Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels

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  • #105275

    LBird
    Participant
    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.

    #105276

    ALB
    Participant

    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"?

    #105277

    LBird
    Participant
    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.

    #105279

    LBird
    Participant
    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.

    #105280

    LBird
    Participant
    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.

    #105278

    LBird
    Participant
    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?

    #105281

    ALB
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    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.

    But this is a quote from Engels not Marx !And I never said it was from Marx. It's from Engels's introduction to the English edition of the pamphlet.I think you've just shot yourself in the foot.

    #105282

    ALB
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    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'.

    Since we are trying to work out what Engels's position is, I think this is what is called begging the question.

    #105283

    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    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.

    But this is a quote from Engels not Marx !And I never said it was from Marx. It's from Engels's introduction to the English edition of the pamphlet.I think you've just shot yourself in the foot.

    Don't you wish!All it proves is that I assumed you were quoting Marx, and couldn't be arsed to check. And the blame lies in your failure to attribute your quotes, something I don't fail to do.If it is Engels, then it just proves my case, lock stock and barrel!If Engels said this, that 'the ultimate cause is human production', then that in itself show his confusion, and his unreliability in these matters. Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position; the latter, as you yourself have shown, above.Why Engels would embrace 'idealism-materialism' at one point, and then contradictorily embrace old-fashioned 'materialism' at another, only our analysis can decide.After much reading, I'm inclined to support the argument that Engels was out of his depth in issues of philosophy.One thing is clear: simply 'reading' Engels's text, without any awareness of these difficult issues, is pointless.

    #105284

    DJP
    Participant

    Perhaps we should read this book instead:http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/

    #105285

    ALB
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;

    Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

    #105286

    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;

    Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

    Yes, I think that you're right here, ALB.Marx is, if anything, often more confusing than Engels!But, on balance, Marx mostly stresses 'production' when he mentions 'materialism', whereas, Engels much more often veers into 'nature', to the exclusion of human consciousness.As I've said before, anyone determined to 'prove' either position can find 'evidence' in both Marx's and Engels' work to support both positions.I think we'd get further, though, by discussing what they must mean, given the context of their politics, which we share.Personally, I don't see Engels as a proto-Leninist, and I think Engels, if pushed, would reject 'materialism' as it was (and is) interpreted by the Second International (he did in a number of letters, and complained of his ideas being distorted by the SPD), but because of his amateur status in philosophy, he didn't realise just where he ideas could go (or, be taken).On the whole, though, I do blame Marx. Not for his 'materialism' (as I say, he wasn't a 'materialist', which is why there is always a need to prefix the term with something which recognises this: 'dialectical', 'historical, 'idealist'; they all play the same role, of re-introducing 'ideas' into mechanical 'materialism'), but for his shit writing. Typical bloody academic!In my opinion, the task of modern socialists is to translate, clarify and explain the useful bits from Marx. I believe that workers must be able to handle issues of epistemology (for example), and I think that it's the role of socialists to help in this social task. I've done this on this site, with my attempts at explanations about Critical Realism (rocks, value, cars, walls, etc.) and epistemology (blank sheet, numbered do-to-dot, un-numbered dots). We have to explain in terms most workers already understand. Surely the basics of education? Telling comrades to simply 'read' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific won't do this job, I think. They must read it critically. The answers to its issues and problems lie in us, not in the text.

    #105287

    ALB
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    ALB wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;

    Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

    Yes, I think that you're right here, ALB.Marx is, if anything, often more confusing than Engels!But, on balance, Marx mostly stresses 'production' when he mentions 'materialism', whereas, Engels much more often veers into 'nature', to the exclusion of human consciousness.As I've said before, anyone determined to 'prove' either position can find 'evidence' in both Marx's and Engels' work to support both positions.

    That's rather honest of you. So, no more talk of us being "Englesists" rather than "Marxists"? Or perhaps you can accuse us of being both and jumping from position to position like them.

    LBird wrote:
    I think we'd get further, though, by discussing what they must mean, given the context of their politics, which we share.

    What they "must" mean? I don't see much point in that. Too much like the textual analyses of the mediaevel Scholastics and Talmudists.The truth is that neither Marx nor Engels seem to have been particularly interested in espistemology or ontology. They were "historical materialists", i.e more interested in the sociology of knowledge. When it came to "philosophy" they seem to have been just common or garden materialists, i.e. non-religious. Like us in the SPGB, come to think of it !

    #105288

    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    That's rather honest of you. So, no more talk of us being "Englesists" rather than "Marxists"? Or perhaps you can accuse us of being both and jumping from position to position like them.

    Yeah, I'd go with the latter!But, as I've said, Marx is the more consistent, with his usual emphasis being on 'production' rather than simply 'material' (as for Engels, heavily influenced by the tremendous advances by 19th century science).I think one way of clarifying this is to insert the word 'production' wherever Marx writes 'material' (and doesn't himself add 'production', which he mostly does), and see if this insertion changes Marx's meaning. I don't think it does.Whereas, if one does the same with Engels, and inserts 'production' where he uses 'material', then it doesn't make sense, because often Engels is talking about 'nature' outside of human consciousness, and the addition of 'production' inserts consciousness, and so does change the meaning.This is all before we get to the issue of 'unified method', because I think some party members would accept much of what I say about Marx's 'idealism-material', if applied to society, but don't accept that this can be used to understand the 'material' world. So, I regard this, too, as 'jumping from position to position'.

    ALB wrote:
    What they "must" mean? I don't see much point in that. Too much like the textual analyses of the mediaevel Scholastics and Talmudists.

    By 'must', I simply mean we should read Marx and Engels from the position of the 21st century and what we know now, and openly declare our position, rather than pretend, as did the 19th century positivists, to be simply 'reading the texts' and 'dealing with the facts'. Our politics and theirs are inescapably involved in our reading.

    ALB wrote:
    The truth is that neither Marx nor Engels seem to have been particularly interested in espistemology or ontology. They were "historical materialists", i.e more interested in the sociology of knowledge. When it came to "philosophy" they seem to have been just common or garden materialists, i.e. non-religious. Like us in the SPGB, come to think of it!

    But, the sociology of knowledge necessarily involves 'epistemology and ontology', so whether or not your claim is correct about them not being 'particularly interested', is neither here nor there. Personally, I think that you're wrong, and that Marx's Theses on Feuerbach (for example) are related to e. and o.As for your claim about 'materialism' (of Marx's kind) being equated  to being 'non-religious', that is simply untrue, and a return to the Young Hegelian fascination with criticising 'religion'. If this is the belief of the SPGB (rather than just your opinion), then I think that I'd categorise the party as 'materialist' in the pre-Theses sense, and more concerned with combatting religion, than with a unified understanding of the world by humans. This 'anti-religious' focus often comes across on this site, to be honest.FWIW, Lenin too was still in this mode, when he wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, which is concerned with refuting 'religious' thinkers, like Mach, and employed a 'copy theory of knowledge', just like the 19th century positivists.Finally, I've said this before, and no doubt I'll be forced to say it again: if the SPGB holds to 'materialism', its politics will be based upon the same philosophy as Lenin's and the positivists. If it adds any term prior to 'materialism', it is in effect recognising 'idealism-materialism' as the real basis of Marx's critical views. Criticism involves ideas, and this is not 'idealism', as Engels seemed to think.If the SPGB gets anywhere near positions of 'power', the 'elitist' strain in this philosophy will start to emerge, and those who claim to have access to a neutral scientific method which produces a copy of reality, and thus 'The Truth', will transfer this 'expert method' from philosophy and science into politics. In fact, reading some contributions on this site, which argue against my view that everything produced by humans, including scientific knowledge, should be under our democratic control, it's clear that this elitist, expert 'we know better than the workers' viewpoint is already in evidence.To me, clarification of these philosophical (ontological, epistemological and methodological) issues is of supreme political importance. Whilst the 'struggle first, think later' method of 'practice and theory' (ie. induction) is employed, workers will remain unconscious of their activities, and will remain in thrall to a 'scientific elite'. That is, the Bolsheviks.

    #105289

    ALB
    Participant

    I know this is veering off topic a bit, but you keep on saying that a particular theory of knowledge leads to Leninism. But it wouldn't have to. Lenin got his idea that socialist ideas had originated outside the working class and so had to brought to them from outside from Kautsky and Kautsky was no Leninist but a Social Democratic reformist. This is still "elitism" but where the elite is not a vanguard party but the reformist party's MPs. Leninism is the theory that the elite is the vanguard party.So how prevent Socialist MPs becoming an elite? By having a lively, functioning participatory democracy, i.e by having a theory and practice of democracy (rather than a particular theory of knowledge).

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