A Short Note on Dialectical Materialism

Published on Worker’s Action, by Brad Forrest, August 14, 2012.

In order to move forward from capitalist society the working class needs an ironclad philosophy, one that can be of use in the storm and stress of revolution. Making sense of a turbulent world requires a method of thinking that is flexible, fluid and takes evolutionary transformation into account.

This world outlook of Marxism is called dialectical materialism, a philosophy that is the direct descendent of the great Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century but which revolutionized their thinking by introducing a historical dimension.  

The achievement was scientific materialism enriched with the theory of evolution propounded by G.W.F Hegel. Materialism states that our ideas are a reflection of the material universe that exists independently of any observer. It’s dialectical in that it is always in a state of movement, and change. In the next paragraphs we will give an overview of dialectical versus formal logic

One of the early dialectical philosophers was the Greek Heraclitus, “the obscure” (535-475 BCE). He is famous for saying that “you never step into the same river twice.” He also noted, “The way up is the way down,” and that “Everything is pregnant with its contrary.” This conflict, or continual contradiction, he called strife. Strife, he claimed, is the basis of all movement, and propels everything forward … //

… Although Hegel (1770-1831 AD) was a dialectical thinker, he was also an Idealist, who believed in the “idea” predating the universe, which alienates, goes out of itself, and undergoes evolution in the world until it’s finally comprehended by philosophical man. Translated into more popular language, this means he believed that God or Mind rules the universe and that history is governed by an evolving logic that can be rationally understood.

Marx and Engels took dialectical logic out of its “Hegelian” straightjacket, and married dialectics to materialism. Hegel supplied several insights that help make sense of processes of change. He noted that all material things undergo an evolutionary transformation of quantitative (gradual) development into qualitative (punctuated) change, for example, the slow gestation and then finally the abrupt birth of a child. Hegel also elaborated evolution through contradiction, for example positive and negative charges, living and dying, hot and cold, etc. There are other valuable lessons of dialectical logic that can be applied to phenomena undergoing transformation; even understanding politics and society can be enhanced better when using a logical framework (dialectics) that starts with the premise of change and flux, especially when one considers the struggle between classes that are diametrically opposed such as the working class and the capitalist class.

In Ludwig Feuerbach, and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Engels makes the astounding assertion that philosophy “as such” had become obsolete. With the advent of dialectical materialism a special philosophy sitting “queen like” over the sciences was unnecessary. What remains of all previous philosophy is formal logic, and dialectics, the rest is a summing up of the different scientific branches. Lenin said long ago that Marxism is omnipotent because it’s true. We might add that it should be studied with care because it helps provide the answers to the burning questions that haunt mankind. (full text).

Links on en.wikipedia:

Karl Marx;

Friedrich Engels;

Marx/Engels Collected Works;

Marxist Internet Archive and it’s External Links;

The Communist Manifesto and it’s External Links;

other Links:

Marxist Internet Archive: index, Marx-Engels Internet Archive MIA, sitemap, e-books, text-index, MIA library, Contact.

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