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Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels

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LBird
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Karl Marx, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 1844, wrote:
The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being ...

http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubel/1982/marx-ethics.htm

No need for the bogeyman Kant, for his 'categorical imperatives', and their insertion into Marx, as the 'materialists' complain.

They're already there.


DJP
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So, what is Kant's catergorical imperative?

LBird
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Once again, to try to help comrades get a handle on the differences between Marx and Engels, I'll try to point out how they differ fundamentally on the use of the term 'material'.

Marx was involved in developing a 'materialist theory of production'.

Engels was involved in developing a 'materialist theory of nature'.

Marx's emphasis falls on the term 'production', which is a human critical and creative act.

Engels' emphasis falls on the term 'nature', which is external to human thought.

So, whereas, given Marx's preoccupation with humans and their creative changing of their environment, which obviously involved ideas, it is entirely acceptable to clarify Marx as 'developing an idealist-materialist theory of production', this can't be done with Engels, whose focus upon nature (not humanity and its ideas) allows the 'material' aspect to be exclusive: thus Engels as simply 'developing a materialist theory of nature'.

I already know that these explanations will have no affect whatsoever upon the 'religious materialists' amongst us, but perhaps they will help some other, more critically aware, comrades to begin to uncover the differences between Marx and Engels, and to begin to recognise the philosophical problems with Engels' 'materialism'.

Put simply, 'materialism' is necessarily uncritical. It can't provide a philosophical basis for 'criticism of what exists', which is clearly required by the revolutionary proletariat.

'Materialism' claims to know 'what exists'. This means it is fixed; once 'knowledge' is produced, it is final. 'Materialism' becomes the accumulation of 'facts', whether of nature or of society, and those who adhere to this method can claim to 'know the Truth'. Hence, this leads to Leninism over the proletariat, whose class task is, on the contrary, to become 'critical of the Truth', not to become accepting of someone else's Truth, whether bourgeois or party, physical or social, material or ideal.


DJP
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LBird wrote:

Once again, to try to help comrades get a handle on the differences between Marx and Engels,

What was it about the educator must be educated...

LBird
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DJP wrote:

LBird wrote:

Once again, to try to help comrades get a handle on the differences between Marx and Engels,

What was it about the educator must be educated...

I know. That's exactly what I, a worker, keep telling the SPGB.

If the SPGB is to play the role of educator for the class, it must first learn from the class.

But, the SPGB seems to believe, with the fervour of the religious, in the faith of 'materialism', and that the god 'matter' will tell workers 'what it is', and not that workers will democratically determine 'what matter is'.

Workers cannot criticise 'material conditions' that 'are what they are', according to the 'materialists', who never tell us how they themselves know that this is the case.

Apparently, 'material conditions' are obvious to the plain sight of workers. Why the hell, if this is the case, they haven't done something about their 'material conditions', is never explained.

Although, the Leninists suggest, it's because workers can neither decide what 'material conditions' are nor democratically control the production of 'knowledge'. Workers can't be allowed to outvote 'scientists', though, who claim to have a special method that allows them, and them alone, to tell them just what 'material conditions' are.

And all this apparently goes over the heads of the SPGB...

'Elitists R Us'? No, just ignorance.crying


ALB
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Before this thread goes the way of all threads you participate in, I thought the purpose of a reading group was to try to understand what the author meant from the text not from applying preconceived ideas (which may or may not be right) of what they meant.

So, how does Engels use the word "materialism" in this pamphlet?

In the pamphlet itself the main place where it occurs in this passage from section II:

Quote:
The perception of the the fundamental contradiction in German idealism led necessarily back to materialism, but — nota bene — not to the simply]metaphysical, exclusively mechanical materialism of the 18th century. Old materialism looked upon all previous history as a crude heap of irrationality and violence; modern materialism sees in it the process of evolution of humanity, and aims at discovering the laws thereof. With the French of the 18th century, and even with Hegel, the conception obtained of Nature as a whole — moving in narrow circles, and forever immutable, with its eternal celestial bodies, as Newton, and unalterable organic species, as Linnaeus, taught. Modern materialism embraces the more recent discoveries of natural science, according to which Nature also has its history in time, the celestial bodies, like the organic species that, under favorable conditions, people them, being born and perishing. And even if Nature, as a whole, must still be said to move in recurrent cycles, these cycles assume infinitely larger dimensions. In both aspects, modern materialism is essentially dialectic, and no longer requires the assistance of that sort of philosophy which, queen-like, pretended to rule the remaining mob of sciences. As soon as each special science is bound to make clear its position in the great totality of things and of our knowledge of things, a special science dealing with this totality is superfluous or unnecessary. That which still survives of all earlier philosophy is the science of thought and its law — formal logic and dialectics. Everything else is subsumed in the positive science of Nature and history.
This contrasts "old materialism", which is "mechanical", with "modern materialism", which is dialectical.

There is a passing reference is section I to "French materialism" and the introduction of the term "the materialist conception of history" in section III.

In the long "Introduction" to the 1892 English edition, on the other hand, the word occurs many times, including in a long passage from Marx. tt is used as the opposite to a religious view of things (incidentally, how the SPGB has tended to use it). The passage from Marx does not suggest that he regarded "materialism" as a term of abuse as in your preconception.

He also defines "historical materialism":::

Quote:
I hope even British respectability will not be overshocked if I use, in English as well as in so many other languages, the term "historical materialism", to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production and exchange, in the consequent division of society into distinct classes, and in the struggles of these classes against one another.

So, what do we think of the term "historical materialism"?

LBird
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ALB wrote:
Before this thread goes the way of all threads you participate in...

What, it goes the way of critical thinking?

As opposed to what?

ALB wrote:
...I thought the purpose of a reading group was to try to understand what the author meant from the text not from applying preconceived ideas (which may or may not be right) of what they meant.

Yeah.

And to 'understand' (if we have any pretensions to 'science'), we have to declare our 'position', prior to the attempt to understand.

This is basic science method. Including physics, since Einstein. You've read Carr, ALB, so I don't know how you think an 'objective' approach to Engels is possible.

Put simply, whether one 'understands Engels' from either a 'Marxist' position or an 'Engelsian' position, will determine 'what' one 'understands'.

So, either 'put up' (and reveal your own 'position') or... don't do science.

Why does the SPGB have a problem with reading Engels' book from both positions, and then comparing notes between us? Does the SPGB believe that 'The Truth' sits in the words on the page?

Why does the SPGB consider that critical thinking is to be ignored, and why does the SPGB thereby hide its philosophical basis?

So, yes, this thread will go the way of all threads I participate in: I demand critical thinking, not the mere regurgitation of 'what someone said', the myth of 'objective facts'.

I reveal my position; why doesn't anybody else?

One would think that the SPGB is still employing 19th century 'materialism', old-fashioned and discredited 'positivism', the belief that just by examining the 'facts' (Engels' words in themselves) that 'understanding' will simply 'emerge'.

No, there has to be some effort on the part of us to locate both Engels and ourselves in the contemporary philosophical environment.

Y'know, Marx's 'active side'. Passively reading Engels' book will merely confirm one's hidden theory.


LBird
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ALB wrote:
Engels wrote:
...modern materialism is essentially dialectic...

By this, Engels means 'modern materialism is essentially idealistic'.

This is the meaning, too, that Dietzgen gave to 'dialectical materialism'.

They both were grasping towards Marx's unity of parts of both 'idealism' and 'materialism' into 'theory and practice'.

Of course, Engels is contradictory in his works, and takes a wrong road when he seems to apply the 'dialectic' to nature.

'Dialectic' is the relationship between 'ideas' and 'material', mediated by human practice.

There can't be a 'dialectic' in nature, outside of natural human consciousness.

That is, 'ideas'.

Arguing for 'ideas' in human understanding is not 'idealism'.

Is everybody clear, now?


LBird
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ALB wrote:
So, what do we think of the term "historical materialism"?

It clearly means 'idealism materialism'.

History involves human ideas.

Any other reading must revert to 'materialism', ie 'physical' things, touchable 'matter'.

Then we have 'material conditions' talking to humans, and the material actively telling passive humans 'what the material is'.

This is incorrect: Marx wished for 'theory and practice', the interaction of active thinking humans upon their external real world.

All attempts to prefix 'materialism' will another term are simply trying to avoid 'idealism', because Engels told socialists that there are only two basic approaches, 'materialism' and 'idealism'.

Marx unified these (he did not ditch either), and Engels proceeded to separate them again.

And here we are, 130 years later.

No influence.


LBird
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ALB wrote:
Marx wrote:
...I use... the term "historical materialism", to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production ...
[my bold]

The key word is 'production', not 'materialism'.

That is, for Marx, 'historical materialism' means 'human production' and its 'changes'.

For Engels, this is not the case. Engels talks of a 'nature' outside of human production.

That is, Engels talks of the 'material' outside of the 'ideal'.

Marx doesn't. For Marx, if human ideas change, they can change their production, and thus 'change nature'.

This is very different from a fixed external nature which is 'discovered' in all its truth, and, once known, is known for ever.

There is no dynamism in this way of thinking (ie. 'materialism') and it is based upon 19th century positivist science, by which Engels was overwhelmingly influenced.

But human production can be changed, by humans, humans critical of 'what exists'.

As Marx says, above, 'the ultimate cause is changes in production'.

This is f-all to do with a 'matter' which is fixed eternally, or a 'matter' which is the 'active side'.

Humans, humans, humans.

And humans have 'ideas'.

Ideas determine practice.

PS. I don't understand why the members here can't see that this is the philosophical basis to the SPGB's political strategy, of propaganda, education and advice, as part of a process of development amongst and between workers.


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