Dialectic! What a powerful concept that explains everything and nothing at the same time in Soviet reality.
Any change in the economic, social, foreign or military policy of the Soviet Union was seen in its natural movement and rationalized by materialist dialectics.
For example, the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) after the war of communism was dialectical; the conclusion of the non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany after many years of mutual aversion and criticism was dialectical; even the chronic backwardness of the Soviet economy in the provision of essential goods also found dialectical justification.
Eventually, however, the word “dialectic” became a subject of joke for those of us who live under Marxist regimes. We could see the huge difference between theory and reality, and we ridiculed Marx’s dialectic, because it was seen as explaining everything and nothing simultaneously.
But what is “dialectics” anyway? Antony Sammeroff had an excellent article on the subject of dialectical materialism and Mises’s review of it. It is, in simple terms, a specific way of using historical events to illustrate why the world is as it is. In the Marxist context, it is often a question of showing why the status quo has always been inevitable, and proceeded according to Marxist economic “science”.
Marx theorized that human history is best viewed as a series of class struggles between social forces with competing interests. For example, the class struggles between slaves and their masters, between feudal lords and their subjects, and – in his day – the class struggle between capitalists and their workers. He believed that viewing history as the history of class struggle had better explanatory power than viewing it through other lenses, such as the history of ideas, technological innovations, or military conflicts.
In fact, properly viewed through the prism of class struggle, history would naturally encompass these other ways of seeing the world and illuminate the context in which they took place, especially with regard to technological innovation, which, according to Marx, would ultimately determine the struggle of the age. He wrote: “The hand mill gives you the company with the feudal lord; the company of the steam mills with the industrial capitalist. Mises sums up Marx’s point of view as follows: “These forces are the driving force producing all historical facts and changes.”
Dialectic has a long history and different interpretations. Nevertheless, we will rely on Hegel’s version, for he wrote three laws of dialectics: the unity and conflict of opposites, the mutual transformation of quantity into quality, and the negation of negation. He suggested a way to arrive at the truth which has a triadic structure: a particular phenomenon (thesis) manifests itself in its contradictory aspect (antithesis), which requires a resolution (synthesis) which denies their logical opposition. Regarding one of the main questions of philosophy – what is the primary, the subject or the idea? – Hegel was a representative of idealism, and his philosophy was best described as dialectical idealism.
On the contrary, Marx was a supporter of materialism, and his disagreement with Hegel’s idealism had to be resolved dialectically. In other words, Hegel’s idealism could be considered the thesis, and Marx’s materialism, which he borrowed from Feuerbach, was the antithesis. As a result of the third step of the triad – the synthesis – the birth of a new thesis was expected, since it is assumed that the synthesis will resolve the contradiction and lead to the creation of a new paradigm.
Marx’s dependence on Hagel
However, Marx was unable to apply the third component of the dialectic, as the result turned out to be just more materialism.
Ludwig von Mises noticed this and said: “No compromise is possible between this Hegelian idealism and any kind of materialism”. The history of philosophical thought shows that attempts at reconciliation between idealism and materialism have already been undertaken, for example, by some schools of dualism and will continue in the future. But the crux of the matter is that Marx did not synthesize at all. He stops at the stage of antithesis, borrows the Hegelian dialectic and calls it a new philosophical concept. Paradoxically, it turns out that dialectical materialism is the product of the misuse of the dialectical method itself.
So why did Marx bring Hagel there if he presented these difficulties? Mises suggested that Marx decided to elaborate on the Hegelian dialectic because of the prestige of Hegelianism in Germany and because he was afraid to deviate from it drastically. Without questioning Mises’s implication, it should be added that the concept of resolving the conflict between opposites and seeking the truth in this way also fits well with the ideological convoy of Marx and Engels. Remember that Marx was first a communist revolutionary and then a philosopher. As a revolutionary, he sought a scientific basis for the idea of social conflict as a destructive force of capitalism. He mechanically transferred the dialectical method of knowing the truth and transformed it into a theory of conflict which governed the historical process.
Arbitrary descriptions of class groups
One of the key problems with Marx’s imprecise use of dialectics is his arbitrary use of economic classes.
In general, many parties can participate in a conflict, but Marx preferred to limit himself to the realm of dichotomy, according to the dialectical law of unity and the conflict of opposites. In a capitalist society, he saw two opposing sides: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Mises has repeatedly stated that classifying members of a capitalist society according to their position in the social division of labor is unwarranted and only makes sense within the framework of Marxism itself but not outside of its teachings.
But even if one accepts the Marxist classification, one may wonder why the doctrine was not addressed to the peasants, who constituted a significant part of the populations of Germany and England at the time of Marx, and of course , the so-called petty bourgeoisie.
Marx refrained from uncomfortable layers of the population that did not fit very well with his theory of scientific socialism. Instead, he hypothesized that the poor would get poorer and the rich would get richer, which would ultimately lead to all wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few. The majority would be the poor proletariat. In other words, all the peasants would lose their land and become agricultural workers, and the petty bourgeoisie would also cease to exist. Mathematicians have a method in which the behavior of a function is studied at the limit, but studying society is not mathematical, and such operations are not scientific.
The Independent Small Business Owner’s Problem
Finally, Marxism did not describe sociological relations in all their diversity. In addition, the Marxist notion of class struggle collapses when it comes to independent members of capitalist society. The independent layer of society is the backbone of capitalism – not the big bourgeoisie. Self-employed people are endowed with all of the traits of individualism – self-reliance, mature self-reliance and uniqueness, which makes them early market participants. The big bourgeoisie is not uniquely capitalist or “more capitalist” than this petty bourgeoisie and its independent members. Marx did not see or understand this essence of the economic structure of capitalism.
A self-employed person or a small family business presents a deep dualism which leads to the logical collapse of Marx’s theoretical dispositions. The duality is present in the fact that the self-employed person is both a worker and an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he is exploited with even more severity than a leading capitalist. Their other hypostasis – a worker – cannot be unionized, cannot strike, typically works much more than eight hours a day, and has no legal breaks or vacations. He must be the most exploited and disenfranchised worker in a capitalist society. However, Marx turned a blind eye to these characteristics of independent members of society and instead predicted that they would disappear from the face of the earth.
Thus, we see how Marx simply defines anything that complicates his use of dialectics. But historical reality has only shown the extent of its failure.
Since Marx’s dialectic was based on the idea of conflict between two classes, Marxism did not predict or envision that self-employment would flourish during capitalist development. Instead of disappearing, the petty bourgeoisies became the basis of the growing middle class, which had no place in Marxist theory. The notion of self-exploitation is an absurd and logical dead end, as well as proof of the error of Marxist class division and of the idea of class struggle.
Marxist dialectic: a vector of wishful thinking
Far from being “scientific”, Marx’s dialectic depends heavily on the ideas and subjective choices of the philosopher using the method. So, unsurprisingly, Marx used a dialectical analysis which “proved” that the proletariat will be victorious in the long-term class struggle.
Dialectical analysis itself does not determine the number of iterations of the “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” triad necessary to firmly reach the truth and is therefore equal to infinity by default. At the same time, Marxism implicitly assumes that the last iteration will occur during the transition to communism. Then the dialectic will be inapplicable because there will be no more class contradictions in a utopian paradise. Paradoxically, the materialist dialectic will deny itself.
Marx’s analysis is filled with various other errors. This includes concepts that have been refuted by economists, historians and philosophers, such as the theory of labor value, labor as a commodity, the theory of value and surplus value, and dialectical materialism. -even. So who in their right mind can regard Marxism as a science or a philosophy? This served as the concept behind which hid the lie and wishful thinking.
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