Monday, January 28, 2008

Reading Lenin

Political Affairs is preparing a study of Lenin's Empirocriticism, and the blog has a debate going about the relevance of DiaMAt to 21st century Communism. This is my response:

"Carl Davidson said... Lenin's 'Empirio-Criticism' may be too narrowly focused for what you seem to want to do, defending dia-mat against 'bourgeois philosophy.'

Lenin was aiming at a few people going off the deep end around the time of Einstein, making too much of the 'revolution in physics.' Today there have been many more revolutions, and dia-mat, if it can't jettison some 19th Century baggage, itself ends up as dogma.

Taken Stephen J Gould, an historical materialist and scientist par excellance. In his book 'Full House,' he does a wonderful critique of the dia-mat notion of progress through history, especially any 'inevitable' flavor of it. He posits an open future, more chaotic and complex than that posited by dia-mat.

Same goes for John Dewey's instrumental theory of truth, which is more in tune with what scientists actually deploy when doing science today.

Who said Marxism is science or it is nothing? Not entirely true, but very well, the question then is what really is cutting edge science today? Hint: It doesn't all fit into the old dia-mat formulas, methods and catergories, which were themselves historically shaped."

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with some of Mr.Davidson's comments on DiaMat and science. While some of the individual scientific claims in Engels' Dialectics of Nature may have been refuted (though I can not name any), by in large recent scientific studies have if anything enhanced the correctness of DiaMAt. For example recent evolutionary studies have found that there are qualitative leaps in evolution triggered by geological disasters and climate change, and thus evolution is not always as gradual as Darwin argued.

While it is important that Marxist-Leninists do not become academic debating societies, Marxist theory is critically important toward knowing which actions are correct. National Bolsheviks in Russia for instance claim to be Bolshevik yet have such incorrect theories that in practice they have degenerate into fascist thugs.

As for the CPUSA, I would say by and large theory is correct, but one aspect that concerns me is seemingly giving up the idea of state power forever. There is nothing wrong with supporting liberal Democrats, or taking power as part of a progressive coalition, but I do find it troubling abandoning the idea of EVER assuming stat power. Again theres nothing wrong with doing it through peaceful quantitative stages, that is the way Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh attempted until they were forced to respond to counterrevolutionary terrorism. The problem is when the idea of quantitative change leading to qualitative change is completely abandoned. I don't see this as a major issue in the CPUSA but some recent papers seem to imply that strategy, although it may just be my misreading.

Anyway I look forward to reading an analysis of Lenin's work and I'm preparing my own critique and criticism of Stalin's interpretation of Dialectical Materialism

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