I. Preliminary Analysis
October 7, 1982
1. “Fifteen years earlier (1924) Trotsky was involved in a life and death struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy. Stalin had raised the demagogic demand of the need to ‘Bolshevize the party’ at a time when he was going all-out to consolidate bureaucracy and prepare the physical destruction of Trotsky’s Left Opposition. The demand for ‘Bolshevization’ was nothing but a cynical cover behind which Stalin was plotting not only to physically eliminate his opponents but to terminate the democratic rights won by the Soviet working class and impose his own personal dictatorship over the Soviet masses.” (Article I, p. 1)
This is an interpretation of the role of Stalin that contradicts the analysis made by Trotsky and to which the Fourth International has always adhered. Trotsky never held that Stalin, as early as 1924, was deliberately plotting the destruction of his opponents in order to establish a personal dictatorship.
As Trotsky wrote in his biography of Stalin: “If Stalin could have foreseen at the very beginning where his fight against Trotskyism would lead, he undoubtedly would have stopped short, in spite of the prospect of victory over all his opponents. But he did not foresee anything. The prophecies of his opponents that he would become the leader of the Thermidor, the grave digger of the Party of the Revolution, seemed to him empty imaginings (and phrase-mongering).” (p. 393)
2. “Now, with only months to go before his assassination, he was insisting once again on the necessity for a serious attitude towards the training of revolutionary cadres in the spirit of Hegel, Marx, Engels and Lenin.” (I, 1)
This simple identification of Hegel with Marx, Engels and Lenin is unjustified and needlessly confuses the boundaries between materialism and idealism. Hegel was a great precursor of Marxism. But historically, politically and theoretically, it is wrong to state that Trotsky sought to train cadre in the spirit of Hegel. In fact, in the very writings to which the author refers, Trotsky writes: “Study Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Franz Mehring.” (In Defense of Marxism, p. 98) In order to preserve the rational content of the Hegelian system, Marx had to fight against the spirit of Hegel, as it was manifested in the pupils who uncritically accepted his system, which was thoroughly idealistic. Nothing is added to the stature of Hegel, but such a formulation does invite theoretical confusion within our own ranks. Moreover, this is a formulation which never had been employed in our movement. Its introduction at this point would suggest an evaluation of the Hegelian system different from that made by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Moreover, if we wish to include Hegel among those in whose spirit the IC cadre is educated, why not Spinoza and the French materialists?
3. “When it came to the dialectical materialist method and reading ‘Hegel materialistically’ Trotsky was a staunch Leninist. He walked in the footsteps not only of Lenin but of Marx and Engels as well.” (I,1)
This distorts the relationship between Trotsky and Lenin, unintentionally diminishing the former. Before Trotsky joined the party, during the long period where he was in sharp disagreement with Lenin, Trotsky was a dialectical materialist. To put the matter otherwise would be to suggest that Trotsky only became a Marxist once he became a Leninist, i.e., a member of the Bolshevik Party. Moreover, Trotsky was not at all comfortable with the term Leninism, as if it was a special brand of Marxism. It should be added that Trotsky did not really walk “in the footsteps” of Lenin. He was Lenin’s contemporary and made his own independent contributions to the development of Marxism—above all, the theory of Permanent Revolution, which more exactly anticipated the character of the future revolution in Russia.
4. “Whilst this does not of course mean that every worker member of the Party will become a conscious dialectician, we do insist that the revolutionary Trotskyist leaderships in all countries must be trained in the dialectical materialist method.” (I,1-2)
I recall that in 1972 criticism was made of Trotsky for conceding this very point to Burnham.
5. “These remarks by Lenin are very important for dialectical training. The development of consciousness in the past by Hegel and the founders of our movement must be understood as an infinite process.” (I,2)
This remark seems to contradict the quote from Lenin’s What the Friends of the People Are, in which Lenin speaks of the systems of relations (‘relations of production’) which (to use Marx’s terminology) “is the basis of society which clothes itself in political and legal forms and in definite trends of social thought.”
If we truly start from the system of production relations as the foundation upon which the ideological superstructure rises, we will not speak of the “development of consciousness by Hegel and the founders of our movement.” Again, Hegel and the Marxists are more or less identified.
Furthermore, we should not comprehend the “development of consciousness” as simply an “infinite process.” It is both finite and infinite. Hegel’s contribution to the development of consciousness is necessarily finite, limited, in the sense that he lived and worked in a definite historical epoch. The development of human knowledge is infinite in the whole historical development of human culture. The infinite development of consciousness proceeds through the finite thought of individual men. Engels answered Duhring on precisely this question. (See IX, Morality and Law)
6. “The founders of our movement have bequeathed to us a scientifically-derived revolutionary theory of knowledge which is presently the core of our dialectical training. Not only is the development of consciousness an infinite process, but the cognition of the external world is an infinite process as well. The process of cognition today enables us to stand on their shoulders as it were, and complete the historical tasks they set out to accomplish.” (I, 2)
Cognition is simply an infinite process only if there are no finite men to contaminate its purely infinite development. We are now clearly in the realm of the movement of pure consciousness.
The founders of our movement did not simply bequeath us a revolutionary theory of knowledge, but this, perhaps, can be accepted for the purpose of emphasis. However, the following cannot be accepted:
“The process of cognition today enables us to stand on their shoulders as it were ...”
It is the objective development of the world capitalist crisis and the revolutionary movement of the working class that enables us to stand on the shoulders of Trotsky and all the earlier generations of revolutionary workers and fighters.
To credit our position in world history to the process of thought is to take an entirely idealist position.
II. Continuation of Preliminary Analysis
October 8, 1982
Comrade G proceeds from an elaboration of Hegel in an idealist manner. Thrashing through the eclectic formulations, the disjointed presentation, the arbitrary transitions (accomplished through use of words such as “therefore,” in the Hegelian style), a clear theoretical line emerges
1. Hegel is put on the same historical line as Marx, Engels and Lenin—a founder of Marxism in whose spirit revolutionary cadres are trained. This essentially denies the revolution in philosophy accomplished by Marx through his break with Classical German Philosophy.
2. The study of “objective logic” is declared to be the highest task of humanity, altering Lenin’s declaration that “The highest task of humanity is to comprehend this objective logic of economic evolution (the evolution of social life) in its general and fundamental features...” (Vol. 14, p. 325).
3. The history of man, we are told by G, is the history of “the growth of the creative element...”, not the struggle of classes;
4. The principle of objectivity is proclaimed to be the “basic difference between materialism and abstract idealism,” rather than the primacy of matter over thought;
5. The development of consciousness is declared to be an “infinite” process, ignoring its finite character in the actual thought of individual men;
6. The process of cognition, not the processes of the world capitalist crisis, is proclaimed as the source of our transcendence of past generations of Marxists;
7. Subjective cognition (i.e., self-consciousness) “conditions itself as substance...”, exactly as presented by Hegel;
8. The thinking body is substituted for social man;
9. “The theoretical Notion” is presented as “the external world itself.”
10. The “speculative nature of cognition” (i.e., thought emerging out of its own self-movement) is “emphasize(d).”;
11. Knowledge is gathered “dialectically and materialistically” from “empiricism”;
12. The process of cognition is presented strictly in accordance with the logical schematism of Hegel, much the same way E. Duhring proceeded in the 1870s;
13. Knowledge of the logical categories replaces real knowledge of the concrete movement of phenomena; the essential connections are presented as logical categories. This method proceeds as follows: we discover the logical categories that are the essence of historical phenomena, and then reveal “its relations as a stage of knowledge in relation to other categories such as necessity, probability, possibility.” In other words, the real content of all phenomena is its logical thought content.
14. Briefly summing up, what G presents is crude Hegelianism which is thinly disguised with occasional references to the material world. However, its primacy is seen as conditional: “Under these conditions, ‘Being’ is primary, consciousness is secondary.” In other words, there may be conditions when consciousness is primary and Being is secondary. (I, 2)
15. All in all, a clear retreat from materialism via an uncritical regurgitation of Hegelian phrases; consciousness is presented as a form of logical phenomenology in each individual; of social consciousness—nil; historical materialism is ignored. All the errors of the Left Hegelians and the weak Proudhon (i.e., “Philosophy of Poverty”) are repeated. The real significance of Marx standing Hegel “on his feet” is not grasped. In analyzing G’s articles, the criticisms of Lassalle’s work by Marx and Lenin are very appropriate.
(As a result of all this, we finally arrive at a presentation of the origins of Stalinism that contradicts the analysis made by Trotsky. This is a very disturbing sign, because the mystification of history was a characteristic of the Left Hegelians.)
III. Notes on G. Healy’s “Studies”
October 9-11, 1982
1. Dialectical Materialism, the theory of knowledge which constitutes the theoretical foundation of Marxism as a world scientific outlook, was the outcome of the supreme intellectual achievement of the young Karl Marx, that is, the critique of the Hegelian dialectic and philosophy as a whole.
2. The supersession of Hegel by Marx, both a precondition for and inseparable from the elaboration of the materialist conception of history, was achieved between 1843 and 1847; and this supersession may be traced through a study of the following works: A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law (1843); The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844; The Holy Family (1844); The German Ideology (1845); and The Poverty of Philosophy (1847).
3. The significance of this achievement was explained by Engels:
“Marx was and is the only one who could undertake the work of extracting from the Hegelian logic the nucleus containing Hegel’s real discoveries in this field, and of establishing the dialectical method, divested of its idealist wrappings, in the simple form in which it becomes the only correct mode of conceptual evolution. The working out of this method which underlies Marx’s critique of political economy is, we think, a result hardly less significant than the basic materialist conception.” (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers, p. 218)
4. At the very time when Marx publicly declared himself “the pupil of that mighty thinker,” he clearly explained:
“My dialectical method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea,’ he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea.’ With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.” (Capital, Vol. 1, “Afterword to the Second German Edition,” Progress Publishers, p. 29)
5. Marx and Engels treated with derision those epigones of Hegel, first the Right and Left Hegelians, later Proudhon, and still later F. Lassalle, who “assimilated only the most simple devices of the master’s dialectics and applied them to everything and anything, often moreover with ridiculous incompetence.” (Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 222) Of Lassalle’s uncritical use of the Hegelian system of Logical categories, Marx wrote: “He will learn to his cost that to bring a science by criticism to the point where it can be dialectically presented is an altogether different thing from applying an abstract ready-made system of logic to mere inklings of such a system.” (Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, Progress, p. 102)
6. That classic of Marxism, Anti-Duhring, was directed against that eclectic impostor who combined vulgar materialism with logical schematism based on uncritical recapitulation of Hegelian categories.
“... We find that Hegel’s Logic starts from being —as with Herr Duhring; that being turns out to be nothing, just as with Herr Duhring; that from this being-nothing there is a transition to becoming, the result of which is determinate being (Dasein), i.e., a higher, fuller form of being (Sein)—just the same as with Herr Duhring. Determinate being leads on to quality, and quality on to quantity —just the same as with Herr Duhring.” (p. 61)
7. In 1914, Lenin set out to read Hegel’s Logic as a materialist, i.e., from the standpoint of Marxism, which means, of course, basing himself on the achievements of Marx in attempting to continue the task of “extracting from the Hegelian logic the nucleus containing Hegel’s real discoveries in this field ...”
8. Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks advance beyond the critique of Hegel made by Marx 70 years before. His Notebooks are a critical reworking of the Logic, the results of which are profound discoveries that provide the foundation for the unification of logic, dialectics and the theory of knowledge.
9. Lenin’s attitude toward the study of Hegel was identical to that of Marx and Engels, as is seen in his review of Lassalle’s study of Heraclitus:
“One can understand why Marx called this work of Lassalle’s ‘schoolboyish’ (see the letter to Engels of...); Lassalle simply repeats Hegel, copies from him, re-echoing him a million times with regard to isolated passages from Heraclitus, furnishing his opus with an incredible heap of learned ultra-pedantic ballast.
“The difference with respect to Marx: In Marx there is a mass of new material, and what interests him is only the movement forward from Hegel and Feuerbach further, from idealistic to materialistic dialectics ...
“Marx in 1844-47 went from Hegel to Feuerbach, and further beyond Feuerbach to historical and (dialectical) materialism. Lassalle in 1846 began (Preface, p. III), in 1855 resumed, and in August 1857 (Preface, p. XV) finished a work of sheer, empty, useless, ‘learned’ rehashing of Hegelianism!” (Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 38, pp. 339-40)
10. Cde. Healy’s “Studies in Dialectical Materialism” suffer from one decisive defect: they essentially ignore the achievements of both Marx and Lenin in the materialist reworking of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus, Hegel is approached uncritically, essentially in the manner of the Left Hegelians against whom Marx struggled.
11. In approaching Hegel in this manner, the distinction between materialism and idealism is not only effaced; Comrade Healy explicitly passes over to idealism in expounding Hegel as a Left Hegelian. Thus we have “consciousness” as “an infinite process”; “Subjective Cognition [i.e., self-consciousness] conditions itself as substance similar in example to positive and negative electricity” (i.e., thought becomes matter, or, as Hegel wrote, “The alienation of self-consciousness itself establishes thinghood ...”, see the Phenomenology); “Subjective cognition is a decisive impulse”; “the mental world”; “The Abstract Notion is obliged to unavoidably become a ‘positive or theoretical Notion’” ; “The theoretical Notion is the external world itself; “The ‘leap’ is to practice under conditions in which ‘consciousness creates it’”; “To further emphasize the highly-speculative nature of cognition ...”
12. Cde. Healy does not take into account the oft-repeated warnings of both Marx and Engels that the Hegelian dialectic was unusable in the form it was left behind. Thus, Cde. Healy seeks to explain the process of cognition directly from Hegelian Logic. This is a false approach. The process of thought cannot be explained from the Logic any more than the nature of the State could be explained from the Logic. Cde. Healy fails to take note of Marx’s discovery that Hegel’s idealist system affected the exposition of the movement of the Logical categories; that is, Marx does not take the categories of Hegel as given. They themselves must be reworked in the spirit of consistent materialism. I.e., Marx reworked the category of contradiction, which, as a result of Hegel’s idealist mysticism, loses the content of real struggle in the Logic. Hegel’s logical resolution of contradiction through the mediation of a third is accomplished through sophistry. Cde. Healy, however, treats contradiction as a Hegelian: “Mediations now take place at all stages of cognition, and it is here that the method of ‘dialectical logic’ is used for analysis.”
13. The chief defect of Cde. Healy’s articles—ignoring the achievements of Marx and Lenin—is glaringly apparent in his virtual indifference toward historical materialism. Cognition is treated as a movement of thought concepts outside the law-governed, historically developing social practice of man.
a. The Spinozaist concept of a “thinking body” is introduced in the third article, without any explanation of its philosophical source. (It appears in a passage lifted, without citation, from Ilyenkov’s Dialectical Logic. Only one change is made. Substance is referred to “as a dialectical category” which gives the uncited Spinoza a Hegelian slant.)
b. Cde. Healy writes that “The history of human beings is organized in society as the history of the growth of the creative element, man’s initiative, both employers and working class. The higher the consciousness of people, the higher their cognition of the objective laws of nature and history.” He goes on to write of “The activity of dialectics...” Here, history is explained from consciousness, not from the material production relations of which social thought can only be a reflection. The “creative element” is, of course, consciousness; and here Cde. Healy is only repeating the position of the Left Hegelians, the “Critical Critics”—who substituted their critical activity for the “uncritical” practical revolutionary activities of the masses.
c. “In the early stages of dialectical materialism as a scientific study,” writes Cde. Healy, “we quickly arrive on the scene of a study of concepts.” Who the “we” is, is unclear. But for Marx and Engels, dialectical materialism begins not with a study of concepts, but with a study of real man.
“In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here it is a matter of ascending from earth to heaven. That is to say, not of setting out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh; but of setting out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process demonstrating the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process [i.e., concepts].” (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 36)
d. The real starting point is not the concept of the material world, but the material world itself. Otherwise, the approach can only be that of a Hegelian—divining the movement of the real from the movement of concepts. But we do not reconstruct the movement of the real from the movement of thought. This is not possible, at any rate, for thought is by no means a “pure” reflection of the external world. Thought is always social thinking. Thus, we show concepts to be the reflection of the material world within the mind of socially-active man. Otherwise:
“These concepts—leaving aside their real basis (which Stirner in any case leaves aside)—understood as concepts inside consciousness, as thoughts inside people’s heads, transferred from their objectivity back into the subject, elevated from substance into self-consciousness, are—whimsies or fixed ideas.” (Vol. 5, p. 160)
14. The essentially idealist distortion of dialectical materialism is shown clearly in Comrade Healy’s treatment of the following passage from Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
a. Comrade Healy quotes as follows:
“Every individual producer in the world economic system realizes that he is introducing this or that change into the technique of production; every owner realizes that he exchanges certain products for others; but these producers and these owners do not realize that in doing so they are thereby changing Social Being.
“The sum-total of these changes in all their ramifications in the capitalist world economy could not even be grasped by 70 Marxes. The most important thing is that the laws of these changes have been discovered, that the objective logic of these changes and their historical development has in its chief and basic features been disclosed.” (Volume 14, p. 325)
Cde. Healy continues as follows:
“This process is objective ‘in the sense that social being is independent of the social consciousness of people.’ ‘The highest task,’ wrote Lenin, 75 years ago, ‘ ... is to comprehend this objective logic’ (Volume 14, p. 325)”
Comrade Healy’s manner of quoting has changed the content of Lenin’s argument in a manner which adapts it to Hegelian idealism. Starting with the sentence which contains the words “been disclosed,” we shall quote Lenin and place in brackets those passages not quoted by Cde. Healy:
“The most important thing is that the objective logic of these changes and their historical development has in its chief and basic features been disclosed [—objective, not in the sense that a society of conscious beings, of people, could exist and develop independently of the existence of conscious beings (and it is only such trifles that Bogdanov stresses by his ‘theory’), but] in the sense that social being is independent of the social consciousness of people. [The fact that you live and conduct your business, beget children, produce products and exchange them, gives rise to an objectively necessary chain of events, a chain of development, which is independent of your social consciousness, and is never grasped by the latter completely.] The highest task of humanity is to comprehend this objective logic [of economic evolution (the evolution of social life) in its general and fundamental features, so that it may be possible to adapt to it one’s social consciousness and the consciousness of the advanced classes of all capitalist countries in as definite, clear and critical a fashion as possible.”] (p. 325)
b. Thus, rather than the objective logic of economic evolution, we have the objective logic. Of what? This becomes clear in the very next passage written by Comrade Healy:
“The principle of coincidence enables us to define the objective content of a given category by revealing its relations as a stage of knowledge in relation to other categories such as necessity, probability, possibility.”
By “the principle of coincidence,” Cde. Healy means, as he stated immediately before the quote from Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, “the coincidence of dialectics, logic and the theory of knowledge.”
It is clear from these passages and the selective quotation that Cde. Healy views the logical categories and their inter-relations, as the essential content into which historical movement is distilled. Once the logical thought content of each material event or fact has been discovered, we can then reveal their essence “as a stage of knowledge in relation to other categories such as necessity, probability, possibility.”
Here we have the entire logical mysticism of Hegel uncritically reproduced, and this, in fact, is the essence of Cde. Healy’s entire approach to dialectics in these most recent articles. Everything becomes a matter of following the sequence of the categories of Hegel’s Logic. The material content is to be developed out of the Logic, rather than, as Marx insisted, the logic out of the content.
Comrade Healy has merely reproduced the very errors of Proudhon that were analyzed by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy:
“... Thus the metaphysicians who, in making these abstractions, think they are making analyses, and who, the more they detach themselves from things, imagine themselves to be getting all the nearer to the point of penetrating their core [i.e., “as a stage of knowledge in relation to other categories...”]—these metaphysicians in turn are right in saying that things here below are embroideries of which the logical categories constitute the canvass...
“Just as by dint of abstraction we have transformed everything into a logical category, so one has only to make an abstraction of every characteristic distinctive of different movements to attain movement in its abstract condition—purely formal movement, the purely logical formula of movement. If one finds in logical categories the substance of all things, one imagines one has found in the logical formula of movement the absolute method, which not only explains all things, but also implies the movement of things.
“It is of this absolute method that Hegel speaks in these terms:
“‘Method is the absolute, unique, supreme, infinite force which no object can resist; it is the tendency of reason to find itself again, to recognize itself in every object.’ (Logic, Vol. III)
“All things being reduced to a logical category, and every movement, every act of production, to method, it follows naturally that every aggregate of products and production, of objects and movement, can be reduced to applied metaphysics. What Hegel has done for religion, law, etc., M. Proudhon seeks to do for political economy.” (pp. 99-100)
15. The phrase “standing Hegel on his feet” should not be used to diminish the profound scientific achievement embodied in this task. What was involved was nothing less than the establishment of the materialist world scientific outlook through which laws of nature, society and consciousness are cognized. The chief concern of philosophy was no longer the “matter of Logic” but the “logic of the matter.”
Marx clearly revealed that the Hegelian logical schema, when utilized as given, leads inevitably to sophistry, via the manipulation of logical categories and the further manipulation of empirical facts to fit the pre-existing categories.
Especially in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, Marx demonstrated the necessity of a critical reworking of Hegelian concepts. With Hegel, the categories of identity, particularity, the general—have only an abstract, and therefore, untrue content. Hegel passes from an unreal antithesis to an imaginary identity. In this way, Hegel is able to unite in Identity the general state interest with the particular private aim. The ultimately reactionary uses to which Hegel’s system was employed arise out its idealist structure. The Identity of the Universal and the Particular cannot be established in logical categories except as abstractions devoid of real content. In such a form, any general can be united with any particular, to provide, on demand, an abstract, and, therefore, unreal identity. Therefore, the connections between categories cannot be established in thought, as a form of Logical schematism. As forms of the reflection of the external world in thought, the real dialectical content of general, particular, antithesis, subsumption, etc., must be abstracted from nature (and history) itself through scientific analysis. Speculative idealism discovered the general abstract forms of the reflection of the world in man’s social, historically-developing, consciousness, and the isolation of these forms provides us with the logical categories of the Hegelian dialectic. But these categories cannot be left suspended from mid-air. Their material content must be extracted from the study of nature and history.
16. Marx wrote that “comprehending does not consist, as Hegel imagines, in recognizing the features of the logical concept everywhere, but in grasping the specific logic of the specific subject.” (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 3. p. 91) This was Marx on the threshhold of his Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic and Philosophy As A Whole.
17. Comrade Healy’s “Studies” are not a materialist reading of Hegel. Rather, there are lengthy reproductions of Hegel in which significant concessions are made to idealism.
a. “The principle of OBJECTIVITY in the approach to the external world constitutes the basic difference between materialism and abstract idealism.” (Article I) This is not true. Hegel’s standpoint was that of objectivity as well. The basic difference between materialism and idealism (abstract is superfluous) is the primacy of matter over consciousness.
b. “‘Being’ is matter which exists independently of consciousness and is the source of all sensation. Under these conditions ‘Being’ is primary, consciousness is secondary.” Can there be conditions in which “Being” is not primary? Hegel also recognized “Being” as the source of sensation, and this is in fact the starting point of the Phenomenology. Hegel could acknowledge the primacy of Being in that sense. But then it is consciousness which becomes primary.
c. “Not only is the development of consciousness an infinite process, but the cognition of the external world is an infinite process as well.” Can the “development of consciousness” be anything else but “the cognition of the external world”? Why does Comrade Healy present us with two different infinite processes: the “development of consciousness” and “cognition of the external world”? Moreover “the development of consciousness” (in the cognition of the external world) is both finite and infinite. It can only be simply infinite as the self-movement of thought independent of all the finite generations of finite men through whom thought has historically developed. Comrade Healy’s “infinite” is the “development of consciousness” separate from “the cognition of the external world”, i.e., the movement of the Absolute Idea.
d. Comrade Healy quotes Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks: “... the practical activity of man had to lead his consciousness to the repetition of the various logical figures thousands of millions of times in order that these figures could obtain the significance of axioms.” (Vol. 38, p. 190)
Comrade Healy then comments: “Subjective dialectical thought becomes submerged in the objective situation thousands of millions of times so that the ‘consciousness of man’ can attain the ‘significance of axioms’.” This is an idealist interpretation of the passage by Lenin. The latter begins with the practical activity of man, from which consciousness then emerges. Comrade Healy begins with “Subjective dialectical thought,” leaves out the practical activity of man, and then transforms consciousness into “an axiom.” But this approach simply reproduces the illusion of idealism that arises in the historical development of man.
As Engels explained:
“But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as laws coming from outside to which the world has to conform. That is how things happened in society and in the state, and in this way, and not otherwise, pure, mathematics was subsequently applied to the world, although it is borrowed from this same world and represents only one part of its forms of interconnection—and it is only just because of this that it can be applied at all. That consciousness “can attain the significance of axioms” was the conception of Duhring. (See Anti-Duhring, p. 54)
18. In Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, he explained the fundamental weakness of his idealist dialectics: in every area of concrete study to which Hegel turns his attention, we always have before us the Logic. Thus, the movement always proceeded from thought and therefore the connections are those of the abstract logic. As he explained in relation to Hegel’s treatment of the State:
“The transition is thus derived, not from the particular nature of the family, etc., and from the particular nature of the state, but from the general relationship of necessity and freedom. It is exactly the same transition as is effected in logic from the sphere of essence to the sphere of the concept. The same transition is made in the philosophy of nature from inorganic nature to life. It is always the same categories which provide the soul, now for this, now for that sphere. It is only a matter of spotting for the separate concrete attributes the corresponding abstract attributes.” (Marx-Engels, Vol. 3, p. 10, emphasis added)
19. It is this very idealist procedure which Cde. Healy employs in effecting the transition from sensation to consciousness. Being, Not Being, Becoming, Cause, Effect, and inner movement of negation in general are employed to explain the transition from sensation to conscious thought (as well as the movement of the value form). After “Absolute essence (Negative Semblance) confronts our ‘theory of knowledge’ which becomes Positive Semblance as they face each other in antithesis,” Cde. Healy declares: “we have ended the sensuous stage of the Cognitive process.” All this has been accomplished simply through reference to categories of the Hegelian Logic; in other words, we have a mystical process presented as the real process. Cde. Healy, though he quotes a fragment from Lenin on page 283 in Volume 38, leaves out a very significant remark by Lenin which appears on page 281:
Hegel, the supporter of dialectics, could not understand the dialectical transition from matter to motion, from matter to consciousness—especially the second. Marx corrected the error (or weakness?) of the mystic.
Not only is the transition from matter to consciousness dialectical, but also that from sensation to thought, etc.
20. Lenin develops this criticism further in a positive proposal for how the theory of knowledge should be developed. He includes both “psychology” and “physiology of the sense organs.” It should be noted that the latter two are added to his proposals for histories of “the separate sciences, the mental development of the child, the mental development of animals, language NB:” and he states: “These are fields of knowledge from which the theory of knowledge and dialectics should be built, in short, the history of cognition in general, the whole field of knowledge.” (p. 351)
21. That is how Lenin conceived of the development of dialectics; this was his proposal for a materialist deepening of the dialectics first elaborated by Hegel. The essential weakness of Comrade Healy’s approach is that he has proceeded in the opposite direction: back to the mystical construction of Hegelian categories, which are then used as a master key. In other words, he preserves the mystical system. This approach cannot be correct.
IV. Further Notes on G. Healy’s “Studies”
October 11-16, 1982
“Idealist thinking is always speculative because it excludes Contradiction.”??? (Pt. I, p. 12)
This is wrong in two respects: Idealist thinking is presented as excluding contradiction, and this is said to be its speculative nature.
1. It was idealism which first enunciated contradiction and made it the foundation of Logic; this was, in fact, the great achievement of speculative thought. The dialectical method is the outcome of idealist speculation.
2. Hegel clearly counterposed “ordinary” to “speculative” thought in that the former “abhors contradiction ...” (Science of Logic, p. 442)
3. It was mechanical materialism which excluded contradiction, and that was its chief defect.
4. “... the process of Cognition interprets consciousness as not merely a passive reflection of ‘Being’...” (Pt. I, p. 10)The PROCESS OF COGNITION is endowed with a human personality; it is no longer a process, it has become a person, who interprets!
5. “Every qualitatively distinct object has its own quantitative object. It has its own quantitative attributes, which are both immobile and immutable.” (Pt. 3, p. 6)
There is nothing in nature that is either immobile or immutable; for motion is the mode of existence of matter.
6. The passage is made even more obscure by what immediately follows:
“This very mutation, is of necessity bound by certain limits...”
We have gone from immobility and immutability to “This very mutation”!
7. “The self-movement of matter is responsible solely for the movement of thought through Semblance, Appearance and Actuality, once the stage of the abstract Notion is reached, practice itself generates the self-movement of matter.”
The self-movement of matter is the mode of existence of the universe. Practice, human practice, is part of the movement of nature. Does the self-movement of matter have no responsibility for practice?
8. “Without the capacity for the interaction of particles at all levels, matter as such could not exist.” (Pt. 3, p. 7)
From the standpoint of science, this is an absurd statement. As Engels wrote:
“NB Matter as such is a pure creation of thought and an abstraction. We leave out of account the qualitative differences of things in lumping them together as corporeally existing things as the concept matter. Hence matter as such, as distinct from definite existing pieces of matter, is not anything sensuously existing.” (Dialectics of Nature, p. 55)
“Matter as such” does not exist; and the very use of the term indicates the extent to which Comrade Healy has become wrapped up in the Hegelian mystical mode of expression—at the expense of abandoning dialectical materialism.
A dialectical materialist would have simply noted that natural science has established that the interaction of particles is a universal property of matter in motion.
9. “If we are to avail ourselves of the deepest aspects of material gathered from empirical observation and examination under conditions in which the knowledge dialectically and materialistically gathered from empiricism yields ever richer and wider sources of knowledge, we must be prepared to ‘grasp the nettle’ where it stings the most.” (Pt. 3, p. 8) (emphasis added)
This goes beyond even Hansen’s consistent empiricism = dialectical materialism. Now, we gather knowledge dialectically and materialistically in empiricism. The two opposing methods are united by using dialectically and materialistically as adverbs of empiricism’s action. How can we train cadre if we teach that Empiricism, a definite trend in bourgeois ideology, gathers knowledge dialectically and materialistically. If we mean to state that all knowledge is gathered dialectically and materialistically, in the sense that man is part of dialectical nature whose thinking proceeds in accordance with its objective laws, then we are talking about “unconscious dialectics” which, as Trotsky pointed out, applies both to the peasant woman tasting broth as well as the fox taking the measure of a chicken. But dialectical materialism is a conscious method and it develops in struggle against empiricism, and there is nothing gained by combining the two.
10. “When Subjective Cognition interpenetrates through antithesis the ‘theory of knowledge’ it conditions itself as substance similar in example to positive and negative electricity.” (Pt. 3, p. 6)
This is out-and-out mystical Hegelianism. Man is transformed into “self-consciousness,” which Cde. Healy chooses to refer to as Subjective Cognition. Subjective cognition is not an attribute of man any longer; rather, it is transformed into an independent subject, which is able to “condition[s] itself as substance.”
From there, Cde. Healy proceeds to substance “as a dialectical category”—thereby mystifying the Spinozaist conception of substance, which is no longer substance as substance, but substance “as a dialectical category”—as a mode of Subjective Cognition. In other words, we have Spinoza a la Hegel.
Without being conscious of it, Cde. Healy has managed to reproduce, virtually word for word, the whole course of Critical mystification against which Marx fought in The Holy Family.
“A few quotations will show that by overcoming Spinozaism Criticism ended up in Hegelian idealism, that from the ‘Substance’ it arrived at another metaphysical monster, the ‘Subject’, ‘Substance as a process’, ‘infinite self-consciousness’, and that the final result of ‘perfect’ and ‘pure’ Criticism is the restoration of the Christian theory of creation in a speculative, Hegelian form.” (The Holy Family, p. 170)
Interestingly, virtually the entire terminology is to be found at some point or another in the “Studies”: “perfect”, “infinite consciousness”, “Substance”, “Subject”, etc.
“... Herr Bauer makes ‘Substance emerge from its logical simplicity and assume a definite form of existence in the power of the community.’ He applied the Hegelian miracle apparatus by which the ‘metaphysical categories’—abstractions extracted out of reality —emerge from logic, where they are dissolved into the ‘simplicity’ of thought, and assume ‘a definite form’ of physical or human existence; he makes them become incarnate. Help, Hinrichs!” (Ibid., p. 170)
“Bauer’s self-consciousness too, is Substance raised to self-consciousness or self-consciousness as Substance; self-consciousness is transformed from an attribute of man into a self-existing subject. This is the metaphysical-theological caricature of man in his severance from nature. The being of this self-consciousness is therefore not man, but the idea of which self-consciousness is the real existence. It is the idea become man, and therefore it is infinite. All human qualities are thus transformed in a mysterious way into qualities of ‘infinite self-consciousness’. Hence, Herr Bauer says expressly that everything has its origin and its explanation in this ‘infinite self-consciousness’, i.e., finds in it the basis of its existence. Help, Hinrichs!” (Ibid., pp.171-72)
11. Examine the following passage by Cde. Healy as an illustration of the method described above:
“... Subjective cognition is a decisive impulse, through antithesis and interpenetration it is negated into the ‘theory of knowledge’ and into the mental world [!] embodying [!!] the individual in which Causality and Substance build up to Reciprocal action through necessity to the leap to the abstract Notion.” (Pt. 3, p. 6)
Subjective Cognition to ‘Theory of Knowledge’ into ‘mental world’ which ‘embody[s]’ the individual. Simplified, Subjective Cognition (thought) is negated (or alienated) into the mental world which embodies the individual. This is sheer idealism: the individual is embodied in the mental world; man is self-consciousness.
12. Just so there should be no doubt about the speculative construction of the entire argument, let us pass on to a passage a bit further down:
“The abstract notion completes the dialectical process of thought within the self-relation between individual and Universal and vice versa. The theoretical notion is the external world itself which supplies the positive side to the Notion. The practical impulse has emerged from subjective self-impulse, which is thought to objective practice.”
We have already been informed that the mental world embodies the individual. The individual, at best, can only be Subjective Cognition. What is the self-relation between the individual and the Universal. In Hegel it is between Absolute Spirit and the dialectical movement of consciousness. To go on, the theoretical notion, we are told, is the external world [!!], which merely “supplies” the Notion with its “positive side.”
The whole conception upon which this is based arises from the recognition of man only as self-consciousness, as thought. As in all idealism, “the movement of the universe only becomes true and real in his ideal self-movement.” (Ibid., p. 177)
Hegel “substitutes self-consciousness for man, the most varied manifestations of human reality appear only as definite forms, as determinateness of self-consciousness. But mere determinateness of self-consciousness is a ‘pure category’; a mere ‘thought’, which I can consequently also transcend in ‘pure’ thought and overcome through pure thought. In Hegel’s Phaenomenologie the material, sensuously perceptible, objective foundations of the various estranged forms of human self-consciousness are allowed to remain. The whole destructive work results in the most conservative philosophy because it thinks it has overcome the objective world, the sensuously perceptible real world, by transforming it into a ‘Thing of Thought’, a mere determinateness of self-consciousness, and can therefore also dissolve its opponent, which has become ethereal, in the ‘ether of pure thought’. The Phaenomenologie is therefore quite consistent in that it ends by replacing human reality by ‘absolute knowledge’—knowledge, because this is the only mode of existence of self-consciousness, and because self-consciousness is considered the only mode of existence of man—absolute knowledge for the very reason that self-consciousness knows only itself and is no longer disturbed by any objective world. Hegel makes man the man of self-consciousness instead of making self-consciousness the self-consciousness of man, of real man, i.e., of man living also in a real objective world and determined by that world. He stands the world on its head and can therefore in his head also dissolve all limitations, which nevertheless remain in existence for bad sensuousness, for real man. Moreover, everything that betrays the limitations of general self-consciousness —all sensuousness, reality, individuality of men and of their world—is necessarily held by him to be a limit. The whole of the Phaenomenologie is intended to prove that self-consciousness is the only reality and all reality.” (Ibid., pp.238-39)
“Finally, it goes without saying that whereas Hegel’s Phaenomenologie, in spite of its speculative original sin, gives in many instances the elements of a true description of human relations, Herr Bruno and Co. on the other hand, provide only an empty caricature, a caricature which is satisfied with deriving any determinateness out of a product of the spirit or even out of real relations and movements, changing this determinateness into a determinateness of thought, into a category, and making out that this category is the standpoint of the product, of the relation and the movement, in order then to be able to look down on this determinateness triumphantly with old-man’s wisdom from the standpoint of abstraction, of the general category and of general self-consciousness.” (Ibid., pp.239-40)
V. Notes for a Critique of Comrade G. Healy’s “Studies” (continued)
November 4, 1982
Article I: “Subjective Idealism Today”
1. “Dialectical Materialists get to know the world initially through a process of Cognition.”
What is meant by “Dialectical Materialists” as opposed to all other human beings? Is it being suggested that “Dialectical Materialists” get to know the world initially in a manner different from everyone else?
What is meant, at any rate, by “get to know the world initially through a process of Cognition”? Both historically and in their individual biographies, men “get to know the world initially” through practice. It is the historical development of social practice that gives rise to consciousness and its specific forms through which the external world is cognized.
2. “As forms of motion and change of the external world, these images are processed as concepts of phenomena. Upon negation through their dissolution from the positive sensation into their abstract negative, they are negated again as the nature of semblance which is the theory of knowledge of a human being. During this interpenetration process, the images as thought forms are analyzed through the science of thought and reason which is Dialectical Logic.”
Comrade G. employs the language of Hegelian mystification to wind up with a purely idealist and ahistorical conception of the development of knowledge. He presents, in mystical language (“their dissolution from the positive sensation into their abstract negative, they are negated again...”), the empty abstract form of the movement of thought as the real process of conceptual thinking. But in doing so, he tells us nothing at all about how real concepts have been and are being developed. Let us ask, “Upon negation through their dissolution from the positive sensation into their abstract negative,” whereupon “they are negated again as the nature of semblance,” are we formulating the concept of a strike, a state, or a bee’s sting on our arm?
What is meant by “the images as thought forms are analyzed through the science of thought and reason which is Dialectical Logic.” This is not materialism, certainly, and it isn’t even Hegel.
3. More idealist mystification: “From synthesis, which is implicit in the science of dialectical perception, Dialectical Logic takes over [??] and reveals concepts [?] and categories for analysis, thereby activating the science [???] and the theory of knowledge and historical materialism. [???] Thus, the ever-changing properties of thought in Dialectical Logic in self-relation [?] between [?] subject and object, coincide materially with the theory of knowledge.”
Dialectical Logic is presented as an independent subject, which activates not only the theory of knowledge but historical materialism as well!!
4. Then, the next section, entitled “Historical Materialism as a method,” we are told:
“Historical Materialism is a method for the building of the Revolutionary Party, based upon the Cognition of its object, which is society consisting of conscious human beings with the will to go on changing the world independently of each other as individuals.”
Historical materialism cannot be correctly defined as a “method” for the building of the Revolutionary Party ...” It is, as Lenin explained, “the consistent continuation and extension of materialism into the domain of social phenomena ...” which “made it possible for the first time to study with scientific accuracy the social conditions of the life of the masses” and which ascertained “the objective laws governing the development of the system of social relations...” (Vol. 21, p. 56)
Its “object” is not “society consisting of conscious human beings with the will [??] to go on changing the world independently of each other as individuals.”
The philosophical foundation of historical materialism is that social being exists independently of social consciousness. The reference to “conscious human beings” muddles everything, and is directly opposed to the very conceptions advanced by Lenin in Volume 14, which Cde. Healy praises but does not understand. Lenin wrote: “In all social formations of any complexity—and in the capitalist social formation in particular—people in their intercourse are not conscious of what kinds of social relations are being formed, in accordance with what law, they develop.” (Vol. 14, p. 323)
The reference to “will” is also a complete departure from historical materialism; history cannot be explained from either the “will” or intentions of men. The historical “will” of social men can only be understood as arising out of definite material conditions.
As for “changing the world independently of each other as individuals,” it would appear that Cde. G. has just abolished social man. Instead of history developing through the collective social practice of man independent of consciousness, we have a history arising out of willful and conscious human beings who change the world independently of each other as individuals!
5. “The ‘relations of production’ are sometimes referred to as the mode of production, whilst the material productive forces may be called the means or tools of production.”
In fact, it is the unity of the material productive forces and the relations of production which constitute the mode of production.
This astonishing ignorance of the most fundamental conceptions of historical materialism provides, it might be said, the key to a real understanding of GH’s subjective-idealist mutilation of Marxism. The transition of Hegel to Marx cannot be understood as a sort of empty logical evolution from objective idealism to dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism must not be reduced to historical materialism, but the working out of the world outlook of dialectical materialism proceeded through the development of historical materialism. As Marx himself noted in his brief intellectual autobiography, the beginning of his intellectual break with Hegel came after he found himself “in the embarrassing position of having to discuss what is known as material interests.” (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 19) The political struggles which arose therefrom led him to “a critical re-examination of the Hegelian philosophy of law... My inquiry led me to the conclusion that neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of the so-called general development of the human mind, but on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life...” (Ibid., p.20) From there Marx summarizes his oft-quoted conclusions—the concise outline of the materialist conception of history. As the development of historical materialism proceeded through the critique of the official and left-Hegelian school, the foundations of dialectical materialism—that is, the work “of extracting from the Hegelian logic the nucleus containing Hegel’s real discoveries in this field, and of establishing the dialectical method, divested of its idealist wrappings” (Ibid., pp. 224-25)—were laid down. This process cannot be correctly conceived of in some sort of strict chronological sequence; rather, it was a truly dialectical process, in which the reworking of the Hegelian method proceeded simultaneously with the positive elaboration of historical materialism. In turn, the development of historical materialism requires a “correct mode of conceptual evolution”—“the method which underlies Marx’s critique of political economy...” (Ibid, p. 225)
To believe that one can be a dialectical materialist without a real study of the real theoretical foundations of Marxism and its subsequent development is a dangerous misconception. Healy’s problem is not simply that he is confused by Hegel. As Marx said of Proudhon, he “does not give us a false criticism of political economy because he is the possessor of an absurd philosophical theory, but gives us an absurd philosophic theory because he fails to understand the social system of today in its engrenement...” (Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p. 34) Marx stresses in his letter to Annenkov that Proudhon does not understand the real material foundations of man’s historical development. Thus, “M. Proudhon, incapable of following the real movement of history, produces a phantasmagoria which presumptuously claims to be dialectical. He does not feel it necessary to speak of the seventeenth, the eighteenth or the nineteenth century, for his history proceeds in the misty realm of imagination and rises far above space and time. In short, it is not history but old Hegelian junk... The evolutions of which M. Proudhon speaks are understood to be evolutions such as are accomplished within the mystical womb of the absolute idea. If you tear the veil from this mystical language, what it comes to is that M. Proudhon is offering you the order in which economic categories arrange themselves in his own mind. It will not require great exertion on my part to prove to you that it is the order of a very disorderly mind.” (Ibid, p. 36)
Unfortunately, this disorderly method has served to disorient the International Committee.
VI. Political Summary of Critique of G. Healy’s “Studies”
November 7, 1982
1. “Studies in Dialectics” has brought into the open a crisis that has been developing within the International Committee for a considerable period of time.
2. For several years (in my opinion, this began in 1976 and only began to predominate in 1978), in the name of the struggle for dialectical materialism and against propagandism, the International Committee has drifted steadily away from a struggle for Trotskyism.
3. An increasingly one-sided and narrow concentration on the “process and practice of cognition”—almost entirely divorced from a concrete study of the objective situation—has led, as is expressed in “Studies,” to a blatantly idealist vulgarization of dialectics, a caricature of Lenin’s work on Hegel’s Science of Logic, that reproduces the very forms of mystification that Marx criticized in his writings against the Left Hegelians 140 years ago (and which Engels exposed in his polemic against Duhring in the 1870s).
4. Historical materialism has been ignored. It has been forgotten that Marx and Engels, according to Lenin, “naturally paid most attention to crowning the structure of philosophical materialism, that is, not to materialist epistemology but to the materialist conception of history.” (Vol. 14, p. 320)
5. As Hegel has been elevated within the International Committee to his present status alongside Marx, Engels and Lenin, Trotsky has been demoted: virtually no attention is now placed on a study of his writings. (This can be proven very simply: in all of the international conferences and cadre schools since 1978, how much time has been spent on a study of Trotsky’s writings compared to Volume 14, Volume 38 and the Hegel Logic?)
6. Corresponding to a decline in the study of Trotsky’s writings, the theoretical aspect of the struggle against Pabloism has been virtually abandoned.
7. A vulgarization of Marxism, palmed off as the “struggle for dialectics,” has been accompanied by an unmistakeable opportunist drift within the International Committee, especially in the WRP.
8. The work of the IC in the Middle East, which has never been guided by a clear perspective of building the International Committee in that area of the world, has now degenerated into a series of pragmatic adaptations to shifts in the political winds. Marxist defense of national liberation movements and the struggle against imperialism has been interpreted in an opportunist fashion of uncritical support of various bourgeois nationalist regimes. The outcome of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon has starkly revealed the bankruptcy of this approach. At the present time, the IC has been unable to make an assessment of the situation in the Middle East. The WRP has yet to take a clear position on the present diplomatic maneuverings of the Reagan Administration.
9. This has not developed overnight. The line of the IC is littered with unclarified questions:
a. The “alliance” with the Libyan Jamahiriya in August 1977;
b. The support of the Iraqi Baathists’ persecution of the Stalinists.
10. During the six years in which the IC has conducted work in the Middle East, there has not been a single statement in which class relations in that area of the world have been analyzed. There has not been a single article in which the development of the working class has been analyzed. For all intents and purposes, the Theory of Permanent Revolution has been treated as inapplicable to present circumstances.
11. The same uncritical approach to developments had been manifested toward the independence struggle culminating in the establishment of Zimbabwe.
12. As for Iran, the greatest revolutionary upheaval in the colonial world since the events in China, the International Committee has produced not a single critical analysis since February 1979.
13. Out of all the pragmatic day-to-day shifts there is beginning to coalesce a political tendency that has a definite Pabloite taint. Thus, we find in a statement of the WRP Political Committee, dated December 11, 1981:
“But Gaddafi has politically developed in the direction of revolutionary socialism and he has shunned the palaces and harems of some other Arab leaders.
“For this reason he has become the undisputed leader of the Libyan people and bis name is now synonymous with the strivings of the oppressed in many countries.” (News Line, December 12, 1981)
14. The dangers of such an impressionistic approach, against which we warned many times in the course of the struggle against Pabloism and the SWP, has been clearly shown in the events which followed the Israeli invasion.
15. The reaction of the WRP to the outbreak of the war in the Malvinas should be taken as a serious sign of political disorientation. With the outbreak of war, the oldest and most experienced section of the International Committee took an incorrect position, which was essentially pacifist, which was corrected only after nearly two weeks. Given all the work that has been carried out by the WRP in the Middle East in defense of oppressed nations against imperialism, it must be asked why the WRP had such difficulty recognizing the same issue in the Malvinas war.
16. These are not isolated incidents which can be overlooked. We are reviewing several years of work during which an increasingly definite opportunist tendency has become apparent in our work.
17. This does not mean that our work has been all wrong and that no achievements have been registered. That is, of course, not the case. But the rapid development of the world crisis, the desperate crisis of Stalinism, and the radicalization of the masses in all the major capitalist countries present an unparalleled opportunity for Trotskyism. However, we would be committing the greatest political error if, at this very moment, we pulled in our Trotskyist horns.
Appendix: On G. Healy’s Use of Sources in “Studies”
1. Another “aspect” of Healy’s articles deserves special notice, for it lays bare the charlatanry which underlies the entire operation. It turns out that GH is a plagiarist! Striving to achieve the heights of profundity, he is not averse to “borrowing” the ideas and words of others—without bothering to provide citations. Entire passages from the writings of Soviet authors are simply lifted and inserted into articles that appear in the “Studies.”
2. On page 55 of the “Studies,” we read a sentence which seems to be dropped in the article for no apparent reason: “The principle of coincidence enables us to define the objective content of a given category by revealing its relations as a stage of knowledge in relation to other categories such as necessity, probability, possibility.”
But on page 255 of Dialectical Materialism and the History of Philosophy, by the Soviet theoretician Theodore Oizerman, we will find the source of this idea. “However, that is not all there is to applying the principle of coincidence, because the point is not only to reveal the content of a given category and stress its relativity as a stage of knowledge, but also to define its place among other categories and its relation to them. For example, when we deal with the category of necessity, we must define its relation to such categories as law, essence, possibility, chance, probability, basis, etc.”
3. On page 63 of “Studies,” we find: “Substance as a dialectical category has proved to be a necessary condition, without assuming which it was impossible in principle to understand, the mode of interaction between the thinking body and the world within which it operated as a thinking body.”
What is the source of this “innovation”: the “thinking body”? The inspiration is to be found on page 60 of E.V. Ilyenkov’s Dialectical Logic. There we find: “Substance thus proved to be an absolutely necessary condition, without assuming which it was impossible in principle to understand the mode of interaction between the thinking body and the world within which it operated as a thinking body.” This passage appears in Ilyenkov as part of a discussion about Spinoza. In Healy, the passage is just dropped in out of the blue, without bothering to mention Spinoza at all.
4. Perhaps the most obscure of all the sections of Cde. GH’s very obscure articles is a section entitled “Empiricism and theoretical thinking.” Those who accept the “Studies” in good faith may be excused for believing that only a genius could decipher this section. In fact, one needs only to have in one’s possession the third number of the 1982 edition of the Soviet journal Social Sciences, which carries an article by one Vladimir Shvyrev entitled “The Empirical and Theoretical in Scientific Cognition.”
On page 70 GH tells us that “Scientific knowledge at this early stage arises from an interaction between sensuality and thought, wherein the source of sensation is in the external world.” In the original, S. writes: “Thus, scientific knowledge always presupposes an interaction of the mechanisms of sensuality and thought.” (Social Sciences p. 128)
GH writes on page 72: “Our empirical investigation orientates cognition towards the identification of relationships between the conceptual apparatus of science and the reality which is beyond and which is seen through analysis as a whole as being beyond the conceptual field, only to be revealed in ‘living contemplation.’ Science, it must not be forgotten, provides a knowledge of objective reality and not some closed conceptual structure.”
Very profound, it might seem, and certainly hard to follow. But how did he arrive at this insight, which bears little connection to what came before it? It is necessary to consult Shvyrev, who wrote:
“If, on the other hand, we take up the empirical investigation, its general characteristic, most likely, is the orientation of cognition towards the identification of the relationships between the conceptual apparatus of science and the reality which is beyond the conceptual sphere and which, in the final analysis, is seen in ‘living contemplation.’ The determination of such relationships is an indispensable function of the scientific cognition which is implemented precisely by empirical investigation inasmuch as science is not a closed sphere of artificial conceptual structures but a knowledge of objective reality.” (Ibid. pp. 130-31)
GH writes on page 72: “Whenever the empirical and the theoretical concept interact, a very definite function takes place in the interaction. This is in accordance with the findings of observation and experiment with corresponding results through improvement in the cognitive process itself.”
Shvyrev put it better in the original: “However, whenever there is a real interaction of the two, significant for the functioning and the development of science, the empirical has a very definite functional task in this interaction; it ensures the relationship of the theoretical conceptual apparatus with the findings of the observation and experimentation, with the results of ‘living contemplation’.” (Ibid., p.131)
GH writes on page 72: “Concepts such as elaboration and perfection constitute an act of singling out and penetrating objective reality, in an ever-fuller and ever deeper reflection of its substance.”
All this must be incomprehensible to even the most experienced cadre, for the concepts referred to by Healy have never been utilized within the Trotskyist movement. As it turns out, GH has again plagiarized Shvyrev... badly. The Soviet author stated:
“In real fact, however, when we say that theoretical cognition is oriented toward the elaboration and perfection of the conceptual apparatus, we should not overlook that elaboration and perfection constitute an act of singling out and penetrating the objective reality, ever fuller and ever deeper reflection of its substance.” (Ibid., pp. 131-32)
In the course of freely plagiarizing from Shvyrev, he renders the poor man incomprehensible; for GH “quotes” without concern for context—picking up parts of paragraphs and inserting them in his article for no apparent reason. For example, he writes on pages 72-73:
“In the early stages of dialectical materialism as a scientific study, we quickly arrive on the scene of a study of concepts. In this relationship, such a study provides guidance for an empirical examination in the proper sense of the word. That is why induction as a method in science, through which a general conclusion is drawn from a set of premises, must not be used at the empirical stage of science.
GH confuses induction with deduction, but the fault does not lie with Shvyrev who cannot be blamed if his article is not understood by the man who is plagiarizing from it. This is what S. actually wrote:
“The things which appear to be simple and clear for ordinary consciousness become an object of conceptual analysis in the early stages of scientific study. The important thing for us to emphasize is that this conceptual analysis gives guidance and directs empirical examination in the proper sense of the word. This is precisely why the inductivist model of cognitive activity is invalid at the empirical stage of science, as a ‘linear process’ of the gradual inductive ascension of facts to generalizations.” (Ibid., pp. 134-35)
I suspect that there are other sections which are plagiarized from various Soviet sources. But what is the significance of this? Trotsky was fond of the Buffon epigram: “The method is the man.” Plagiarism is, as a method of work, totally alien to Marxism. In Capital, Marx never failed to credit by name the author of every idea to which he had occasion to refer. This was in accordance with his dialectical materialist conception of the historical development of theoretical concepts. From the opposite standpoint, the charlatanry which permeates GH’s “Studies” finds its clearest expression in plagiarism, i.e., the perpetration of outright intellectual fraud. One can recall Marx’s assessment of Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty:
“High-sounding speculative jargon, supposed to be German-philosophical, appears regularly on the scene when his Gallic acuteness of understanding fails him. A self-advertising, self-glorifying, boastful tone and especially the twaddle about “science” and sham display of it, which are always so unedifying, are continually screaming in one’s ears ... Add to this the clumsy erudition of the self-taught, whose natural pride in his own original thought has already been broken and who now, as a parvenu of science, feels it necessary to bolster himself up with what he is not and has not.” (Marx-Engels, Selected Correspondence, p. 155)
The following from Marx’s epitaph for Proudhon is worth quoting as well:
“Proudhon had a natural inclination for dialectics. But as he never grasped really scientific dialectics he never got further than sophistry. In fact this hung together with his petty-bourgeois point of view. Like the historian Raumer, the petty-bourgeois is composed of On The One Hand and On The Other Hand. This is so in his economic interests and therefore in his politics, in his scientific, religious and artistic views. It is so in his morals, in everything. He is a living contradiction. If, like Proudhon, he is in addition a gifted man, he will soon learn to play with his own contradictions and develop them according to circumstances into striking, ostentatious, now scandalous or now brilliant paradoxes. Charlatanism in science and accommodation in politics are inseparable from such a point of view. There only remains one governing motive, the vanity of the subject, and the only question for him, as for all vain people, is the success of the moment, the attention of the day.” (Ibid., p. 157)