Marx, and the myth of his ‘Materialism’

July 2024 Forums General discussion Marx, and the myth of his ‘Materialism’

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  • #115946
    LBird wrote:
    I'm surprised at you calling Marx's concept of 'theory and practice' vapid. It's the centrepiece of his philosophy.

    But he didn't call it that, I said the term that you use is vapid and maeningless, which it is, as it only causes confusion.

    LBird wrote:
    The ruling class can't talk idealism-material, even for one minute, never mind all day long.

    The ruling class of the Soviet Union talked historical materialism all day long, I'm sure they could talk Idealism Materialism too.

    LBird wrote:
    Once the bourgeoisie allow 'consciouness and being' to be re-united in a society that claims to be democratic, they're heading for the exit. They can allow it as much as Dracula can allow the blood-doners to stop giving.

    Fraid not, so long as they keep the tanks and the guns, they can talk a lot of old moonshine.

    #115948
    Dave B
    Participant

    Well as L Bird is making a complete dogs bollocks of his argument I have decided out of pity to give him a helping hand. We actually discussed this issue in depth not all that long ago re the Zietgiest people. Although there is a qualitative difference between the democratic control of scientists and the democratic control of science. I think the science thing can be left on its own as scientists like nothing better than making a name for themselves trashing other peoples science. In fact that is what most of it is. I Know as I have actually been doing just that this week.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technocracy http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/forcing-change/010/7-technocracy-1.htm

    #115949
    robbo203
    Participant
    Dave B wrote:
    Well as L Bird is making a complete dogs bollocks of his argument I have decided out of pity to give him a helping hand. We actually discussed this issue in depth not all that long ago re the Zietgiest people. Although there is a qualitative difference between the democratic control of scientists and the democratic control of science. I think the science thing can be left on its own as scientists like nothing better than making a name for themselves trashing other peoples science. In fact that is what most of it is.

     DaveLBird has been arguing for the "democratic control of science" in this instance.  Its absolutely bonkers in my view and for the reasons I outlined earlier.  He doesnt really understand what democracy is for. Its about practical stuff that actually affects us . Like –  Where should we build that new doctors' surgery or hospital? What sort of activities should the youth centre provide? Should we switch from this line of production to that?  And so on and so forth.Its not about deciding whether String Theory is right or wrong, for Pete's sake.  What the point? Suppose it is decided that String Theory is just a load of crap.  Then what? What are we supposed to do with this information? Since the theory is presumably applicable everywhere that means the whole human race  is presumably expected to vote on it.  The mind boogles even thinking of the logistical costs involved and for no good reason at all that I can think of.  And thats just one theory; there are plenty moreI know its all absurd, almost to the point of being surreal, but there is a more serious side to all of this which I have been trying to nudge this debate towards and to concentrate minds upon  That is this  – what are the limits of democracy in a socialist society?  Where would we draw the line?  Heretical though the thought may be there is, in my view, such a thing as too much democacy just as there is such a thing as too little democracy.It concerns me when people start to make a fetish of democracy and it conjures up an image of  socialism as an endless round of committee meetings where people are to busy talking and arguing  to get anything done.  I for one would hope that a socialist society would enable much more in the way of free associatioin, spontaneity and initiative in the matter of scientific discovery as in other matters…

    #115950
    LBird
    Participant

    Hmmm…. between Dave's 'technocracy' and robbo's abhorrence for the 'fetish of democracy', there's not much room left for workers' control of all production, the democratic control of the means of production.Such are the fruits of 'materialism'.Unless the SPGB finds a philosophical approach that espouses 'democratic production of our world', then its supposed 'socialism' will remain much the same as the Leninists' conception of it: that is, a 'technocratic elite party' which deems any workers' calls for 'their own democracy' a 'fetish'.Nevertheless, I think that, upon re-reading, I've given a fairly clear account of Marx's 'idealism-materialism', and his views of 'inorganic nature' being consciously transformed into 'organic nature'.After this latest bout of further self-clarification, at least, perhaps I'll leave the thread to the 'gnawing criticism' of the 'materialist mice'!

    #115951
    LBird wrote:
    Nevertheless, I think that, upon re-reading, I've given a fairly clear account of Marx's 'idealism-materialism', and his views of 'inorganic nature' being consciously transformed into 'organic nature'.

    But, since you accept a differentiated inorganic nature/material substrate, you're also accepting that A is not B.  No amount of voting can declare A to be B, so voting cannot be the method of creating truth.  You've accepted that these differences exist exterior and prior to human interaction with inorganic nature, so you must accept that conclusion that there is truth other than through human consensus. 

    #115952
    robbo203
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    Hmmm…. between Dave's 'technocracy' and robbo's abhorrence for the 'fetish of democracy', there's not much room left for workers' control of all production, the democratic control of the means of production.

     LBird . It was not really "democratic control of the means of production" that was the issue but your absurd proposition concerning the "democratic determination" of Scientific Truth.  However , even with regard to "democratic control of the means of production" I don't think you have much of a clue of the practicalities of this.  You present us with a pure abstraction without bothering to put flesh on the bones.  You seem to have no awareness at all that there must necessarily be a spatial hierarchy of decision-making – global regional and local – with the great bulk of decision making being made at the local level in a communist society. This is exactly what I mean by a practical constraint on the expression of "democratic control"; it defines more precisely what is meant by democratic control.  By definition, if the great bulk of decisions are being made at the local level, this precludes the participation of those who are not local in this local decision making process.Your undifferentiated and utterly vague concept "workers' control of all production" affords us absolutely no idea how this "control" is actually going to be exercised in practical terms. We are led to believe that the totality of production decisions will be made by the totality of the working population in the guise of a completely centralised economy that is somehow subject to "democratic society wide control".I invite you to step back and seriously consider what it is you seem to be proposing.  There is not the slightest chance of this ever getting off the ground, It is totally – and I mean totally – impracticable from beginning to end.  In fact, it will necessitate the very thing you claim to oppose – the dictatorship of a technocratic elite to impose their decisions on the rest of us.That is why the ideas you are flirting with, whether you realise this or not, are fundamentally Leninist in character, not Marxist.

    #115953
    LBird
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    I invite you to step back and seriously consider what it is you seem to be proposing.

    I'd like to further explain, with examples and analogies, Marx's idealism-materialism, his theory and practice of the socio-historical creation of 'organic nature' (nature-for-us) from 'inorganic nature' (nature that is 'nothing for us')…… but I think that it's time for me to accept that neither you, nor YMS, nor Dave, nor DJP, nor ALB, nor twc, nor… nor……will expose your ideology behind your views of 'science' and its 'method'.All my explanations, including on DJP's recent thread about 'truth', are socio-historical in character and depend upon relational thinking, and so the method is about socio-historical relationships between 'consciousness and being'.This is very different from the 'science' that thinks that 'qualities' exist in 'inorganic nature', as apparently YMS does. If 'qualities' exist 'out there', 'outside of a consciousness', then an elite can claim to have a class-neutral method that gives 'Truth' about 'qualities out there, within inorganic nature'.This is not Marx's point of view; he argues that humans create their objects, and these 'objects' are not a simply 'mirror' of 'inorganic nature', as both Engels and Lenin claimed.If 'objects' exist 'out there', without our intervention, how do we change them? If an 'object out there' can be known outside of our theory and practice (ie. our planned creation of our objects), then that 'object' would be 'fixed' forever, we would have 'eternal knowledge' of a part of 'inorganic nature'.This is a belief that can exclude a vote upon 'our creation', and so lends itself to 'technocratic' elites and 'special individuals' who can regard democracy as 'a fetish'.But, I've said all these before, in great detail, over many threads… so there seems little point in discussing it with the same people.Perhaps if other comrades become involved, as I've asked for them to…

    #115954
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster
    Quote:
    socio-historical creation of 'organic nature' (nature-for-us) from 'inorganic nature' (nature that is 'nothing for us')…Perhaps if other comrades become involved, as I've asked for them to..

    Naww….i got lost already…even if it was about 'orgasmic nature-for-us'…And i said, for some this is an interesting exchange between comrades at a level others aren't a, having not studied it, nor do i think wish to study it.Our "democratic control of production" doesn't require such philosophic discourses since it is for me and i suspect for others a practical problem that we will increasingly solved as we gather strength before the transformation of society and it will also no doubt be an on-going process after the revolution as it is finely tuned. i am receptive to wide interpretations of Marxist theory as long as they still accord with its core tenets and aims….YMS, LBird, Robbo…all still comrades in arms…despite this theoretical disagreement on things that i think would drive my fellow workers to despair and drink if they had to suffer the debate…Our prime problem is getting people to turn up to exercise democracy…and that is even within the party itself.    

    #115955
    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    And i said, for some this is an interesting exchange between comrades at a level others aren't a, having not studied it, nor do i think wish to study it.

    Thanks for your response to my appeal for other comrades, outside of the 'usual suspects' (including me), to participate.Unfortunately, you've repeated what you've said before, about workers not having studied it, not wishing to study it, and not needing to study it.

    ajj wrote:
    Our "democratic control of production" doesn't require such philosophic discourses since it is for me and i suspect for others a practical problem…

    I know you know little about philosophy, alan, and apparently care little to learn about it, but I can only warn you, as well-meaning comrade.Whilst workers consider our philosophical and methodological 'problems' for building socialism to be a simple, mere, 'practical' problem, they are espousing (clearly unknowingly) a philosophical and methodological approach that claims 'theory' emeges from 'practice'. That is, you 'do things' and the corresponding 'ideas' emerge 'after the practice'. That is, in philosophical terms, induction.Now, I know you will probably resent me saying this, alan, but you hold, now, an Engelsian viewpoint. You might be completely unaware of that, but it is so. You've learnt this from two sources:1. bourgeois ruling class ideas, under which influence we all grow up, and we try to fight and replace with socialist ideas; and2. Engels' mistaken embracing of this bourgeois philosophy, ie. materialism, which you'll have been exposed to as you've developed as a socialist, from bits and pieces of what others have told you.To me, whilst workers, and even comrades like you (and the others that I've listed, who disagree with me) embrace a political method that consists, in reality, of 'leave the thinking to the clever ones, and the rest of us will just get on building socialism', since this isn't a democratic method of 'theory and practice', will result in a pretence that 'practice and theory' is the proper method, and the 'theory' required will be provided by an elite.They'll pretend that the socialist method is 'practice and theory', whereas it will actually be 'elite theory, workers' practice, elite theory as a result'.So, what is my central point? It's that, unless you and the other comrades take an active interest in learning about these issues, you'll remain ignorant of just who is giving you the 'theory', and you'll believe that their hidden theory, which they give you, is (miraculously) emerging from your very own practice.It's not the way for workers to build democratic socialism, but is the way for an elite, who regard 'democracy as a fetish', to retain control for their own purposes. They'll swear otherwise, as do the Leninists, even now (that they're a vanguard for the class), and say they want the best for workers, but they won't let workers decide what's best for workers, in production, for themselves.'Best' will be defined by an elite. I have warned you, as have many others, throughout the 20th century.But, socialists persist with Engelsism, and it seems likely to persist well into the 21st century.

    #115956
    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    i am receptive to wide interpretations of Marxist theory as long as they still accord with its core tenets and aims….YMS, LBird, Robbo…all still comrades in arms…despite this theoretical disagreement on things that i think would drive my fellow workers to despair and drink if they had to suffer the debate…

    [my bold]I've just thought of another way of explaining my dilemma, alan.Imagine trying to explain Marx's concept of 'value' to mates who don't read much, aren't interested in reading Capital, and merely want 'higher wages'. They are clearly 'practical' people.So, you go through with them the schtick of 'socialism', better world, all for one and one for all, blah, blah, blah……and they simply ask, at the end of your best efforts, 'Yeah, sounds great… but will we get higher wages?' and 'If I don't have to work for wages, I'm just gonna treat the dickheads who work as my benefit as fools, and click my fingers at them everytime I want anything!'.You will be able to tell from these responses that you are not having much joy, and your notions of 'socialism' remain out of grasp of your mates.'Practical' people have no time for mere philosophising… that's for the clever shites at the top, with time on their hands…

    #115957
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    "'Practical! people have no time for mere philosophising.. that's for the clever shites at the top, with time on their hands" presumably, despite the evidence to the contrary, you classify your self as one of the "clever shites" at the top. (at least you were half right). So presumably you and your fellow, philospohising elite at top form some kind of vanguard that are going to lead us all to the Materialist – Idealist promised land, with you as some modern day blend of Lenin and Walsby, sounds fascinating, can't wait for it to happen, won't hold my breath though.

    #115958
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    I can't imagine doing that actually. My priority as their fellow worker is not advocating socialism but to contribute to the defence of my class against the power of the employer and in that task there is no need to explain value so i simply wouldn't do that other than to declare it is us who create all value/wealth as workers and without us value/wealth is not created. The priority is to create a fighting organisation that is effective – an industrial union, democratically controlled by its members. i share that aim with my colleagues and we don't won't find it in Capital or by some person trying to extrapolate from it. I know other members of the SPGB would disagree with me, but that has always been my focus…class struggle and class war…People with empty bellies don't hunger for a head full of ideals.  As i posted earlier, there are nothing complicated about seeking socialism…just a few basic political principles to follow and these are mostly of practical political applications …Those who wish to enagage with the academic intellectual defenders of capitalism i certainly will not discourage ….as i said before … each to their own…i see no need for every worker to be a polymath…we can have a division of labour…it is not undemocratic for individuals to play to their strengths and leave others to play to theirs…as a successful football team do…we don't shoehorn folk into roles that they are not fit for. In the SPGB we have an organisation that despite clever members, articulate members, moving orators, skilled writers, many scholarly and learned in Marxian economics and other aspects of Marxist thought …no one member nor clique of members have ever come to dominate the party in a way that deprives others of their authority and control…This is democratic control in action and in practice by the membership collectively …Perhaps you should ponder how this can be…I sometimes get surprised by how successful it is and still cannot be sure of the actual mechanism that made it possible…I sometimes think it is beyond rules and constitutions and structure …and to do with the "spirit" of the members – "spirit" in the sense Pannekoek and Dietzgen used the term…the "spirit" that many call – political – class – socialist – consciousness which will be a requirement to establish socialism. If idealist materialism means this then by all means the SPGB are idealist materialists. 

    #115959
    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    People with empty bellies don't hunger for a head full of ideals.

    Just as easy to say: People with empty heads don't hunger for a belly full of ideals.Of course, there are no 'empty heads', just heads full of either proletarian ideas or bourgeois ideas.

    ajj wrote:
    As i posted earlier, there are nothing complicated about seeking socialism…just a few basic political principles to follow and these are mostly of practical political applications …

    And this is one of those 'bourgeois ideas'.The myth that 'there's nothing complex', let workers just stick to 'a few basic' ideas, which are 'mostly practical'.This will get the likes of us killed, alan. The Leninists will then provide 'the complex ideas' which are 'mostly intellectual' for the workers to unthinkingly follow in their 'practice'.For socialism does require 'complex ideas', ideas that workers must provide for themselves, through democratic theory and practice. It's going to be a long, complex process, of building our class' consciousness of itself as the creator of its own world. And whilst workers are reluctant to engage in the drawing of the architectural plans, that Marx argues are required for the creation of the new building, then the plans will be provided to the intellectually passive, who are the labourly active.'Full bellies' can be provided by Leninism, but 'full heads' can only be provided by workers' self-activity, their own 'theory and practice'.I think that we fundamentally differ over this issue, alan, it pains me to say.

    #115960
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    alanjjohnstone wrote: People with empty bellies don't hunger for a head full of ideals.L Bird wrote: Just as easy to say: People with empty heads don't hunger for a belly full of ideals.it may be just as easy to say it, but saying it doesn't mean that it makes any sense, like most of the pretentious drivel you write. However let me see if I get this right, every idea you have is, without question, in line with the thoughts of Marx, is therefore correct and is a proletarian idea. In contrast ideas that contradict your ideas are not in line with the thoughts of Marx and are by definition a bourgeois idea.You then go on to state"whilst workers are reluctant to engage in the drawing of the architectural plans, that Marx argues are required for the creation of the new building, then the plans will be provided to the intellectually passive"So presumably the provider of these plans will be the intellectually active, the vanguard party, the elite. I wonder who you envisage at the front of this intellectually active elite, leading the way with his proletarian ideas, perhaps it will be L Bird, hero of the revolutionary working classes. Talk about delusions of grandeur!

    #115961
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    The requirements of being a socialist in the view of the SPGB are quite straight forward and are not that complex. The basic knowledge can be determined from our knowledge test. We don't demand intellectualism of Marxist theory but simple acceptance of the world any conscious worker can see around him or her for themselves. Text books are not required. Philosophers are not needed to explain it. http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/membership-applicationI have invited you to consider the SPGB's democracy. If, as you say, the Party and members exhibit Engelsian-cum-Leninist ideas, just what has been the manifestation of this within the Party over its 100 year of existence? I have claimed and you so far have not disputed it , no elite has ever managed to gain control of the party over its members. Nor has the SPGB advocated substituting itself for the working class as a whole and directing fellow workers actions. We have refrained from creating Party-led industrial unions, and we have refused to infiltrate trade unions to capture control of them. We support the activities of various groups within society to try and improve their lot but we ourselves do not get involved. We participate in elections from the premise of , if you don't agree with us, don't vote for us. In those positions i have cited, how are we the vanguard on the model of Leninism. Of course, i endorse what you say " full heads' can only be provided by workers' self-activity, their own 'theory and practice'." That is not a point of departure between you and i and the Party. I don't understand why you think it is. I often say to people…forget marx…forget engels…act if they hadn't been born.  There would still be a socialist movement aspiring to socialist society…And by extension of that argument, there would still be workers who have learned for themselves to build a better world for ourselves. Nothing in what you have written it seems to me avoids the fact that other ideologies can take root and divert workers from the goal of self-emancipation…nationalism…reformism…It was not Lenin's 'Materialism and Empirio-Criticism' that provided the blueprint to the Bolshevik dictatorship. But 'What is to be Done', and the inspiration for that was Kautsky and the German SPD…It was more a practical manual than philosophical treatise…Even our enemies ideas are not so complex…And many have seen through them in the past without the assistance of others …The issue of democratic control of production springs up not from the lecterns of a lecture hall or the podium of a political meeting but from the shop-floor of the factory or the needs of the community served … And while capitalism remains no solution can be achieved…hence my repeated comments to people adopting ideas from Richard Wolff and Gar Alperovitz that workers co-ops will reach a brick-wall and can go no further.Of course i am at fault sometimes by over-simplifying my case…ideas are important for change, vital, in fact…and we should be refuting rival theories on the battlefield of ideas…We have to challenge and defeat other ideologies…one currently of importance being the yoke of religions in the Middle East…But i simply sought to say that the priority of people is first to fill their bellies to permit them to think…which is again a truism..

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