Archive for the ‘Philosophy and dialectics’ Category

downloadby O’Shay Muir

The relationship between Marxism and Hegel has always been peculiar. On the one hand we have Marxism. A materialist philosophy and revolutionary movement that seeks to create a classless and stateless world. On the other hand we have Hegel the ultimate idealist and firm believer in the idea that the right kind of state (constitutional monarchy) can mediate between the various social contradictions that arise under capitalism. In other words a reformist. This divide or opposition between the two is our first clue into their peculiar relationship. This is a relationship that expresses the very heart of both; dialectics.

Since Marxism, through the ideas of Marx and Engels, was originally born out of a critique of Hegel and others influenced by him during Marx’s time, then the relationship between them involves a unity of opposites. Any serious study of Marxism brings one into contact with Hegel and anyone seeking to understand Hegel today will most likely have prior knowledge of Marx and his relationship to Hegel. Due to this relationship, Hegel for us should not simply be a name in a book, but a theoretical point of reference that allows us to understand Marx better and advance Marxist theory.

The question now becomes how do we (more…)


images (1)We were saddened to hear that Richard Levins died on January 19.  An outstanding scientist and veteran Marxist, Richard would have been 86 in June this year.  We were delighted to notice some time back that Richard sometimes looked at material on Redline and even commented on a couple of articles.  Below we reprint a short tribute to him and his life well-lived that appeared on facebook.

by Rob Wallace

imagesRichard Levins, the dialectical biologist extraordinaire, has passed. He revolutionized population biology multiple times, making foundational contributions to modeling evolution in changing environments, the theory of biological control, the philosophy of biology, modeling complex systems, mathematical biology, disease ecology, public health, and agroecology. He coined the term “metapopulation”.

His thinking remains profound enough to keep us busy for many decades to come. So much so, I think, that he reads like a traveler from another timeline. Imagine a working class Charles Darwin showing up in King Arthur’s court. He collaborated with evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin to develop, via a series of beautifully written essays, a modern-day dialectical (more…)

downloadby Philip Ferguson

I’ve been involved in the left for a long time. I went on my first political protest when I was 14 and that same weekend or very shortly afterwards I attended the founding meeting of CUSS (Canterbury Union of Secondary Students) which tried to organise high school students to fight for their rights – for more democratic schools, for education about racism and sexism, for the right not to wear uniforms and be subjected to all kinds of petty discipline. Then I joined High School Students Against the War in Vietnam. I generally hung out with radical students, a imagesfew young radical workers and, in general, people older than myself and my pre-politics and non-politics mates.

I think it was in that time that I first started thinking about the choices people make in life, including in politics. It is a subject that impresses itself on my thinking at regular intervals, most recently over the past few weeks.

To be political or not

I guess the first two types of choices I used to think about way back then in my early teens were why really nice people often went into relationships with pretty awful people (as a teenager I thought, of course, a lot about sex and relationships). The other thing was why so many of my friends at school, most of whom were nice, pleasant, thoughtful young people, were so uninterested in what was going in the world. Vietnam was the massive political issue at the time and protests and organising activities went on continually. Around big national demos me and my one semi-political friend at school would manage to sell badges and get a few of our schoolmates to turn out, but it was very limited. Why, I wondered, would my friends choose not to be interested in Vietnam and doing something about the fact that the western imperialists were engaged in a brutal invasion accompanied by mass murder, all being carried out in our name. How could they just look the other way.

A very early protest I attended was against the world surf lifesaving championships which were held at Brighton Beach in Christchurch. I went to Aranui High and some of my schoolmates lived along Brighton Beach and surfed. A few of them were (more…)

main-qimg-6442a8a4cf8dad6feeee899c4b37a2abIt seems hard to believe that the article – or review/feature – below was written in 1990 as the trends it analysed as very much still with us.  Although postmodernism (pomo) isn’t the same force it was amongst former radicals and in university departments in the late 1980s – or in the NZ the early 1990s, as it takes time for fads to permeate such circles here – pomo ideas have permeated such a chunk of social and intellectual life and institutions here, with such debilitating effects, that it simply doesn’t get discussed now as a specific trend.  It’s simply part of the ‘new normal’.  The author of the piece below is today a prominent Marxist critic; he was a regular reader and contributor to revolution magazine during its 1997-2006 existence, but the piece below predates the magazine; it appeared in the British monthly review Living Marxism in September 1990.

by James Heartfield

Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, Verso, 1990; Michel Foucault, Politics, Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977-1984, Routledge, 1990; Nicholas Xenos, Scarcity and Modernity, Routledge, 1989; Bryan Turner (ed), Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity, Sage, 1990; Jonathan Rutherford (ed), Identity: community, culture, difference, Lawrence & Wishart, 1990; Anthony Woodiwiss, Social theory after postmodernism, Pluto Press, 1990; Jurgen Habermas, The philosophical discourse of modernity, 1990

The career of Jean Baudrillard spans the postmodern fad, from its beginnings in the demoralisation of France’s radical intelligentsia to its modish end in the American universities. His latest book, Cool Memories, carries the postmodern rejection of a sense of mission to its melancholic conclusion. Cool Memories is a collection of aphorisms written between 1980 and 1984 which finds Baudrillard the victim of the market he celebrates. His success drives down the quality of his product until finally we are here in his discarded notebooks of the early 1980s.

Ideas of liberation, emancipation and individual autonomy. . . exhaust themselves,” he writes. “No one is interested in overcoming alienation; the point is to plunge into it to the point of ecstasy.” Baudrillard asks himself whether it is possible to “grasp a world when you’re no longer tied to it by some kind of ideological enthusiasm. . . ? Can things ‘tell’ themselves through stories and fragments?” The more that he tries to plunge into alienation and let things tell themselves, the more he gives voice to the narrow prejudices of the middle class intelligentsia. Feminism is “shitty”, transexuality is “disturbing’” rape and ‘terrorism’ are a reaction to our “hypertolerance”, “socialism is destroying the position of the intellectual”, the challenges to the West in the Falklands, Palestine and from Islamic peoples are “feeble-minded. . . suicidal rhetorics” only marginally less detestable than the imperialist powers. The postmodern rejection of a sense of purpose is revealed in this plague on all your houses approach as the outlook of that class in society which has no independence of purpose: the middle class.


The publication of Michel Foucault’s interviews from before his death in 1984 is a reminder that the irreverence of postmodernism towards the received opinion of the right and left had a liberatory potential. That potential, however, was (more…)

by Steve Masterson


A modern, living dialectics is essential for social revolution. This series on Redline has now formally become the draft chapters of a book, A Living Dialectics. Indeed, for me they were so from the beginning. As such each chapter is connected as a scientific story and preparation for the next. Because of the large number of new concepts I’ve introduced – which is creepy to many traditional ‘Marxists’ – I’ve unfolded these integrated new ideas in a stepping stone and logical manner.

For example, this chapter on ‘Dynamics of human origins’ was prepared for by the previous two, ‘The Productive forces and human development’ and ‘Dialectics and praxis’. I knew that before introducing this very original and radical grasping of our origins and of precisely what made us human, I had to steep readers in Marx and especially in the processes of ‘human development’ and ‘social praxis’. Considering their vital and central role in our human evolution, I was preparing for a sensitizing to those most essential human properties that belong equally to 7 million years ago in emergence as they do today in us hopefully completing the human revolution – they belong to the same process at different stages.


An upright modern bonobo mother is carrying two children and sticks. Common chimps cannot do this. The photo reminds me of a human mother today, with children clinging-on, pushing a buggy overloaded with shopping. It might seem little has changed in 7 million years – but it has!

We will now explore the anthropology of human origins and begin the science behind how human activity actually came into existence; of what made us human and still does so today – of how to discover our future in our past and through the present. We have already looked into the end phase of gatherer-hunter life and the transformation to hierarchy that began a mere 12,000 years ago in chapter-3 in the section ‘Gatherer-Hunter Life – Order then Chaos’. Now we go back 7 million years to an earlier phase, the emergence of gatherer-hunter life and human origins.

This chapter is very important to activists. Nearly everybody today believes that ‘human nature’ is very selfish, patriarchal, violent and automatically hierarchical in social structures. Politicians, the state, corporations and their military divide and rule we humans with borders, fear, wars and hate along nationalist, wealth, sexist, religious, ethnic and racial lines. The bosses’ mass media daily stuffs this nonsense down our throats. In short, the result is their enforced hierarchical and divisive uncaring way of life dominated today by greed and wars, money and profit accumulation – it’s OK to exploit the environment to earth’s destruction so long as the next day’s profit is met!

However, this inhuman way of life only began recently in opposition to our previous 7 million years of nomadic communal gatherer-hunter life where our tremendous ‘forces of humanity’ were nurtured in accumulated culture, which was hard-wired deep into us. Hierarchy began in a few parts of the world like the Middle East only (more…)

0803_revolution_Peter_WhitleyThe following is based on a talk given at a Socialist Alternative meeting in Melbourne last month

by Daniel Lopez

Every argument or action aimed at changing the world implies a theory of social change. And yet, mostly, we are unconscious of these theories. As a result, we risk incoherence, or at worst, reproducing approaches that uncritically reflect the logic of our social system. This is entirely unnecessary. Marx’s work, as well as the work of later Marxists, including Lenin, Lukács and Gramsci, gives us a set of theoretical resources more than adequate to understanding the process of social change and orienting activism. This article will seek to outline one approach to this theory, beginning with a few rival theories of change, passing to a critique of capitalism, including a discussion of history and ending in an argument about the dynamics of revolution.

Rival theories of social change

Perhaps the most common theory of social change is liberalism. This theory is less a coherent body of ideas than a general approach and series of sentiments and beliefs that unstably cohere in various articulations, movements and intellectuals. Central to liberalism is a faith in the transformative power of progressive, rational ideas. Liberalism eschews class analysis, preferring an eclectic combination of sociology, idealism and moralism. Herein lies one of the many contradictions within liberalism. When liberalism approaches the situation of an oppressed group, it will typically resort to a type of sociological materialism – crime, drug or alcohol abuse, political backwardness, and so forth are routinely related to poverty and social exclusion. And yet, the solution is held to be the betterment of humanity by education undertaken by enlightened social reformers. Liberalism on the one hand denounces the dehumanising conditions it encounters (insofar as it is capable of viewing them honestly) and, at the same time, addresses a (more…)


Brazilian footballers practising. Body, mind and the quality of human relations are inseparable from rapid-deep learning

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

The previous article described the centrality of human development for social revolution in the context of Marx’s ‘productive forces’ and his concept of ‘rich human beings’ of the future. For us today it’s all about further building the disparate but growing human movement we have now into an ever-more conscious human network of direct action, of spreading out from single issues and into a re-awakening process of our humaneness – but now on a global and not a communal nomadic level. (more…)