Reflections on Dialectics
I feel like dialectics is often shrouded in the esoteric of dense academic texts and obscure literature that, at its time was written in a more clear language which has been marred since by changes of convention.
So I want to offer a way to get a general idea of what dialectics is, as to perhaps offer some context and guidance in further studies.
Marxism is not just about Karl Marx. Even in his own day, a lot of Marxist theory can be attributed both to Friedrich Engels, as well as many of his contemporaries who influenced him. In fact, Marx himself would be the first to say that this thing called Marxism was rather attributed to millions of people.
From the masons who laid the stoneworks at his university, to the millers who made the paper he wrote on. The carpenters who furnished him, the cooks and farmers and butchers who fed him, and so on. Going all the way back to prehistoric times, when the first promethean invented the first ever word that built the history of our species: “Help.”
Help is a wonderful word to us, it’s the only reason we’re not like roaches or fish. Help is what made society, friendship, family, love, and culture possible. Prior to this, we had nothing except for the bestial existence wild animals. It was by cracking this code, this psychological barrier between “Me” and “Us” that we became social, that we became capable of evolving into humans.
Many people think evolution is purely biological, but it’s not. It is also causal, as most biologists will tell you if you afford them a few hours to break everything down. Evolution is just as much about behavior as it is about reproduction and genetic traits. A lot of animals adapt to their environments through passing on behaviors, this is not done purely through genetic memory, but rather through active teaching.
For humans, our greatest adaptation to our environment is thereby represented by this extraordinary word. “Help.”
This is called dialectics, to examine the constant changing properties of the world. In Marxism, there are no singular events, everything flows through an endless and ever expanding net of cause and effect. Every single person in the world becomes significant in this theory, as we are all tied together by a living and breathing human civilisation.
From the most rueful of kings, to the more blessed of martyrs, we are all part of it somehow. We become manifested in any manner of ways. Each time we walk on a cobbled road, we hear a gentle shuffle produced by our ancestors. Each time we resign ourselves at home, we feel embraced by a clemency produced by hundreds of anonymous faces who toiled and built.
That’s why flags are such a lovely invention. Marxism is far better represented by flags than faces. Without a citizenry, a people, a proletarian class, Marxism is merely the idealistic musings of sheltered intellectuals. It is when it becomes represented by a flag that it proliferates and begins in a real and living sense.
Because the flag itself is of course entirely abstract, rather, it is what it flies over that defines it. For instance, a green flag that honours Allah is meaningless until the day it flies over a country populated by Muslims, with Mosques, art, philosophy and literature that have become the extraordinary features of Islamic civilisation.
One thing I do appreciate about Islam is the many contributions Islamic civilisations gave to the world. Language, mathematics and art especially travelled far and wide. They were nations that did not only enrich themselves, but also others. This to me characterises the highest prosperity, one of knowledge, one which travels around the world and enriches everyone, beyond nations and borders.
Even though my own faith is messianic, and I believe in Christ as the Messiah, I hold Islam in very high esteem, and find great humility in studying its wisdom.
From numbers, to astronomy to geometry, I can see this as a divine thing, a universal testament. I believe that no matter one’s faith. If it’s Moses, Mohammed or Christ, our greatest truths are those which prospers all. Which unites us together by making more sense of the world we live in.
And in Marxism, this is a vital principle, it is called Dialectical Materialism. Why did numbers defeat numerals? Why do we say 4 instead of IV? It’s simple: Because it makes more sense. Because the world, and humanity, and society, and history, are all governed by rules.
These rules are known as laws in the language of science. But I prefer to think of them as principles. Laws are often rigid, and literal, and exact. But nature in its incomprehensible variety, in its sophistication and advancement through bionic, chemical and noomonic interactions, become a mystery unto itself.
We can explain each thing on its own, in nanoscopic infinity, but the way in which they govern us, the great and unseen process of matter and energy occurring all around us, for incalculable distances, stretching throughout the universe in the tendrils of galaxies, and the event horizons of singularities, becomes inherently unknown to us. It has to be. It would take a thousand of our lifetimes to consciously account for a single second of the thermodynamic formulation of the universe.
As such, we resign ourselves to principles. Gravity is more a principle than a law. What sort of law grants so much exception and relativity? If physicists wrote laws, then traffic signs would look like long division.
So, as I say, we like principles. A principle is an idea represented by acts. Conscious or otherwise. A home is a principle. It can look a thousand different ways, but fundamentally is a place in which one can retire oneself to shelter and self-maintenance.
And that can then be anything from a tent to a cave, but on some level, it has these features. Gravity is the same. It can embody anything from a meteor wiping out humanity, to a little girl with a skipping rope. It’s a wide margin.
This is the wonder of science, because this wide margin becomes the margin of invention, the margin of advancement, each revelation of science permits a grand scope, an epistemological shopping mall, that permits a curious mind to draw blueprints, schematics and proposals for ways in which to sophisticate the world with structures, technology, infrastructure, language and of course new telemetric advancements.
And this is one of the principles of dialectics, it is like a train that can lay its own tracks, chugging forward through history. A history characterised by invention and contradiction; By thesis and antithesis.
It is after all, not some coincidence that produced a house. Rather, it is the cold wind, and the vicious mosquito. Even these two existential rogues have a part to play. We were cold, we were sick, this is contradictory to our needs, and so, we invented.
In doing this, history happened. That’s all history is, contradiction and invention. Problems and solutions. If there is no resolving of the contradiction, then history becomes inert, and we go through cycles where nothing happens.
Hence the saying “There are decades where years happen, and years where decades happen.”
This is not to say there is some kind of grand narrative, or constant advancement. What is the peasant’s contradiction is the king’s invention, what is the poverty of the many is the wealth of the few. History can advance to the benefit of vice just as much as virtue.
This is what Marxists call class consciousness, to be aware of one’s role in this history, in this tapestry of causality. To understand what benefits, and what befalls.
Change is therefore principally neutral, but it is nonetheless change. America is a good example of this. Slavery, genocide, war, poverty, this is what built the new world. And while it is incontrovertible to say that this was a terrible tragedy, no one could argue that it was not uneventful, no one can argue that the new world isn’t in fact new.
Obviously, in some physical sense, nothing is new, it’s merely changing. But in another more temporal sense, it becomes acutely new.
Same with the moon. It’s been there for a long time, and yet, it became entirely new to us when we landed on it. It awakened a whole new consciousness, a whole new scope, the epistemological shopping mall grew in size. It made us think of other planets, and it made us examine ourselves in relation to the universe. It gave us a new sense of the vastness before us, and just how small we are in relation to it all.
And yet I find it flattering, how God went through all that effort of engineering such a great and impossibly advanced universe just so that we could have dinner with our families, or watch pirated sitcoms whilst smoking cigarettes. That’s really dedicated craftsmanship, I feel sentimental just thinking about it. Such extraordinary care for such ordinary beings.
So this is how Marxism tackles the matter of science, it is a holistic approach, in which everything is part of the same world and both interacts and counteracts with eachother. The stuff of the cold war, the revolutions, the conflicts, the KGB and the Cuban guerillas and so on, is surprisingly primitive compared to the promises of Marxism. Marxism codifies a strange kind of fracture in the way we regard ourselves and our environment.
It has a powerful liberatory property to it in how it examines determination not as a conclusion, but as a thesis. Nikola Tesla, in his biographical articles, discusses his idea of the self-aware automaton. How we are effects, governed by cause. How we are in some material sense always tethered to the predisposition of past events.
And yet, I disagree. Because we have something else, and in fact Tesla discusses this too. Because we have foresight, and imagination, and curiosity and inquiry. It is not entirely true that we are merely at the mercy of cosmic forces, because we may predict these forces and we may elect to intervene. We are not governed by hard determinism, rather we are governed by our imagination.
An automaton could not be lied to, nor could an automaton dream, automatons do not have ideas, or critical consideration. An automaton can merely do what it does, and that is the beginning and the end of its capacity.
Marxism shows how determination cannot be broken, but we can bend it. We can shape it in our hands like clay, through scientific innovation. But it is a fragile process, just like clay, one mistake can make everything collapse.
In this sense we navigate history like a horseman. We can canter, we can trot, we can gallop, but we must be conscious of the limitations and needs of our loyal horse. We must understand how this is an animal that is as heavy as it is incapable of speaking English.
That is our role in the universe, a kind of secondary influence which may slowly manipulate it to serve our will provided we dedicate a lot of effort and discipline into deciphering its many mysteries.
The final destination of Marxism, whereupon it is realised in science, institution, society and order, is one in which we govern history. In which we are the sires of the world anew, where each change is carefully orchestrated as to bring joy, prosperity and good will to all.
Wherein our masterhood presents us with a truly radical freedom, in which we stop reading the laws of history, and start writing the laws of the future.
Workers of the world unite!