Part 1: Marx and Hegel

Part 2. The capital-labour dialectic – and a look at Empire

Part 3. Postmodernism and dialectics – the Other and Difference

Part 4: Does the “totalising logic” of the dialectic lead to totalitarianism?

Part 5. Adorno, Stalinism and the future

Part 6: Once again, Hegel’s Spirit

Part 7: Beyond global capitalism

The dialectics of revolution

Phil Sharpe shows how Marx reconstructed Hegel 

Part 1: Marx and Hegel

At the recent AWTW discussion weekend entitled Composting Capitalism, one speaker contrasted the German idealist philosopher Hegel's apparently abstract and contemplative dialectic with the supposedly more “activist” approach of Marx. On a superficial reading, Marx was indeed critical of Hegel’s notion that a nebulous World Spirit is the source of transformation in history and specifically, his notion that the Prussian state bureaucracy was the highest historical form of social development.

But Marx, unlike many of those who like to extract the odd quote from his writings, distinguished between particular ways in which the dialectical approach was applied to history, and the philosophical gains represented by the elaboration of the dialectical method. Marx rejected Hegel's historical conception that progress is an expression of the advance of his World Spirit. At the same time for Marx, dialectics is the DNA of his entire approach to history and revolutionary politics – albeit a more developed, materially-based version of dialectics.

The Hungarian Marxist György Lukacs, following Friedrich Engels, made the point that it is not surprising that Hegel's philosophical understanding of history is not able to articulate a more emancipatory conception of the future, because he is a theorist writing at a time when feudalism was still dominant in Germany and capitalism was still very much in its infancy. However, it would be one-sided to be content with this critique of Hegel, and not to mention that Marx's own understanding of history was based upon the incorporation of important philosophical gains from Hegel. Hegel's understanding of history was based upon a contradiction between what was a conservative, empirical adaptation to existing reality, and that which was revolutionary and represented an emancipatory logic.

In this context, Marx absorbed Hegel's historical understanding of alienation and the alienated role of labour. Hegel's discussion of the master-slave dialectic, which is elaborated from the viewpoint of the slave, indicates that the domination of the master expresses a type of alienation in relation to the labour being carried out by the slave. The slave is trying to strive to overcome this alienation by realising a different form of labour. Eventually, the slave is successful in this striving and realises a non-alienated labour based upon becoming the owner of his/her property, and in so doing ends the previous dependency on the master. In so doing, Hegel reveals in philosophy why the feudal relations of production must be replaced by the more dynamic social relations of capitalism. Thus Hegel provides a rationale for what were the progressive bourgeois revolutions of his time, understanding that the social relation between capital and the proletariat would constitute the most important contradiction of this system.

Hence, it is important to differentiate between what constitutes the ideological and political statements of Hegel in support of the existing monarchy in Prussia from his philosophical interpretation of history. His understanding of history indicates that his dialectic can be used to justify the bourgeois revolution to overthrow feudalism, and so it would be a crude simplification to merely define Hegel as a supporter of the status quo. Instead there is a tense and complex, indeed contradictory relation, between Hegel's method and his often politically-limited interpretation of this method. This is why Hegel's lectures on the history of philosophy can indicate an ideological tendency to Euro-centrism, the one-sided dismissal of the importance of Africa and Asia for world history, and on the other hand his philosophical approach elaborates a universalist, emancipatory and revolutionary character of his dialectic of history.

It was this very revolutionary character of Hegel's dialectic that was reconstructed in Marx's conception of history. Hegel's master-slave dialectic was based upon the subjective and psychological view that the slave would ultimately refuse to accept this relation as acceptable, and so it was changes at the level of consciousness that would be primary when explaining the prospects for the transformation of the alienated character of labour. In contrast, Marx understood as early as the Paris Manuscripts of 1844 that labour itself was alienating, and therefore it was not sufficient merely to develop consciousness of this situation. Instead, in order to transform the alienated character of labour, the most important aspect of change was the need to create the conditions for change, and this meant labour would develop the capacity to transform the alienated character of its own labour at the level of practice.

Hence, not only is labour capable of protesting about its alienation - which is actually the precondition for change in Hegel's dialectic - but is also capable of developing its own methods and means to bring about the transformation of the very situation that resulted in alienation. The very social practice of labour could bring about this transition from labour to a more voluntary and self-fulfilling form of work. In this context, the transformation of consciousness would not be the most active aspect of this process. Rather, consciousness would be connected to the very progress made in the development of the social practice of overcoming alienated labour in relation to the actions of labour.

Consequently, Marx’s development of Hegel's master-slave dialectic was based not only on the materialist inversion of Hegel's idealist dialectic, but it was also an expression of a more profound understanding of what was meant by alienated labour and how it could be overcome. Hegel provided an historical understanding of this dialectic that provides a plausible conception of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Marx refined and reconstructed this dialectic in order that we can recognise the contradictions of capitalism, the antagonistic relation of capital and labour.

To dismiss Hegel’s dialectic as mere philosophical contemplation is one-sided.  Marx and Engels did not reject Hegel's dialectic as merely the illusory expression of philosophical consciousness defining reality. Rather they provided the material elaboration of this dialectic. In this context, Marx refined and improved upon Hegel's understanding of alienated labour for an understanding of history, and especially contemporary history. It was Hegel who connected alienation to history and the role of labour. This was precisely why Hegel has a crucial role in the process of the philosophical elaboration of the materialist and revolutionary dialectic of Marx.

A real study of the evolution of Marx’s method shows that it is false and arbitrary to separate the dialectic of Hegel and Marx. Althusser, in his For Marx has tried to justify this very separation in terms of a “Young Marx” influenced by Hegel and Feuerbach, and an “Older Marx” who broke with the philosophical residues of these influences. But Althusser can only justify this arbitrary differentiation in terms of a denial of the continued importance of alienated labour in the later works of Marx. However, it is quite easy to show in the Grundrisse and Capital that Marx is concerned with how and why alienated labour has a collective and revolutionary impulse to overcome its alienated condition. What has changed from the early works is that Marx has deepened his economic analysis, and the theory of surplus value has been elaborated in the later works in order to show that the process of exploitation of labour by capital is the causal condition - and not labour itself - for the generation of alienation. It is in the context of the improvement of his economic analysis that we can understand what has changed and improved from the early Marx.

This does not represent a philosophical demarcation between a Young and Old Marx. Instead the continuity with the economic concerns of the Paris Manuscripts is maintained in the later writings and there is a cognitive elaboration of his conception of the objective basis of the alienated character of labour. In a sense, the later writings are more dynamic than the early writings. In the early writings, Marx's emphasis is upon the suffering character of alienated labour, and so the possibilities of the transformation of this condition become obscured. In the later writings, the collective and social character of labour as the subject of production is emphasised in order to show the full extent of the revolutionary character of labour. This later work is a continuation of the themes outlined by Hegel when trying to make sense of the contradictions of history and of how progress can be made.

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Part 2. The capital-labour dialectic – and a look at Empire

At the Composting Capitalism conference it was argued that the dialectical approach justifies binary opposites that define reality by two contradictory terms that excludes the significance of other opposites. The main focus of this criticism is the view that the binary of capital/labour, or capitalist and worker, is derived from the Hegelian or Marxist dialectic. The claim is that any other social stratum that does not fit into this binary is neglected and ignored by Marxism. This view is a common criticism made by what has become known as postmodern socialism. It is argued that new social movements of women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, are the excluded Other being justified by the philosophical and methodological rigidity of the Marxist approach. But, the essence of a dialectical approach, as was emphasised in the conference discussion, is precisely the relation between the parts and the whole. In this context, any deliberate exclusion of an Other would be an example of the distortion rather than an application of the Marxist method. It is in this context, that AWTW is sensitive to developments within global capital in order to try and understand the latest social process of capitalist development. Therefore it is necessary to constantly update our knowledge of the contradictions of capitalism and how they impact upon the various social forces within capitalism.

At the same time, it is the very material and social processes within objective reality that actually generate binary opposites -  primarily the contradiction between capital and labour. It is impossible to understand the capitalist system without a recognition of this contradiction as the essential nature of capitalism. This awareness does not exclude any Others which do not “fit” into this supposed philosophical schema. Instead, the contradiction between capital and labour is at the heart of its development and decline. Hence, it is not possible to understand the process of transformation of capitalism outside of an awareness of this contradiction and its movement. The overriding importance of this contradiction does not mean that other contradictions are ignored. For example, on a global scale the peasantry is still the most numerous social class, and therefore we have to understand the role of the peasantry in any comprehensive analysis of historical development.

Indeed, it is the universality of the capital and labour relation that facilitates awareness of the various secondary and partial contradictions. Indeed, it is because this contradiction is universal, the various apologists of capital have argued that it has been effectively resolved and history has ended. The postmodern socialists adapt to this type of reasoning and accept the ontological logic of this argument. They maintain that this universal contradiction has been replaced by various other more partial and diverse contradictions, and which above all indicate the role of the excluded Other. This standpoint is an adaptation to the domination of capital, because they cannot articulate how the various partial Others can represent a challenge to the universal power and logic of capital. Ultimately, what is being suggested is a call for new forms of accommodation by the oppressed to the universality of capital.

This point can be outlined in relation to the arguments made by Hardt and Negri in their works Empire and Multitude. These works make many insightful points, but they also accept the logic of postmodern socialism and consider that the contradiction between capital and labour has become outmoded, or belongs to a previous era when capitalism was based upon imperialism. In the new era of Empire, the “multitude” is the excluded Other that can pose a challenge to the power of capital. Unfortunately, Hardt and Negri do not define what their “multitude” is, beyond the philosophical attempt to transcend the limitations of what are considered to be the historically antiquated binary opposite of capital and labour!

The very helpful suggestions that the authors make about the parasitic character of capital, and the tendency for labour dynamically to go beyond the economic restrictions of capital, are not connected to a revolutionary dialectic of change. Instead the multitude are all those excluded and marginalised from capitalism, and so the implication is that connection between labour and the multitude is accidental rather than necessary. The result is that we understand why the multitude may oppose aspects of the power of the Empire, but we do not grasp how the multitude can transform capitalism.

What Hardt and Negri have written is a book to articulate protest rather than a programme of revolutionary change. The result is that we are still left with an acceptance of a modified what is, rather than the standpoint of how what is can become what can be. This stalemate is the very dilemma of postmodern socialism, and so what results is a recipe for a change of capitalism at the level of certain aspects and the rejection of revolutionary transformation. The rejection of the ontological importance of binary opposites has not created a more emancipatory dialectic than that of Marxism. Instead, the result is a rejection of Marxist revolutionary subject of transformation - labour - and the failure to articulate a new revolutionary subject. Hardt and Negri come the closest to constructing it, in that the multitude has universal pretensions, but in the last analysis it is still another particular that has all the limitations and ambiguities of all other forms of the excluded Other.

For the point is that the very failure to elaborate the universal and therefore revolutionary potential of the Other means that the result is the justification of adaptation to the very real and actual universal logic of capitalism. The result is the articulation of protest at the level of its philosophical premises, and yet Postmodernism cannot sustain a revolutionary subject. Indeed, the very claim that the subject is oppressive is an example of the theoretical logic of the limitations of this reasoning. This is precisely why all that can be hoped for is improvements within the system. So at best the dialectic of postmodernism is that of reform rather than revolution.

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Part 3. Postmodernism and dialectics – the Other and Difference

The other accusation which postmodernists often level at dialectics is that it excludes “Difference”. But this standpoint does not represent any kind of philosophical consistency. It is impossible to understand the importance of Difference outside of Identity. For example, if we analyse the statement that all human beings are different. The Difference suggested here is that all humans have a unique history and experiences, and this represents the fact that all humans have a different personality. However, this very Difference would be nonsensical if it did not also relate to the very fact that we are studying this Difference in relation to what we all have in common, the irreducible fact that we are all part of the human species in a common relationship. Indeed, it is our very Identity as humans that creates the significance of what it means to be different. Yet it is precisely this ontological impossibility that is affirmed by the Postmodernists, because in terms of an epistemological rejection of what is defined as “Identity reasoning”, Difference is elevated into a condition of absolute importance. This absolutism means that it is logically and ontologically impossible to define the precise relations between the various differences.

In the end, Difference, and fragmentation as the ontological condition of Difference, are assigned logical priority. It becomes impossible to establish the interconnections between the various differences. This means that atomisation, and the accidental clash of isolated differences, becomes more important than the attempt to establish the interaction between the complexity of differences, and we cannot provide the criteria necessary to understand the relations and similarities between things. So, in the name of opposing holism, or the reduction of the part to the whole, we have instead justification of the absolute separation between things. This standpoint is very convenient for the interests of capital, because instead of any type of collectivism, or the unity of Difference in a common identity, we have only an atomistic collection of differences that lack solidarity between themselves. What is prevalent is the absolute disunity of individuals that lack anything in common, and so these individuals have no way of knowing how to unite against the totalising tendencies of capital. Indeed, these individuals are nothing more than atoms formally united, and yet remaining antagonists, because of the logic of capital. Consequently, the poststructuralist and postmodernist emphasis on Difference is the ontological and epistemological justification of why we are merely cogs in the wheel of capital. This is the true philosophy of resignation and contemplation.

Postmodernism can at best be an ineffective call for the reform and not transformation of the totalising logic of capitalism. Derrida's call for a return to Marx is an effective acknowledgement that any radical claims made by Postmodernism cannot be based upon an absolute rejection of Marxism. However, the Marx he wants to reclaim is that of a spectre we cannot effectively define in terms of presence, or the ghost of Marx is what is needed in order to haunt capitalism. Marxists cannot be content with such a Marx, because by ghost, Derrida means the moral conscience of capitalism. Marx haunts capitalism with the spectre or warning of the threat of communism, and so Marx reminds capital of the need to mend its ways. Thus the ghost of Marx is another call for the reform of capitalism. Yet what we learn from the real Marx is that the dialectic of alienated labour cannot be mended by reform, and instead he calls for the revolutionary transformation of this alienated condition. The difference between the Marxist dialectic and the postmodern critique is that between reform and revolution.

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Part 4: Does the “totalising logic” of the dialectic lead to totalitarianism?

A common argument against dialectics, both of the Hegelian and Marxist varieties, holds it responsible for totalitarian regimes.  A connection is drawn between the alleged philosophical limitations of the dialectic and the oppressive character of Stalinism. This viewpoint is very idealist, because what is essentially being argued is that the objective difficulties of a revolutionary regime created in conditions of isolation, poverty and civil war are less important than the imposition of a defective philosophical system. In other words, the degeneration of a revolutionary regime into the barbarism of Stalinism is not traced to the unfavourable material conditions, and the connected problem of the defeat of international revolution in the period 1918-23. Instead it is seen as the fault of philosophical dogmatism. But this standpoint is the expression of a dogmatic idealist outlook that sees that the ideas of the various participants in history as more important than the objective and material conditions in which history takes place.

What is being suggested is that we cannot oppose capitalism in an ethical manner with the approach and methods of revolution. For any revolutionary project is automatically based upon a totalising logic that is self-defeating and liable to turn the promise of emancipation into its opposite. The implicit suggestion is that we must reject the methods of revolution if we are to oppose the totalitarian philosophical logic that sustains this standpoint.

This is not intended to play down the importance of the ideas that motivate people in history. For even if we accept that unfavourable objective and material conditions are important for understanding the degeneration of a revolutionary regime, this does not mean that ideas have a merely passive role in this process. It was the pseudo-theory of “socialism in one country” that justified the domination of a bureaucratic elite, as well as providing the ideological theory of Stalinism and opposition to an alternative revolutionary standpoint. This ideology was an important part of the consolidation of the bureaucracy, and in this sense ideas influenced political outcomes in an active manner. The consciousness of the bureaucracy in terms of its theory and world view was a crucial means of both self-justification and credibility, and therefore bureaucratic domination would not have been sustained without a belief system that was used to gain both mass acceptance and to also discredit the alternative revolutionary and internationalist approach.

However, this historical importance of ideology does not mean that Marxism has a totalising logic justifying totalitarianism unless we identify Marxism with Stalinism. But Stalinism was the negation of Marxism, because it was based upon the self-justifying logic that the domination of the bureaucracy represented the summit of historical progress rather than a process of the self-emancipation of labour that resulted in the formation of a classless society. In this sense, the ideology of Stalinism was in complete contradiction with the aims and principles of Marx and Engels. The continued adherence of Stalinists to “Marxism” was formal and an ideological, instrumental means to uphold the domination of the bureaucracy rather than a principled expression of a relationship between theory and practice.

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Part 5. Adorno, Stalinism and the future

In his Negative Dialectics, Adorno makes this very point. This ideological character of the theory of Stalinism meant it could not become a philosophy of hope and emancipation. The dialectic of Marx and Engels (and it could be added of Lenin) was opposed to that of Stalinism because the former was based upon an understanding of history which held the promise - not guarantee - of proletarian emancipation. Stalinism arose out of the contradiction between bureaucratic domination and the affirmation of the revolutionary class interests of the proletariat. Consequently, it was actually an ideology that justified the subordination of the working class to the requirements of the bureaucratic elite.

Indeed, it was the actual reactionary political practice of Stalinism that indicated this contradiction, and that Stalinism and Marxism were actual antagonistic opposites. However, the philosophical critique of postmodernism ignores these differences at the level of theory and practice, because what is being suggested is that Marxism has a philosophical approach that is put into practice by Stalinism, the rigidities of the dialectic become expressed by a bureaucratic system. In other words, Marx and Engels are not held directly responsible for Stalinism, but it was the unintended consequence of a dialectic that could not allow for the importance of a Difference that could not be accommodated by identity reasoning.

It is important to recognise that in Marx and Engels the dialectical approach is not an idea that was imposed onto a mass movement by an elite that possesses the truth of history. Instead they saw the very dynamic of the mass movement to break free of capitalism. This meant the very possibility to realise communism was integral to the logic and development of class struggle. The role of a communist party was to articulate the historical logic of what may seem to be obscured and unknown to the participants of class struggle. This is not an imposition because if communism does not have this historical logic it cannot acquire mass support. Hence, communism cannot be achieved by an elite, which imposes itself on a mass movement. But rather the role of revolutionary leadership is to articulate the very logic and process of progress that was located within the class struggle.

This is why in the Communist Manifesto, Marx argued that the Communist party did not have interests that were separate from that of the working class. In other words, the dialectic of emancipation that Marx and Engels were trying to establish was one that articulated that emancipation could only be an act of self-activity by the revolutionary class - the proletariat - and the revolutionary role of the party was to articulate this very historical possibility. Thus the dialectic of Marx depends upon the actual role of the very participants within history, and this understanding is recognised by the emphasis on the class struggle.

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Part 6: Once again, Hegel’s Spirit

Hegel's dialectic is contradictory. It does have emancipatory aspects as previously outlined.  There is also a tendency to differentiate between the process by which the “absolute Spirit” is realised and the actual movement of consciousness. In this context, logic is external to the actual practice by which we come to cognise the world, and at some point this logic, as mediated by Spirit (or as we would say, “consciousness”), becomes an expression of an end that allows philosophical consciousness to become realised in practice. Thus logic represents a teleological end that is imposed onto human activity, and becomes the dynamic of this very activity, or the reconciling of logic and process with activity.

But we cannot understand this reconciliation without taking account of the initial separation between the subject represented by Spirit and the object, which includes all aspects of material reality. The very capacity of the subject to absorb the object is based upon an externality that means the object lacks logic until the external disunity between the subject and object is overcome. Hence, the potential for an end to be the expression of teleological purpose is connected to the infusing of the object with the direction and aims of what had been an external spirit. Marx rejects this differentiation between process and activity, in that the very materialist construction of his dialectic rejects the idealist pretensions of this approach.

This indicates that the process of movement is not external to the object and instead is the very product of a logic created by the object. Thus, if it could not be shown that the objective is the basis of process, it would not be possible to establish the ontological conception of movement and transformation, or progress towards communism. The revolutionary subject is not an intrusion of a process of mediation onto a lifeless object. On the contrary, it is the very primacy of the object that facilitates the articulation and flourishing of the subject. Only in these objective and material terms can we understand how the subject interacts with the object, and so enriches the object and promotes the capacity for change and historical movement. The externality of Hegel's subject as Spirit has been rejected, but the revolutionary character of the subject has been retained from Hegel, and in these terms the transformation of the object by the practice of the subject can be understood.

Logic and process unite in the actions of the subject on the object. This is precisely why we know that the practice of the subject can promote the transformation of the object in terms of the potential for communism. So, if this movement is not taking place we have to analyse why the subject has difficulty in changing the object in accordance with its potential for communism. Consequently, Marx's dialectic has a critical aspect that analyses revolutionary practice and tries to grasp what are the difficulties involved in the transformation of the object by the subject. Is the problem either a question of limitations at the level of the subject - an issue of consciousness - or an objective problem, such as the lack of sufficient productive forces for communism? Either context has to be understood and grappled with, because the process of movement towards communism cannot be realised outside of the very interaction of object and subject. Nothing is outside this relation and everything is inside. If the contradictions of this very relation create problems then advances have to be made towards resolving the contradictions that hinder progress towards communism.

Does the above approach represent a totalitarian logic? If the answer is “yes”, then what is being suggested is that the very process of movement towards communism is totalitarian. This means that capitalism is being defined as preferable to communism because it represents the capacity to resist totalitarianism. Furthermore, as Marx identified communism with the revolutionary role of the proletariat, then there must be something about this subject that also facilitates the generation of totalitarianism. What is being suggested is that the apparent universal character of the proletariat generates a logic that promotes the suppression of Difference, and connects the transformation of the utopian promise of communism into its dystopian opposite.

In other words, the philosophical method of this critique of Marxism is that the very attempt to create an historical logic whereby the subject interacts with the object in the progressive form of a process of movement towards communism, is flawed. Far better that the subject “give up” this interaction with the object and leave the object intact, or in a condition of non-transformation. That is to say, capitalism is accepted as the eternal and natural given that cannot be improved upon. Indeed, the fact that Marxism is marginalised at present is considered as empirical proof that people support this contention.

Marx and Engels were against all attempts to impose particular views on to mass movements.  Instead, their approach was to recognise that the very process and logic of the interaction of the object with the subject has historically generated the impulse for communism. It is not possible to restrict this impulse, and all such restrictions are ultimately futile because they amount to an attempt to deny the necessity for the subject to continue to act to overcome the limitations of the object. Indeed, hostility to communism is an attempt to leave the object in its present inadequate state, and to reject all impulses within the subject to realise the very historical logic of the object, which is to bring about the continual improvement of the object by the actions of the subject. Hence, any temporary discrediting and marginalisation of Marxism does not end these impulses of the subject to transform the object and to therefore facilitate movement towards communism. In this context, any demoralisation, and even fragmentation of the proletariat, does not end the development of revolutionary impulses within the proletariat to realise itself through the transformation of the object.

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Part 7: Beyond global capitalism

There is indeed a dispute between a non-dialectical approach that cannot recognise continual process, movement and change, and instead argues that history has effectively ended with the victory of capitalism and the defeat of communism, and a dialectical standpoint that understands that despite important defeats the communist impulse has not been definitively vanquished. For a transformation of globalised capitalism into a more advanced socialised form of society is the logic of a historical process that represents the necessity for the limitations of the object to be overcome, and the revolutionary subject of this dialectical transformation is still present and still has the impulses to promote this necessary interaction of object and subject.

Despite the ideological assurances of the various bourgeois ideologues that communism has been defeated, the continual limitations of capitalism are an indication that communism will continue to emerge as the historical alternative, because there is no other means of transforming the object in a progressive manner that means advance and movement to a higher level of development. This does not mean that communism is inevitable, because history is mediated by the very actions of human beings. These actions are fallible and liable to errors and mistakes that undermine the realisation of the very aims being striven for.

Such fallibility does not amount to inherent ontological flaws with the subject itself, or justification for the view that the role of the subject has ended. Instead what is indicated is that the past actions and level of consciousness of the subject have not been adequate to the task of transforming the object, and that improvement in the role of the subject are called for. Such a call does not sanction pessimism about the subject because these very improvements are possible if the potential of the subject is to be realised.

In this context, totalitarianism was the product, not of movement towards communism, but rather of the domination of the revolutionary subject by forces that were anti-communist. It was the very defeat of the process of movement towards communism that created totalitarianism, and this defeat was to the advantage of capitalism rather than communism. What we are considering are the important defeats, especially in the 1930s that brought about the suppression of an international revolutionary process and consolidated world capitalism. Totalitarianism was the negation rather than the affirmation of Marx's dialectic.

However, many intellectuals did not accept that the task was to develop a dialectically advanced form Marxism in order to promote the role of the revolutionary subject. Instead they blamed Marxism for the very defeats that negated the advance of the Marxist dialectic. Alternatively – or in addition – they pointed to the failures of the proletariat as the subject of history and called for new revolutionary forces. The development of postmodernism is the evolution of this pessimism, in that the very role of the subject is dismissed as being centred on the imperatives of power that can only result in a totalitarian logic. What results is a form of empiricism that prefers the imperfections of the present to the possible worse uncertainties of the future.

Furthermore, the object is actually fetishised as being beyond transformation by what is considered to be a defective subject. In a certain sense, what is being sanctioned is a form of Kantian dualism that considers that the world of the future is the unknown that is beyond our immediate sensations and appearances, and this unknown cannot be transformed on the basis of our human capacities. Instead all that we know is at the level of our immediate images, and even that is uncertain and liable to ideological distortion.

Thus, any claim to be able to know and understand reality especially at the level of history is written off as a “totalising arrogance”. To define history as having an ontological truth and logic is to be denounced as an imperialist who wants to control everything. But all Marxism seeks to show is that the logic of history is that humans can and do influence the outcome of history. The rejection of this dialectic actually means the rejection of the potential to replace the destructive anarchy of the corporate market with social stewardship of resources and production for need.

11 September 2007

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