectics" at least has never been treated as mere "jottings." It is the last word we have from Lenin's strictly philosophic commentary of the crucial 1914-15 period. Lenin had not prepared his Philosophic Notebooks for publication, and in this resided his philosophic ambivalence. Because Lenin seemed simply to have continued with his economic studies, political theses, organisational work, and because the factional polemics continued unabated, Lenin's heirs were not prepared for the imperative of facing a most confusing, totally contradictory double vision: on the one hand the known vulgarly materialistic Materialism and Empirio-Criticism; on the other hand endless references to dialectics "” the dialectic of history, the dialectic of revolution, the dialectic of self-determination covering the National Question and world revolution, the dialectic relationship of theory to practice and vice versa, and even the dialectic of Bolshevik leadership to theory, to the self-activity of the masses, especially as directed against imperialism. It may be asked, How could anyone conceive that the "philosophic naturalist," who for a long period accepted even "Machists" into the Bolsheviks just so long as they accepted "Bolshevik discipline," would now be under the spell of what he called "the dialectic proper," that this, just this, would become Lenin's underlying philosophy?
But the greater truth is that Lenin was fighting not only the betrayers, but also Menshevik internationalists and Rosa Luxemburg and "the Dutch" (Pannekoek, Roland-Holst, Gorter) and the Bolsheviks abroad. And he had to do it on a subject upon which the Bolsheviks previously had agreed "in principle" "” self-determination of nations. Furthermore, it had begun with the economic subject of imperialism, and he had just appended his signature to the Introduction of Bukharin's work on the subject. Why did he then embark on his own study? It is ironic indeed that the very philosophers who try to confine Lenin to "economics," "the philosopher of the concrete," do not bother at all to grapple with the Leninist methodology of these "concretes," Imperialism, Self-Determination of Nations. It is to these subjects we must tum also to illuminate the new dialectic appreciation of Marx's Capital, not just as economics, but as logic "” defining the work now as, "The history of capitalism and the analysis of the notions summing it up" (p. 353).
Empiricists who have no method are incapable of recognising method in others. To this day they consider all the "Marxist" economic analyses of imperialism so similar that they deem the dispute on national selfdetermination that was going on during the same period as "only political." In truth, the very first thing that Lenin's Notebooks on Imperialism (begun directly after completion of his Philosophic Notebooks) discloses is that it is by no means limited to the economic study of the latest phase of capitalist development, but includes also the outline of articles on the war itself, on the National Question "” and on "Marxism and the State," which later became State and Revolution.
Even when one looks only at the "strictly economic" as published by itself in 1916 "” Imperialism, A Popular Outline "” the methodologies of Lenin's and Bukharin's works show that they are poles apart. Thus, as opposed to Bukharin's concept of capitalist growth in a straight line, or via a quantitative ratio, Lenin's own work holds on tightly to the dialectical principle, "transformation into opposite." The key point in tracing the subject's self-development instead of an "objective" mathematical growth is that you thus see the simultaneity of the transformation into opposite, of competitive capitalism into monopoly, and part of labor into an "aristocracy of labor." Above all, you become conscious that this is but the "first negative." The development through this contradiction compels finding the "second negative," or as Marx expressed it, going "lower and deeper" into the masses to find the new revolutionary strata.
Thus, Lenin held that just when capitalism had reached this high stage of "organisation," monopoly (which extended itself into imperialism), was the time to see new, national revolutionary forces that would act as "bacilli" for proletarian revolutions as well. Where Lenin saw in the stage of imperialism a new urgency for the slogan of national selfdetermination, Bukharin vehemently opposed the slogan as both "impossible of achievement" and "reactionary." Nothing short of a direct road to socialist revolution would do for him. This plunge to abstract revolutionism in place of working with the concretely developing revolutionary forces, which Hegel would have considered a manifestation of jumping to the "absolute like a shot out of a pistol," and which politicos called "ultra-leftism," Lenin called nothing short of "imperialist economism."
On the surface that designation sounds absolutely fantastic since it is directed against a Bolshevik co-leader. Since, however, Lenin continued to use it against Bukharin and against all revolutionaries, including "the Dutch" (whom he in the same breath characterised as the "best revolutionary and most internationalist element of international Social Democracy"), we must here probe deeper into the dispute.
Long before Lenin's final battle with Stalin, whom he accused of "Great Russian Chauvinism" and for whose removal he asked from the post of General Secretary, Lenin became uncompromising in his struggles with Bolsheviks. His point was that the right of self-determination was not only a "principle" (to which all Bolsheviks agreed), but "the dialectic of history," a force of revolution which would be the catalyst for socialism:
The dialectics of history is such that small nations, powerless as an independent factor in the struggle against imperialism, play a part as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real power against imperialism to come on the scene, namely, the socialist proletariat. (LCW Vol 19, p303)
That little word, dialectic, kept springing up also because Lenin recognised an old enemy, "Economism," which never understood the mass revolutionary struggle. All revolutionaries had fought Economism when it first appeared in Russia in 1902. It had then been easy to recognise as the enemy because the Economists openly tried to circumscribe the activities of workers, limiting these to economic battles, on the ground that since capitalism was "inevitable," "therefore" political battles were to be left to the liberal bourgeoisie. But here they were in 1914, in an imperialist war, and revolutionaries were rejecting the national struggles of colonial and oppressed peoples on the ground that selfdetermination was "impossible" of achievement and "therefore," as Bukharin put it, "utopian and reactionary," and would only "divert" from the struggle for "world revolution."
This super-internationalism, as far as Lenin was concerned, only proved that the World War had "suppressed reason," blinding even revolutionaries to the fact that "All national oppression calls for the resistance of the broad masses of people...." Not even the great Irish Rebellion changed the abstract revolutionism of these internationalists who were busy looking at "imperialist economy" instead of the self-mobilisation of masses. Lenin fought them, branded their thinking as "imperialist economism," not because they were not "for" revolution, but because they were so undialectical that they did not see that out of the very throes of imperialist oppression a new revolutionary force was born which would act as a catalyst for proletarian revolution.
Dialectics, that "algebra of revolution," has been on many great adventures since Hegel created it out of the action of the French masses and thereby revolutionised metaphysics. What had been, in Hegel, a revolution in philosophy, became, with Marx, a philosophy of revolution, a totally new theory of liberation "” the proletarian revolutions of 1848 culminating in the Paris Commune of 1871. Lenin's rediscovery of dialectics, of self-activity, of Subject versus Substance at the very moment of the collapse of the Second International, simultaneously disclosed the appearance of counterrevolution from within the Marxist movements and the new forces of revolution in the national movements. Moreover, these new forces were present not only in Europe, but throughout the world as well. What Lenin's economic study of imperialism revealed was that capitalism had gorged itself on more than a half billion people in Africa and Asia. This was to become a totally new theoretic departure after the Bolshevik conquest of power, expressed as the Thesis on the National and Colonial Question presented to the Third International in 1920. Even while the holocaust was most intense and Lenin stood alone, he refused to retreat an inch to abstract internationalism. The outbreak of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, while proletarians were still slaughtering each other, showed the correctness of his position on the self-determination of nations.
In 1914-15 Lenin turned to the study of Hegel, the "bourgeois idealist philosopher." Whatever the reason, it certainly was not in order to discover the driving forces of revolution. Yet Hegelian dialectics was more useful in making sense out of the action of the masses' taking fate into their own hands in Ireland in 1916 than the debates on the National Question with his Bolshevik colleagues.
In 1917 the opposition to national self-determination should have ended. In fact, it only took on a new form. This time Bukharin contended that it was no longer possible to admit the right of self-determination since Russia was now a workers' state, whereas nationalism meant bourgeois and proletarian together, and "therefore" a step backward. In his admission that in some cases he would be for it, he listed the "Hottentots, the Bushmen, and the Indians." To which Lenin replied:
Hearing this enumeration I thought, how is it that Comrade Bukharin had forgotten a small trifle, the Bashkirs? There are no Bushmen in Russia, nor have I heard that the Hottentots have laid claim to an autonomous republic, but we have Bashkirs, Kirghiz.... We cannot deny it to a single one of the peoples living within the boundaries of the former Russian Empire.
Bukharin, for whom all the questions from "selfdetermination of nations" to state-capitalism were "theoretical" questions, may not have suffered from Russian chauvinism. But he created the theoretical premises for Stalin, who did turn the wheels of history straight back to capitalism. At the last moment "” too late as it turned out "” Lenin broke totally with Stalin and, theoretically, refused to depart in his debates with Bukharin from that single word, dialectic, as the relationship of subject to object, dialectics as the movement from abstract to concrete. In place of the mechanistic bifurcation of subject and object, Lenin joined the two in a new concrete universal "” TO A MAN.
Abstract revolutionism was the methodological enemy. Bukharin's theory of state-capitalism, the obverse of his theory of economic development under a workers' state, is that of a continuous development, a straight line leading from "unorganised" competitive capitalism to "organised" state-capitalism. On a world scale it remains "anarchic," subject to the "blind laws of the world market." Anarchy is "supplemented by antagonistic classes." Only the proletariat, by seizing political power, can extend "organised production" to the whole world. The fact that Bukharin believes in social revolution does not, however, seem to stop him from dealing with labor, not as subject, but as object.
It is necessary to take a second look at what Lenin called "dialectic proper" in order to sense the divergences between the two Bolshevik co-leaders which would lead Lenin to write in his Will that Bukharin had never understood the dialectic. Were we even to limit ourselves to a merely quantitative measurement of Lenin's notes on the three books of The Science of Logic, there would be no mistaking that the crucial concept in Lenin's new grasp of the dialectic was anchored in its development in the Notion: seventy-one pages of Lenin's Abstract of Hegel's Science of Logic are devoted to the Doctrine of the Notion, as against thirteen pages on the Prefaces and Introduction, twenty-two pages on the Doctrine of Being, and thirty-five pages on the Doctrine of Essence. Moreover, it is in Notion that he broke also with his own philosophic past, as he burst forth into aphorisms, against not only Plekhanov but all "Marxists" who, for the past half century, wrote Lenin, had analysed Capital without having first studied The Science of Logic in its entirety. What now became decisive for the whole, for the separate books, for the individual categories, was the concept of second negativity, which Hegel had defined as "the turning point of the movement of the Notion." Here Lenin noted that not only was that the "kernel of dialectics," it was also "the criterion of truth (the unity of the concept and reality)."
Hegel's conclusion that "the transcendence of the opposition between the Notion and Reality and that unity which is the truth, rest upon this subjectivity alone," had become, for Lenin, the pivot around which all else revolved. Put differently, by the time Lenin was reaching the end of The Science of Logic, far from fearing subjectivity as if that meant, and could only mean, petty-bourgeois subjectivism or idealism, he now wrote: "this NB.: The richest is the most concrete and most subjective."
As we saw when he was on the threshold of the Doctrine of Notion, he was delighted with Hegel's definition of it as "the realm of Subjectivity or of Freedom," which Lenin rephrased as "NB. Freedom = Subjectivity ('or') End, Consciousness, Endeavour NB." In a word, there was no further doubt in his mind that it was not the category of Causality that would illuminate the relationship of mind and matter. Instead, Freedom, Subjectivity, Notion ("or" free creative power, selfdetermination of nations, self-activity of masses, the self-thinking Idea, i.e., continuous revolution) were the categories by which one gained knowledge of the real world and therewith proved also the objectivity of cognition. Thus, at the end of Section Two, on Objectivity, Lenin called attention to "the germs of historical materialism in Hegel," "Hegel and historical materialism," "the categories of logic and human practice." By the time he reached Section Three, The Idea, Lenin wrote with abandonment, as if cognition were the "creator" of the world, not because he was subject to any such fantasies, but because he was experiencing the exhilaration of a new shock of recognition that the real history of humanity is being worked out in the Doctrine of the Notion. Having put an equals sign between Notion and man "” "The notion (= man)" "” Lenin interrupted the quotation he was copying from Hegel to call attention to the fact that Hegel himself had used "subject" in place of Notion: "But the self-certainty which the subject [here suddenly instead of Notion] has in the fact of its determinateness in and for itself, is a certainty of its own actuality and the non-actuality of the world...." which Lenin translates as "i.e., that the world does not satisfy man and man decides to change it by his activity."
Lenin related the central categories of the Notion "” Universal, Particular, Individual "” to the methodology of Marx in Capital, "especially Chapter I." Lenin's whole point was that, as against the quantitative Measure in the Doctrine of Being and actual (i.e., class) Contradiction in Essence, what we need to hold tight to in the Doctrine of Notion is development as absolute mediation of Universal and Particular.
That is, we need to be undaunted in the fight for selfdetermination when capitalism has become imperialism; for the destruction of the state machine when the bourgeois state has reached its highest form of organisation in the state organisation of the economy. Above all, we need a new concrete universal that is at one with individual freedom when the elemental outburst of revolution overflows the historic stage.
Though the theoretical preparation for revolution seemed clear from the political works that followed his unpublished Philosophic Notebooks, the disputes among Bolsheviks revealed that, in truth, none of the underlying philosophy was understood. With his stress on dialectics, Lenin kept trying to make clear his conviction that theoreticians must bring dialectics to the masses. Once the masses, instead of just some select philosophers, grasped the dialectic, the unity of theory and practice would be achieved, not alone in cognition (Absolute Idea), but as Marx had spelled it out, "the development of human power which is its own end," and as Lenin concreted it, production and the state must be run by the population "to a man." Hence the insistence that the Editorial Board of Under the Banner of Marxism consider themselves "Materialist Friends of the Hegelian Dialectic" and publish quotations directly from Hegel. We shall see, in returning to the theoretic disputes with Bukharin, that Lenin felt compelled to bring that little word, dialectics, even into his Will. Tugging at him as he lay dying was the reality of what he designated the Communists' "passion for bossing" and "Communities" (Communist lies).
Despite the fact that Bukharin played no small role in the revolution, his concept of revolution was so abstract that all human activity was subsumed under it. Thus he was inescapably driven to preclude self-movement, which was precisely why labor remained an object to him. As an object, the highest attribute Bukharin could think of assigning labor was its becoming an "aggregate." People were referred to as "human machines."
That a revolutionary intellectual had become so entrapped in the fundamental alienation of philosophers in a class society, identifying men with things, was a phenomenon that lay heavy on Lenin's mind as he wrote his Will. So completely did Lenin disagree with Bukharin's method of presentation that even when he agreed with the specific points, he felt it necessary to criticise them. Thus, there was certainly no disagreement about the major achievement of the Russian Revolution "” the destruction of bourgeois production relations. But when Bukharin tried to make an abstraction of it by trying to subsume production relations under "technical relations," it became obvious to Lenin that Bukharin simply had failed to understand the dialectic. Therefore, when he quoted Bukharin's Economics of the transition Period to the effect that "once the destruction of capitalist production relations is really given, and once the theoretical impossibility of their restoration is proven . . . ," Lenin replied with " 'Impossibility' is demonstrable only practically. The author does not pose dialectically the relationship of theory to practice."
The most difficult relationship to work out once state power has been gained is precisely this relationship of theory to practice, for it was not only on the National Question but especially in relation to the working masses that a gulf opened between the Bolsheviks in power and the working people. And the party was surely to degenerate: "to think that we shall not be thrown back is utopian." What Lenin feared most was that the sudden "passion for bossing" would take command. Unless they practice the new concrete universal, "to a man," they will be doomed:
Every citizen to a man must act as a judge and participate in the government of the country. And what is important to us is to enlist all the toilers to a man in the government of the state. That is a tremendously difficult task. But socialism cannot be introduced by a minority, a party.
This is not the place to analyse the actual objective transformation of the workers' state into its opposite, a state-capitalist society, or Stalin's usurpation of power. Of all of Stalin's "theoretical" revisions, what is relevant to our subject is his perverse concept of partiinost ("partyness") in philosophy, which he and his heirs attributed to Lenin. Fortunately, there exists a most comprehensive and scholarly work on the relationship of Soviet philosophy to science which explodes the Communist and the Western ideologist myth of "partyness in philosophy" in Lenin:
In order to achieve this interpretation one must also disregard the fact that the original sources, including Materialism and Empirio-Criticism itself, never suggest what [Bertram] Wolfe and the Soviet scholars attribute to Lenin. The sources show that he had a political aim in writing that book, but it was not to join the philosophical and political issues that Russian Marxists were arguing about; it was to separate them....
There is not a trace of partyness in the Philosophic Notebooks, not even the old concept of "the party of idealism" or the "party of materialism." What we are concerned with is not the monstrous myth of partyness in philosophy, but rather, the duality of the philosophical heritage. Far from publicly proclaiming his philosophic repudiation of Plekhanov, or his break with his own philosophic past, Lenin advised Soviet youth to study "everything Plekhanov wrote on Philosophy . . ." and he reprinted his own Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. We need not bother here with simplistic explanations of these actions such as the one offered by an ex-Old Bolshevik when he wrote: "And yet Lenin did not have the courage to say openly that he had thrown out, as useless, some very substantial parts of his philosophy of 1908." The reason for the "privacy" of his Philosophic Notebooks is at once more simple and more complex, and has nothing to do with an alleged lack of courage. The tragedy lies elsewhere, deep in the recesses of time, revolution, and counter-revolution. Too short were the years between 1914 and 1917, between 1917 and 1923. Too daring was the November Revolution in Russia, and too many the aborted and missed revolutions elsewhere. Too overwhelming were the concrete problems of this great historic event, objective and subjective, including what Lenin called cultural backwardness. The pull, therefore, was for "stage-ifying." When to study what? First one read Plekhanov, then Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Lenin himself, however, continued his Hegelian reading even at the height of the famine. He was so moved by Ilyin's book on Hegel that, though the author was both religious and an enemy of the Soviet state, Lenin intervened to get him out of jail.
The duality in Lenin's philosophical heritage is unmistakable. But how can that excuse the failure to grapple with the Philosophic Notebooks on the ground that they are mere "jottings," "had never been intended for publication," and therefore it would be no more than "idle speculation" to conclude that Lenin wished to follow one road rather than another? No one can explain away the truth that where Plekhanov's concentration on materialism led him to the materialists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Lenin's "jottings for himself' led him to concentrate on dialectics, Hegelian dialectics, for all Marxists. It is impossible to explain away the clear public tasks he set for the editors of the newly established philosophic organ, Pod Znamenem Marxizma (Under the Banner of Marxism), to work out a "solid philosophical ground" which he spelled out as
(1) The systematic study of Hegelian dialectic from a materialist standpoint, i.e., the dialectic which Marx applied practically in his Capital and in his historical and political works. (2) Taking as our basis Marx's method of applying the Hegelian dialectic materialistically conceived, we can and should treat his dialectic from all sides, print excerpts from Hegel's principal works.... (3) The group of editors and contributors of the magazine Under the Banner of Marxism should, in my opinion, be a kind of "Society of Materialist Friends of Hegelian Dialectics."
This was 1922, the year of his most intense intellectual activity, which stretched into the first months of 1923 and the last of his great battles against the top leadership. Most of all, it was against Stalin's brutal, rude, and disloyal acts, mainly against the Georgians, that is, once again on the National Question "” "scratch a Communist and you will find a Great Russian chauvinist." Not accidentally, Bukharin held the same position on the National Question.
As Lenin lay writhing in agony "” not just physical agony, but agony over the early bureaucratisation of the workers' state and its tendency to "move backwards to capitalism" "” he took the measure of his co-leaders in his Will. What is relevant here is what he says of Bukharin:
Bukharin is not only the most valuable and biggest theoretician of the party, but also may legitimately be considered the favorite of the whole party; but his theoretical views can only with the very greatest doubt be regarded as fully Marxian, for there is something scholastic in him. (He has never learned, and I think never fully understood, the dialectic.)
Clearly, "understanding the dialectic" had become the pons asini for Lenin. It was not an abstraction when it was used to describe the chief theoretician of the party. Clearly, "not understanding the dialectic" had become crucial. As the head of the first workers' state in history, witnessing the emergence of bureaucratisation and national chauvinism, of Bolshevism and non-Bolshevism being so permeated with an administrative mentality as to call for the statification of the trade unions, and the chief theoretician's views being non-dialectic and therefore not "fully Marxian," Lenin saw all these traits developing and creating problems because, in their totality, they tended to stifle rather than release the creative powers of the masses. Nothing short of sensing this danger would have prompted Lenin to take such sharp measure of those who led the greatest proletarian revolution in history.
It is the nature of truth, said Hegel, to force its way up when its "time has come." He should have added, "even if only in a murky form." But then he could not have known how much a state-capitalist age can excrete to make it impossible to see the truth even when it surfaces. No conspiracy was needed between "East" and "West" to keep Lenin's Philosophic Notebooks out of the reach of the masses "” and then work to make it "beyond" their understanding. It is in the nature of the administrative mentality of our state-capitalist automated age to consider Hegelian philosophy to be the private preserve of those "in the know" while letting it remain "gibberish" to the uninitiated. And although in the "East" they bow before the founder of their state and in the "West" sneer at Lenin's non-professional status as a philosopher, both poles find it convenient to keep apart what history has joined together "” Hegel and Marx, Hegel and Lenin. With the death of Lenin, there waited in the wings that terrible twin trap: at one end a theoretic void, which Leaders stood ready to fill with Alternatives, and at the other end a new statist lifeline of capitalism.
Raya Dunayevskaya, 1973
Philosophy & Revolution
Outsider Looking In
It will always remain a matter for astonishment how the Kantian philosophy knew that relation of thought to sensuous existence, where it halted, for a merely relative relation of bare appearance, and fully acknowledged and asserted a higher unity of the two in the Idea in general, and, particularly, in the idea of an intuitive understanding; but yet stopped dead at this relative relation and at the assertion that the Notion is and remains utterly separated from reality; so that it affirmed as true what it pronounced to be finite knowledge, and declared to be superfluous and improper figments of thought that which it recognised as truth, and of which it established the definite notion. Hegel
It is of course easy to imagine a powerful, physically superior person, who first captures animals and then captures men in order to make them catch animals for him; in brief, one who uses man as a naturally occurring condition for his reproduction like any other living natural thing; his own labour being exhausted in the act of domination. But such a view is stupid, though it may be correct from the point of view of a given tribal or communal entity; for it takes the isolated man as its starting point. But man in only individualised through the process of history. Marx
Twice since the end of World War II Sartre appeared as so totally a new phenomenon as to attract a large "mass" following; the Left intellectuals surely followed him. But, whereas in the mid-1940s in West Europe it was for originating a new philosophy, Existentialism, in the mid-1950s in East Europe it was for trying to find the "missing link" in Marxism.
Sartre founded French Existentialism in so original a form that his name became synonymous with it. No matter how intense his political flirtations with the Communist Party were, none doubted the originality of Sartre's Existentialism, born to meet "extreme situations," the concrete "human reality" in opposition to Marxist "materialism" and "determinism." For him to have declared in 1957, in the essay "Existentialism and Marxism," that Marxism was "the one philosophy of our times which we cannot go beyond," was startling news, made irreversible by 1960. And his declaration was incorporated into his magnum opus, Critique de la raison dialectique. Sartre's self-inflicted reductionism of Existentialism to the role of a "parasite" on the all-embracing Marxian philosophy seemed to complete his conversion to Marxism. This was most succinctly expressed by Simone de Beauvoir when she wrote: "He had been converted to the dialectic method and was attempting to reconcile it with his basic Existentialism." Which is exactly why Sartre not only retitled as Question de methode his long essay Existentialism and Marxism, but also wrote in a prefatory note that "logically" this introduction to the Critique really belonged at the end, as its conclusion. As a philosopher Sartre was acutely aware that methodology is the most concentrated expression of theory, a result of a complex interaction of the spirit of the times, class base, theoretical analysis, practical activity, including a struggle with rival theories, rival praxis, rival methodologies. To use an expression most favoured by Sartre, it is a "totalisation."
The huge (755-page) tome, Critique de la raison dialectique (precede de question de methode), comprises but the first volume of Sartre's new philosophic work. A second volume has not been completed. That which is relevant to the subject of Alternatives with which we are dealing "” Question de methode "” is, however, complete in itself. Periods of philosophic creation are so rare, says Sartre, that
Between the seventeenth century and the twentieth, I see three periods, which I would designate by the names of the men who dominated them: there is the "moment" of Descartes and Locke, that of Kant and Hegel, finally that of Marx. These three philosophies become, each in its turn, the humus of every particular thought and the horizon of all culture; there is no going beyond them so long as man has not gone beyond the historical moment which they express. (p. 7)
In contrast to these great periods of creation, there are the ideologues who tend the gardens. As against Marxism, which is "the humus of every particular thought," there is Existentialism, "a parasitic system which lives on the margins of the real science" (p. 21). Sartre is merciless in tracing the origins of Existentialism to Kierkegaard and in facing the reason for the reappearance of "the Dane" in the twentieth century at a time "when people will take it into their heads to fight against Marxism by opposing to it pluralisms, ambiguities, paradoxes. . ." (p. 15). Sartre does not flinch from using himself as an example of Marx's dictum that the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. Indeed, he goes so far as to say that what the students of his day did to oppose "the sweet dreams of our professors" was to become proponents of "violence": "It was a wretched violence (insults, brawls, suicides, murders, irreparable catastrophes) which risked leading us to fascism . . ." (p. 20).
Sartre takes considerable time out to show how "Marxism, after drawing us to it as the moon draws the tides . . . abruptly left us stranded, Marxism stopped" (p. 21). This reference to Marxism is supposed to be to "today's Marxists," "lazy Marxism," in which loose category are included not only Communists but Trotskyists and independent Marxists.
Many instances are recounted against these "dogmatists" who fail to see the particular individual, the concrete event, the singular experience, the new; in a word, human reality. Clearly, the outsider looking in wants to be in.
The original essay was addressed to an East European audience (it was written for the Polish journal Tworczosc). The new Sartre's goal exceeds Existentialism's "gala years," for now the thrust to unite philosophy and revolution stops being mere rhetoric. It is true that in the immediate postwar years in France too, masses were in motion, revolution was in the air, intellectuals were "committed" "” and surely none contributed more toward the new climate than did Sartre. Sartrean Existentialism held the youth enthralled, and not only in France. It is true also that what had been uniquely Marxist ground "” "Philosophers have only interpreted the world ...; the point is to change it" "” had become the "common" characteristic of the whole Left. And again it fit none better than the philosopher Sartre who certainly refused to restrict himself to interpreting the world and most assuredly was bent on uprooting it.
Indeed, whether one viewed Sartre's Existentialism as the only true philosophy of freedom or considered it the false consciousness which disoriented a whole generation of revolutionaries, one thing no one doubted: Sartrean Existentialism was not enclosed in an ivory tower, and by its identification of Freedom with Revolution it maintained its hold on the youth. But the revolutions did not come or were aborted, and now the new Sartre had a new testing ground. Though he was but Outsider looking in, this could become the proof, so to speak, of "materialism's" efficacy when properly "infused" with Existentialism. However, to comprehend fully the new Sartre as he weighs the attraction and repulsion between Existentialism and Marxism, we must understand his preoccupation with methodology as it concerns "the unique character" of what he calls "The Progressive-Regressive Method." It is this which, in Sartre's eyes, justifies his retention of the autonomy of Existentialism until the time when it will be "integrated" into Marxism.
A. "The Progressive-Regressive Method"
Sartre makes three fundamental "observations" in order to give a "brief formulation" of the uniqueness and comprehensiveness of his "Progressive-Regressive Method." One: "The dialectical knowing of man, according to Hegel and Marx, demands a new rationality" (p. 111 ); two: "Our method is heuristic; it teaches something new because it is at once both regressive and progressive" (p. 133); and three: "the totalisation" of past and present and projection into the future: "Man defines himself by his project." This is the new Existentialism "integrated" within Marxism or, if you wish, Marxism infused with Existentialism, freed from the "mechanical materialism" of "today's Marxists," expanded to include certain "Western disciplines," though it will not be fully developed until Sartre has completed Volume Two of the Critique. The "Method" will indicate how Marxism can conquer "the human dimension."
Sartre acts as if Marx rather than he had invented the concept of "practico-inert." Sartre contends that "idealist Marxism" with its "determinism" transformed man into an inert object and threw him into "the social world amidst equally conditioned inertias," where he could change society only "in the way that a bomb, without ceasing to obey the principle of inertias, can destroy a building" (p. 85). As against this, Sartre proposes to work out what Marx himself only "suggested." He holds that Marx's wish to transcend the opposition of externality and internality, of multiplicity and unity, of analysis and synthesis, of nature and anti-nature, is actually the most profound theoretical contribution of Marxism. But these are "suggestions to be developed; the mistake would be to think that the task is an easy one."
Because no one has been willing to establish "new rationality within experience," Sartre exclaims: "I state as a fact, "” absolutely no one, either in the East or in the West, writes or speaks a sentence or a word about us and our contemporaries that is not gross error" (p. 111). Unfortunately, in his projection of the truth of "contemporary" history, be it of the French Revolution of 1789-94 or of Hungary of 1956 (to which we will return), or of Mao's China today, the "dialectic of time" "transcends" man himself. Thus, Sartre writes: "For the man in China, the future is more true than the present" (p. 97).
Since, to a philosopher, an "alienated existence" is a theoretical concept rather than an exploitative reality, it becomes easy for him to think that introducing another idea "” such as the "dialectic of time" or the "future" "” means the achievement of a "synthetic transcendence," rather than that men and women are asked to give up today though the revolution they have made has abandoned them for some unspecified future. What, precisely, does existentialist rhetoric about "the incommensurability of existence and practical Knowledge" propose to do for the socialist society's "abandonment" of "the man in China"?
No matter what one thinks of Being and Nothingness, there is no doubt about its originality or its being a carefully elaborated, closely argued work. No matter how a beatnik existentialism seized upon the slogan-like statements of Sartrean philosophy "” "There is no moral law," "Man is a useless passion," "Life is meaningless," "The world is a nauseating mess," "Hell is other people" "” these emerged for Sartre only after he had arduously worked out his philosophic categories. Being-for-itself (man's consciousness) and Being-in-itself (the objects of conscious, or non-conscious reality) demonstrates that the very nature of the individual is to be free. In a sort of purgatory created by "Nothingness," the Void, Consciousness, and the objects it is conscious of, the struggle is ceaseless, as in the confrontations between the "for-itself" and the "in itself." The permanent frustrations which end in No Exit as the confrontation with "for-other," only lead to the recognition that "Hell is other people." Now it is true that the prevailing theme is that "respect for Other's freedom is an empty word."
It is true that because Sartre's theory of human relations is bound hand and foot, held in confinement to but two "fundamental attitudes" "” the equally deplorable extremes of masochism and sadism "” "perpetual failure" is the result. The individual is in anguish, loneliness. Frustration is in infinite regress. But it is also true that this fantastic theory of human relations was in conflict with Sartre's other theory, that of individual freedom. Now, on the other hand, the very nature of the Individual, as of the masses, seems to allow him to be reduced to inert practicality.
Whatever it is that Sartre, as the committed intellectual who at present claims to be an adherent of Marxism, believes in and bases his activities on, Sartre, as the Existential philosopher, has followed a straight line of being grounded in defeats and only defeats. In the 1930s it was not the sit-down strikes in France, which destroyed the pretensions of fascism in his native land, nor the Spanish Revolution in Europe, but rather the proletarian defeats by German and Spanish fascism that set the climate for Being and Nothingness. In the 1950s, it was not the Hungarian revolt against Communist totalitarianism that created the climate for Question de Methode, but the stasis of Communism. Just as one does not have to encounter "Other" as Hell, in Being and Nothingness, to become aware of anguish, frustration, impossibility of effecting a union between consciousness and being, so one does not have to wait to encounter in Critique de la raison dialectique the practico-inert to recognise its kinship to "Other" as Hell. Just as Sartre's disregard of History in Being and Nothingness, far from allowing him to embrace the human condition in its totality, closes all exits to resolution of contradictions, so his "embrace" of History sans the masses as Subject in the Critique makes it impossible to open any doors to revolution. Finally, just as it could not be otherwise when the human condition is anchored in perpetual failure, frustration, contingency "” all are finite situations and each a constant collapsing finite "” it could not be otherwise when there is imposed upon actual history the ontological invention of practico "” inert who could be made to move rationally only through an outside force "” "the group infusion," the "Party."'
It is true that where in Being and Nothingness the singular is always singular, never universal, in the Critique the problem is reversed. But this is only the opposite side of the same coin "” a stasis; a listing of opposites, not a live struggle, surely not one in which masses have their say. Not only is history subordinated to ontology, but it is also reduced to either "examples" or "analogy." As George Lichtheim noted, "Sartre's humans don't cooperate, they are thrown together or, as he put it, 'serialised.' . . . Thus human nature is shown by a state of affairs which bears a marked resemblance to a concentration camp."
Just as in Being and Nothingness, despite the language of opposition, there is no higher ground emerging from the contradiction in the Hegelian sense of Idea, so in the Critique there is none in the Marxian sense of spontaneous revolts and actual class struggles. Where in Being and Nothingness the process of collapse is everything, in Critique the terror of the "collectivity" becomes everything. Out of neither does there emerge a method, a direction, a development. It may be, as one historian put it, that the Critique had transformed the "perpetual failure" of Being and Nothingness into "perpetual success." But what is more crucial is the fact that the proletariat is nevertheless present, not as creativity, but as "materiality." The masses have none of the "human dimension" of the individual in Being and Nothingness. It is true that in Being and Nothingness too, not only are Sartre's two theories "” of human relations and of individual freedom "” in irreconcilable conflict, but also, as Herbert Marcuse noted, the theory of "free choice" itself under extant fascism is a macabre joke. Marcuse's analysis of this as well as of the undialectical methodology of ontological identification of freedom and frustration is profound:
The coincidentia oppositorum is accomplished not through a dialectical process, but through their complete establishment as ontological characteristics. As such, they are transtemporally simultaneous and structurally identical.
The free choice between death and enslavement is neither freedom nor choice, because both alternatives destroy the "realite humaine" which is supposed to be freedom. Established as the locus of freedom in the midst of a world of totalitarian oppression, the Pour-soi, the Cartesian Cogito is no longer the jumping-off point for the conquest of the intellectual and material world, but the last refuge of the individual in an "absurd world" of frustration and failure. In Sartre's philosophy this refuge is still equipped with all the paraphernalia which characterised the heyday of individualistic society.
However, the conclusion that "Behind the nihilistic language of Existentialism lurks the ideology of free competition, free initiative, and equal opportunity" does not hit the nail on the head. The real tragedy is that "behind" Sartre's nihilistic language lurks "” nothing. Just nothing. And because there was no past and the present world is "absurd," there is no future. To the isolated intellectual, nothing may have appeared as "creative." Nothingness, a blank page of history on which the individual could write what he wished.
Sartre himself must have had some recognition that existential philosophy had reached an impasse. How else can one account for the footnote which points to a possible "radical conversion" which "could" resolve the irreconcilable conflicts between total individual freedom unrestricted by "other," and the "fundamental" human attitudes of masochism and sadism? Surely, this was a vent which the Resistance created for itself. At the same time, it was also a lack of "totalisation" that Sartre, as philosopher, felt. It is true that what was "real" to Sartre was an ontological dehumanised "human reality," for which the author of Being and Nothingness had invented a new language. But it is no less true that no academic philosopher ever desired more desperately not merely to interpret the world, but to change it. Also, Sartre did recognise his petty-bourgeois character, and none labored harder to overcome bourgeois origins. In all cases, however "” and herein lies the tragedy "” the truth is that the new Sartre and his heuristic," "comprehensive," "Progressive and Regressive" method hardly gets us much further. This is proof of the fact that the impasse in Being and Nothingness was arrived at in part, in a fundamental part it is true, but only a part nevertheless, because of the failure to see in the social individual, or society, what Marx called "history and its process." That is a totally different quality, and not merely a distinction between individual and social; it means seeing masses as Subject. Let us see what Sartre makes out of the masses in that most creative act of revolution, in the single current event he does deal with in Question de Methode: the Hungarian Revolution.
B. The Dialectic and the Fetish
Sartre opposed the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution by Russian might on the ground that it was "not necessary" and did not "enhance the security of socialism." Philosophically, however, he pours forth his greatest indignation against "today's Marxists" who had, before "the second Soviet intervention" (November 4, 1956), already made up their minds, thereby displaying their method "in all its nakedness" to be one "which reduces the facts in Hungary to a Soviet act of aggression against the democracy of Workers' Committees" (p. 34). It is true, he continues, that the Councils were such a "democratic institution," "direct democracy." One could
even maintain that they bore within them the future of the socialist society. But this does not alter the fact that they did not exist in Hungary at the time of the first Soviet intervention; and their appearance during the Insurrection was much too brief and too troubled for us to be able to speak of an organised democracy. (p. 24)
And because the Workers' Councils were not an organised democracy, because the spontaneity of this self-organisation was "much too brief and too troubled," their forced suppression becomes, for Sartre, ground for not grappling with the elemental creativity although he wishes to penetrate an existential "unsurpassable opaqueness."
Instead, the exponent of the "unsurpassable singularity of the human adventure" dons a full suit of "totalisation" armour. The first sacrifice to "totalisation" is the actual spontaneous organisation, those same Workers' Councils. The myriad of new tendencies (whether in the actual Hungarian Revolution or in the near-revolutions in Poland) become the second sacrifice to the Sartrean totalisation: all human, living beings get headshrunk to a nondifferentiated category, "revisionism." "As for 'revisionism,' this is either a truism or an absurdity" (p. 7). Third, the fact that the revisionist appellation was "Other," the Communist tormentors 07 who had long since transformed Marx's philosophy of liberation into state-capitalist tyranny seemed so little to disturb the philosopher of existence that not one of the existents in East Europe he was addressing gets personalised "” unless the questionable choice of that time and that place for launching an attack on Georg Lukacs can be called "personalisation": "It is not by chance that Lukacs "” Lukacs who so often violates history "” has found in 1956 the best definition of this frozen Marxism" (p. 28).
So preoccupied is Sartre with Lukacs' 1947 vicious attack on Existentialism that he himself becomes forgetful of both Being and Time "” at least of that being, Georg Lukacs, who was a true original in Marxist philosophy in the early 1920s and the revolutionary who was swept up by the Hungarian Revolution, after a twenty-five year capitulation to Stalinism, to become a participant in an ongoing revolution against Stalinism. Sartre mainly forgot the present, not merely the past; 08 Lukacs in the early 1920s had restored the revolutionary dialectic after the Social Democracy had discarded it as "prolegomenon" to betrayal of revolution, while the Communists were just embarking on the first freeze of the "Hegelian dialectic." Moreover, neither Lukacs nor Sartre was the Subject. The Subject was the Hungarian Revolution as it burst upon the historic stage and was destroyed by those with whom Sartre claimed to have broken all relations "regretfully and completely."
For Marx the dialectic of liberation "” whether it was the "quiet" civil war of the hundred-year struggle for the shortening of the working day, or the open revolutions of 1848, or the Paris Commune "” not only "concretised" the Hegelian dialectic as "an algebra of revolution," it also, and above all, emerged from history, proletarian history, from the actuality of the freedom struggles. The Marxian dialectic was thus not a mere standing of Hegelian philosophy on its feet instead of its head. It is true that it had been standing on its head and had to be anchored in reality; but Marx saw masses not merely as "matter" but as Reason. It was not they who were "practicing" Marxism. It was Marx who was universalising their praxis. For Sartre, however, writing in 1957, it is not the movement from practice that constitutes "the profundity of the lived" (p. 165). It is an ideological battle with "lazy Marxism." Misplaced concreteness reveals him in all the wrong places and by insisting on the particular against the general, the concrete "” "incident by incident" "” as against the "abstract ideology of universality," the historic event against the a priori judgment, "absolute empiricism" as against dogmatism, Sartre may have destroyed as many dogmatisms as he claims. But one unstated yet all-pervading dogmatism continues to be the underlying motif of all Sartre thinks, writes, does. It is the dogmatism of the backwardness of the masses, now called "practico-inert" and including the individual as well as the masses.
It may not be fair to judge Sartre by the uncompleted Critique, especially as he has announced that the subject of history proper would first be analysed in Volume II. But we concentrated on the question of method precisely because it is complete in itself and has been recognised by Sartre himself as the summation of the whole work, since there is no other proof of dialectic methodology but the whole content of what preceded it. Unfortunately, Sartre has also asserted that Volume I, rooted in scarcity and the practico-inert, contains "the formal elements of any history," which is the old perennial enemy Hegel characterised as the synthetic method of abstract identity. When abstract understanding is superimposed on the concrete manifold of actual history, which has been transformed into object in the technical sense Hegel depicted as "rounded in itself as a formal totality and indifferent to determination by another," no movement forward is possible except through an outside, alien force.
For Sartre, there stands to one side the abstraction "” "formal elements of any history" "” and to the other side Marxism, the class struggle, the twain coexisting but never clashing in a way that a transition arises from it, and not superimposed upon it by "the political group." For Marx, on the other hand, there was no such suprahistorical abstraction as "the formal elements of any history." There is only one history "” the concrete, the actual; and from that process, which contains both the historical and logical development, the class struggle as force and as logic, there is a rending of the class structure. Because Sartre has the historic process as an abstraction, in stasis, it has remained motionless. Precisely because Sartre is unable to conceive of the specific content having specific forms of movement, he is always driven to accept an outside force as the mediator. Despite his hatred for the word driven, Sartre seems always to obey its dictates, to use categories of a lower order like inert practicality, which he himself has created and which preclude self-movement. Just as in Being and Nothingness the Being-in-itself and Being-for-itself remain as apart at the end as at the start, so in Critique there is no self-development though the individual is now social man, and the past is not rejected but recognised as History with a capital H.
Notwithstanding all the talk and emphasis and re-emphasis on praxis as he was generalising the concept "” "Concrete thought must be born from praxis and must turn back upon it in order to clarify it" (p. 22) "” what Sartre does is, one, subordinate the movement from practice to discussion, and the debate is mainly with "Other," and, two, turn his intellectual arsenal not against "today's Marxists," though in words he berates them, but against the Marxism of Marx, whom he praises only in order to show that without the "infusion" of Existentialism, Marxism remains inert and unfinished. Thus, Sartre no sooner contrasts Marx's "synthetic intent" (p. 25) in the concrete, brilliant study of Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat with the fetishisation of events by "today's Marxists," than in a closely printed two-page footnote (pp. 32-33), Sartre launches into an attack on Marx. "One must develop a theory of consciousness. Yet the theory of knowledge continues to be the weak point in Marxism" (p. 32n.). Sartre draws this conclusion after he has quoted one sentence from Marx, on the materialist conception of history, and one from Lenin, on consciousness as "reflection of being." Sartre remarks triumphantly: "In both cases it is a mater of suppressing subjectivity; with Marx, we are placed beyond it; with Lenin on this side of it" (p. 32). That this generalisation flies in the face of all Marx wrote and all Marx did, which the new Sartre wishes to resuscitate, does not deter him. He stubbornly maintains that the sentence he has quoted from Marx (which happens to be from Engels, not Marx) and that is a repeat of the very sentence the old Sartre used 14 years earlier in his attack on historical materialism "” "The materialist conception of the world signifies simply the conception of nature as it is without any foreign addition" "” amounts to nothing less horrific than this: "Having stripped away all subjectivity and having assimilated himself into pure objective truth, he [Marx] walks in a world of objects inhabited by object-men" (p. 32n.) .
Once again: "Both of these conceptions [the reference is again to the single quotation from Marx and the half-sentence from Lenin] amount to breaking man's real relation with history, since in the first, knowing is pure theory, a non-situated observing, and, in the second, it is a simple passivity" (p. 32n.). These straw ideas that Sartre has just strung up and attributed to Marx and Lenin he labels "anti-dialectical" and "pre-Marxist" (p. 33n.; emphasis is Sartre's). He notes condescendingly that "in Marx's remarks on the practical aspects of truth and on the general relations of theory and praxis, it would be easy to discover the rudiments of a realistic epistemology which has never been developed" (p. 33n.). Within the text, Sartre continues:
The theory of fetishism, outlined by Marx, has never been developed; furthermore, it would not be extended to cover all social realities. Thus Marxism, while rejecting organicism, lacks weapons against it. Marxism considers the market a thing and holds that its inexorable laws contribute to reifying the relations among men. But when, suddenly, "” to use Henri Lefebvre's terms "” a dialectical conjuring trick shows us this monstrous abstraction as the veritable concrete . . . then we believe that we are returned to Hegelian idealism. (p. 77)
One would be hard put to match the number of errors Sartre succeeds in squeezing into fewer than four sentences. Judged by them, Marx has wasted the arduous labor he put into the creation of the three volumes of Capital, which aims at establishing that the pivot of his theory as well as the actuality of capitalism are not to be found in the market "” the favorite hunting ground of utopians, under-consumptionists, and capitalistic buyers of labor power "” but are to be found in the process of production, and only there.
For the moment it is necessary to set aside Sartre's vast accumulation of errors in order to contrast his methodological approach with Marx's. After more than a quarter of a century of labor, gathering facts as well as working out the theory, Marx, under the impact of a new wave of class struggles in Europe, the Civil War in the United States, and the struggle for the shortening of the working day, decided to restructure his massive manuscripts as they were assuming the form of Capital, Volume I. The year of publication was 1867. In 1871 the Paris Commune erupted, and in 1872 Marx decided to introduce some very fundamental changes into the French edition. They "happen" to have been precisely on the two points that most concerned Sartre in 1960: the fetishism of commodities and the accumulation of capital in advanced industrial societies leading to the collapse of capitalism.
In both instances, as we saw in the chapter on Marx, what was at stake was "history and its process," specifically the proletariat reshaping history and thereby not only "facticity" but theory itself. Although on the question of reification of labour Sartre acts as if, without Existentialism, Marxism lacks "the human foundation," actually, in his attack on historical materialism he lashes out precisely against Marx's Humanism, which aims to unite materialism and idealism, that is, to be the human foundation. Sartre, however, persists: "Let us make no mistake; there is no simultaneous transcendence of materialism and idealism . . ." which he footnotes as follows: "Although Marx sometimes claimed there was." At the same time Sartre credits the Marx of 1844 with a revolutionary realism which could not conceive of "a subjectivity outside the world nor a world which would not be illuminated by an effort on the part of subjectivity...."
The other Marxist, again not one of "today's Marxists," Sartre singles out for attack as failing to comprehend "subjectivity" is Lenin. While he wrote many profound economic studies, Lenin's "economist" statement that Sartre quotes is not from those, but from his very superficial philosophic work, the 1908 Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, which gave the green light to vulgar materialism. This is the one on which Stalinists, Khrushchevites, Maoists, and fellow travellers base themselves. No serious student of Marxism, certainly no philosopher, can disregard the break in Lenin's philosophic thought at the time of the collapse of the Second International. For it is this that, at the outbreak of World War I, led Lenin not merely to re-read Hegel, but to reconstitute his own method of thought. As we saw in the chapter on Lenin, it was then that he began fully to appreciate the inseparability of Hegelian philosophy and Marxian philosophic and economic categories. Nothing so lucidly expresses the transformation of Lenin's view of theory as his own words: "Alias: Man's Cognition not only reflects the objective world, but creates it." For someone in 1960 to write as if, to Lenin, consciousness was only the reflection of being, "at best an approximately accurate reflection," and on the basis of that half-sentence run, helter-skelter, to the wild conclusion that "by a single stroke he removes from himself the right to write what he is writing" (p. 32n.) hardly recommends Sartre's "heuristic," "comprehensive" "Progressive-Regressive" method.
Sartre stands matters upside down when he continues blithely to talk of the market's inexorable laws where Marx had demonstrated that the inexorable laws arise from production. They are, of course, manifested in the market, but they cannot be controverted anywhere but in production, and only by human beings, specifically the labourers, who have been transformed into appendages of machines but whose "quest for universality" had given birth to "new passions," thus making them the forces for the overthrow of capitalism. The market, no doubt, contributes something to the mystification of human relations, since the only thing that relates men in the marketplace is money. But that was not Marx's point.
On the contrary, Marx insisted that in order to understand what is taking place in the market, it is necessary to leave it and go into the factory. It is there that relations among men get "reified," made into things. It is there, at that "process of suction," that capital grows monstrous big, but, far from being an "abstraction," is the "veritable concrete" which "sucks dry living labor" and makes it into a thing. Far from being the result of "a dialectical conjuring trick," it is the literal truth of relations of men at the point of production. Above all, the "inexorable laws" that arise from this, and not from the market, make inevitable the collapse of the type of insane productive system that turns man into a thing, not because of the "inexorable laws," but because of the labourers. Their "quest for universality" sets up the dialectical struggle against reification of labor; they revolt and it is those "new passions and new forces" that overthrow the monstrous system.
Marx states and restates all this in a thousand different ways, in thousands of places throughout all his works "” philosophic, economic, historic, and even in the analysis of the relations of works of art to the specificity of history. Surely Sartre must know all this. Why, then, does he continue to read Marx so existentialistically?
Marxism united materialism and idealism, from both the vulgar materialism of "vulgar communism" and the dehumanised bourgeois (Hegelian) idealism, which, despite the revolutionary dialectic, had to lapse into a vulgar idealisation of the Prussian bureaucracy. "Thus," concluded the young Marx, "nothing need be said of Hegel's adaptation to religion, the state, etc., for this lie is the lie of his principle."
Again, surely Sartre knows all this. Then why, at this moment when he tries to become "Marxist," does he not say of his own methodology what Marx said of Feuerbach, and on a different level what Hegel said of Kant: If at the period of revolution there is in one's mind a residue of an independent actuality confronting the Subject, an independent Substance with its own inner necessity; if one does not then think of "independent actuality as having all its substantiality in the passage," then, in thought, one inescapably does what Kant did "” "affirm as true what was pronounced to be figments of thought and declare to be superfluous . . .that which is recognised as truth"; and, in practice, restrain the proletariat from smashing up the state machine. Which is precisely what was done not only by Khrushchev-Kadar, but also by the critic of that action who nevertheless found an affinity in thought with them.
One would have thought that Sartre, who returned to a work of philosophic rigour after he had become, or at least was in the process of becoming, an adherent of Marx's Historical Materialism, would at least in theory attempt to end the bifurcation between subject and object, would concretise his project of "going beyond" as the Subject appropriating objectivity, not vice versa. Instead, having laid a foundation for a metaphysic of Stalinism, Sartre seems totally unconscious of the fact that his methodology is at the opposite pole, not from Communism, but from the Marxism of Marx. Despite all rhetoric about praxis, Sartre's methodology does not emanate from praxis. Far from being any "algebra of revolution," Sartrean methodology is the abstraction which reduces history to illustrations and analogy. The "Progressive-Regressive" method is neither Hegelian nor Marxian, resembling more that of the Left Hegelians of whom Marx, in The Holy Family, had written: "History, like truth, becomes a person apart, a metaphysical subject, of which the real individuals are merely the bearers."
The anti-Stalinist, anti-capitalist, revolutionary petty-bourgeois intellectual, himself the victim of the absolute division between mental and manual labor, the climax of centuries of division between philosophers and workers, seemed always ready to hand over the role of workers' self-emancipation to "the Party," even though its "philosophy" amounted to ordering the workers to work hard and harder. In the Critique Sartre creates a veritable mystique about Stalinist terror, since it is always "the political group" which is the "action group" that overcomes the "inertia" of the masses. Indeed, Sartre maintains that "the communal freedom creates itself as terror." No wonder that the Critique, which is supposed to be a plea "to reconquer man within Marxism" (p. 83), ends instead with a plea for integration of intellectual disciplines "” from "the West." The Western disciplines would appear to be the "mediation" rather than the movement of the masses, the movement which is history past and present. And where "mediation" is not reduced to the "mediator" (the Party), it gets reduced to anthropology. "Our examples have revealed at the heart of this philosophy a lack of any concrete anthropology.... The default of Marxism has led us to attempt this integration ourselves . . . according to principles which give our ideology its unique character . . ." (pp. 83-84). "We have shown that dialectical materialism is reduced to its own skeleton if it does not integrate into itself certain Western disciplines," concludes Sartre.
No wonder that the final statement of Question de methode which claims the essay is directed "toward hastening the moment of that [Existentialism's] dissolution" is preceded by, all duly italicised: "Absorbed, surpassed, and conserved by the totalising movement of philosophy, it will cease to be a particular inquiry and will become the foundation of all inquiry." For, after all, the new Sartre still defines "the human dimension" not as the movement of masses of people in the act of uprooting the old class society and creating the new classless society where, as Marx put it, "human power is its own end," but as "the existential project" (p. 181).
Since Sartre devoted himself in those years to demoting his own philosophy to an "ideology," "an enclave" within original, historic, dialectical Marxism, why did he so persist with his own methodology? The first answer is, of course, that Existentialism is part of his very organism, that which was original with him, having come spontaneously and been rigorously worked through his whole adult life, from Nausea and No Exit through Being and Nothingness, and again, from Les Temps Moderne through The Words and his essays, in or out of the magazine he founded. At the same time, it was not the ego called Sartre; it was the social individual (responsible and irresponsible) who wished to escape class reality. It is this, just this, which made him a spokesman for the first postwar generation of intellectuals. In a word, it was the abstract philosophic stand on free choice and unqualified "individual freedom," when France was occupied and the lived experience was anything but a matter of "choice," that gave the illusion that, by "rejecting" history, one became "free." The second answer "” the consequences of the abstract universal as methodology "” is not so easy to grasp, especially since it would appear that Sartre ought to have found it easy to express in "words," not just political tension, but the life-and-death struggle in the battle of ideas as they arise from and return to praxis. Methodologically, Sartre's organic petty-bourgeois inability to understand what it is that Marx meant by praxis has nothing whatever to do with the Ego, much less with not being able "to read" Marx. It has everything to do with his isolation from the proletariat.
The very point at which Sartre thinks that Marx, because he had to turn to "clarifying" practice, stopped developing theory is when Marx broke with the bourgeois concept of theory and created his most original concept of theory out of "history and its process," not only in the class struggles outside the factory but in it, at the very point of production, faced with the "automaton" which was dominating the worker, transforming him into a mere "appendage." Marx's whole point was that the worker was thinking his own thoughts, expressing his total opposition to the mode of labor instinctually and by creating new forms of struggle and new human relations with his fellow workers. Where, in Marx, history comes alive because the masses have been prepared by the daily struggle at the point of production to burst out spontaneously, "to storm the heavens" creatively as they had done in the Paris Commune, in Sartre practice appears as inert practicality bereft of all historic sense and any consciousness of consequences. Where, in Marx, Individuality itself arises through history, in Sartre History means subordination of individual to group-infusion who alone know where the action is. Sartre the Existentialist rightly used to laugh at Communists for thinking man is born on his first payday; Sartre "the Marxist" sees even as world-shaking an event as the Russian Revolution, not at its self-emancipatory moment of birth with its creation of totally new forms of workers' rule "” soviets "” but rather at the moment when it was transformed into its opposite with Stalin's victory, the totalitarian initiation of the Five-Year Plans with the Moscow Frame-Up Trials and forced-labor camps.
And yet this is the same philosopher whose theory of individual freedom acted as a polarising force for a whole generation of youth in the immediate postwar period in the West, and for East Europe in the mid-1950s. It is no accident, however, that just when he developed his existentialised Marxism is when he lost out with Marxists and the "New Left," or a great part of it, a part which is moving toward a new relationship of theory and practice, basing itself on a movement from practice that would meet philosophically the challenge to make freedom a reality, not an institution It is not so much the political fellow-travelling with Communists that has served to break the spell of Existentialism, but the fact that Sartre has no more filled the theoretic void since Lenin's death than have the Communists, Stalinised and de-Stalinised, Trotskyists, Maoists and the latter's fellow travellers.
The methodological enemy is the empty abstraction which has helped cover up soured revolutions and failed to disclose new roads to revolution in theory, not to mention in fact. The core of Existentialism has always been petty-bourgeois subjectivity. The philosophy of existence fails "to merge" with Marxism because it has remained Subjectivity without a Subject, desire for revolution without the "new forces, new passions" for revolution, and at present escapism into "world revolution" at the very moment when what is required is the concretisation, the unity of philosophy and revolution on native ground, as the only ground for world revolution. The "Alternatives" were detours from "new passions and new forces" in Africa, in East Europe, in the U.S.A. that mark the era of transition to our day.
Raya Dunayevskaya, 1973
Philosophy & Revolution
New Passions and New Forces
The Black Dimension, The Anti-Vietnam War Youth, Rank-and-File Labor, Women's Liberation
Individualism which lets nothing interfere with its Universalism, i.e., Freedom. Hegel
New forces and new passions spring up in the bosom of society ... Marx, Capital
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster.... For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Black was the colour that helped make the 1960s so exciting a decade. We became witness simultaneously to the African Revolutions and the Black Revolution in America. By their self-activity, self-organisation, self-development, the black youth struck out against white supremacy in the quiescent South, and with unparalleled courage took everything that was dished out to them "” from beatings, bombings, and prisons to cattle prods, shootings, and even death "” and still, unarmed, continued fighting back. They initiated a new epoch of youth revolt, white as well as black, throughout the land. There was not a single method of struggle, from sit-ins, teach-ins, dwell-ins, wade-ins, to Freedom Rides, Freedom Marches, Freedom Schools, and confrontations with the Establishment, Bull Connors' bulldogs and whips in Alabama, or the smartly uniformed soldiers on the steps of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., that did not have its origin in the black movement. Moreover, this was so not only as strategy and tactic but also as underlying philosophy and perspectives for the future.
By February 1965, when the government's rain of bombs on Hanoi produced the anti-Vietnam War movement here, the students who had gone South and then returned to Berkeley to confront the multiversity talked a very different language than when they had left. As Mario Savio, a leader of the Free Speech Movement, put it:
America may be the most poverty-stricken country in the world. Not materially. But intellectually it is bankrupt. And morally it's poverty-stricken. But in such a way that it's not clear to you that you're poor. It's very hard to know you're poor if you're eating well....
Students are excited about political ideas. They're not yet inured to the apolitical society they're going to enter. But being interested in ideas means you have no use in American society . . . unless they are ideas which are useful to the military-industrial complex....
Factories are run in authoritarian fashion "” non-union factories anyway "” and that's the nearest parallel to the university.. . .
In contrast, Savio kept driving home about his fellow students the point that "they are people who have not learned to compromise."
The fact that the first important schism in the movement itself arose at the very moment when it did become a mass anti-Vietnam War movement was not due to any differences over the slogan, which indeed a black spoke first, "Hell, no, we won't go." There was alienation from the white students who all too quickly migrated back North without so much as a "by your leave" to the civil rights movement. To the blacks it was a manifestation of just how all-pervasive racism was in the racist U.S.A., not excluding its white revolutionaries who considered themselves, and not the black masses, as "the vanguard." Blacks and whites moved separate ways and, once again, the objectivity of their struggle for freedom was inseparable from a self-developing subjectivity.
Black consciousness, Afro-American roots, awareness of themselves as a people, a nation, a race: "Black is beautiful." Black is revolutionary. Many a youth was memorising Malcolm X's records. That they identified with him most after he broke with Elijah Muhammad's Black Muslims, when he was moving toward a new revolutionary universalism, is no accident whatever. In 1966, when Stokely Carmichael (on that famous march through the South, alongside Reverend King and James Meredith) first raised the slogan "Black Power," he signalled more than the end of Dr. King's predominance in the leadership of the Movement. It was also the beginning of the division between ranks and all leaders, himself included. It is true he electrified the crowd, when he first expounded on the slogan:
The only way we gonna stop them white men from huppin' us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six years and we ain't got nothin'. What we gonna start saying now is black power.... Ain't nothin' wrong with anything all black 'cause I'm all black and I'm all good. Now don't you be afraid. And from now on when they ask you what you want, you know what to tell them.
All answered: "Black Power! Black Power! BLACK POWER!" But as the slogan caught on, Stokely himself was off elsewhere. Neither he nor any other black leader was around when the 1967 explosion burst on the U.S. stage. Neither he nor any other black militant leader was listening to the voices that came from below, least of all from black workers. One black worker from Oakland, California, disgusted with what became of the "Black Power" slogan, wrote:
Black power has become a gigantic reindeer "” hat rack with many opposing hats hanging there, including the hat of Black capitalism. The possible unity of Black and white workers to destroy the system of capitalism is a punch at the gut nerve of all middle class intellectuals and elitist groups, Black or white.
To the masses, "Hell, no, we won't go" meant we should fight the enemies at home "” poor jobs and no jobs at all; poor homes and no homes at all; racism; "the system." What they were not saying, much less having money to do it with, is travel abroad, or any other form of escapism. More than just not having learned to compromise, as the white youth had, or to talk endlessly as the black leaders did, what sprang up from ghettoised hunger and racism in white affluent society was the elemental outburst, North, South, East, West, in the year 1967. The predominant note was, of course, "Whitey ain't about to get up off of anything unless you make him." And yet when the explosion reached Detroit, a still newer stage of black revolt matured. In common with the outbursts occurring throughout the land "” from Boston to Spanish Harlem, from Tucson to Newark, from Cleveland to Sacramento, and some eighty other cities "” the voice of anger against, frustration with, and rejection of their conditions of life was loud and clear. Watts had sounded the tocsin in 1965, and Detroit in 1967 set a still newer stage.
When the wrath of the blacks exploded in Detroit, it was vented not only against the police in their own neighbourhoods, or even the police in general, who were the prime targets of the snipers. In Detroit, blacks made a direct attack on police stations. Many other things were new in the Detroit revolt. Unlike other cities, here the repossession, as well as the sniping later, was integrated. As one reporter on the scene put it: "It was just like Negroes and whites were shopping together, only they weren't paying for anything." Or as one white and one black worker expressed it:
By looting, they ain't taking what they ain't paid for. We've been paying for that stuff for over a thousand years, ever since we was born.
We want the right that we ought not to be beat on the head all the time just because we're black.
Unlike almost all other outbursts, Detroit's was not so much against "whitey" as such, as against the white landlords, white merchants, and of course the white police. And while the ubiquitous sign "SOUL BROTHER" saved many black stores from the torch, black merchants who had also gouged the community were not spared. In fact, one black-owned drugstore that had been picketed by CORE the week earlier was among the very first to go. It was a revolt against a class society.
Law and order from the barrel of a gun meant 43 lay dead, some 1500 were wounded, 4000 were jailed with bail set at such impossible figures (up to $100,000!) that constitutional rights were nullified. Though no "foreign invaders" had landed anywhere in the United States, though no insurrection against the state "” "constituted authority" "” was in progress, though only one side was thrice armed, the city was, to all intents and purposes, under occupation. "Emergency measures" turned out to be a pseudonym for martial law.
To try to deny the new stage that the black revolt had reached in Detroit "” to make the revolt appear purely racist "” the power structure, including the liberal Establishment, had to quote Stokely Carmichael. He, however, was in Havana; the action was in Detroit. He was talking, not acting. Those who were the actual participants in the revolt made their actions stark and clear: Down with the black slums: Let's not have two nations, one filthy rich and the other miserably poor; Let's have one nation with truly human relationships.
To the extent to which the elitist black nationalists did operate in the ghettos, whether in Cambridge (Maryland) or in Detroit, in Wichita or Elgin (Illinois), in Newark or Milwaukee, they were just trying to get credit for that which the masses themselves did, did spontaneously. They revolted against the class system wearing a white face, rather than against "whitey" where he was not part of the exploitative system.
The simple truth is that it is the Government "” national, state, city; the police, the prisons and the courts "” and not the "outside agitators" who breed racism and evoke the wrath of the people.
The black people have always been the touchstone of American civilisation precisely because they could both expose its Achilles' heel "” its racism "” and because they were always in the vanguard of its forward movement. It was so in the struggle against slavery when they fought together with the white Abolitionists. It was so during the birth of imperialism when the blacks stood alone in their opposition, sensing the racist repercussions of imperialism's white conquest of Latin America and the Philippines, and its forcing open the gates of trade with the Orient. It was so when, with white labor, they reshaped the industrial face of America through the creation of the CIO. And it is so now when the Black Revolution has reached the crossroads between nationalism and proletarian internationalism.
In 1967 the vitality of the black people, full of purpose, attacked only the symptoms of oppression "” the white landlord in the slums, the white merchant, the white middleman. This is not because they did not know who Mr. Big was. Rather, it was because they did not see white labor ready to join them in their determination to undermine the whole system. They know better than the elitist leaders that, without white labor, the system cannot be torn up by its roots. The black revolt reached a peak in Detroit because for the first time in years, outside and inside the shop, there was the first appearance of white and black solidarity. It was but the faintest of beginnings, but it did appear.
A still newer element in the struggles at the point of production arose after these eruptions, when capitalists had been sufficiently frightened by the destruction and fear of outright revolution to begin hiring young blacks. The black caucuses in factories that until then had thought the most important thing to do was to remove some bureaucrats from office in order to democratise the union structure, now would stop at nothing short, as one worker put it, "of a complete change "” of revolution." Thus one group at a Dodge plant in Detroit called itself the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement. Other plants did the same. A few years earlier black workers would have shied away from them, but by 1968 even a moderate worker explained:
The most popular word in the shop these days is: revolutionary. In the past, even when we didn't parrot the union leadership and call workers "Communists," we would shy away from any worker who declared himself to be a "revolutionary." Now we say to him: "Why be for foreign revolutions? We need one here, right here."
In May 1968, however, all eyes turned to France, for it was there that the highest point of development for all "new passions and new forces" erupted. The vastness and expansiveness of the spontaneous mass outburst, the range and multiplicity of the actions "” from barricades in the Latin Quarter to occupation of factories to mass marches "” marked a turning-point of historic dimensions. For the first time in the turbulent 1960s a near-revolution erupted in a technologically advanced country. For the first time since the birth of the new generation of revolutionaries, the student youth and the workers united in mass activities. For the first time the worker-student alliance showed itself to be not only a new form of struggle but an overpowering force, as thousands of students in revolt became 10 million workers on general strike, became millions of marching feet of workers and students and housewives, of oldsters as well as youth, became a near revolution undermining De Gaulle. Yet the fact that it was only a near, not an actual revolution; the fact that the French Communist Party, through the CGT, could keep the workers confined to reformist demands and make it unnecessary for De Gaulle, once he organised the counterrevolution, to need a bloodbath to keep the mass revolt from becoming social revolution; these things cast a cloud not only over revolution but also over the "vanguardists" like the Trotskyists who, though they fought the C.P. counter-revolutionary activities, held on to the same concept of a "vanguard Party to lead the revolution."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit was absolutely right when he said that the movement was beyond the small parties which wanted to lead. But he was wrong to hold to so abstract a view of a philosophy of liberation as to think that theory can be picked up "en route." Without theory the road to revolution leads "en route" to nowhere; the revolution-to-be was a stillbirth. Which only increased the endless output of books on it. As one young American revolutionary who was a participant put it:
At no time, 1848 to 1968, have there been more analyses, more solutions, more answers thrust upon the revolutionary actions of the Polish, the German, the Czechoslovak, and most specifically the French masses than what we are witnessing today. For Sartre, the barricades of France and the general strike had a certain resemblance to the Castro type of insurrection. For Marcuse, the May revolt was Maoist-like, i.e., there were aspects of China's Cultural Revolution. For the Trotskyists, it was a revolution minus one ingredient "” a "real" vanguard party. For some existentialist-anarchists it was a collective madness which proudly had no goal, no definite aims, no alternative.... For Cohn-Bendit and others their role is that of "planting seeds." [But] going from the possible to the actual is not only a task of the workers. It is a task for theoreticians.
Different as France, May 1968, was from Cuba, January 1959, the underlying philosophy of much of the New Left seemed to be one or another form of "guerrilla warfare" that became most famous under the title "Revolution Within the Revolution?" The youth especially came under its spell, even those who did not accept the view that only in the countryside and only in technologically underdeveloped countries could the revolution be "made." To self-proclaimed "urban guerrillas," the point of attraction, more so in the U.S. than in France, was its newness, unburdened by the past.
So empirical-minded is the American youth, black included, that even revolutionaries who have separated themselves from Communism of the Russian and the Chinese varieties, have fully and uncritically embraced Castro. So exhilarating was the Cuban experience that they never questioned the direction, much less the philosophy, of its development since achieving power. One famous exception seemed to have been the young black Communist philosopher, Angela Davis, who from prison posed the question "What happens after?": "the most difficult period of all is the building of the revolutionary society after the seizure of power." This did not, however, predominate over her Cuban experience, "my first prolonged contact with a socialist country through my own eyes and limbs, I might add, since I cut cane for a while." Contrast this view of a leader with the view of a black woman from the ranks of the Women's Liberation movement:
I'm not thoroughly convinced that Black Liberation, the way it's being spelled out, will really and truly mean my liberation. I'm not so sure that when it comes time "to put down my gun," that I won't have a broom shoved in my hands, as so many of my Cuban sisters have.
For that matter, once Angela was freed, she refused to sign the appeal of a Czechoslovak fighter for freedom, Jiri Pelikan, who had written to her: "We too have many Angela Davises and Soledad brothers."
As against the voices from below, the whole of Regis Debray's Revolution in the Revolution? burns with zeal, "to free the present from the past" (pp. 19-91). This is further bound by a "principal lesson" (pp. 95-116), and held on to tightly as the spokesman for Castro expounds "some consequences for the future" (pp. 119-26). In place of "traditions" or theoretic abstractions we must face the facts, "the concrete," the experience (Cuban), topped by "the military foco." Anything, anything whatever that stands in the way of this veritable miracle, "the military foco," is to be thrown into the dustbin of history. In the guise of non-theory the French philosopher thus presents us with a "theory" that departs in toto from Marx's most fundamental concept, that of a social revolution. He proclaims a "new dialectic of tasks" (p. 119): unquestioning obedience to the "Equivalent Substitution" (military command). Outside of the penchant for monolithism "” "There is no longer a place for verbal ideological relation to the revolution, nor for a certain type of polemic" (p. 123) "” which characterises this manual on how "to make" revolutions, its 126 pages are an endless paean of praise for the guerrilla: "the staggering novelty introduced by the Cuban Revolution is this: the guerrilla force is the party in embryo" (p. 106).
So supreme is the military as means and end, as strategy and tactic, as leadership and manhood itself, that it does indeed swallow up not only theory and party but the masses themselves:
One finds that a working class of restricted size or under the influence of a reformist trade union aristocracy, and an isolated and humiliated peasantry, are willing to accept this group, of bourgeois origin, as their political leadership.
At this point enters the Leader Maximum, for the end result of the Army's replacing the Party, replacing the Proletariat, replacing the Peasantry, is that all are replaced by the know-it-all, see-it-all, be-it-all "Equivalent Substitution."
Now, suppose that, for the moment, we are willing to forget that the first modern theorist and greatest practitioner of guerrilla warfare was not Fidel Castro, but Mao Tse-Tung; suppose, further, that we close our eyes to the truth that "the present" (1965) was not a Cuban Revolution but the on-going Vietnam War of liberation engaged in direct combat with the mightiest world imperialist, the U.S.A.; and finally, suppose we agree that a guerrilla force is "the party in embryo" "” where exactly do all these suppositions lead? If the achievements are the proof that "insurrectional activity is today the number one political activity" (p. 116), does the old Stalinist monolithism of forbidding factions in order "to free us" from "the vice of excessive deliberation" thereby become "the present," "the theoretical and historical novelty of this [Cuban] situation" (p. 123) ? And do Marx's and Lenin's deliberations on revolution, as actuality and as theory, become consigned to "the past" and allow Debray to point "a warning finger ... to indicate a shortcut"? Guerrilla warfare is a shortcut to nowhere. It is a protracted war that leads more often to defeat than to "victory," and where it does lead to state power, hardly keeps the revolution from souring.
When Che spoke with his own voice rather than Debray's, he did not flinch from direct confrontation with Lenin's theory by consigning it to the past:
This is a unique Revolution which some people maintain contradicts one of the most orthodox premises of the revolutionary movement, expressed by Lenin: "Without a revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary movement." It would be suitable to say that revolutionary theory as the expression of a social truth, surpasses any declaration of it; that is to say, even if the theory is not known, the revolution can succeed if historical reality is interpreted correctly and if the forces involved in it are utilised correctly.
Were we even to forget the martyrdom of Che Guevara in the very period when Debray's nimble-penned panacea became the New Left's manual on how "to make revolutions," our post-World War II world is not short of guerrilla wars, from the Philippines to Burma, from Malaya to Japan, that have failed. The post-World War I world, on the other hand, exuded true magic, the "magic" of the Russian Revolution, which set the world aflame. Even today, with a half-century's lapse and the first workers' state having been transformed into its opposite, a state-capitalist society, the perspectives unfolded by 1917 remain the greatest form of world revolution. This is the Marxist heritage, the past from which Castro's chosen theoretician wishes "to free the present." Marx's concept of revolution "” great masses in motion, in spontaneous, forward movement "” is not something that can be "made" from above.
When that black Women's Liberationist expressed a fear that when it comes to putting down the gun, she may once again have a broom shoved into her hands, she was expressing one of the most anti-elitist new forces and new passions that had come on the historic stage and were raising altogether new questions. It is true that, on the whole, these were questions addressed to the private capitalistic world, specifically the U.S. But the women were saying: "We will no longer be objects "” mindless sex objects, or robots that keep house, or cheap manual labor you can call in when there are no men available and discard when there are." These women were also demanding their heads back, and it is this which surprised none more than the New Left, since though born out of the New Left, it was the New Left men whom Women's Liberation opposed. The same women who had participated in every phase of the freedom movements refused to continue being the typists, the mimeographers, the "ladies' auxiliaries" to the Left. They demanded an end to the separation of mental and manual labor, not only as a "goal," not only against capitalist society, but as an immediate need of the Left itself, especially regarding women. Nor were they afraid to attack the male chauvinism in the black movement as well. Black and white women joined together to do battle with the arrogance of a Stokely Carmichael, who had said that "the only position for women in the movement is prone."
So uncompromising as well as adamant was their attack on elitism and authoritarianism that the very structure of the new Women's Liberation groups, the small groups that sprang up everywhere, were an effort to find a form that would allow for the self-development of the individual woman. They disregarded the established women's groups because they too were structured and too concerned with the middle-class professional women. They wished to release all women "” most of all black, working-class, Chicano, Indian. Whether it was a question of the right to abortion, or equal pay, or having control over their own lives, the single word was NOW. Freedom meant now, today, not tomorrow, much less the day after. "Now" meant not waiting for the day of revolution, much less excluding from the political struggle the question of the relationship of man to woman. Women no longer considered that question a merely private matter, for that was only the standard way of making women feel isolated and helpless. The very fact that freedom was in the air meant that she no longer was alone, that there were thousands forming a movement, a force. Individuality and collectivity became inseparable from the mass demonstrations in August 1970. And for the first time also, history was not past but in the making. And now that they were making it, there was no feeling that they were lost in a collectivity, but rather that each was individualised through this historic process.
Thus, in spite of adverse publicity about "ugly girls burning bras" and whatever other nonsense the male chauvinists played up in order to make the movement look silly, more and more women kept joining it. Different kinds of women who had never joined anything before became activists "” and thinkers. In addition to those who called themselves members of the movement, thousands more expressed the same ideas, from the welfare mothers' organisations to the new drives to unionise women's industries and fight the discrimination sanctioned by existing unions. And the many voices expressing the ideas of Women's Liberation were the result not of women reading Kate Millett's Sexual Politics or the hundreds of less serious works on the subject, but of the hunger for new roles in society and new relationships for them here and now.
Instead of grasping the link of continuity of today's strivings with that which Marx saw emerging, or of listening to new voices, today's "Marxists" themselves are the best examples of Marx's concept of ideology as false consciousness. They look upon themselves as the leaders, or at least the politicos, who can offer "a rational reassessment of feminist ideology" and look down upon today's new women rebels as apolitical, as if that meant they had nothing to say worth listening to and that there were no objective validity to the movement. It is true that with the mass demonstrations by women, especially in New York in 1970, all parties want to use them. That precisely is the trouble.
The uniqueness of today's Women's Liberation movement is that it dares to challenge what is, including the male chauvinism not only under capitalism but within the revolutionary movement itself. To fear to expose this male chauvinism leads to helplessness. To face reality, and to face it not through sheer voluntarism, but with full awareness of all the forces lined up against us, is the one way to assure the coalescence with other revolutionary forces, especially labor, which is so strategically placed in production and has its own black dimension. But the fact that it will not be possible fully to overcome male chauvinism as long as class society exists does not invalidate the movement any more than any struggle for freedom is invalidated. On the contrary, the very fact that there is a widespread Women's Liberation movement proves that it is an idea whose time has come and that it is an integral part of the very organism of liberation.
One advantage in pointing to the self-development of "Subjectivity" in the Black Revolution is that it has none of the perjorative connotation that old radicals give it when they declaim against "petty-bourgeois subjectivism." Whether or not consciously related to the Hegelian concept "” "the transcendence of the opposition between Notion and Reality, and the unity which is the truth, rest upon subjectivity alone" "” it is clear that for the black masses, black consciousness, awareness of themselves as Afro-Americans with a dual history and special pride, is a drive toward wholeness. Far from being a separation from the objective, it means an end to the separation between objective and subjective. Not even the most elitist black has quite the same arrogant attitude as the white intellectual toward the worker, not to mention the prisoner.
Thus, it is stressed that a worker is not dumb, has thought of his own, wants to have a say in "philosophy" and not just in action. It took all the way to 1973 before the long-lasting and persistent 1972 strikes in the auto industry "” especially among young workers in the GM plants in Lordstown and Norwood "” compelled the union bureaucrats to acknowledge the existence of "blue collar blues." The press began to speak of job alienation as the "new social issue of the decade." The UAW bureaucrats finally called for a special meeting on February 28, 1973 "” not with their own rank-and-file, but with management executives. They have still to recognise the alienated labor that Marx described 100 years ago, produced by "the automaton": "An organised system of machines, to which motion is communicated by the transmitting mechanism from a central automaton . . . in the place of the isolated machine, a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories, and whose demon power . . . breaks out into the fast and furious whirl . . . The lightening of the labor, even, becomes a sort of torture since the machine does not free the labourer from work, but deprives the work of all interest . . ."
Thus, the Soledad prisoner wrote against inhuman prison conditions, and also, "I met Marx and Engels and Lenin and Mao "” they redeemed me." Thus, the Angela Davis case brought responses, not only for her defence "” from the thousands that Aretha Franklin offered to the dollar the housewife donated "” but declarations, Communist or otherwise, that the FBI had hunted her because she is a woman, she is black, she is a professor. The black community is tired and sick of having whites think them dumb.
I do not mean that there is complete unity in the black community, although the rampant racism "” which makes all economic burdens fall heaviest on blacks "” and every conceivable and inconceivable subtle and not so subtle discrimination and segregation practiced against them by whites, certainly does draw them together as a people, as a race, as a nation within a nation. Thus, as late as 1970, at the very moment when the black students were coming out in solidarity with the murdered white students at Kent State University, the experience with whites, not bigots but revolutionary whites, was shattering. In contrast to the mass outpouring of protest all over the country to the Kent killings and the Cambodian invasion, there was very nearly total silence on the part of whites to the happenings in the South, the murder of blacks by police and the planned and massive gunfire poured out at the black women's dormitory at Jackson State. All the blacks, no matter in what stratum, avowed that racism was in fact so deeply ingrained and irreversible as to hold all whites in its throes. Thus, the black GIs, the very ones who were still in Vietnam, experienced the same discrimination as in the South and, as a two-year survey revealed, they hailed the Black Panthers as "an equaliser." "The beast (the white man) got his Ku Klux Klan. The Black Panthers give the beast something to fear, like we feared the KKK all of our lives."
What I do mean is that their critiques of each other, even when it comes to the fantastic slander slung against each other by Newton and Cleaver when they suddenly split, are viewed with sober sense in the community. What a Michigan university student stated at a conference of black and white revolutionaries will illuminate the solidarity in the black community and the philosophic divisions:
The issue of the split between Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver left many Black people troubled.... The support that the Panthers still get emanates, not from the Black masses' espousal of their ideology, but from the communal solidarity of Black and oppressed people everywhere. The same is true for Angela Davis. Everybody may not care for "Communism," but they care for Angela because she is a Black woman. One sister, pointing to a much-Orientalised picture of Angela that appeared in the Chinese press and was reproduced in Muhammad Speaks, told me that this shows how even the Russians and Chinese are racist.
People I've talked to are pretty much fed up with the pragmatic, elitist philosophy most vanguards express. We're looking for a total philosophy. Pan-Africanism, American style, is cliche. It is being used as an escape hatch and commercial fad by whites. True Pan-Africanism, like true brotherhood, is a beautiful ideal that is worth fighting for. But now that the Black capitalist cat has been let out of the bag, we see, or are beginning to see, that Black, too, can be corrupt.
Black youth are looking for something, something total, something that would, once and for all, end the division between the real and the ideal.
The end of the discussion seemed to call for a reconsideration of black consciousness, or at least more of an international view of it, as in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, which had long been greatly praised by the Black Panthers, though the concentration was always just on the question of violence. Yet Fanon had much to say on many other questions; he was especially critical of leaders. Fanon devotes a whole chapter to the "Pitfalls of National Consciousness," and "the laziness of the intellectuals":
History teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. . . . It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps. (p. 121)
He draws a sharp line between masses and leaders not only before conquest of power, but after as well. Finally, it is true that Fanon exposes the horrors of Western civilisation, rejects it as any model to follow. He tells his African comrades: "Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them . . ." (p. 252). But it is not true that he has only the black in mind. He is most specific that with the disappearance of colonialism and "colonised man," "This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others" (p. 197). Clearly, the dialectics of liberation is not anything pragmatic, nor something only black, much less narrowly nationalistic. It is global as well as revolutionary; it is total as well as historically continuous. It is, as he put it, a "new humanism."
It is this Humanism which was indeed the unifying thread in the revolts in East Europe as in Africa, among white youth rebels and blacks, and that despite the radical sneers that Humanism was "petty-bourgeois nonsense." But it was a black auto worker who gave it the sharpest edge:
There is no middle road any more. The days we accepted, "we have to take the lesser of two evils," are gone. You have to go to the extreme now. Racism is the issue here, and to rid ourselves of that, to be Humanist, we need a revolution.
We may not be on the threshold of revolution, but the fact that the idea revolution simply refuses to be silent even when we are not in a prerevolutionary situation speaks volumes about the philosophical-political maturity of our age. We may not have a Hegel or a Marx or a Lenin, but we do have what no other age has had in such depth "” the movement from praxis whose quest for universality does not stop with practice but hungers for a uniting of theory to practice. It is this "” and therein lies the uniqueness of the dialectic "” which resists any retrogressionism within the revolution. Retrogressionism seeks to particularise tasks, to "fix" the universal, to confine the tasks of the masses to "making" the revolution and not bothering their heads about "self-development."
What the movement from practice has revealed over these last two decades of revolt and striving to establish new societies "” whether via the African revolutions against Western imperialism and private capitalism, or through East European struggles for freedom from state-capitalism calling itself Communism, or within each land, be it the bastion of world imperialism, the U.S., or one as different as China "” was that the masses wish not only to overthrow exploitative societies, but they will no longer accept cultural substitutes for uprooting the old and new managers over their conditions of labor and life. Anything short of a total reorganisation of life, totally new human relations, was now retrogressionist. That is what was new in these revolutions as against the revolutions following the First World War, when it seemed sufficient to overthrow the old and not worry about what came after the revolution succeeded. If any such illusions were still left when World War II ended and the Afro-Asian-Middle Eastern-Latin American Revolutions created a Third World, the 1950s ended them. The new frontiers opened with the end of illusions, with the start of revolutions within the successful revolutions, with the permanence of self-development so that there should end, once and for all, the difference between the Individual and the Universal. Philosophic-political maturity marks the uniqueness of our age. The need for "second negativity," that is, a second revolution, has become concrete.
Take Africa again. It faced the reality that political independence does not mean economic dependence has ended, but, on the contrary, the ugly head of neo-imperialism then first appears. Yet equally crucial were the new divisions that arose between the leaders and the led once national independence was achieved. At the same time new divisions also arose between Arab leadership and the "uneducated masses." Whether we look at Zanzibar, which did succeed in overthrowing its Arab rulers, or to the southern Sudan, which had not, the need remained the same: a second revolution.
Or take China, which certainly during the "Cultural Revolution" never seemed to stop espousing the slogan "It is right to revolt." Why, then, did it turn to a "cultural" rather than an actual, a proletarian, a social revolution? Hegel and Marx can shed greater illumination on that type of cultural escapism than can the contemporary "China specialists," who bow to every revolutionary-sounding slogan. It was no "preMarxian" Marx who insisted that Hegel's philosophic abstractions were in fact the historic movement of mankind through various stages of freedom, that the stages of consciousness in the Phenomenology were in fact a critique of "whole spheres like religion, the state, bourgeois society and so forth." Hegel himself saw that "pure culture" was "the absolute and universal inversion of reality and thought, their estrangement, one into the other . . . each is the opposite of itself" (p. 541). Where Hegel moved from "culture" to "science," i.e., the unity of history and its philosophic comprehension, Marx stressed that thought can transcend only other thought; but to reconstruct society itself, only actions of men and women, masses in motion, will do the "transcending," and thereby "realize" philosophy, make freedom and whole men and women a reality.
The genius of Hegel, his relevance for today, is that he summed up "the experiences of consciousness" in so comprehensive, so profound a manner over so long a stretch of man's development "” from the Greek city-states to the French Revolution "” that the tendencies in the summation of the past give us a glimpse of the future, especially when materialistically understood in a Marxist-Humanist, not vulgar economist, manner.
What we have shown throughout is this: There is a dialectic of thought from consciousness through culture to philosophy. There is a dialectic of history from slavery through serfdom to free wage labor. There is a dialectic of the class struggle in general and under capitalism in particular "” and as it develops through certain specific stages from competition through monopoly to state, in each case it calls forth new forms of revolt and new aspects of the philosophy of revolution.
Only a Marx could work out the latter. What Hegel had shown were the dangers inherent in the French Revolution which did not end in the millennium. The dialectic disclosed that the counter-revolution is within the revolution. It is the greatest challenge man has ever had to face. We are living that challenge today. Mao, not daring to release the elemental striving of the masses to control their conditions of labor, retrogresses to "cultural," to "epiphenomenal" changes. One could say that Mao may not have recognised philosophy, but philosophy, Hegelian dialectics, recognised him so long ago it predicted his coming. The fetishistic character of the so-called cultural revolution struck out, not against exploitative production, but the bland "four olds" (old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits). All sound and fury and no class content. Only he who has no future is frightened of the past! By any other name, including that of Red Guards, the elitist character of Party, Army, Red Guards, and what now merged into the one and only "helmsman at the ship of state," is as unmistakable as was Louis XIV's "L'etat c'est moi." Which is why Sheng Wu-lien demanded that instead of rhetoric, real "Paris Communes" must cover the land. That self-development, self-activity, self-movement in the Hegelian dialectic which became so alive to Lenin in 1914-23, is that which caused Stalin to order the exclusion of "the negation of the negation" from the "laws" of the dialectic as if, by fiat, state-capitalist tyranny could indeed change the course of history. Lack of confidence in the masses is the common root of all objections to "idealistic, mystical Hegelianism." That includes not only outright betrayers, but also intellectuals committed to proletarian revolution; outsiders looking in; academic Marxists who (even when independent of any state power) are permeated to the marrow of their bones with the capitalistic concept of the backwardness of the proletariat. One and all, they are blind to the relationship of theory to history as a historical relationship made by masses in motion.
The one element of truth that all these detractors of Hegel express is the need to break with bourgeois idealism, including that of Hegel. For, without Marx's unique discovery of the materialist foundations of history, Hegelian dialectics remained imprisoned in an idealism that was abstract enough to allow for its usage as apology for the Prussian state. Had Marx not broken with bourgeois idealism in its philosophic form as well as its class nature, he would not have been able either to disclose the algebraic formula of revolution inherent in the Hegelian dialectic, or to recreate the dialectic that emerged out of the actual class struggles and proletarian revolutions, and sketch out that, just that, self-movement into "permanent revolution." In our age, however, we have to contend with Communism's, and its fellow travellers', perversions of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic.
Mankind has evidently reached the end of something, when the richest and most powerful military might on earth shouts to the heavens, not about the wonders of its production, affluence, or nuclear gigantism, but about the "strange spirit of malaise throughout the land." This is not all due to "spirit." It has very deep economic roots: whether one looks at the money crisis or the unemployment that will not go away; whether one's sights are on the ceaseless militarisation and nuclear gigantism or the depth of the poverty and its deepening black colour in the midst of the affluence of white imperialism; whether one's eyes are on reaching the barren moon or on the hollowness of America's so-called democracy. But the overwhelming fact is that the U.S.'s GNP hitting the trillion-dollar mark, far from winning the battle for the minds of men, lost not only the battle but its mind, its spirit.
The constant tug-of-war with "Hegelianism" on the part of the "New Left" just when there is such hunger for a new philosophy of liberation, is only proof that there is no "third way" in the mode of thought any more than there is in the class struggle. Petty-bourgeois subjectivism has always ended by holding on to some state power, and never more so than in our state-capitalist age, whose intellectuals are so ridden through with the administrative mentality of the Plan, the Vanguard Party, the "cultural" revolution as the substitute for the proletarian revolution. The totality of the crisis demands not only listening to the voices from below, but also building on that foundation as the reality and as the link to historic continuity.
Furthest from the minds of elitist intellectuals, of leaders in particular, is the self-development of the masses who themselves would master the principles of the dialectic. Yet all the new beginnings for theory, for philosophy as well as for revolutionary reconstruction of society on totally new human foundations, have in our age come from the spontaneous outbursts the world over. "Self-determination in which alone the Idea is is to hear itself speak" was heard by those fighting for selfdetermination. They were "experiencing" second negativity. Clearly the struggle was against not only exploiters, but also those who set themselves up as leaders.
The days are long since past when these voices from below could be treated, at best, as mere sources of theory. The movement from practice which is itself a form of theory demands a totally new relationship of theory to practice. Lenin was right when he declared that Hegel's route from Logic to Nature meant "stretching a hand to materialism," and when he proclaimed, "Cognition not only reflects the world but creates it." As can be seen from his concretisation of this "” "the world does not satisfy man and man decides to change it by his activity" "” it was no mere restatement of his former thesis that "without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolution." This time Lenin kept stressing "Subject," man, "subjective" as "most concrete," cognition as dialectics, as philosophy "” "Science is a circle of circles. The various sciences . . . are fragments of this chain." 7S Whether it is theory or the Party "” by 1920 Lenin was to stress that "Socialism cannot be introduced by a minority, a Party" "” Lenin's emphasis was on philosophy: "absolute subjectivity," Subject as man and Notion, the unity of object and subject, of mental and manual, the whole.
The tragedy of the Russian Revolution was that this was never achieved after the conquest of state power, and the Bolshevik co-leaders, in ruling a state power, also took advantage of the philosophic ambivalence of Lenin to turn their backs on "idealist philosophy."
It is true, of course "” and indeed there would be something fundamentally amiss if it were otherwise "” that Marx and Lenin solved the problems of their age, not ours. But powerful foundations have been laid for this age which we would disregard at our peril, even as it would be fatal not to build on the theoretic-practical Humanist ground rediscovered since the mid-1950s, and which Marx in his day called "positive Humanism, beginning from itself." The restatement, by the mature proletarian revolutionary author of Capital, of the young Marx's exuberance of 1844 "” "the development of human power which is its own end" "” demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt how Europe's 1848 revolutions, America's Civil War, 1861-65, and the Paris Commune, 1871, verified Marx's "new Humanism." Any other foundation, any other ground, such as "nationalised propertyless with or without military "focos," can only lead to still another tyranny.
There is no way to end the reappearance of still another exploitative, alienated, and alienating society except through a social revolution, beginning with the relations between people at the point of production, and continuing as that elemental outburst involving the population "to a man, woman, child" which ends once and for all the dichotomy between mental and manual labor so that "individuality [is] freed from all that interferes with its universalism, i.e., freedom."
To labor under the illusion that one could pick up theory "en route" and thereby avoid going through "the labor of the negative" in the theoretic preparation for revolution as in the actual class struggles is every bit as false a consciousness as that which befalls the ruling class.
As against the concept that endless activism, though it be mindless, is sufficient "to make the revolution," what is needed is a restatement for our age of Marx's concept of the "realisation" of philosophy, that is, the inseparability of philosophy and revolution.
The mature Marx, like the young Marx, rejected Feuerbachian materialism and held instead that the Hegelian dialectic of "second negativity" was the "creative principle," the turning-point which puts an end to the division between mental and manual labor. The mature, as well as the young, Marx grounded "the development of human power which is its own end" in the "absolute movement of becoming." Only with such a Promethean vision could one be certain that a new Paris Commune would not only be "a historic initiative "” working, thinking, bleeding Paris . . . radiant in the enthusiasm of its historic initiative" "” but continue its self-development so that a totally new social order on a world scale was established.
The new that characterises our era, the "energising principle" that has determined the direction of the two decades of the movement from practice, simultaneously rejects false consciousness and aborted revolutions.
The reality is stifling. The transformation of reality has a dialectic all its own. It demands a unity of the struggles for freedom with a philosophy of liberation. Only then does the elemental revolt release new sensibilities, new passions, and new forces "” a whole new human dimension.
Ours is the age that can meet the challenge of the times when we work out so new a relationship of theory to practice that the proof of the unity is in the Subject's own self-development. Philosophy and revolution will first then liberate the innate talents of men and women who will become whole. Whether or not we recognise that this is the task history has "assigned," to our epoch, it is a task that remains to be done.