Dialectics pt 3: Dialectical systems and order

Fractals in nature show order repeated in patterns at all nesting levels in all systems – they often have obvious various types of spirals in their design and amazing imagery – spirals being the nature of all development.

We don’t necessarily agree with everything in Steve Masterson’s article below, for instance some of us would disagree with what he says about Lenin, Mao and/or Trotsky in relation to dialectics, and with the comments about WW3, but we think this is a very important subject, far too often overlooked by Marxists.  Indeed, it is quite rare to find practical activity on the left guided by dialectical analysis.  Instead, dialectics is usually assigned a role as abstract/rarefied theory, the subject of an occasional intellectual paper or talk, but not a central part of day-to-day political analysis and activity on the left and not something for the ‘mere’ rank-and-file to bother themselves with.  Hopefully, Steve’s work will spark off the kind of discussion and debate which is much-needed in relation to dialectics.

A modern dialectics is essential for social revolution, explains Steve Masterson

Note: Because of the original ideas contained in this series on a new dialectics, this article makes better sense when read in context of the previous two articles on Redline; first here on systems theory and second here on chaos.

In the last article we explored the phases or zones of chaos and transformation between all systems and things. Here, we investigate some specific dynamics of relative order, of the main life-span of any system or thing at any interconnected nesting level of nature; its most general related parts, properties and processes.

This has profound implications for grasping the chaotic ‘order’ phases of capitalism. We have all lived through its current decaying phase since its recent ‘victory’ over Stalinism and then the comprehensive globalization of capital rule predominated since the late 1990s. Readers will also notice how hard it is to talk of order without its twin, chaos, ever-present.

Now we have no choice but focus on how a conscious human movement can transform things into the type of world humanity craves, which will be based on cooperative and caring human order, a different world from capitalist ‘order’ which is based on wealth accumulation, competition, greed, exploitation, sexism, racism, violence, chaos, wars, etc.

Different systems have different unique types of order, but also follow patterns and types. After some discussion into more abstract aspects of the relative harmony or dynamic order of systems in general, in a practical sense we will then investigate the unique specific type of ‘order’ that capitalism has delivered us.
We will also take a comparative peep at order in what little we know of non-hierarchical nomadic gatherer-hunter communities, the cradle of our humanity; and then glimpse at order in projected visions of future truly human society, seen through the lens of our needs today. Then, in this new context, the next article will investigate Marx’s concept of productive forces and human development.

However, first, through the dialectical specs of material real change, we investigate any complex system’s ‘dynamic equilibrium’ and general behaviour – its self-organisation and fundamental contradictions, its boundaries and patterns, its oscillations and rhythms, its tendencies and tensions, its fluctuations and feedback – at least as a start.

At this moment in this series it may mostly appear as quite abstract and far from practical. Don’t fool yourselves; the practical implications need further collective development, but are real and forthcoming – and will be explained in a clear and simple manner that can hopefully be appropriated in practice by millions of everyday campaign, community and worker organisations.

Meanwhile, let us examine order, the life-span of a system, and the interdependence, interpenetration and interrelations of ‘order and chaos’; a crucial category of living dialectics.

Contradictions & Categories
We must prioritise the role contradiction plays here, or anywhere, for that matter. Contradiction is the unity, struggle, interpenetration and transformation of opposites in all nesting sizes of all the systems we know of. In complex adaptive systems we must seek out not only the principal contradiction which must be followed historically, but also the cluster of contradictions in the parts belonging to that system, as Marx did with Capital.

Further, a crucial aid that Marx used in his inquiry into the early capitalist system is that of the more ‘general categories’ or ‘contradictions’, mainly sourced in Hegel; is one that belong to all systems such as: being and becoming, essence and appearance, form and content, the abstract and concrete, necessity and chance, subjective and objective, the simple and complex, etc.

Engels in the 19thC prioritised what he considered three of the broadest categories that he somewhat rigidly termed ‘laws’; 1 – contradiction as the unity, struggle and interpenetration of opposites; 2 – quantitative change to qualitative transformation and vice-versa (or order to chaos to order); 3 – negation of the negation (spiral development). In its time these three ‘laws’ were a remarkable advance (if somewhat academic) and they leave even the best of bourgeois scientists of today way behind – as simply a watch without it source; the spring of development and permanent change.

These abstract categories or ‘laws’ that we humans create with our very limited knowledge and perceptions are not set in stone as so many ‘Marxists’ suppose and impose. More scientific, organic and reflecting human complexity, and less prone to abuse by bureaucrats are overlapping concepts and terms like: tendencies, patterns, processes and the rhythms of nature herself. It takes deep empirical research into the parts and their connections and interactions in any particular system ‘to draw out’ the different roles and emphases each category plays in any system’s essential dynamics and flexible workings. Every system differs in this delicate balancing act.

However, Stalinist academic exponents of ‘dialectical materialism’ (diamat, they called it) were notoriously mechanical by imposing their favourite, careerist or politically expedient, categories on a system rather than engage empirical research into the living real relations between the developing parts first.
Even authentic and creative dialecticians in part fell for this: Lenin and Mao over-emphasised contradiction and struggle; Trotsky stressed quantitative change and qualitative transformation; Raya Dunayevskaya, the negation of the negation (spiral development). My understanding is that Marx was much more all-rounded and did not make this mistake. Marx made different types of mistakes, especially expecting revolution in Europe in his lifetime which later led other revolutionaries to optimistically try to force-through revolution, which led to Stalinist dictatorship, etc – not to human freedom.

The revolution must be organic – in that it arrives naturally, as human development reaches a conscious ‘critical mass’ in our organisations and movement – in midst of seeming chaos.

Self-Organising Living Systems
‘Autopoiesis’ is a word coined by biologists in the 1970s and also much used by systems theorists. Prof. Steven Rose, dialectical neuroscientist, in his ‘Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism’, p18, helped popularise this term.

‘Auto’ means self in Greek and ‘poiesis’ means to make, create or produce. It refers to a living system maintaining and reproducing itself, such as cells, organisms, groups, etc. As such it is a richer phrase than simply referring to the self-organisation of living systems.

However, the concept autopoiesis is a dead-duck without the dynamic dialectic and its patterns of change, without grasping the role contradiction plays in all systems, the growing new within the old; without grasping quantitative change (order) to qualitative transformation (chaos) and back again; without grasping natural spiral development. Indeed, the main use of the concept autopoiesis is that it can enrich the development of dialectics, and further for us revolutionaries, it is common language with biologists and systems thinkers today, and more important, it is now taught in schools worldwide.

Autopoiesis refers to the mode of organic development and the dynamic equilibrium of complex living systems. Generally, physicists and cosmologists would agree that in the inorganic mode of development, all relations within and between atoms; and that all planets, solar systems and spiral galaxies like the milky-way; are all self-organising – yet so few can grasp the deeper dynamics without the dialectic.

Boundaries Hold Systems Together
“Everything is connected to everything else” is a famous quote which is attributed by various pundits to Leonardo da Vinci, Lenin or recently the well-known media physicist Brian Cox. Such serious interconnectedness and interrelations starts in evolutionary terms at quantum levels, in the relations within and between atoms.

How boundaries work and originated is crucial to grasping our lives today. Certain properties of atoms are: gravity, electro-magnetic, and strong and weak nuclear forces; and are jointly (and as the source of this complexity) the forces that hold all nature’s systems together and create boundaries without which there would be no system or relations between systems, no us. Just search ‘Brian Cox, In Search of Giants’ to see the brilliant video to witness how such ‘forces’ research is so useful, but he ends with the illusion that eventually this will lead to the ever-sought ‘theory of everything’. The video is very useful, but that ideal is fallacious, as later science will unfold even deeper, simpler and complex truths.

Without all the interdependent fundamentals of how the ‘forces’ work together, there would be no emergence, lifespan, decay and end of all nesting systems, and no beginnings of our universe as we know it. It all begins with the complex beautiful atom and quantum dynamics, where the primary contradiction is between the nucleus and the electrons which form the boundaries of the atom. And of course, under extreme gravitational pressure they open their boundaries with other systems/atoms, particles and interpenetrate each other, which allow evolutionary processes to occur in the composition of new heavier elements. ‘We are start-dust’ is the title of the prophetic famous song by Joni Mitchell which summarises that we humans are in fact made of nothing but stardust, including most of the heavier elements – a scientific truth.

Ernest Rutherford in 1911 showed that atoms were divisible, that they had parts, smaller particles inside; in particular he showed how electrons moved rapidly (almost the speed of light) around each atom’s relatively heavy nucleus. And Reader, it’s happening right now, in billions of atoms, billions of times in your big left fingernail. Touch one key on your mobile and you’ve touched billions of atoms each with electrons moving at near the speed of light! Rutherford likened atomic behaviour as similar to how our planets moved around our sun in our little solar system, of which some 200-400 billion stars exist in our little galaxy, the Milky Way.

The brilliant quantum physicist Neils Bohr in 1913 showed how these electrons formed the boundary of every atom, which is still agreed today. Bohr along with Werner Heisenberg, founders of quantum physics, demonstrated and explained how atoms had a dynamic and dancing, had interdependent and interpenetrating relations and behaviour; so different to the bulk of modern mechanical quantum ‘scientists’. See Fritjof Capra’s ‘Tao of Physics’ for more on these two greats.

Such boundaries around the lifespan of any system (including spiral galaxies, stars, planets, etc), found their next most dynamic expression in a single cell (or bacteria) and the beginning of life here on earth – from a human point of view.

Bubbles in the bath are common to us all, mostly made of water and a little oil, but they burst quickly. However, held together largely by electromagnetism (and other forces) oily bubbles, which can be much smaller, like lipids, especially phospholipids are composed of an intake head on one end and an expelling tail on the other end – the origin of cell membranes, and us. This allowed for metabolism, the in-out processing of matter, energy and information – and with the cauldron soup of heavier elements found here on earth some 3.5 billion years ago, it all led to life. The lipid bubble was the open boundary of systems that allowed life to evolve – allowing the in-out flow (opposites) of matter, energy and information. I’m not even going to begin here talking about RNA/DNA.
This brings us back to firstly a primary contradiction of evolution being about the relations between the inside and the outside of any nesting system. The other equally primary contradiction is within the system and its lifespan, of which it has its own primary contradiction amongst a cluster of other contradictions. This process of change belongs to atoms, stars, cells, organs, plants, us humans, social groups, etc.

So for example, for we humans, the primary contradiction between our system and our external system is that between today’s ‘human’ society and the rest of nature (and its limited resources, which today capitalism dangerously ravages). And yet we are still 100% part of nature. The primary contradiction within our system, which will, or could, lead to truly human relations and society is the development of the productive forces, against the productive relations of slave/wage labour versus capital accumulation. One problem is that ‘Marxists’ and anarchists today still have an overwhelming economistic view, not an authentic libertarian-communist or human developmental aspiration and view of what Marx really meant by all this.

Attraction, Attractors, etc.
It’s too early at this stage of developing a new paradigm, a modern dialectics, to make a list like Engels’ three basic laws of dialectics. I’m still uncertain myself. Much more global collaboration needs to take place before we further concretise this project. However, we can say that the forces of attraction and attractors, as what holds a system together and situate ‘contradiction’ in a living context, should in some way be added to a further development of Engels’ three ‘laws’.
‘Attractor’ – says a US dictionary of physics is – “A set of states of a dynamic physical system toward which that system tends to evolve, regardless of the starting conditions of the system.” This definition of attractor from systems theorists is still unclear and again, I’m still unclear about all this.

So, the moon is an attractor regarding the seas on earth, one further place removed from the purer attraction of simple gravity, of stronger attraction of earth; just as earth relates to the stronger sun, or the sun (and our trailing planets) to our spiral galaxy the Milky Way, etc.

Further places removed, from a human point of view, would be the attraction of a bicycle as a system. The attractors here are nuts and bolts, screws and links – that hold the bike parts together and with oil make its mechanics work, where the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

The central contradiction in grasping the real bike system is not within the bike, it is only a potential bike, until a human is associated with getting someone from A-B more conveniently, eco-friendly, cheaper and quicker than otherwise – that is the central contradiction in practice. Everything is connected to everything else in nature.

Feedback or Cause & Effect?
In the first article, here, ex-Marxist systems theorist John Maynard Smith is quoted as writing that Engels’ “awkward interchange of cause and effect can be replaced by feedback”. He had the idea that systems theory had now made dialectics redundant. That is incorrect, however, here he had a part truth in that a modern feedback understanding by so many millions of students and scientists adds another layer, a richer understanding to ‘cause and effect’ as a category – the two do not mean the same thing but they do overlap.

To add further richness to this concept, especially visible in living systems but also within and between atoms or in the cosmos; are concepts like oscillations, vibrations, fluctuations, patterns, rhythms. The dialectics of ‘fractals’ or ‘Mandelbrot Sets’ alone could become a whole article (just search these two phenomena – it’s a wonder). They include the idea of repeated or similar patterns in all nature’s nesting systems that repeat themselves in both micro and macro directions; just as in organic life. We only need to look at a leaf or fern, for example.

In the ‘quantitative’ changes constantly occurring in systems – what I call micro-spirals of development (rather than ‘qualitative’ transformative macro-spirals) – there are constant oscillations and rhythms in nature. Nature’s systems are never stable, never in perfect harmony, but always in a state of flux, in dynamic equilibrium; everything is dynamic and flows in flux.

These slow changes during its lifespan or the relatively rapid transformation into a new system are the category ‘order and chaos’, a beautiful interpenetrating, overlapping everyday partnership without which there would be no evolution – it’s just natural.

How this feedback, the dynamic order and the oscillations actually works in the brain, in social learning processes and concept development, as one interdependent part of all collaborative human activity, will be dealt with in later articles. We will also investigate the all-important human processes of ‘abstraction’ and the two key zones of ‘concretisation’. It’s all really quite stunningly beautiful and simple – but takes a little patience, experience and practical consideration to get there and actually feel, think and grasp all these new general dynamics of nature, which apply to everything that is human.

Capitalist ‘Order’ & Chaos
Remember I wrote this sentence in the last article on ‘chaos’, “The dialectical relationship between chaos and order is for the future; however, chaos plays games inside the dominance of order, whilst order expectantly dances inside the ascendancy of chaos.” A friend has pointed out that this sounds like poetry not science – but oh, is he so wrong. Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Brian Cox, Fritjof Capra, well known quantum physicists, would applaud this description of the behaviour of chaos and order in describing atomic behaviour. Many modern scientists of ‘quantum mechanics’ treat atoms too mechanically. They would definitely be stupefied by the actual dance of the atoms; their knowledge might get there, but not what Einstein calls as more important – imagination!

Early in this article I wrote, “Different systems have different types of order.” Well, in each system we investigate we cannot impose fixed categories of ‘order’ or ‘chaos’ on its phases or its own nature. The role and value of specific general categories can only be drawn out using the dialectic method to deeply empirically examine the more exact nature or character of a specific system. Marx did it. This is why, since early capitalism, every time there is a new crisis in capitalism new editions of Das Kapital have to be printed because its top bankers foremost are buying it up – and yet no matter how intellectual, they are still unable to grasp its kernel as their puny hearts are situated on the wrong-right side.

The capitalist system always seems in chaos because its awkward order is based on profit and economic growth, on the rapid development of technology to make more profits and smash competitors. Or, after economic crises or rising imperialist challenges, like WW1 and WW2, they send ‘their’ workers to war against competitor countries. Economic competition, stealing resources and domination is what all wars are really about – behind the political and media façade of one side’s nasty men leaders. All sides in these wars have nasty men leaders says all mass media and politicians.

The more recent shenanigans in this 2014, of the US financing and also forcing the EU to intervene in Ukraine, to encourage and resource right-wing ultra-nationalists and outright fascists to oust a ‘democratically’ elected premier – and then blame all violence on Russia – is an example of the instability the US is consciously creating across Eurasia and the Middle East.

For decades the US has been printing dollars and digital money/debt like crazy. They fear the economic threat of China, India, Russia, Iran, etc; getting together and trading more, and forming a stronger Eurasian network, building transport infrastructure, military ties, etc. Ironically their action has forced just that. And the US want Russia to stop sending gas to the EU to harm its economy and as it will weaken the euro against its dollar. I’m going to go more into the nature of capitalist ‘order’.

When the US dollar crashes and a new dollar created (it is already prepared for and it will bankrupt many countries), the imperialist WW3 begins and will be started by the US, who will present themselves as victims of China, Russia, whoever. So capital’s order as a system is normally quite chaotic, today increasingly so. Not many know this but WW1 was started when the weakening British Empire declared war on Germany after its nearest growing imperialist rival invaded neighbouring Belgium on 4th August 1914 (not after an unknown Archduke was assassinated in Sarejevo in July 1914 as is popularly promoted). Even then US politicians and CEO’s, rubbing their hands in glee, still declared it a local ‘European war’. WW2 started (WW1 was unfinished) as Britain declared war on the same now stronger rival when it invaded neighbouring Poland. Weakening Britain started WW1 and WW2; so it will be with WW3 and the weakening US global hegemony today spreading weapons and disharmony against growing Eurasian unity – its greatest threat to its world domination. But this decaying ‘order’ is an altogether different story.

Gatherer-Hunter Life – Order then Chaos
Most anthropologists reckon gatherer-hunter life has taken up 90-95% of human life so far. I think it over 99%, and that our communal and nomadic, an ordered way of life, nurtured and hard-wired a deep humanity which is still strong within us – but is now smothered and barely visible in today’s dominant ‘culture’.

This strength of humanity in us evolved from women as collective child-carers, it developed from women’s solidarity and power around the camp-fire, situated at the centre of concentric circles of communication in nomadic communal life, where they nurtured a practice and knowledge of communal management. This generally engendered a rough equality between the sexes, for hundreds of thousands of years say anthropologists – I say much more than that. This way of living was order in a humane evolving sense – sometimes it’s called primitive communism. An article explaining the dynamics of human origins and what made us human is forthcoming.

Then, only beginning 12,000 years ago – but less than 5,000 years for most people on the planet in more remote and slower places, like here in England – the chaos and transformation of the Agricultural Revolution arrived. This was the transition to a new way of living. From being communal nomads now living in much larger settlements on land through the domestication of animals and plants; it transformed the order of everything.

This revolution advanced not just settlement but now involved wealth accumulation for the few; and do consider that nomads cannot carry accumulated wealth when travelling between constant camps, except for bone or stone trinkets, etc. They did not have Visa cards. This revolution led to permanent houses, personal ownership of land and property, further technological development, specialised artisans, population explosions and concentration as more, but less nutritious, food was produced.

However, it was simultaneously a hierarchical counter-revolution against the evolving forces of our humanity. A new world order was on the march. Personal wealth now had to be protected and in village/town concentrations this had to be organised. So armies and such ugly creatures as politicians and leaders necessarily came into being in a new evolving ‘order’: a hierarchical, greedy, violent and competitive way of life. Food for the majority poor became wheat and barley, nutrition values dropped, disease increased, even the average height of humans in affected areas decreased by 3 inches. See anthropologist Jared Diamond for more on this.

Slavery in most places came into being as the backbone of this ancient new economic system – initially the slavery of gatherer-hunters. The forces of our humanity were pitted against a new hierarchical inhuman system – as is today – but we’ve had to travel through other economic hierarchical formations, including the Asian, feudalist and the capitalist system that we suffer under today; each economic system having its own type of order of slow ‘quantitative’ change’ and then ‘qualitative’ chaotic transition to new order.

Ironically, it was gatherer women – at the centre of camp life and communal communications, where domestication of animals and plants were largely created and occurred. Women technologically led the Agricultural Revolution. It was women’s practical guidance, creativity and intelligence throughout the long order of the gatherer-hunter way of life that eventually led to this new revolution that brought in hierarchy – what I call the order of a ‘necessary evil’, or a temporary stage for humanity to pass through. Domestication of plants and animals led by women happened first in what is now south Iraq but it happened independently in several parts of the world shortly thereafter – and spread.

It was ironic because from living a relatively humane way of living, a rough egalitarianism between the sexes in nomadic communal life; women were no longer in solidarity around the camp fire or concentrated at the centre of communal life, or sharing childcare as much. Now, with houses and closed doors and ownership and power over others, the dominant culture; with ownership by men of ‘their’ women and ‘their’ children spreading, as did the adoption of second names in families for inheritance purposes; women in general, like today, became second class citizens.

Of course I’ve had to simplify this brief history of order then chaos and then ‘new order’, and there are numerous exceptions, but the general course of events is correct.

Future Human Society – from Chaos to Order
Building the ‘new’ caring, cooperative, sharing and loving human within today’s chaos of the inhuman ‘old’ system is about preparing a decentralized but networking and increasingly organised movement against the inhumanity of the capitalist system in a conscious and practical manner. It is all founded on the humane quality of everyday, face-to-face community and workplace relationships; the quality of class struggle; and on human development.

Here we talk of consciously building the new human harmony or order within the chaos of the old decaying system – the chick within the eggshell. This mass movement already loosely exists; but in a much more disorganized, single issue, and less conscious practice than is needed. It is all about now consciously preparing as revolutionary catalysts to journey through the wild phases or zones of chaos and trying to ensure the optimum harmony or order of an emerging new human society on the other side of capitalist chaos.

This is why we need a modern dialectics, a new paradigm, a method of human development; and not a weenie ‘party’ armed with its middle-class ‘leaders’ and a detailed programme of action instructing workers world-wide what to do right now. We humans will work that out ourselves in real participatory democracy when the time comes in totally new conditions from that of today’s immediacy.

In the previous chapter I talked about little impacts in these zones of chaos having tremendous implications … allow me to quote myself, ‘Small impacts in these phases of chaos, emergence and initial conditions of a system can have enormous implications in the outcome or overall character of the new system; something revolutionaries today should take serious note of.’

In all living nature the same principle holds. In any system the fundamental contradiction has an initial weaker partner: the embryo chick within the eggshell for example. In capitalism it is not labour vs. capital, not workers vs. bosses, but the productive forces against the productive relations – for we humans want to get rid of wage/slave labour, we want to end the working class, and promote freely agreed human activities and cooperation at the centre of our new order. We don’t want an economic change to a new hierarchical order, as from feudal to capital relations, but a human change, a new social order; the end of hierarchy itself!

Attributed to Gandhi, probably mistakenly, is that great quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Only when we humans learn how to advance this concept from an individual basis, into a communal and/or workplace basis, does it make a real impact – indeed it can become a viral infection against capital – for qualitative change in human society. This new harmony is what this project is all about.

And ‘being the change’; well here we are talking about the growing chick in the eggshell again, working to eventually break-through the shell at the right time. We are talking about a new humane society consciously building our new order (whilst living through chaos) within the old system, a new type of movement; of us setting the example by our everyday conscious activity of what a new human society could begin to look like.

The capital system is fundamentally centralised, nationally and internationally. Capitalists crave for us whilst we are weak to set up media focused points of violent conflict – the perfect terrain for a violent state to engage. Understandably but unfortunately a minority of our comrades, usually younger, long before ‘critical mass’ is achieved, think this type of ‘spark’ will awaken the working class. So, impatiently, they join with provocateur state forces in providing the ‘spark’ that such illusion will set off the revolution, when in fact it sparks off a media-led state backlash against our class.

Our future must become a truly human, cooperative and loving decentralized global movement, a human order with no borders – and it needs at this time patient work networking in our groups, communities and workplaces. We have to consciously further build the new harmony within the old system.
As such, as best we can, our movement must – under the immense pressure of bourgeois cultural dominance – try our best to be, well, simply human. We need to learn through our everyday relations and solidarity with those in need to somehow become contagious examples amongst other humans and the working class! Being simply human equates with everyday conscious revolutionary activity, with being a human catalyst.

However, that ‘contagious’ has to be conscious activity on our part. So how do we get there? This is the million dollar question. How do we create or begin the new order within the old chaos of this system? Two words from Marx, largely ignored by the ‘Marxists’, is human development!

Again I refer the Reader to search ‘Lebowitz, human development’ – and in various articles you will find a plethora of quotes from Marx on the significance of human development towards our new human society. Also search ‘Cyril Smith the Standpoint of Socialised Humanity’ for the best ever article that contextually quotes Marx on his human orientation.

Marx, a few times equated humanism, naturalism and communism. This is something that might surprise a number of greens and humanists whilst their various middle-class institutions of nice people offer no systemic alternative, especially in this time of decaying capitalism where the human/inhuman contradiction is rapidly widening.

The Productive Forces & Human Development
After much consideration I am handing this vital section on what constitutes the productive forces over to the next article, part 4. It is too important to gloss over. I will begin with a famous three-paragraph quote from Marx. The content is often quoted but largely misunderstood by Marxists and anarchists alike. Just search ‘Marx preface 1859’ and the quote starts in the 6th para with, “In the social production of their existence … [and ends with] … The prehistory of society accordingly closes with this [capitalist] social formation.”

Then we will be ready to move onto ‘Conscious Revolutionary Practice’ – part 5.

Anyone interested in a global study group with Steve on dialectics can contact him: stevem5@outlook.com



  1. This has been an interesting series of articles. Dialectics is often overlooked which is a shame because it is the backbone of Marxism and I don’t say that lightly either. Studying this philosophy has not only helped me better understand Marxism, it has also been an invaluable tool when it comes to research and essay writing in my uni studies. I’m currently taking my dialectical studies back to Hegel himself. I’m warming myself up with a guidebook to the Phenomenology of Spirit before I tackle the thing-in-itself. Although this was an enlightening article, I did find myself cringing at the mention of WW3. A dialectical analysis of political events does give insight into future possibilities, but it’s important not to come across as an oracle, because there is always contingency in necessity.

    • Thanks for the reminder about WW3. I’m always uneasy when people mention a third world war.
      That was definitely one of the other things in the article to disagree with; I’ve amended the intro, because I did actually mean to mention that too.

      I think the advent of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent for imperialists fighting each other. These days they certainly fight proxy wars and they fight economic wars, but even in these cases they still prefer to try to do deals and there still seems a lot of scope for deal-doing.

      They’re not going to go to war anywhere as easily as they did in 1914 (or even 1939) because the stakes are far too high and the gains are far too few (who would ‘win’ what at the end of a nuclear war?).


      • Dear Phil (Redline admin),

        I welcome your comments on some of the real differences that exist between us. Putting the first sentence last would give a positive read to the living dialectics approach I have been trying to outline.

        However, when you say in my praise, “it is quite rare to find practical activity on the left guided by dialectical analysis”, I would beg to differ. The relationship is more spiral like, which came first the chicken or the egg, and could be better presented as “it is quite rare to find dialectical analysis on the left guided by practical activity.”

        Comradely Yours – steve

        ps – It is pleasing to experience the quality and the non-sectarian nature of Redline discussion and presentation.

    • Back when the WCL and the Chinese Communist Party had connections some of us were discussing nuclear war up at the embassy. One of the Chinese comrades said:
      “Nuclear weapons are dialectical. It takes more of them to make less.”

      • Don – you are the only one to link dialectics to nuclear weapons, to MAD, mutually assured destruction. I was first heavily active in the late-1970s to late-1980s in England when industrial class struggle was at a definite height. However, that type of struggle will not be again like it was; the form, shape and many aspects will change in the next outbursts.

        Phil was right to say nuclear weapons act as a ‘deterrent’, that WW3 will not happen ‘as easily’ as previous WWs – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

        So what makes you think WW3 will so closely reflect the two WWs of the previous millenium, the early previous century? – comradely, Steve

    • Hiya O’Shay Muir,

      From the Redline gossip-line, well, Phil to be exact; I heard you have written documents on precarious, part-time and casual workers (who I call the disorganised new global proletariat) on Redline which I have now carefully read. I’ve learnt you are a student, early 20’s in Auckland. I visited there long before you were born, which gives you something about my age.

      I have never met someone else besides myself who is also a Hegel freak and seems to understand the casual, precarious new proletariat, as you do. Amazing!?!? I have a rich and fruitful background in organising shop workers, including unionising the biggest megastore in the world at the time of over 500 workers in London in 1987-8.

      I have a document, proposal, not ready for publication, but I will send to you on practical suggestions for the development of this new proletariat – it is based on the ‘dialectical-cell’ idea that I mentioned in my first article. I will also send it to anyone else on Redline who’s interested; just email me stevem5 at outlook.com

      Oh, and I suggest you get a part-time job in the biggest McDonalds in Auckland and try organising (begin slowly) – reaching out to other branches. I’ve done it. The lessons you learn will be more valuable than a thousand books. If you want to do this I’m happy to discuss the problems and possibilities you might face.

      You categorise yourself as a Hegelian-Marxist – at least it seems so from your short intro. I have learnt much from Hegel, especially about being, notions, essence, etc. His work is essential, third only to Marx and Vygotsky, in grasping the deeper and simpler nature of human activity and human power. But I’ve known others get trapped in the brilliance and idealism of Hegel.

      Your ‘thing-in-itself’ focus for example, popularised by Kant, never mentioned positively by Marx to my knowledge, is an academic death-trap. Things or systems maybe ‘for themselves’ but never only about themselves – all things, beginning with the atom, are about the relations both within and between things. There is no such Kantian system as a ‘thing-in-itself’. Mind you, exploring the development of the cluster of contradictions within anything is essential to understand that things/systems progress, but only within the whole of its environment.
      contact me comrade, I like your writings, even though they’re over academic – steve

    • I fail to see how being aware of how ‘Things’ interact with one another, rather than focusing on ‘Things’ in isolation is baloney.

  2. “So what makes you think WW3 will so closely reflect the two WWs of the previous millenium, the early previous century? – comradely, Steve”

    Well, Steve, I don’t think that myself.

    I just quoted a quote which I think is quite a good exposition of dialectics.

    How will WW3 go?

    I am the worst person to ask; every election in New Zealand since 1972 I have predicted wrong.

    That said, I will venture that WW3 will resemble the two previous abominations in one respect, working people will be the biggest losers.

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