Archive for the 'Materialist Dialectics' Category

America in Iraq: Dialectics of Occupation and Liberation

Saddam statue topples

Ed.note I republish this because of the recent theme of discussing dialectical perspectives and opinions of Iraqis just after the ‘occupation’. This not so new book, by Kurdish author Kamal Mirawdeli is nevertheless relevant today because of the examination of the ‘motives’ of the U.S. for undertaking to ‘liberate’ Iraq, and concludes despite the misgivings that we all understand, that the chance at ‘freedom’ was worth it. I think he uses the term ideology erroneously, but the insights such as of the Dinosaur left (pseudoleft) and nationalistic right achieving unity in their wrongness over this issue is a point correctly observed. Also, his observation that opponents of the task ‘merely play with words’ as opposed to having a care to bring about the best possible outcomes is largely correct imv.

America in Iraq: Dialectics of Occupation and Liberation

Kamal Mirawdeli

Book Review by keza 2005

From authorhouse (inexpensive electronic version available)

A collection of his articles spanning three years (May 2002 – November 2004). Many of these can be read at Kurdish Media by clicking here.

Here is a sample chapter (scroll below it to see the Table of Contents) :

US’s military forces should stay in Iraq

20 April 2003

Step by step, brick after brick, idea after idea, and institution after institution: the US should never leave Iraq until a new fully democratic modern society is well-established and the process of democratisation in the Middle East is well under way!!

It is too normal, vulgarly expected: Iraq’s neighbours, including Turkey, ask the US to leave Iraq. They are worried about Iraq’s independence. They want Iraqi people to choose their own rulers and govern themselves. Yes, only few weeks ago the same people did not want the US and Britain to intervene. They said the Iraqi people were happy with Saddam and if they wanted change they would change the regime themselves.

These people do not ever feel shame. They never learn. They never see and hear. They can never feel that the carpet under their feet has been pulled. The earth under their feet has shaken. The warm sun they are used to, does not shine on the same world.

They are worried about one thing and one thing only: Freedom. This word has been omitted from their pocket dictionary. It has been tabooed on their policy agenda. It could only appear from time to time in their nightmares. But it always existed in people’s dreams, hopes and aspirations. And these all came true. Thanks to the US.

No one in this age can be so ignorant or ideologically prejudiced as to claim that the US liberated Iraq as an act of charity to Iraqi peoples’. Of course the US has its own vital, yes imperial, interests in Iraq and the region. But what age in human history has been free of empires and empire-building? Why is Islam a religion in Indonesia, Morocco, Bosnia, and Malaysia as well as in Pakistan and Middle East? How did Christianity reach Europe and North and South America? Why is English a predominant international language? Why is globalisation an unstoppable historical process?

But it is wrong scientifically, logically and morally to measure the present with the yardsticks of the past, to let ideological prejudice corrupt pragmatic sense, to see the world with dark glasses and then claim that darkness covers the four corners of the world because the US is spreading its tyranny all over the world.

The prophets of doom and gloom, the messengers of distortion and deception, the forces of conservatism and old Europeanism, the dinosaurian Left and nationalistic Right, the selective hypocrites of peace causes – all those who, for one reason or another, are detached from reality, ignorant of the operation of history, incapable of understanding universal relativity of issues and inherent deficiency of ideas, filled the world with hue and cry: Don’t attack Iraq! Minimum 500,000 people will be killed. Two million children will die. Four million refugees will need to be supported. There will be a Third World War. There will be a repetition of Vietnam. There will be rage, wrath and revolution in Arab streets. Fundamental Islamism will sweep the Middle East and vengeful Islamist terrorism will visit every home in US and Britain. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

No one of this motley mix ever said some people in Iraq would be happy. Some tyrannical structures would be dismantled. Some hope would be regained to 25 million enslaved souls. Hope of freedom and democracy would afflict and affect the slavery system of the Middle East.

I was reading all this rubbish coming from famous Middle East experts, revitalised retired politicians, visionary Leftist imams, reactionary Islamic ideologues, Middle East rulers, think tank analysts- with pain, anger and often contempt. These people had learnt nothing from Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. They had refused to move to the 21st century: the age of technological liberation, the age of globalisation of information and universalization of the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and individualism. They wanted UN to be the saviour of fascists in the name of sovereignty and be an absurd undertaker for the denied funerals of millions of the victims of genocide in the name of international law. They were to coin a word: ideo-fascists.

At this moment when I am writing this, I see and hear on my TV screen a paradox. A group of Iraqis in Baghdad are demonstrating against America. Some people from the same group ask the Americans for jobs! The BBC commentator finds this a strange contradiction.

It is not. It is only superficially contradictory. Ordinary people are NOT demonstrating against the US. If they do it is because they do not have jobs and opportunities now. If the US can create an Iraq in which there will be jobs, opportunities for self development and freedom, then there will be no demonstrations by ordinary people.

But still, like the die-hard Leftists of Europe who are still operated by the 19th century Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party, there will be people who will be ideologically exploited and operated by interest groups inside and outside Iraq, who will be demonstrating against the Americans because of ideological indoctrination not moral conviction. This act of protest will be facilitated by the very prospect of emerging democracy but also will eventually be neutralized and marginalized by the process and practice of democracy. Once people know that ideologies like Ba’ath or its factional fictional religious alternatives have nothing to offer but death and destruction, in the name of independence and martyrdom, then people will be able to choose rationally and determine their lives as individuals freed from all shackles of totalitarianism, dogma and demagogy.

I also heard and read a lot about the phenomenon of looting in post-Saddam Iraq?

Some people asked: why do Iraqis destroy their own country?

Sorry, mate! Wrong question. Faulty language.

If the questions are wrong, what hope are there for correct answers?

Iraqis do not destroy their country. This has never been their country, their government, their institutions, their wealth, their resources and their opportunities.


Everything belongs to the sole leader and his clique. The rest are dispossessed underclass: deprived, degraded, dehumanised, exploited, abused, and indoctrinated. They are the Leaders’ people. The party’s people. They do not own anything. They do not own themselves, either. They do not own their bodies, their dignity, and their freedom.

But like all other human beings in the world, the Iraqis have basic human needs. They also have hopes and dreams.

Iraqi girl U.S. flag

Their basic needs have necessarily been materialistic. They always knew, thanks to globalisation, that they lived in a materialistic world. The Iraqi people also wished to have good homes, food, fashion dresses, beautiful furniture, new cars, TVs and fridges. They also wanted to have good jobs, happy families, and well-educated children. Then they had dreams: to be a part of this globalised world. To have access to information. To have mobile phones, satellite TVs and computers. To have opportunity to learn languages, to travel and enter international labour market. Above all to be free individuals. To think freely and express themselves freely. But all these basic and higher human needs were denied and suppressed by the apparatuses of the despotic regime.

That is why there was this wide-spread looting spree: as expression of alienation from what supposed to be their country, heritage and culture. As a revenge from a system and a culture which enslaved them. And as expression of their long-suppressed desire to be part of the modern materialistic world. That is why taking a vase, a chair, a piece of wood, a window handle, a useless piece of metal, a double-deck bus, etc all had the same psychological and historical effect. It was a show to allow the Iraqis to see each other, feel each other, loot together to feel that what the end of slavery and dictatorship was not a dream. It was really the end of the nightmare, of tyranny, of despotism. This deep-rooted frustration for lack of material needs was important to find an outlet even if it took criminal proportions. Obviously there were also organised criminal gangs. But this will be a short-lived phenomenon. It will soon be over. Every thing wills settle down. Sorry again, the prophets of doom!

However, the satisfaction of the higher need of understanding freedom and how to achieve it democratically will come much later and need a long time. It should not be rushed. The US should stay put in Iraq until Iraq would really and practically join the front of free democratic nations. This can only be done if the US stays in Iraq and pursue its agenda of liberation and democratisation in the Middle East for the following reasons:

1. Reconstruction of Iraq and reconstruction of Iraqi peoples’ psyche and culture:

It needs a lot of time for Iraqi people to realize who they are, what world they live in, what have they gone through, what has happened to them and to what extent they can be themselves. Iraq throughout its history has known nothing but the culture of violence, despotism and killing. Saddam is only a duplication of Iraq’s various Hajajs. It is the whole culture which needs to change and the psyches of Iraqi individuals, which have been conditioned to fear democracy and freedom and worship oppressors and tyrants, need to be reconstructed. Without achieving this there will be no hope for democracy and real freedoms. And to achieve this Iraq needs decades not years.

2. Stability and conflict in Iraq and the region: Anti-freedom fascists lament destabilisation in Iraq and Middle East if the US stays. Do you remember Arab League’s claim that the gates of hell would open if the US attacked Iraq? But is there a grain of truth in this?

In fact without the presence of US’s forces, Iraq will degenerate into anarchy and civil war. Already Saudi-backed Wahabiis are attacking the Shi’a in Baghdad. Syrian-backed Saddam’s non-Iraqi Fedayeen are doing the same. Iran will definitely support Badr Shiite army. This will draw other countries into the conflict. These developments will cause destabilisation of Iraq and the region and not the presence of US forces. Perhaps some cynics say: But it is the presence of US in the first place which has created this chaotic situation. This situation, first, is not chaotic. It is a natural process of readjustment after thirty years of a fascist minority Sunni rule in Iraq and the brutal oppression and enslavement of the Shiite and other non-Baathi Iraqis. Second: Was the region safe with Saddam? Does any one imagine that there will be genocide of Kurds, eight years of Iraq-Iran war and the invasion of Kuwait with the presence of Americans? But why didn’t Arab League and Arab and Islamic states intervene to stop the carnage of eight years of the Iraq-Iran war? Why did all Arab states especially Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states pour billions of dollars to support Saddam’s racist Qadissiya war against Iran? Was this for the stabilisation of the region and the progress and prosperity of Iraqi people?

In fact what the tribal dictatorial regimes of the Middle East are afraid of is freedom and democracy. These words will sooner or later enter the daily usage of Arab street language and this will be more dangerous to the regimes than Saddam’s Scud missiles or American bombs.

3. The protection of Kurdish people: The Kurdish leaders took a great risk by allying themselves unequivocally and courageously with the US and putting their army under the American command. There was always the risk of Saddam’s retribution including the use of weapons of mass destruction. But it seems that there was a secret agreement between Turkey and Saddam by which Saddam’s regime left Kurdistan and the Kurds to Turkey to deal with. Information published by the Sunday Times (13 April 2003) from secret papers of Iraq’s general security in Baghdad indicate that Iraqi authorities were certain that Turkey would invade Kurdistan “as soon as the US attacks Iraq.” Also Iraqi information minister comic Sahhaf in reply to a question about the Kurds said, “We are not worried about the North. We have a special plan for the North.”. It seems that the special plan was a secret coordination with Turkey.

However, the Kurds now are in a very sensitive and serious position. They remain in a great danger as long as the dictatorial anti-Kurd regional governments stay in power. Pan-Arab nationalistic media are already conducting an ongoing campaign of racial hatred and aggressive disinformation against the Kurds. Iran has “sleeping” armed Islamic groups in Kurdistan which it can provoke, arm and use to destabilise and undermine Kurdish administration in Kurdistan. Without the US’s presence Turkey will find no difficulty in creating a crisis and find an excuse to attack liberated Kurdistan. Even within Iraq, Kurdish secular government will be greatly suspected, despised and even threatened even by Shiite groups calling for an Islamic state or at least a great role for religion in the running of the affairs of the state which, in the last analysis, means abolishing democracy, human rights, free thoughts and rights of women.

In fact the new situation and the role of Kurds in overthrowing dictatorship in Iraq has mapped out the reality and size of the Kurdish nation in the Middle East. Worried about the impact of Kurdish freedom in South Kurdistan on their colonised and enslaved Kurds, the states of Turkey, Syria and Iran will use any means at their disposal individually and collectively to undermine Kurdish freedom and roll back the wheel of history. But this is no longer the history of Kurdish people alone. It is also the history of the US’s project of liberation and democratisation in the Middle East. Will the US betray the Kurdish people and thus belie its own ideas and ideals? Will it leave alone the people who with great courage, commitment and dignity fight side by side with American soldiers for liberation of their land and democracy in the Middle East? The US should be true to its mission of liberation and democracy. Then it will find in the Kurdish nation, not only the six millions of South Kurdistan but also the whole 40 million Kurdish people in the Middle East as well as Kurds in Diaspora, the most reliable and courageous long-term allies and friends.

4. Protecting Iraqi democracy from regional intervention and influence:

Would it have been possible to liberate Germany alone from Nazism if the rest of Europe had been already Nazi states? Wouldn’t these states do everything in their power to undermine Germany’s freedom again? This is a hypothetical question for the benefit of comparison. The US’s project of liberation and democracy in Iraq will collapse as soon as its forces leave Iraq. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, other Arab countries as well as Iran and Turkey will do everything in their power to influence, buy, blackmail and undermine any democratic government not protected by foreign forces. It would not be impossible to cook a coup and reverse the wheels of history to the Saddamite old order. There were supposedly seven million Baathist members. Even if ten per cent of these were really indoctrinated and committed, it would be possible with outside support to regroup them. Perhaps Saddam or his sons, if they are still alive, would have another chance to be this time resistance fighters with the help of Arab regimes!

In short it would be extremely foolish for the Americans not only to leave Iraq but not to pursue their democratisation project in the Middle East.

5. Political correctness and realpolitik: Many people still out of residual ideological anti-imperialism and fashionable anti-Americanism call irresponsibly, without understanding historical reality and globalisation process, for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq claiming that the existence of US’s forces will harm Iraqi people and their independence, self-government and progress.

Of course the Americans are not so naïve as to listen to preachers of doom. Realpolitik means the American army will stay. If some people think this means endangering Iraq’s independence, they should not just play with words. We should analyse and understand essences and realities. What is independence? What did Iraqi independence under Saddam and previous dictatorial Arab regimes mean? Whose independence was that? Was Iraq really independent of world imperialism? Who installed Saddam and transformed him into a monster?

On the other hand the concept of independence on a small planet crowded with interdependent states has always been a relative one and never a real one for any country including the US. Is Britain an independent country? Aren’t there US military bases here unapproved by British parliament? Aren’t there US bases in Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, etc.? Does this mean these countries are not independent? So why shouldn’t there be US’s bases in Iraq. Definitely there should be US’s military bases in Kurdistan. That is the only hope of survival and freedom for Kurdish people.

Iraq’s real independence and prospect of progress and prosperity depend on the long-term existence of US’s military forces. An additional positive outcome of this will be ensuring peace and stability associated with prospects of democracy and freedom in the whole Middle East.

6. The national security and interests of the US: The US cannot afford to start all this process and military operations all over again as a tragic farce once, for example, Syria will act as a rogue state seeking weapons of mass destruction and indulging in the oppression and genocide of Kurdish people, or when Iran joins North Korea in the production of nuclear weapons and oppression of non-Persian nations or when Saudi’s Wahabism continues to supply ideology, money, weapons and training to terrorists such as Ansar al-Islam all over the world.

Mr Donald Rumsfeld called France and Germany old Europe. This, in a sense, is true. But there is also old America and new America. There was old America of Kissinger, Ford and Reagan who supported fascism, dictatorship and persecution and genocide of minorities all over the world in a way that contradicted all the values of freedom, human rights and democracy which US is proud of and aims to propagate in the world. In this article I mean new US: a great superpower that does not hesitate to topple dictatorships and fight fascists and terrorists for a world in which the values of freedom and democracy will be universal and non-compromising.


INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………….. vii


The US and the Kurdish nation in the Middle East: Old games

or new horizons? 1 ………………………………………………………….3

The US and the Kurdish nation in the Middle East: Old games

or new horizons? 2 ………………………………………………………..11

PART TWO AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 ……………………………………23

Is there really a war in Afghanistan? What is it for? …………….25

Who is Bin Laden? And what is Mr Blair’s Mission? ………….. 29

Tony Come Home, the kids need you and America is kidding

you? …………………………………………………………………………… 38

The New War Order ……………………………………………………….42

The tale of two Talibans: Afghanistan & Turkey ………………… 46

The moment of truth: Who rules the world? …………………….. 50

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! ………………………………………. 54

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! ………………………………………..59

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! Part III ……………………………..62

Do you really want to stop the war? ………………………………….72

Culture and Repression: the case of the Middle East sociopolitical

order ………………………………………………………………..78

PART THREE AMERICA IN IRAQ ………………………………………..87

The real Kurdish view! ………………………………………………….. 89

The story of a war dictated by foe friends: the spoiled child

who stabbed America in the back! …………………………………102

There is nothing wrong with a prolonged war of liberation! .. 113

No to the United Nations! Yes to the United Democratic

Nations! …………………………………………………………………….. 115

With friends like these, will anyone need enemies? ………….. 118

Tip of the iceberg, but will the pro-Saddam mob ever feel

ashamed? …………………………………………………………………..120

US’s military forces should stay in Iraq …………………………..122

American policy in Iraq: the dialectics of occupation and

liberation – I …………………………………………………………………131

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– II ……………………………………………………………………………..141

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– III …………………………………………………………………………….150

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– V ……………………………………………………………………………..163

Did BBC kill David Kelly on behalf of Saddam? ………………..167

Paul Bremer’s Interview with Asharq Al-Awsat 31 January

2004. …………………………………………………………………………172

Will Paul Bremer be allowed to turn Bush’s liberation mission in

the Middle East ……………………………………………………………178

From massacre in Madrid to carnage in Qamishli: Fact and

fiction …………………………………………………………………………183

President Bush should not leave Iraq an unfinished business

again! …………………………………………………………………………188

The two state solution: Divide and democratize! ………………195

Paul Bremer: A man living in a cloud-cuckoo-land ……………202

Death in Darfur, Decadence in Democracies! ………………… 209

De-liberation: Bremer’s legacy and post-Bremer choices ….217

President Bush and the World War Four of liberation? …….. 225

Let 100 Flowers Blossom and 100 Schools of Thought Contend.

Water lilies

From Lastsuperpower by Arthur 2006

Hi Rosa, I just read right through your 14,200 word summary and was struck by the following among the caveats at the end:
“…it is fundamental to my project that if I cannot explain myself in ordinary language, then not even I understand what I am attempting to say!** **And that is why this Essay will need to be re-written many, many times.”

I admire the enthusiasm with which you are tackling the problem of why allegedly marxist tendencies have been overwhelmingly unsuccessful and have degenerated into peurile sects adequately ridiculed in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”. But I would say they have as little grasp of dialectical materialism as they do of anything else. A classic illustration can be found in another thread here re Spelling out the Drain the Swamps theory – where a dalek challenged to concretely analyse concrete conditions is reduced to simply frothing at the mouth together with the following complete “dialectical” argument for not trying to change the status quo.

“My answer to all your stuff is that the internal contradictions in any entity will be worked out by the usual dialectical processes. The nature of what is to be born from the internal struggle will be determined by the resolution of the internal contradictions. No amount of outside pressure nor outside influence will have any effect on that which is to emerge.”

Since we are at least in agreement about the complete uselessness of the “philosophy” of the various peurile sects it might be useful to engage in dialogue. But you would need to tackle the concrete issues we are discussing (eg Iraq) in ordinary language. From passing references scattered throughout your material it appears that you share much the same political views as the “dialecticians” you reject as fraudulent. That ought to give you pause for thought.

We hold opposite views on concrete political issues so discussing those concrete issues ought to be more productive. If you read the thread linked above from the beginning, and the links within it, you will find plenty of material that shows the connection between our different political views to yours and our different philosophical views concerning dialectical materialism to yours. Your account of the Background to this project is much easier to follow than your summary. I was struck by your remark:

“…if truth be told, some {Stalinist Dialecticians} (Russian or Chinese) display a far more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of “the dialectic” than do many {Orthodox Trotskyists} – Ilyenkov and Oizerman come to mind here. Another: Alexander Spirkin’s analysis of the Part/Whole relation, here.”

I can at least agree with you there. Ilyenkov is worth reading. (BTW please fix the broken link to Spirkin.)

Frankly I don’t have time at the moment to read much more of your 600,000+ words work. But I will quote this, as an explicit welcome to a site that DOES want to be contradicted:

“Nevertheless, for all their avowed love of “contradictions”, DM-theorists do not like to be contradicted – especially “internally”, as it were, by a comrade. In fact, they reject all attempts at doing this (which is rather odd given their commitment to the belief that progress can only occur this way). So here is a nice conundrum: if all progress and change does indeed result from “internal contradictions, then the pages that follow, which uncover the many that lie at the heart of dialectics, should be warmly welcomed by the DM-faithful. Indeed, if improvement and development can come about in no other way, then these pages ought to be well-received by those committed to “dialectical” change. That they won’t be well-received should therefore count as one of the opening “contradictions” exposed at this site: DM stands refuted as much by its own unwillingness to be contradicted (internally or externally) as it is by the fact that this situation is not likely to change.”

Our experience is that they simply don’t want to argue with us. Occasionally, like the dalek, one of them turns up and expresses his indignation without any attempt to understand what we are actually saying or to directly respond to any replies – the minimum courtesy required for argument. Given your background, you will find much to contradict here. Please go right ahead! But please, avoid the language you use in bantering with your fellow sectarians and just argue with us about how to analyse and change the world in ordinary language that anyone can understand.

Historical Materialist Dialectics

DaVinci vitruviawith_pyramid

Question “The only experience that I have with dialectics is a horrible essay that I had to write at university about Mozart and Beethoven. I’ve never really understood what dialectics means, except that it’s a great word to use when pretending to be intellectual over a cup of coffee. Most other people don’t really seem to understand the concept either, but would prefer not to admit it. I know this as I regularly drop it into conversations and no one has pulled me up on it yet.. see emperor’s new clothes post!”

Dialectics – What is it, what are examples of it?

by Keza 2004

I mentioned in The relation between materialism and idealism topic that materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett doesn’t mention the word dialectics – so in reading Dennett I’ve been looking out for what language he uses when describing concepts that are dialectical.

I’ve found one instance – he uses words like paradoxical to describe the problem and then in detailing his solution says things like, “this is not paradoxical at all”

An example is that Mother Nature / Evolution has no foresight and yet has managed to create humans who have foresight.

• Re: progress and dialectics

Posted by keza at 2004-12-28

The best laid plans of mice and men…. if practically everything that we do results in something not intended then why do we plan, why do we struggle, why do we try to move the world in a certain direction?

When Engels wrote that consciously willed actions often result in quite unintended consequences I think he was disputing the Hegelian idea that history is “the gradual realisation of ideas”. His point was that what happens in history comes about not as a direct result of abstract ideas, wishes, intentions (and so on) but is governed by ‘inner laws’ – ie what is possible (and therefore real and rational) in a given epoch. Movements don’t arise just because someone comes up with a good or bad) idea and manages to convince lots of people to follow them. Movements for change arise out of material conditions – the possibility for change is present and that opportunity is seized. The ideology in which the movement is clothed is (somewhat) secondary.

“The distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production … and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic — in short, ideological — forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.”


Marx: Contribution to the Critique of Political Philosophy (1859)

An example is the idea of “equality” in the bourgeois democratic revolution. The idea that “all men are created equal” stood in direct opposition to the feudal belief that all men are most definitely not created equal. The growth of capitalism made it not only possible but also necessary for the idea that rulers are made rather than born to take hold. Thus on a conscious level the motivation for bourgeois revolution was belief in ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ but at a more fundamental level, the revolution was driven by the necessity to liberate the productive forces from the constraints of feudalism. That reason (or motivation) was only dimly appreciated however.


Friedrich Engels wrote in 1893 that:

“Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces.

I don’t think this means that bourgeois revolutionaries didn’t really believe in liberty, equality, fraternity – or that the battles they fought weren’t really for these things. We all know (except perhaps for the pseudo left) that as a result of the democratic revolution we have freedoms and rights that were hardly even dreamed of previously. However the ideas themselves weren’t the driving force – these ideas could only take hold because the material conditions were crying out for them (so to speak).

I think what bothers a lot of people is the feeling that perhaps this means that what they as individuals actually do doesn’t really matter – that somehow we are all carried along by a tide of “underlying forces” , that we are seized by ideas rather than seizing them ourselves etc etc. Engels refuted this when he said “freedom is the recognition of necessity” (Anti Duhring?) … once we come to understand “how things work” – “the rules of the game” then we do have a real chance of using our understanding to influence the course of history. Engels’ Letter to Franz Mehring in Berlin is interesting in this respect.”

He starts by pointing out that both he and Marx tended to neglect the role of ideas/ consciousness in bringing about change…

“Marx and I always failed to stress enough in our writings and in regard to which we are all equally guilty. That is to say, we all laid, and were bound to lay, the main emphasis, in the first place, on the derivation of political, juridical and other ideological notions, and of actions arising through the medium of these notions, from basic economic facts. But in so doing we neglected the formal side – the ways and means by which these notions, etc., come about – for the sake of the content. This has given our adversaries a welcome opportunity for misunderstandings and distortions…..”

and later:

“Hanging together with this is the fatuous notion of the ideologists that because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history we also deny them any effect upon history. The basis of this is the common undialectical conception of cause and effect as rigidly opposite poles, the total disregarding of interaction. These gentlemen often almost deliberately forget that once an historic element has been brought into the world by other, ultimately economic causes, it reacts, can react on its environment and even on the causes that have given rise to it.”

No time to write any more now!! I’ll finish with a quote I quite like though:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an Alp on the brains of the living…. “
(Marx: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napolean)

end Keza

Posted by kerrb at 2004-12-19 01:54 AM

More about the usefulness of dialectics, being a bit more specific about it than in my previous reply to sally.

1) socialist / not socialist dialectic

A few years ago (maybe 20) I went to a debate where someone from the pro-Soviet so called communist party was arguing that the Soviet Union was still a socialist country. This person was so wrapped up in the details and scope of his argument that I could see that no single point could be made in question time that could possibly persuade him that he might be wrong. I wanted to support the case that the Soviet Union wasn’t socialist and so was racking my brains for a question that might get through, if not to the speaker, then at least to the audience.

What I thought of and asked the pro-Soviet speaker was: ” Are there any possible circumstances that might arise in the future which would persuade you that the Soviet Union was no longer socialist?”

To the amusement and bemusement of some of the audience, he replied, “No, the Soviet Union will always be socialist”

2) progressive / reactionary dialectic

I think a similar sort of point can be made to the pseudo-left in connection to the US invasion of Iraq.

In my view it’s pretty straightforward that the US has led a campaign to overthrow the fascist government of Saddam Hussein and is now proceeding to help Iraqis create a democratic government. That has to be progressive.

Because historically US Imperialism has been very reactionary, as exemplified by the Vietnam war and much more, there are now many people in the world who seem incapable of conceptualising that the US could possibly do something progressive. It’s always possible for these people to point to bad things that the US does – there is no shortage of examples.

Maybe part of the problem is that they have an ingrained black and white, non dialectic world view, which implicitly denies the very possibility that the US could do something progressive.

I’m not saying that thinking dialectically is a substitute for studying the details of processes in detail – including the details of what the Soviet Union became historically and the details of what is happening in Iraq and the Middle East. But that having the concept of dialectics (the coexistence of opposites in things) might help prevent falling into the rigid black and white thinking illustrated in the two examples above. If some people can’t even conceptualise that it might be possible for US Imperialism today to do something progressive then no amount of detail is going to change their mind about Iraq. Their thinking is dogmatically stuck at another level to do with their whole world view. I’m arguing that studying dialectics is useful because it helps us keep our minds open to these possibilities.

Here’s a paragraph from Dennett:

“One of the standard (and much needed) correctives issued to those who study evolution is the old line about how natural selection has no foresight at all. It is true, of course. Evolution is the blind watchmaker, and we must never forget it. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Mother Nature is well supplied with the wisdom of hindsight. Her motto might well be “If I’m so myopic, how come I’m so rich?” And while Mother Nature is herself lacking in foresight, she has managed to create things – us human beings, preeminently – who do have foresight, and are even beginning to put this foresight to use in guiding and abetting the very processes of natural selection on this planet. I occasionally encounter even quite sophisticated evolutionary theorists who find this paradoxical. How could a process with no foresight invent a process with foresight? One of the main goals of my book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” was to show that this is not paradoxical at all. The process of natural selection, slowly and without foresight, invents processes or phenomena that speed up the evolutionary process itself – cranes, not skyhooks in my fanciful terminology – until the souped up evolutionary process finally reaches the point where explorations within the lifetime of individual organisms can affect the underlying slow process of genetic evolution, and even, in some circumstances, usurp it.”
– Freedom Evolves, page 53

So, this illustrates that one can think dialectically without formally studying dialectics or even using the word dialectic. Dennett’s ability to do this would presumedly arise out of his deep study of the science of evolution combined with his materialistic philosophy.

In dialectical language no foresight and foresight would constitute a unity of opposites and in the process of development one can transform into the other. I think this way of looking at it is preferable to Dennet’s apparent paradox that turns out not to be a paradox.

But it’s probably more important to really study the topic deeply (in this case, evolution) than just to be able to spout the magic words. But I also believe that it’s important to study dialectics itself (Mao, Hegel etc.) because this creates an awareness or sensitivity to possibilities of things turning into their opposite that we otherwise might not even notice – it has the potential to make our thinking more fluid and flexible.

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Posted by kerrb at 2004-12-19

Dialectics is the co-existence of opposites in everything, nature, mind, society. I’ll explain by reference to something said in The Emperor’s New Clothes thread:

Think of all the people scared to speak in public, or scared to admit how they feel about something, or someone! I know for a fact that my private side is very different from my public face. So in my opinion this is a ‘problem’ that stretches right across the board, it’s not just in intellectual circles. People in general are afraid to speak their minds! Me too, so afraid that I don’t want to post this, but I will anyway.

What you are saying here is full of dialectics IMO. You talk about fear of speaking out and feeling compelled to speak out coexisting in your mind. Both of these opposites co-exist side by side. In some circumstances the fear might be stronger and you don’t speak. In other circumstances the compulsion to speak out might be stronger.

I think it’s fair to say that these opposite tendencies exist in everybody and so we are talking about something that is universal.

So, by contrast, what would be a non dialectical way of looking at this? We might view some people as always speaking out, the sort of people we wish would shut up sometimes. We might view other people as never speaking out, the sort of people that we don’t know what they are thinking. We might form black and white opinions about people with these extreme tendencies and as a result lose our curiosity, for example, not notice that a normally garrulous person has gone quiet in certain circumstances.

But of course there are no people like either of these two extremes. Although some people speak too much and others hardly at all these are just tendencies across the spectrum of possibilities. In reality, the two opposite tendencies coexist within everyone.

I’ve just taken one example of dialectics here from something you wrote in order to explain the idea. But whatever you are thinking about or studying I would argue that you can always conceptualise opposites that coexist within that thing. At the least I think it’s a very handy way to think about things because it can open up new ways of looking at something.