Library:Fundamental principles of philosophy

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Foreword

Published in July 1946, republished in January 1947, May 1948 and December 1949, Georges Politzer's Elementary principles of philosophy were greeted with eagerness. They contained, in an accessible form, the main part of the courses given in 1935—1936 at the Workers' University (Université Ouvrière) by one of those who, never separating action from thought, died as a hero so that France might live.

In the "Preface" to the Elementary principles of philosophy, Maurice Le Goas who, a pupil of Politzer, collected his courses and thus allowed their publication, wrote:

Georges Politzer, who began his philosophy course each year by fixing the true meaning of the word materialism and while protesting against the calumnious distortions which some make him undergo, did not fail to point out that the materialist philosopher does not lack ideal and that he is ready to fight to make this ideal triumph. Since then he has been able to prove it by his sacrifice, and his heroic death illustrates this initial course in which he affirmed the union, in marxism, of theory and practice.

A few months away from a ministerial decision which claimed to refuse Georges Politzer the posthumous title of Resident internee and the mention "Death for France", the tribute due to the memory of Georges Politzer could not, less than ever, separate the French patriot of the communist philosopher.

The Nazi bullets laid Politzer down in the clearing of Mont-Valérien in May 1942; but the Workers' University, which was largely his work, continues in the New University of Paris, which every year grows in scope. In fact, the Fundamental Principles of Philosophy that we publish are based, like the original work, on the experience of the philosophical education given to workers — workers, employees, housewives, scientific researchers, teachers, students, etc. — who attend the New University. It is therefore right that the book bears — before the names of those who wrote it and who, with a few others, teach the course in dialectical materialism — the name of Georges Politzer. Of course, these Principles of philosophy are much more developed than the Elementary principles; they benefit from the contributions which marxist science has enriched in recent years. Their inspiration nonetheless remains the one that animated Politzer.

The Fundamental principles of philosophy aims to help all those who want to learn about the central ideas of Marx and Engels and their most eminent disciples, Lenin and Stalin. The work therefore has the characteristics of a manual, divided into lessons, to be followed one by one [prole 1]; the Control questions will allow the reader to verify the acquired knowledge and to pursue an effort of personal research. The courses of the New University, to which this book owes its existence, are aimed at workers who ask theoretical reflection to shed light on their militant, political or union action in today's France. We will therefore not be surprised by the abundance of examples taken from the daily life of the French, who fight for bread and freedom, for national independence and peace. [note 1]

But contrary to a still widely held opinion, when marxists speak of practice, they do not understand it in a narrow sense. Human practice is all activities — sciences, techniques, arts, etc. — of which man is capable and which define him; it is all the experience accumulated over the millennia. Only one can be revolutionary who has been able to assimilate the best of this experience, for the benefit of his present action for the transformation of societies and the improvement of individuals. This is precisely the task of marxist philosophy: conception of the world, it expresses, in their most general form, the fundamental laws of nature and history; method of analysis, it gives every man the means to understand what he is, what he does,and what he can at a given moment to transform his own existence. Entirely devoted to marxist philosophy, the book we are presenting must therefore, it seems to us, be of service to all workers, manual or intellectual. And although it is not written for "specialists", they — economists, engineers, historians, naturalists, doctors, artists, etc. — will undoubtedly find food for thought.

The authors have made an effort to write this work with the maximum of simplicity and clarity; they avoided multiplying technical terms. But in doing so, they have only come half of the way. The reader will have to patiently cross the other half, without forgetting for a moment — as Marx recalled about the French edition of Capital — that "there is no royal road for science". Reading the twenty-four lessons that make up this book will therefore require some work and some perseverance.

If you don't understand a particular page on first reading, don't be discouraged! However, the work will be made easier if the reader confronts what he reads with his personal experience. In this way he will derive the greatest benefit from a study carried out with patience.

The volume contains many quotes, many references to the classics of marxism. It was running the risk of making the presentations heavy; the authors have accepted this risk because it is due to the very nature of the work: it is a manual. Its role is to facilitate access to sources, to encourage the reader, through frequent reminders, to frequent the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Maurice Thorez. The authors of these Fundamental principles have, in particular, emphasized Stalin's Dialectical and historical materialism, from the greatest philosopher of our time along with Lenin. The order of the lessons of this manual purposely reproduces, for the most part, the order of the subjects of Stalin's work, a masterful synthesis of the philosophy of marxism, published in 1938. Reading this writing, which will be found either in Chapter IV of the History of the communist party of the Soviet Union, or in a separate edition, Remains essential for all those who want to master the essential data of marxism and understand its force of action.

Faithful to their principles, marxists see in criticism a requirement of all fruitful action. This is why the authors of the Fundamental principles of philosophy seek critical input from those, whoever they may be, who will use this book. It cannot fail to improve, to always better fulfill its role in the service of the working class and the people of France.

Guy Besse and Maurice Caveing,
Agrégés de Philosophie.
August 1954

Introduction

"Philosophy", here is a word which, at first glance, hardly inspires confidence in many workers. They say to themselves that a philosopher is a character who does not have his feet on the ground. Inviting good people to "do philosophy" is perhaps, they think, inviting them to an aerobatic session. After which our heads will turn...

This is how philosophy often appears: a game of ideas unrelated to reality; obscure game, privilege of a few initiates; and probably dangerous game, not very profitable for people who live by the sweat of their brow. A great French philosopher, Descartes, long before us condemned the obscure and dangerous game to which some would like to reduce philosophy. He characterized the false philosophers thus:

The obscurity of the distinctions and the principles which they make use of is cause that they can speak of all things as boldly as if they knew them, and support all that they say against the subtlest and the most clever, without any means of convincing them; in which they seem to me like a blind man who, in order to fight without disadvantage against one who sees, would have brought him to the bottom of some very dark cellar. [note 2]

Our intention is not to lead the reader into a "very dark cellar". We know that darkness is conducive to bad luck. There is an obscure and evil philosophy; but there is also, as Descartes already wanted, a clear and beneficent philosophy, the one of which Gorky spoke:

It would be a mistake to think that I am making fun of philosophy; no, I am for philosophy, but for a philosophy coming from below, from the earth, from the processes of work which, studying the phenomena of nature, subjugates the forces of the latter to the interests of man. I am convinced that thought is indissolubly linked to effort, and I am not a supporter of thought while one is in a state of stillness, sitting, lying. [note 3]

The purpose of the introduction to these Principles of philosophy is to define philosophy in general, then to show why we should study it and what philosophy we should study.

What is philosophy?

The ancient Greeks, who numbered some of the greatest thinkers that history has known, understood by philosophy the love of knowledge. This is the strict meaning of the word philosophia, where philosophy comes from.

"Knowledge" - that is, "knowledge of the world and of man". This knowledge made it possible to state certain rules of action, to determine a certain attitude towards life. The wise man was the man who acted in all respects in accordance with such rules, themselves based on knowledge of the world and of man.

The word philosophy has continued since that time because it met a need. It is often taken in very different senses which derive from the diversity of views on the world. But the most constant meaning is this: general conception of the world, from which one can deduce a certain way of behaving.

An example, taken from the history of our country, will illustrate this definition:

In the 18th century, bourgeois philosophers in France thought and taught, relying on science, that the world is knowable; they concluded that it is possible to transform it for the good of man. And many, for example Condorcet, the author of the Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain, 1794), considered as a consequence that man is perfectible, that he can become better, than society can get better.

A century later, in France, the bourgeois philosophers in their great majority thought and taught, conversely, that the world is unknowable, that the “bottom of things” escapes us and will always escape us. Hence the conclusion that it is foolish to want to transform the world. Certainly, they agreed, we can act on nature, but it is a superficial action, since the "bottom of things" is out of reach. As for man... he is what he always has been, what he always will be. There is a "human nature" the secret of which escapes us. “What is the use, therefore, of beating one's head to improve society?"

We see that the "conception of the world" (that is, philosophy) is not a trivial matter. Since two opposing conceptions lead to opposite practical conclusions. Indeed, the philosophers of the 18th century want to transform the company, because they express the interests and the aspirations of the bourgeoisie, then revolutionary class, which fights against feudalism.

As for the philosophers of the 19th century, they express (whether they know it or not) the interests of this bourgeoisie become conservative: henceforth dominant class, it fears the revolutionary rise of the proletariat. They believe that there is nothing to change in a world in which they have the better ground. Philosophers "justify" such interests when they turn people away from any endeavor to transform society.

Examples:

  • the positivists (their leader, Auguste Comte, passes in the eyes of many for a "social reformer"; in reality, he is deeply convinced that the reign of the bourgeoisie is eternal, and his "sociology" ignores productive forces and relations of production [note 4], which condemns it to impotence);
  • the eclectics (their leader, Victor Cousin, was the official philosopher of the bourgeoisie; he justified the oppression of the proletariat and in particular the massive shootings of June 1848, in the name of the "true", the "beauty", the "good", "justice ", etc.);
  • Bergsonism (Bergson, which the bourgeoisie wore on the shield in the 1900s, that is to say at the time of imperialism, puts all his mind to distract man from concrete reality, from action on the world, of the struggle to transform society; man must devote himself to his "deep self", to his "interior" life; the rest is not of great importance and therefore the profit-riders of the work of others can sleep soundly.)

The same social class, the French bourgeoisie, therefore had two very different philosophies, from one century to another, because, revolutionary in the 18th century, it had become conservative, and even reactionary in the 19th century. Nothing more striking than the confrontation of the two texts here. The first dates from 1789, the year of the bourgeois revolution. It is from a bourgeois revolutionary, Camille Desmoulins, who hails the new times in these terms:

Fiat! Fiat! Yes, this fortunate Revolution, this regeneration will be accomplished; no power on earth can prevent it. Sublime effect of philosophy, freedom and patriotism! We have become invincible. [note 5]

And here is the other text. It dates from 1848. It is by M. Thiers, a bourgeois statesman, who defends the interests of his class in power against the proletariat:

Ah! if it were as in the old days, if the school were to always be run by the parish priest or his sacristan, I would be far from opposing the development of schools for the children of the people ... I formally ask for something other than these teachers secular people, too many of whom are detestable; I want Brothers, although in the past I might have been distrustful of them, I still want to make the influence of the clergy all-powerful; I ask that the priest's action be strong, much stronger than it is, because I count a lot on him to propagate this good philosophy which teaches man that he is here to suffer, and not this other philosophy which says on the contrary to the man: enjoy, because ... you are here below to make your little happiness (underlined in the text);and if you do not find it in your current situation, strike without fear the rich person whose selfishness refuses you this share of happiness; it is by removing the superfluous from the rich that you will ensure your well-being and that of all those who are in the same position as you. [note 6]

Thiers, as we can see, is interested in philosophy. Why? Because philosophy has a class character. That philosophers, in general, do not suspect it, that's for sure. But any conception of the world has a practical meaning: it benefits certain classes, it harms others. We will see that marxism is also a class philosophy.

While the bourgeois revolutionary Camille Desmoulins saw in philosophy a weapon in the service of the revolution, the conservative Thiers sees it as a weapon in the service of social reaction: "good philosophy" is that which invites workers to bow down. Thus thought the future Communards gunner.

Why do we need to study philosophy?

Today, the successors of M. Thiers, in France as in the United States, are moving mountains of opinions against marxists. They would like to annihilate not only the marxists, but also their philosophy. The same way M. Thiers wanted to kill, with the Communards, their ideas of social progress. Thus, the duty of the workers is marked out; it is to oppose to the philosophy which serves the exploiters, and to uphold a philosophy capable of helping in the struggle against the exploiters. The study of philosophy is therefore very important to workers. This importance appears moreover when one places oneself on the ground of facts.

The facts are the increasingly harsh situation that the policies of the bourgeoisie, today the ruling class, impose on all workers in our country: unemployment and high cost of living, opportunities denied to young people, infringement of the laws social, the right to strike, democratic freedoms, repression, armed aggressions (in particular on July 14, 1953 in Paris), colonization of the country by American imperialism, bloody and ruinous war of Vietnam, reconstitution of the Wehrmacht, etc. The question that workers ask themselves is therefore this: how to get out? The need to know why things are so becomes more and more general, more and more acute. Where does the danger of war come from? Where does fascism come from? Where does misery come from? The workers of our country want to understand what is happening, want to understand how they can change it.

Is it not clear that, if philosophy is a conception of the world, a conception which has practical consequences, it is very precious for workers who want to change the world to have a correct conception of the world? Besides, you have to aim to hit your target.

Suppose all workers think reality is unknowable. Then they will be defenseless in the face of war, unemployment, hunger. Everything that happens will be unintelligible to them; they will suffer it as a fatality. This is precisely where the bourgeoisie would like to lead the workers. So they will not neglect any means to spread a conception of the world in accordance with her interests. This explains the profusion of ideas like this: “There will always be rich and poor”. Or again: “Society is a jungle and it always will be; so each for himself! Eat others if you don't want others to eat you. Worker, try to win the good graces of the boss to the detriment of your fellow workers, rather than unite with them for the common defense of your wages. Employee,try to become the boss's mistress and you will have a good life. Too bad for the others."

These ideas can be found in abundance in Reader's Digest, in the “free press”... It is the poison with which the bourgeoisie wants to corrupt the conscience of the workers, and with which they must consequently. to defend oneself. This poison is also found in the most diverse forms. Thus the workers who still read Franc-Tireur buy, without knowing it, fifteen francs of poison a day. Without knowing it, because Franc-Tireur is stamping its feet, shouting that it works badly and that we will see this, and that, but Franc-Tireur is careful not to say why it works badly, to show the causes, and especially it works to prevent or destroy the union of workers, this union which is precisely the only way to "get out" from the current state of things.

All these ideas derive, in the final analysis, from a conception of the world, from a philosophy: society is intangible, it must be taken as it is, that is to say, undergo exploitation, or else be exploited.

Oh, goodness! Will we always have to find out the "why" and the "how" of things that happen to us? Injustice is committed every day and force takes precedence over law!

This is what we can read in Super-boy, one of the many newspapers that the bourgeoisie intended for the children of workers. Violence, contempt for man, this is indeed what suits the needs of the aggressive bourgeoisie, for whom the war of conquest is the normal activity.

This is the place to recall what Lenin said in 1920 at the Third Congress of the Federation of Communist Youth of Russia. He described capitalist society thus:

Th old society was based on the principle: rob or be robbed; work for others or make others work for you; be a slave-owner or a slave. Naturally, people brought up in such a society assimilate with their mother's milk, one might say, the psychology, the habit, the concept which says: you are either a slave-owner or a slave, or else, a small owner, a petty employee, a petty official, or an intellectual -- in short, a man who is concerned only with himself, and does not care a rap for anybody else.
If I work this plot of land, I do not care a rap for anybody else; if others starve, all the better, I shall get the more for my grain. If I have a job as a doctor, engineer, teacher, or clerk, I do not care a rap for anybody else. If I toady to and please the powers that be, I may be able to keep my job, and even get on in life and become a bourgeois. [note 7]

This old philosophy, dear to the reigning bourgeoisie, must be waged a merciless battle, outside of us and within us: for it has on its side, in addition to tradition and prejudices, the mass press, radio, cinema ... We must comply with the invitation of Barbusse who said, evoking this fight step by step against the old ideas-poison:

Do you start over, if necessary, with magnificent honesty? [note 8]

We must work to form new ideas that bring in them confidence and no longer despair, struggle and no longer resignation. For workers, this is not a secondary issue. It is a question of life and death, because they will be able to free themselves from class oppression only if they have such a conception of the world that they can effectively transform it.

Incidentally, Gorky, in The Mother, tells how in the Russia of the tsars an old woman, until then resigned to everything, without hope, became an indomitable revolutionary because she understood, thanks to her son, heroic fighter of socialism, the source of the suffering of her people, because she understood that it was possible to end it.

For those who are already struggling, who refuse resignation, the study of philosophy will not be useless: only, in fact, an objective conception of the world can give them the reasons for their struggle.

Without a correct theory, there can be no victorious struggle. Some believe that in order to be successful, the conditions for success are sufficient. Error, because it is still necessary to know that these conditions are realized. And the more complicated things are, the more important it is to know how to identify with them.

These remarks are valid when it comes to the revolutionary struggle, the struggle for socialism and communism. "Without revolutionary theory, no revolutionary movement", said Lenin.

But they also apply in the struggle for other objectives: struggle for democratic freedoms, for bread or for peace.

It is therefore out of practical necessity that we must study philosophy, that we must be interested in the general conception of the world.

Let us now see more closely what is this philosophy which will allow us to understand the world, and therefore to strive for its transformation.

What philosophy should we study?

A scientific philosophy: dialectical materialism

If we want to transform reality (nature and society), we must know it. It is through the various sciences that man knows the world. So only a scientific view of the world can suit workers in their struggle for a better life. This scientific conception is marxist philosophy, it is dialectical materialism.

A question then comes to mind: "what difference do you make between "science" and "philosophy"? Don't you identify the second with the first? marxist philosophy is in fact inseparable from the sciences, but it is distinguished from them. Each of the sciences (physics, biology, psychology, etc.) proposes the study of the laws specific to a well-determined sector of reality. As for dialectical materialism, it has a double purpose:

  1. As dialectics, it studies the most general laws of the universe, laws common to all aspects of reality, from physical nature to thought, including living nature and society. The next few lessons will deal with the study of these laws. But Marx and Engels, founders of dialectical materialism, did not draw dialectics from their fantasy. It is the progress of the sciences which has enabled them to discover and formulate the most general laws, common to all sciences and which philosophy exposes. [note 9]
  1. As materialism, marxist philosophy is a scientific conception of the world, the only scientific one, that is to say the only one consistent with what the sciences teach us. But what do the sciences teach? That the universe is a material reality, that man is no stranger to this reality and that he can know it, and thereby transform it (as shown by the practical results obtained by the various sciences). We will approach the study of philosophical materialism in Study of marxist philosophical materialism. Marxist materialism is not identified with the sciences, because its object is not a certain limited aspect of reality (this is the object of the sciences), but the conception of the world as a whole, a conception that all the sciences implicitly admit, even if the scholars are not marxists.
The materialistic view of the world, says Engels, simply means the view of nature as it is, without extraneous addition. [prole 2]

Each of the sciences studies an aspect of "nature as it is". As for marxist philosophy, it is the "general conception of nature as it is". It is therefore, although not identifying itself with the sciences, a scientific philosophy.

Dialectical materialism is not identified with the sciences, we have said. But we have also just seen that the sciences are necessarily dialectical (since they cannot be constituted if they ignore the most general laws of the universe) and materialist (since their object is the material universe). So dialectical materialism is inseparable from the sciences. He can only progress by relying on them; he synthesizes it. But in return, it powerfully helps the sciences, as we shall see. On the other hand, he sets himself the task of criticizing unscientific conceptions of the world, anti-dialectical and anti-materialist philosophies.

Historical materialism extends the principles of dialectical materialism to society (we will study it in Historical materialism). Dialectical materialism and historical materialism constitute the theoretical foundation of scientific socialism, and therefore of communism.

Summarizing all these characters, Stalin writes:

Marxism is the science of the laws governing the development of nature and society, the science of the revolution of the oppressed and exploited masses, the science of the victory of socialism in all countries, the science of building communist society. As a science, marxism cannot stand still, it develops and is perfected. In its development, marxism cannot but be enriched by new experience, new knowledge — consequently some of its formulas and conclusions cannot but change in the course of time, cannot but be replaced by new formulas and conclusions, corresponding to the new historical tusks. Marxism does not recognize invariable conclusions and formulas, obligatory for all epochs and periods. Marxism is the enemy of all dogmatism. [note 10]

A revolutionary philosophy: the philosophy of the proletariat

It is precisely because Marxist philosophy is scientific and, as such, required to prove itself in fact, — practice verifying theory — that it is at the same time the philosophy of the proletariat, the theory of the party of the proletariat, a revolutionary class, whose historical role is to defeat the bourgeoisie, suppress capitalism, build socialism.

We will come back, in the The formation, importance and role of scientific socialism, to the importance of the link which unites the proletariat to marxism. But it should be highlighted now.

If, in fact, the proletariat has adhered to marxist philosophy, if it has assimilated it and if it has enriched it, it is because the struggle to transform society — the society of which it is a victim — set the task of understanding this society, of studying it scientifically. The bourgeoisie, defending its privileged class interests, seeks to make people forget that its domination is based on the exploitation of labor power. It therefore denies the very reality of capitalist exploitation because to recognize the reality would be contrary to its exploiting class interests. In the interests of class, the bourgeoisie is increasingly turning its back on the truth.

The position of the proletariat is quite different. Its exploited class interest which wants to shake off the yoke is to see the world in the face. The exploiting class needs lies to perpetuate exploitation; the revolutionary class needs the truth to put an end to exploitation. It needs a just conception of the world to carry out its revolutionary task.

To see the world in the face is materialism.

Seeing the world in its real development is dialectical materialism (the dialectic studying the laws that explain the development of society).

We can therefore say that, as a scientific philosophy, dialectical materialism has thereby become the philosophy of the revolutionary class, of the class whose interest is to understand society in order to free itself from exploitation. Marxism is the scientific philosophy of the proletariat. A. Zhdanov could say:

The emergence of marxism as the scientific philosophy of the proletariat puts an end to the old period in the history of philosophy, when philosophy was an occupation of solitaries, the prerogative of schools composed of a small number of philosophers and disciples. , without communication with the outside, detached from life and the people, strangers to the people.
Marxism is not such a philosophical school. On the contrary, it appears as a going beyond the old philosophy, when the latter was the prerogative of a few chosen ones, of an aristocracy of the spirit, and as the beginning of an entirely new period in which philosophy becomes a scientific weapon in the hands of the proletarian masses struggling for their emancipation. [note 11]

It is this philosophy that we will study because, as a scientific philosophy, it brings to the workers the light which illuminates their struggle. To workers, and not just to proletarians, since manual and intellectual workers are allies of the revolutionary proletariat, and have the same interests, against the capitalist bourgeoisie. The study of marxism, the scientific philosophy of the proletariat, is therefore the business of all those who, proletarians or not, want to dispel the lies favorable to the rule of the bourgeoisie. Like any science, marxist theory is accessible to any man, whatever his class: a bourgeois can therefore be a marxist, if he puts himself at the side of the proletariat, if he takes the point of view of the proletariat.

But the indissoluble bond which links marxism to the proletariat allows us to understand that marxist philosophy, the philosophy of the proletariat, is necessarily a party philosophy. The proletariat cannot in fact defeat the bourgeoisie without a revolutionary party, which possesses the science of societies. This idea is already expressed by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party and Lenin said:

Marx and Engels were in philosophy, from beginning to end, party men. [note 12]

So it was with their best disciples, notably Lenin and Stalin.

Conclusion: unity of theory and practice

For workers, and in particular proletarians, the study of marxist philosophy is not a luxury: it is a class duty. Failure to fulfill this duty is to leave the field open to anti-scientific and reactionary conceptions which serve bourgeois oppression and it is to deprive the workers' movement of the compass which shows the way.

The bourgeoisie dreads the philosophy of the proletariat and makes war against it by all means. For decades, she kept the extinguisher on marxist theory, keeping it away from universities. Then as dialectical materialism increased its influence (at the same time as the authority of the working class increased), it was necessary to be cunning: the bourgeois ideologues then changed air. They said: "It is understood, marxism was good in the old days. But today marxism is outdated ”. Hence the countless attempts to "go beyond" marxism. Now it is significant that all these attempts go through a preliminary operation: the liquidation or the falsification of the philosophical foundations of marxism, the liquidation or the falsification of dialectical materialism.

The bourgeoisie has found the eager help of the leaders of the international social democracy for this work. Particularly, in our country, the help of Leon Blum. In On the Human Scale (1946), he denies the need for socialism for a materialist philosophy, in defiance of the constant teachings of Marx. And the leaders of the Socialist International openly place themselves under the wing of religion:

marxism, dialectical and historical materialism, is by no means necessary for socialism, religious inspiration is just as valid. (Statutes of the new “Socialist International”. (COMISCO transformed.))

We will see that such operations have the consequence of launching the ban on the class struggle, that is to say on the revolution.

But silences and falsifications cannot change the truth of dialectical materialism and historical materialism. The facts are the facts. And, for example, we see at the present time the contradictions between the various capitalist states yet united in a single coalition against the country of socialism. The capitalists themselves see this situation. However, it had been foreseen and described by Stalin in his last work: The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, which develops and enriches marxist theory.

The facts are there. And the victory of socialism, then the construction of communism in the USSR, the rise of popular democracies, the progress of the marxist-leninist workers' parties, are all proofs of the sovereign power of marxist theory. As for bourgeois philosophies, they can only record (and try to justify without explaining it) the accentuation of the general crisis of capitalism.

However, there is one point that should never be forgotten by those who undertake the study of marxist philosophy. A scientific philosophy of the revolutionary proletariat, marxism never separates theory (i.e. knowledge) from practice (i.e. action). Marx, Engels and their followers were both thinkers and men of action. It is, moreover, this organic link between theory and practice that has enabled marxism to grow richer: each stage of the revolutionary movement has prepared a new rise in theory. We cannot assimilate the principles of marxism if we do not participate in revolutionary action, which reveals its fruitfulness.

marxist-leninist theory is not a dogma, but a guide for action. (History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR, conclusion § 2, p. 394. Editions in foreign languages, Moscow, 1949.)

Study of the marxist dialectical method

The dialectical method

What is a method?

Dialectical materialism is so named because its way of considering the phenomena of nature, its method of investigation and knowledge, is dialectical, and its interpretation, its conception of the phenomena of nature, its theory is materialist. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 3. Social Editions, 1950.)

By "method" is meant the path by which a goal is achieved. The greatest philosophers, like Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel, carefully studied questions of method because they were anxious to discover the most rational way to reach the truth. Marxists want to see reality in the face, beyond immediate appearances and beyond mystifications: the method is therefore also very important for them. Only a scientific method will allow them to develop this scientific conception of the world which is necessary for transformative, revolutionary action.

The dialectic is precisely this method, and it is the only one which is rigorously appropriate to a materialist conception of the world.

We will devote the following six lessons of this treatise to the dialectical method. But we should prepare for it with a first glimpse. Overview that will be facilitated by a comparison between the dialectical method (which is scientific) and the metaphysical method (which is anti-scientific).

The metaphysical method

Its characters

We bought a pair of yellow shoes. After a while, after multiple repairs, refurbishment of soles and heels, gluing of parts, etc., we still say: “I'm going to put on my yellow shoes”, without realizing that they are no longer. the same. But we neglect the change that has occurred to our shoes, we regard them as unchanged, as identical.

This example will help us understand what a metaphysical method is. Such a method, to use Engels' expression, considers things "as done once and for all" as immutable. [Engels; Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy, p. 35. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1946; in Marx-Engels; Philosophical Studies, p. 46. ​​Editions Sociales, 1951.] The movement, and therefore also the causes of change, escape him.

A historical study of metaphysics would leave behind the modest pair of shoes that would not suffice. Let us simply point out that the word “metaphysics” comes from the Greek meta, which can be interpreted as meaning beyond, and from physics, the science of nature. The object of metaphysics (especially in Aristotle) ​​is the study of the being which is found beyond nature. While nature is movement, the being beyond nature (supernatural being) is immutable, eternal. Some call it God, others the Absolute, etc. Materialists, who rely exclusively on science, consider this being to be imaginary (see lesson 9). But as the ancient Greeks could not explain the movement, it seemed necessary to some of their philosophers to pose,beyond nature in motion, an eternal principle.

If therefore we speak of the metaphysical method, we mean a method which ignores or ignores the reality of movement and change. It is a metaphysical attitude not to see that my shoes are no longer the same. Metaphysics ignores movement in favor of rest, change in favor of the identical. “There is nothing new under the sun,” she said. It is thus to reason as a metaphysician to believe that capitalism is eternal, that the evils and vices (corruption, egoism, cruelty, etc.) generated or maintained in men by capitalism will always exist. The metaphysician imagines an eternal man, therefore immutable.

Why ? Because it separates man from his environment, society. He said: “On the one hand, man, on the other, society. You destroy capitalist society, you will have a socialist society. And after ? Man will remain man ”. Here we grasp a second feature of metaphysics: it arbitrarily separates what in reality is inseparable. Man is in fact a product of the history of societies: what he is, he is not outside society, but through it. The metaphysical method isolates that which in reality is united. She classifies things once and for all. She says for example: here politics, there the union. Of course, politics and union are two. But life experience shows us that politics and trade unions are no less inseparable.What happens in the union reacts to politics; and conversely political activity (State, parties, elections, etc.) has an impact on the union.

Partitioning leads the metaphysician in all circumstances to reason as follows: “A thing is either this or that. It cannot be both this and that ”. Example: democracy is not dictatorship; dictatorship is not democracy. So a state is either democracy or dictatorship. But what does life teach? Life teaches that the same state can be both a dictatorship and a democracy. The bourgeois state (for example in the United States) is democracy for a minority of big financiers who have all the rights, all the power; it is dictatorship over the majority, over the little people who have only illusory rights. The popular state (for example, in China) is a dictatorship vis-à-vis the enemies of the people, the exploiting minority driven from power by revolutionary violence;it is democracy for the vast majority, for workers freed from oppression.

In short, the metaphysician, because he defines things once and for all (they will remain what they are!) And because he jealously isolates them, is led to oppose them as absolutely irreconcilable. He thinks that two opposites cannot exist at the same time. A being, he says, is either alive or dead. It seemed inconceivable to him that a being could be both alive and dead: yet in the human body, for example, at every moment new cells replace dying cells: the life of the body is precisely this incessant struggle between opposing forces.

Refusal of change, separation from what is inseparable, systematic exclusion of opposites, such are the features of the metaphysical method. We will have the opportunity to study them more closely in the following lessons, contrasting them with the features that characterize the dialectical method. But now we can sense the dangers of a metaphysical method for seeking truth and acting on the world. Metaphysics inevitably lets slip the essence of reality which is constant change, transformation. She wants to see each time only one aspect of this infinitely rich reality and to bring the whole to one of its parts, the entire forest to one of its trees. It does not mold itself to reality, as dialectics does,but it wants to force living reality to settle in its dead frames. A task doomed to failure.

An old Greek legend tells of the misdeeds of a robber, Procrustes, who laid his victims on a small bed. If the victim was too tall to fit in the bed, he would cut off his legs to size; if the victim was too small for the bed, he would pull her apart ... This is how metaphysics tyrannizes over facts. But facts are stubborn.

Its historical significance

Before knowing how to draw moving objects, you must learn to draw them still. It's a bit of the history of humanity. At a time when she was not yet in a position to work out a dialectical method, the metaphysical method rendered her great services.

The old method of research and thought, which Hegel calls the "metaphysical" method which was concerned preferably with the study of things considered as given fixed objects and whose survivals continue to haunt minds, had, in its time, its great historical justification. You had to study things first before you could study processes [that is, movements and transformations]. You first had to know what such and such a thing was before you could observe the changes in it. And so it was in the natural sciences. The old metaphysics, which saw things as done once and for all, was the product of the science of nature which studied dead and living things as things done once and for all.(Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 35; Philosophical Studies, p. 46.)

At its beginnings the science of nature could not proceed otherwise. It was first necessary to recognize the living species, to distinguish them carefully from one another, to classify them: a plant is not an animal, an animal is not a plant, etc. In physics the same: it was necessary to d 'first separate heat, light, mass, etc., on pain of confusion, and devote oneself to begin with the study of the simplest phenomena. Thus, for a very long time, science could not analyze movement. She therefore gave the essential importance to rest. Then when came the scientific study of movement (with Galileo and Descartes), we first stuck to the simplest form of movement, the most accessible (the change of place).

But the progress of the sciences should lead them to break down the metaphysical frameworks.

When [the study of nature] was advanced to the point where the decisive progress was possible, namely the shift to the systematic study of the modifications undergone by these things within nature itself, then also struck in the field. philosophical the death knell of the old metaphysics. (Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 35; and Philosophical Studies, p. 46.)

The dialectical method

Its characters

The dialectic ... considers things and concepts in their sequence, their mutual relation, their interaction and the resulting modification, their birth, their development and their decline. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 392. Editions Sociales, 1950.)

This is how dialectic is opposed in every way to metaphysics. Not that the dialectic admits neither rest nor separation between the various aspects of reality. But she sees in rest a relative aspect of reality, while movement is absolute; it also considers that all separation is relative, because in reality everything is held together in one way or another, everything is in interaction. We will study the laws of dialectics in the next six lessons.

Attentive to movement in all its forms (not simply the change of place, but also the changes of states, thus: liquid water changing into water vapor), the dialectic explains movement by the struggle of opposites. It is the most important law of dialectics; we will devote lessons 5, 6 and 7 to it. The metaphysician isolates the opposites, considers them systematically as incompatible. The dialectician discovers that they cannot exist one without the other and that all movement, all change, all transformation is explained by their struggle. We indicated in point II of this lesson that the life of the body is the product of an incessant struggle between the forces of life and the forces of death, a victory that life constantly wins over death,but a victory which death constantly contests for life.

... Every organic being is, at every moment, the same and not the same; every moment, he assimilates foreign matter and eliminates others, every moment his body cells are wasting away and others are being formed; at the end of a more or less long time, the substance of this body is totally renewed, it has been replaced by other atoms of matter, so that every organized being is constantly the same and yet another. Considering things a little more closely, we still find that the two poles of a contradiction, as positive and negative, are just as inseparable as they are opposed and that, despite all their antithetical value, they overlap. mutually; similarly, that cause and effect are representations which are only valid as suchapplied to a particular case, but that, as soon as we consider that particular case in its general connection with the whole world, they merge, they resolve in the view of the universal reciprocal action, where causes and effects are continually permuting , where what was effect now or here, becomes cause elsewhere or later, and vice versa. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 54. Two very simple examples of this interaction, where the cause becomes effect and the effect causes: the water of seas and rivers generates, by evaporation, clouds; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs to give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without blood circulation.)as soon as we consider this particular case in its general connection with the whole world, they merge, they resolve in the view of the universal reciprocal action, where causes and effects are continually permuting, where what was effect now or here , becomes the cause elsewhere or later, and vice versa. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 54. Two very simple examples of this interaction, where the cause becomes effect and the effect causes: the water of seas and rivers generates, by evaporation, clouds; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs to give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without blood circulation.)as soon as we consider this particular case in its general connection with the whole world, they merge, they resolve in the view of the universal reciprocal action, where causes and effects are continually permuting, where what was effect now or here , becomes the cause elsewhere or later, and vice versa. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 54. Two very simple examples of this interaction, where the cause becomes effect and the effect causes: the water of seas and rivers generates, by evaporation, clouds; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs to give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without blood circulation.)universal reciprocal action, where causes and effects continually permute, where what was effect now or here, becomes cause elsewhere or then, and vice versa. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 54. Two very simple examples of this interaction, where the cause becomes effect and the effect causes: the water of seas and rivers generates, by evaporation, clouds; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs to give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without blood circulation.)universal reciprocal action, where causes and effects continually permute, where what was effect now or here, becomes cause elsewhere or then, and vice versa. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 54. Two very simple examples of this interaction, where the cause becomes effect and the effect causes: the water of seas and rivers generates, by evaporation, clouds; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs to give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without blood circulation.)the water of seas and rivers creates clouds by evaporation; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs which give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without the blood flow.)the water of seas and rivers creates clouds by evaporation; which in turn condense into rain which returns to the ground. The blood set in motion by the heart needs the lungs which give it oxygen; the lungs cannot function without the blood flow.)

So it is also with society: we will see that the struggle of opposites is found there in the form of class struggle. It is again the struggle of opposites which is the motor of thought (see in particular the 6th lesson, point III).

Its historical background

The credit for having sketched out the dialectic is due to the Greek philosophers. They saw nature as a whole. Heraclitus taught that this whole is transformed: we never enter the same river, he said. The struggle of opposites holds a great place among them, notably in Plato, who emphasizes the fruitfulness of this struggle; opposites engender each other. [A very good example of Platonic dialectic is provided by one of his most famous dialogues, relatively easy to access: The Phaedo.] The word dialectic comes directly from the Greek: dialegein, to discuss. It expresses the struggle of opposing ideas.

Among the most powerful thinkers of the modern period, in particular Descartes and Spinoza, we find remarkable examples of dialectical reasoning.

But it is the great German philosopher Hegel (1770-1831), whose work unfolds in the period immediately following the French Revolution, who was to formulate for the first time, in a brilliant way, the dialectical method. Admirer of the bourgeois revolution which, triumphing in France, threw down feudal society which believed itself to be eternal, Hegel operated a similar revolution on the level of ideas: he dethroned metaphysics and its eternal truths. The truth is not a collection of ready-made principles. It is a historical process, the passage from lower degrees to higher degrees of knowledge. Its movement is that of science itself, which progresses only on condition of constantly criticizing its own results, of going beyond them.And so we see that for Hegel the motor of all transformation is the struggle of opposites.

However, Hegel was an idealist. That is to say that for him nature and human history were only a manifestation, a revelation of the uncreated Idea. The Hegelian dialectic therefore remained purely spiritual.

Marx (who was first a disciple of Hegel) knew how to recognize in dialectics the only scientific method. But he also knew, as a materialist, put it right: repudiating the idealist conception of the world, according to which the material universe is a product of the Idea, he understood that the laws of dialectics are those of the material world, and that, if thought is dialectical, it is because men are not strangers in this world, but are part of it.

In Hegel, writes Engels, the friend and collaborator of Marx, the dialectical development which manifests itself in nature and in history, that is to say the causal chain of progress imposing itself on the lower at the top through all the zig-zag movements and all the momentary setbacks, is ... only the reflection of the personal self-movement of the idea continuing from all eternity, we do not know where, but in any case , independent of any human thinking brain. It was this ideological inversion that had to be avoided. We regarded ... the ideas of our brain from a materialist point of view, as being reflections of objects, instead of seeing real objects as reflections of this or that degree of the absolute idea. Over there,dialectics was reduced to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the outside world and of human thought - to two sets of laws which are basically identical, but different in their expression in the sense that the human brain can apply them consciously, while that in nature, and so far for the most part also in human history, they make their way only unconsciously, in the form of external necessity, within a series infinite number of apparent chances. But in this way, the dialectic of the idea itself only became the simple conscious reflection of the dialectical movement of the real world, and in so doing Hegel's dialectic was put upside down, or, more accurately, head up. which she was standing, she was raised to her feet again. (Engels:Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 33-34; Philosophical Studies, p. 44.)

Marx, in short, rejected the idealistic shell of the Hegelian system in order to keep its "rational core", that is to say the dialectic. He himself says it very clearly in the second preface to Capital (January 1873):

My dialectical method not only differs in basis from the Hegelian method, but it is the exact opposite. For Hegel, the movement of thought which he personifies under the name of the idea is the demiurge of reality, which is only the phenomenal form of the idea. For me, on the contrary, the movement of thought is only the reflection of the real movement, transported and transposed in the human brain. (Marx; Le Capital, Livre 1, t. I, p. 29. Editions Sociales. Paris, 1948. The word demiurge here has the meaning of "creator"; the phenomenal form of the idea means "the outer appearance covered. by the idea ”(the idea is, for Hegel, the essence of things).)

How were Marx and Engels led to this decisive reversal? The answer is in their writings. It was the rise of the natural sciences at the end of the 18th century and in the first decades of the 19th century that led them to think that dialectics had an objective basis.

Three major discoveries played a decisive role in this regard:

1. The discovery of the living cell from which the most complex organisms develop.

2. The discovery of the transformation of energy: heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical energy, etc., are qualitatively different forms of the same material reality.

3. Transformism, due to Darwin. Relying on data from paleontology and breeding, transformism showed that all living things (including man) are the products of natural evolution (Darwin: The Origin of Species, 1859).

These discoveries, like all the time sciences (for example: the hypothesis of Kant and Laplace which explained the solar system from a nebula; or again: the birth of geology which reconstructs history of the terrestrial globe), brought to light the dialectical character of nature, as the unity of an immense whole in the process of becoming which develops according to necessary laws, constantly generating new aspects; the human species and human societies are a moment of this universal becoming.

The conclusion of Marx and Engels was that, in order to understand this deeply dialectical reality, it was necessary to renounce the metaphysical method, which breaks the unity of the world and freezes its movement; a dialectical method was needed, this method which Hegel had revived, but without detecting its objective foundations.

The dialectical method was therefore not brought in by Marx and Engels from outside, arbitrarily. They drew it from the sciences themselves, in so far as these have objective nature as their object, which is dialectical. [The French materialists of the eighteenth century (Diderot, d'Holbach, Helvétius), in whom Marx recognizes his direct ancestors, since he endorsed their materialist conception of the world, had not been able to discover the dialectical method. Why ? Because the science of the 18th century did not allow them to do so. The sciences of living matter were then in their infancy; we have just seen the capital role they were to play in the formation of dialectical materialism, by bringing the idea of ​​evolution, a dialectical idea par excellence (a species changing in another).The dominant science in the 18th century was rational mechanics (Newton) which only knew the simplest form of movement, the change of place, the displacement; the universe is then comparable to an endlessly repeating clock. This is why the materialism of the 18th century is said to be mechanistic. In this it is metaphysical, since it does not understand change; it ignores in particular the struggle of opposites. We will come back to mechanistic (metaphysical) materialism, especially in lesson 9.]In this it is metaphysical, since it does not understand change; it ignores in particular the struggle of opposites. We will come back to mechanistic (metaphysical) materialism, especially in lesson 9.]In this it is metaphysical, since it does not understand change; it ignores in particular the struggle of opposites. We will come back to mechanistic (metaphysical) materialism, especially in lesson 9.]

This is why Marx and Engels have, all their lives, followed the progress of the sciences very closely; the dialectical method was thus specified as knowledge of the universe deepened. In agreement with Marx (who for his part, pushing political economy to the fore, wrote Capital), Engels devoted many years to the careful study of philosophy and the natural sciences. He thus wrote, in 1877-78, the Anti-Dühring. [F. Engels: Anti-Dühring (ME Dühring upsets science). Editions Sociales.] He had started writing a vast summary work, Dialectique de la nature [F. Engels: Dialectic of nature. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1952. The study of this work will be made easier by reading the lecture by Georges Cogniot: La Dialectique de la nature,a brilliant work by Friedrich Engels. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1953.], of which he left several chapters, a work which takes stock of the sciences of time, remarkably enlightened by the dialectical method.

This fecundity of the dialectical method was to gain in marxism, by a movement which is going to amplify, very many scientists of all disciplines. In France, the classic type is the great physicist Paul Langevin, who was also a great citizen, an admirable patriot.

This fruitfulness of the dialectical method had to prove itself with Marx and Engels themselves. Revolutionary fighters no less than men of thought, they solved, because dialecticians, the problem that their most brilliant predecessors had not been able to pose correctly: applying the materialist dialectic to human history, they in fact founded the science of societies. (whose general theory is historical materialism). We will see how this fundamental discovery was made (lesson 14). In this way they gave a scientific basis to socialism.

It is understandable then that the bourgeoisie, out of class interests, declared war on dialectics. The dialectic

... is a scandal and an abomination for the ruling classes and their doctrinal ideologues, because in the positive conception of existing things, it includes at the same time the intelligence of their fatal negation, of their necessary destruction, because it seizes the very movement, of which any made form is only a transitory configuration, nothing can impose on it; because it is essentially critical and revolutionary. (Marx: Le Capital, Livre 1, t. I, p. 29. Editions Sociales, Paris)

This is why the bourgeoisie seeks refuge in metaphysics; we will have the opportunity to show it.

Formal logic and dialectical method

It is useful to follow this first lesson with a few remarks on logic.

We have seen (point II, 6) that the sciences at their beginning could only use a metaphysical method.

Generalizing this method, the Greek philosophers (in particular Aristotle) ​​had enunciated a certain number of universal rules, that thought had to follow in all circumstances to beware of error. The set of these rules took the name of logic. The object of logic is the study of the principles and rules that thought must follow in search of truth. Principles and rules which are not fanciful, but have emerged from the repeated contact of man with nature: it is nature which made man "logical", which taught him that one cannot not do anything!

Here are the three main rules of traditional logic, known as formal logic:

1. The principle of identity: a thing is identical to itself. A plant is a plant; an animal is an animal. Life is life; death is death. Logicians, putting this principle into a formula, say: a is a.

2. The principle of non-contradiction: a thing cannot be itself and its opposite at the same time. A plant is not an animal; an animal is not a plant. Life is not death; death is not life. Logicians say: a is not no-a.

3. The principle of the excluded third (or exclusion of the third case). Between two contradictory possibilities, there is no room for a third. A being is animal or plant: no third possibility. You have to choose between life and death; no third case. If a and non-a are contradictory, the same object is either a or non-a.

Is this logic valid? Yes, because it reflects the experience accumulated over centuries. But it is insufficient as soon as we want to deepen the research. It then appears, in fact, to use the examples cited above, that there are living beings that cannot be rigorously classified in the category of animals or in the category of plants because they are both . Likewise, there is neither absolute life nor absolute death: every living being is renewed in a constant struggle against death; every death carries within it the elements of a new life (death is not the abolition of life, but the decomposition of an organism). Valid within certain limits, classical logic is therefore powerless to penetrate to the depths of reality. Wanting to make him give more thanit cannot give, it is precisely to fall into metaphysics. Traditional logic is not wrong in itself; but if one pretends to apply it beyond its limits, it generates error.

It is true that an animal is not a plant; it is true and it remains true that it is necessary, in accordance with the principle of non-contradiction, to beware of confusion. The dialectic is not confusion. But the dialectic says that it is also true that animal and plant are two inseparable aspects of reality, to the point that certain beings are both (unity of opposites). Formal logic, established at the dawn of science, is sufficient for current use: it allows classification and distinction. But when we want to push the analysis, it can no longer be enough. Why ? Because the real is movement, and the logic of identity (a is a) does not allow ideas to reflect the real in its movement. Because, on the other hand,this movement is the product of internal contradictions, as we will see in lesson 5; but the logic of identity does not allow us to conceive of the unity of opposites and the passage from one to another.

Formal logic, in short, affects only the most immediate aspect of reality. The dialectical method goes further; it aims to achieve all aspects of a process.

The application of the dialectical method to the laws of knowing thought is called dialectical logic.

Traits of dialectics

Everything is connected (law of reciprocal action and universal connection)

An example

This brave man takes part in the fight for peace: he solicits signatures at the bottom of the Stockholm appeal, places cards for the Peoples' Congress, engages with his workmate or with a stranger a discussion on the peaceful solution of the German problem, on the need to stop the war in Vietnam; or again, he sets up a meeting of tenants in his house for a national rally for peace.

Some will say: "What does he think he is doing, the poor fellow? He's wasting his time and his trouble ”. Indeed, at first glance, the action taken by this man is absurd; he is neither minister, nor deputy, nor general, nor banker; he is not a diplomat. So ?

Yet he is right. Why ? Because he is not alone. However modest his person may be, his initiatives count because they are not isolated. Its action is part of a grandiose whole: the world struggle of the peoples for Peace. At the same time, millions of men are acting like him, in the same direction, against the same forces. There is a universal connection between all these initiatives, which are like links in the same chain. And there is reciprocal action between all these initiatives, since each one helps the other (reciprocity) by his example, by his experience, by his failures and his successes. When they confront their initiatives, they will discover that they were not isolated, even though they thought they were: everything fits together.

This is a very simple example taken from practice. We see that only the first law of the dialectical method allows it to be interpreted correctly. In this, dialectic is radically opposed to metaphysics: it is reasoning as a metaphysician to say: "What is the use of going to so much trouble, assaulting floors, discussing with people?" Peace does not depend on ordinary people ... ”The metaphysician separates what, in reality, is inseparable. In October 1952, at the Asia-Pacific Peace Conference intervened a scholar, Joan Hinton, who had participated in Los Alamos in the manufacture of the first atomic bomb.

I touched the first bomb thrown at Nagasaki with my hands. I feel a deep sense of guilt, and I am ashamed to have played a role in the preparation of this crime against humanity. How is it that ... I accepted to accomplish this mission? It was because I believed in the false philosophy of "science for science". This philosophy is the poison of modern science. It was because of this error of separating science from social life and human beings that I was led to work with the atomic bomb during the war. We thought that as scientists we should devote ourselves to "pure science" and that the rest was the business of engineers and statesmen. I'm ashamed to say it took the horror of the bombingHiroshima and Nagasaki to get me out of my ivory tower and make me understand that there is no such thing as "pure science", and that science has meaning only insofar as it serves interests. of humanity. I speak to the scientists who, in the United States and in Japan, are currently working on the manufacture of atomic and bacteriological weapons, and I say to them: “Think about what you are doing! "

The metaphysician does not think that what he does is in connection with what others are doing; this was the case with this atomist scientist who, while believing to conform to the "scientific spirit", had in reality an anti-scientific attitude since he refused to question himself on the objective conditions of his professional activity and on the use of his work.

Such an attitude is very widespread. It is, to take another example, that of the sportsman who says about everything: “Sport is sport; politics is politics. Me, I never do politics ”. It is true that sport and politics are two distinct activities. But it is wrong that there is no connection between them. How will the athlete be able to equip himself if his purchasing power decreases, if he is doomed to unemployment? And how will we be able to build stadiums and swimming pools if war budgets devour the funds necessary for sport? We can see that sport is subordinated to certain conditions which the metaphysician ignores, but which the dialectician discovers; no sport without credits; but no credits without a policy of peace. Sport is therefore not separate from politics.The athlete who ignores this link, not only does not serve the cause of sport, but deprives himself of the means to defend it. Why ? Because, not understanding that everything fits together, he will not fight against the policy of war; The moment will come when, having wanted sport without realizing the conditions for it, he will no longer have any sport at all, either because the ruin of the country will have liquidated the sports equipment, or because the war will have come.or because the war will have come.or because the war will have come.

The first trait of dialectics

Unlike metaphysics, dialectic regards nature not as an accidental accumulation of objects, of phenomena [By phenomenon is understood any manifestation of the laws of nature (a falling stone, boiling water) or the laws of society (an economic crisis).] detached from one another, isolated and independent from one another, but as a united, coherent whole, where objects, phenomena are organically linked to each other, depend on each other and are reciprocally condition.

This is why the dialectical method considers that no phenomenon of nature can be understood if it is considered in isolation, apart from the surrounding phenomena; for any phenomenon in any domain of nature can be converted into nonsense if we consider it outside the surrounding conditions, if we detach it from these conditions; on the contrary, any phenomenon can be understood and explained, if we consider it from the angle of its indissoluble connection with the surrounding phenomena, if we consider it as it is conditioned by the phenomena which surround it. (Stalin: Dialectical materialism and historical materialism. P. 4, point I a.)

The statement of the first feature of the dialectic shows its very general character: it is verified universally, in nature and in society.

In nature

Metaphysics separates raw matter, living matter, thought; for metaphysics these are three absolutely isolated principles, independent of one another.

But does thought exist without the brain? What about the brain without the body? Psychology (the science that studies thinking activity) is impossible if we ignore physiology (the science of the functions of living beings), and this is closely linked to biology (the science of life in general). But life itself is unintelligible if we ignore chemical processes [We are not saying that life is reduced to chemical processes; this would be an anti-dialectic statement: we will come back to this later. Neither do we say that thinking activity is reduced to physiology. We say: no thought that is not that of a living being; no living being, no organism without a physico-chemical universe.]; chemistry in turn, when it comes to molecules,discover their atomic structure; the study of the atom is a matter of physics. If now we want to discover the origin of these elements studied by physics, should we not come to the earth sciences, which show us their formation? and from there to the very study of the solar system (astronomy) of which the Earth is a small part?

So while metaphysics hinders scientific progress, dialectics is scientifically grounded. Without doubt, there are specific differences between the sciences: chemistry, biology, physiology, psychology study different, specific fields; we will come back to that. But all the sciences nonetheless constitute a fundamental unit which reflects the unity of the universe. Reality is a whole. This is what the first feature of the dialectic expresses.

No doubt it will not be useless to clearly specify, by examples, what interaction, reciprocal conditioning is.

Consider a metal spring. Can we consider it apart from the surrounding universe? Obviously not since it was made by men (society) with a metal, extracted from the earth (nature). But let's take a closer look. At rest, our spring is not independent of ambient conditions: gravity, heat, oxidation, etc. These conditions can change it not only in its position, but in its nature (rust). Hang up a piece of lead: a force is exerted on the spring which is stretched; the shape of the spring changes to a certain point of resistance; the weight acts on the spring, the spring acts on the weight; spring and weight form a whole; there is interaction, reciprocal connection. Even more: the spring is composed of molecules, linked together by a force of attraction such thatbeyond a certain weight, the spring can no longer be stretched, and breaks: the bond between certain molecules is broken. Unstretched spring, stretched spring, broken spring - each time it's a different type of bond between molecules. If the spring is heated, the bonds between the molecules are changed in another way (expansion). We will say that, in its nature and its various deformations, the spring is constituted by the interaction between the millions of molecules of which it is composed. But this interaction is itself conditioned by the relationships between the spring (as a whole) and the surrounding environment: the spring and the surrounding environment form a whole; between them there is a reciprocal action. If this action is ignored, then the oxidation of the spring (rust),the breaking of the spring become absurd facts. Stalin writes, commenting on the first feature of the dialectic:

This is why the dialectical method considers that no phenomenon of nature can be understood if it is considered in isolation, apart from the surrounding phenomena; for any phenomenon in any domain of nature can be converted into nonsense if we consider it outside the surrounding conditions, if we detach it from these conditions; on the contrary, any phenomenon can be understood and justified, if we consider it from the angle of its indissoluble connection with the surrounding phenomena, if we consider it as it is conditioned by the phenomena which surround it. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism. P. 4.)

One of the most significant examples of interaction is the link that unites living beings to their conditions of existence, to their “environment”. The plant, for example, fixes the oxygen in the air, but also gives it carbon dioxide, and water vapor: an interaction that modifies both the plant and the air. But this is only one of the simplest aspects of the interaction between the plant and the environment. Using the energy provided by sunlight, the plant operates, with the help of chemical elements drawn from the soil, a synthesis of organic matter allowing its own development. At the same time as it develops, it therefore also transforms the soil and therefore the conditions for the further development of its species. In short, the plant only existsin unity with the surrounding environment. This interaction is the starting point of any scientific theory of living beings, because it is the universal condition of their existence: the development of living beings reflects the transformations of their environment. Therein lies the principle of Michurinian science, the source of its success. Michurin, understanding that the living species and the environment are an inseparable whole, has been able to transform the species by modifying the environment.understanding that the living species and the environment are an inseparable whole, has been able to transform species through modification of the environment.understanding that the living species and the environment are an inseparable whole, has been able to transform species through modification of the environment.

Likewise the great physiologist Pavlov could not have founded the science of higher nervous activity if he had failed to recognize the inseparable unity of the organism and the environment: the cerebral cortes (cortes) is precisely the organ where s 'perform the processes, their interaction. The whole organism is dependent on the cortex, but the latter is itself at all times dependent on past and present excitations which come from the external environment (and from the organism). All the phenomena which occur in the body - for example a disease - are subordinated to the higher nervous activity which regulates the various functions, and which is inseparable from the conditions prevailing in the natural environment and - for man - social.

This great principle of the unity and interaction of phenomena has always been necessary for the progress of all sciences. We could multiply the examples. Let us retain this one: the discovery of atmospheric pressure by Torricelli (1644):

If a tube full of mercury is overturned on a tank also filled with mercury, the mercury does not descend into the tube below a certain height and remains well above the level of the tank.

As long as we isolated this phenomenon from its conditions, we could not understand it. If, on the contrary, we notice that the surface of the mercury (in the tank) where the tube is immersed is not isolated, but in "contact with the atmosphere, and that there is an interaction between what happens in the tube. and the surrounding conditions, then the explanation appears: the mercury remains suspended in the trap because the air exerts a pressure (atmospheric pressure) on the surface of the mercury contained in the tank. The vat, Torricelli said, must be regarded as being at the bottom of an ocean of air.

One cannot make discoveries in science if one violates the first law of dialectics, if one detaches the phenomenon studied from the surrounding conditions.

In society

Metaphysics isolates social phenomena from one another; economic reality, social life, political life are all separate areas. And within each of these domains, metaphysics introduces a thousand partitions. Which leads to the following words: "the US government electrocutes innocent Rosenbergs ... this is nonsense, nonsense". To which the dialectician answers: this execution has a meaning; in it is reflected the whole policy of the American leaders, a policy of war which needs lies and terror.

For the metaphysician, the history of societies is incomprehensible: it is a chaos of contingencies (that is to say of phenomena without causes), of absurd chances. There are philosophers (like Albert Camus) to affirm that the essence of the world is precisely the absurd. Philosophy very profitable to the instigators of catastrophes. The dialectician knows that in society as in nature everything is held together. If schools collapse, it is not through the ineptitude of those in power; it is because their war policy necessarily sacrifices school buildings. As Aragon observes, it is because rulers lengthen our death rate that they restrict our way of life. “Everything depends on the conditions of the place and the time”. The dialectic comes to understanding,to the explanation of social phenomena because it links them to the historical conditions which gave them birth, on which they depend, with which they interact. The metaphysician slices in the abstract, without taking into account the conditions of place and time.

Thus some believe in good faith that in 1944 the French proletariat, led by the Communist Party, was in a position to seize power and that, not having done so, it "missed the boat". Appraisal attractive at first glance, but mistaken. Why ? Because it arbitrarily separates from the whole an aspect which has meaning only through its relation to the whole. Let's take a closer look.

The error relates first to the character and purpose of the Resistance. Certainly the major force was the working class, led by the revolutionary party, the Communist Party. But the objective of the Resistance was not the proletarian revolution, it was the liberation of the territory and the destruction of fascism. Such an objective brought together French people of all conditions (to the point of dividing the bourgeoisie, a whole fraction breaking away from the Vichy government). The Resistance therefore took the most diverse forms: armed struggle, workers' strikes, demonstrations by women in the markets, refusal by the peasants to deliver the crops, sabotage (by officials) of the Vichy apparatus of oppression, youth struggle. against the STO, teachers, scholars against Hitler's obscurantism, etc., etc.The Resistance was a great national act. This is its dominant trait. The merit of the French Communists was to understand the situation as a whole: they therefore worked for the constitution of a broad national front to fight against Hitler and his accomplices, and did not allow the Resistance to degenerate into a sect cut off from the deep masses of our people. Thus was made possible, against the increasingly isolated enemy, the national uprising of 1944.Thus was made possible, against the increasingly isolated enemy, the national uprising of 1944.Thus was made possible, against the increasingly isolated enemy, the national uprising of 1944.

What if, at that moment, the working class had tried to "make the revolution", to "found socialism"? If, in 1944, while the war against Hitler continued, the Communists had said: "It is no longer a question of liberating France and the world from the Nazis, but of carrying out the proletarian revolution immediately", they would have seen to detach from the working class millions of French people of all classes determined to fight for the liberation of the country, but not at all ready to support a revolutionary movement. Beautiful celebration for the Hitlerites and their accomplice, the reactionary bourgeoisie, Vichy. Isolated, the working class lost the leadership of the Resistance, a leadership assumed at the cost of the harshest sacrifices. The road to dictatorship was thus largely open to de Gaulle, with the help of the American army.

This, in fact - and this is the second point to highlight - had only landed because the Soviet victories made the second front inevitable in Europe. The ulterior motive of the American leaders was to prevent Hitler's defeat from benefiting communism in the countries until then occupied by the Wehrmacht. If, ignoring these objective conditions, the working class had launched an assault on power, our people would have been doomed to massacre: the American army would have assumed from that moment the character of the occupying army that it has today. hui; and the repression would have been carried out with the complicity of the Nazis, returned for new Oradours. The hope of Hitler's Germany, of the German upper middle class (the Krupps, for example,released since thanks to the Americans) was it not a rupture of the Three Big Agreement? Thus the Munich alliance would have been united, thus the Holy Alliance of reactionary bourgeoisies against the country of socialism, against the Soviet Union, which had played the decisive role in the liberation of the peoples, would have been realized in 1944. All the benefit of the efforts and the sufferings of four years were drowned in the blood of the people of France.the suffering of four years was drowned in the blood of the people of France.the suffering of four years was drowned in the blood of the people of France.

On the other hand, it was in accordance with all the "surrounding conditions" to demand then, as the Communists did, the liquidation of fascism, the establishment of a bourgeois democratic republic. A claim accessible to the broad masses of the French people, achievable, and progressive since it allowed a big step forward. The working class, in fact, found in the bourgeois democratic republic the most favorable conditions for its class struggle: which explains the rise of the French workers' movement in the months following liberation, a rise which brought the Communists to the government and brought our people the rebirth of its economy, the rise in living standards, social security, nationalizations, works councils, a democratic constitution,ballot and eligibility for women, status of civil servants, etc., etc. This is how the working class could find itself, in 1947, in the best conditions of struggle to face the counter-offensive of the reaction forces.

Internationally, the maintenance of the Big Three understanding against Hitler's Germany made it possible to crush the Wehrmacht. But that was not all: he made possible the constitution of the UN, the Potsdam agreements, etc. - which subsequently were to be so many obstacles to the activities of American imperialism. It facilitated the task of the young people's democracies of Europe, and this is a point of primary importance. These great victories, an adventurist policy of the French Communists in 1944 would have compromised them: yet they considerably weakened international capitalism. We must always consider the workers' movement of a country not in itself, but in relation to the whole.

We could analyze many other examples which show the need to consider events in their interaction and their totality, and never to separate a fact from its "surrounding conditions". Let us limit ourselves to the following example: Claiming the bourgeois democratic republic against the fascist bourgeoisie is a claim perfectly appropriate to the situation of the French workers' movement today. It is the most suitable demand for ensuring a large rally of the people around the working class against the main enemy, the reactionary bourgeoisie which has no other recourse, to survive, than to stifle its own legality. But to make the same demand to the Soviet Union is nonsense.Why ? Because if the bourgeois democratic republic is a step forward over fascism, the Soviet socialist republic (which assures workers ownership of the means of production) is itself a decisive step forward over the bourgeois republic. What for our people is a step forward would be a step back for the Soviet Union. The metaphysician superbly ignores the conditions of time and place. It therefore separates democracy from its conditions; he does not distinguish between bourgeois democracy and Soviet democracy. And since he knows no other democracy than bourgeois democracy, he identifies it with democracy; he criticizes the Soviet Union for not being "a democracy". And it is true that it is not a bourgeois democracy since, liquidating thecapitalist exploitation, it created a new democracy, which gives all the power to the workers.

In short, the metaphysician separates and abstracts the political form from the set of historical conditions which gave rise to it and which explain it; the dialectician rediscovers these conditions.

Conclusion

Neither nature nor society is an incomprehensible chaos: all aspects of reality are linked by necessary and reciprocal links.

This law has practical importance.

It is therefore always necessary to assess a situation, an event, a task from the point of view of the conditions which generate it, which explain it.

We always have to take into account what is possible and what is not.

We must not take our desires for realities ... Now, for a revolutionary, it is first of all a question of noting the facts in all their reality, in all their truth ... I believe that, in a situation given, we take a given decision, and as the situation changes, we make a different decision from the one we had taken first. We retreat if the conditions for success no longer seem sufficient; we immediately go into battle if we hope, on the contrary, to have to end up with more chances of success by rushing the movement. In any case, one cannot be bound by a formula, by a resolution; we cannot compromise our movement at this point. M. Thorez: “Speech to the Third Congress of the Unitary Federation of Underground Workers” (1924), quoted in Fils du Peuple, p. 43.Social Editions, Paris, 1949.

To forget the conditions of action is dogmatism.

Of course, while the revolutionary proletariat has every interest in respecting this first law of dialectics, the bourgeoisie would like to make it forgotten because its interests are opposed to it. To those who denounce social injustice, she replies: “It is a temporary imperfection! Likewise, she presents economic crises as superficial and momentary phenomena. Dialectical science responds: social injustice, crises are the necessary effects of capitalism.

Bourgeois philosophers idolize metaphysics, which allows reality to be fragmented, and thereby distorted, for the greater good of the exploiting class. As soon as the reflection reaches reality in its totality, they protest: it is no longer a game, it is no longer "philosophy". Philosophy is for them a binder where each notion wisely keeps its place: here thought, there matter; here "man", elsewhere society, etc., etc.

On the contrary, dialectics teaches that everything fits together. And therefore no effort is wasted for the achievement of a goal. The fighter for peace knows that war is not fatal because every action against war is an action which counts, which prepares the victory of peace.

This is why, armed with dialectics, the revolutionary militant has a high sense of his responsibilities: he leaves nothing to chance, he values ​​each effort at its price.

This intelligence of total reality allows us to see far. It confers an indomitable courage, to the point that the dialectician philosopher V. Feldmann, shot by German soldiers, could cry out to them before falling: "Fools, I am dying for you".

He was right. He fought for the German people as well as for the French people, because everything fits together.

See: Control questions

Everything is changing (law of universal change and of the continuous development)

An example

The philosopher Fontenelle tells the story of a rose who believed that the gardener was eternal. Why ? Because, as far as I can remember, we had never seen another in the garden. Thus reasons the metaphysician: he denies the change.

Yet experience teaches us that gardeners are perishable, and so are roses. Certainly, there are things which change much more slowly than a rose, and the metaphysician concludes that they are immutable; he brings their apparent immobility to the absolute, he only retains the aspect by which they seem not to change: a rose is a rose, a gardener is a gardener. The dialectic does not stop at appearance; it affects things in their movement: the rose was a button before it became rose; blossoming pink, it changes from hour to hour, even when the eye can see nothing. It will inevitably peel away. But no less necessarily will be born other roses, which will bloom in their turn.

We could find, in everyday life, a thousand examples that highlight that everything is movement, everything is transformed.

This apple on the table is still. But the dialectician will say: this motionless apple is nevertheless movement; in ten days it will not be what it is today. It was a flower before it was a green apple; over time it will decompose and release its seeds. Entrusted to the gardener, these seeds will give a tree from which many apples will fall. We had an apple at the start; and now we have a lot of them. It is therefore quite true that the universe, despite appearances, does not repeat itself.

However, many people speak like the rosé of Fontenelle: "Nothing new under the sun", "There will always be rich and poor", "There will always be exploiters and exploited", "War is eternal ", Etc. Nothing is more deceptive than this so-called wisdom, and nothing is more dangerous. It leads to passivity, to resigned helplessness. On the contrary, the dialectician knows that change is a property inherent in everything. This is the second feature of the dialectic: change is universal, development is incessant.

The second trait of dialectics

Unlike metaphysics, dialectics regards nature not as a state of rest and stillness, of stagnation and immutability, but as a state of perpetual movement and change, of incessant renewal and development, where always something is born and develops, something crumbles and disappears.

This is why the dialectical method wants phenomena to be considered not only from the point of view of their relations and their reciprocal conditioning, but also from the point of view of their movement, of their change, of their development, of their of their appearance and their disappearance. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism. P. 4-5.)

We have seen that everything is held together (first feature of the dialectic).

But this reality, which is unity, is also movement. Movement is not a secondary aspect of reality. There is not: nature, plus movement; society, plus movement. No, reality is movement, process. It is so in nature and in society.

In nature

Movement in the most general sense, conceived as the Coexistence mode of matter, as an attribute inherent in it, embraces all the changes and all the processes that occur in the universe, from the simple change of place to thought. (Engels: Dialectic of nature, p. 75. Editions Sociales. (Expressions underlined by us. GB-MC))

Descartes already noted that rest is relative to movement. If I am seated at the stern of a vessel moving away from shore, I am still in relation to the vessel, but I am in motion in relation to the land; the earth itself is in motion with respect to the sun. The sun itself is a moving star, and so on and on.

But, for Descartes, movement was reduced to a change of place: a boat that moves, an apple that rolls on the table. It is the mechanical movement. However, the reality of the movement is not limited to this. A car travels at seventy kilometers an hour: mechanical movement. But that's not all; the moving car slowly transforms; its engine, its cogs, its tires wear out. It is also subjected to the action of rain, sun, etc. So many forms of movement. A vehicle that has traveled a thousand kilometers is therefore not the same as it was at the start, although we say: "It is the same". A time will come when it will be necessary to renew parts, redo the bodywork, etc .; until the day the car is out of service.

Well, it is in nature. The movement has very varied aspects: change of place, but also transformations of nature and the properties of things (for example, the electrification of a body, the growth of plants, the change of water into vapor, old age, etc.) For the great English scholar Newton (1642-1727), movement was reduced to mechanical movement, to a change of location. The universe was thus comparable to a huge clock which constantly reproduces the same process: this is how he considered the orbits of the planets as eternal.

However, the progress of science since the 18th century has considerably enriched the notion of movement. It was first the transformation of energy, at the beginning of the 19th century.

Let us take the example of the automobile in motion. Launched at high speed, it struck a tree and caught fire. Is there "dissipation of matter?" No, the burning automobile is just as material a reality as the fast-moving automobile; but it is a new aspect, a new quality of matter. Matter is indestructible, but it changes shape. Its transformations are nothing other than the transformations of movement, which is one with matter: matter is movement; movement is matter. Modern physics teaches that there is a transformation of energy; energy, or momentum, is conserved while taking on a new form; the forms it can take are very varied.

In the case of the car whose gasoline ignited under the impact, the chemical energy which, in the internal combustion engine, was transformed into kinetic energy (that is to say into mechanical movement), now transforms everything into heat (calorific energy). For its part, calorific energy (heat) can be transformed into kinetic energy: the heat maintained on a locomotive is transformed into mechanical movement since the locomotive is moving.

Mechanical energy can be transformed into electrical energy: the torrent which "turns" the power station produces electrical energy. In return, electrical energy (current) is transformed into mechanical energy, that is to say, drives motors. Or again: electrical energy is transformed into calorific energy; it actually gives heat (electric heating).

Likewise, electrical energy can give chemical energy: under certain conditions an electrical current breaks down water into oxygen and hydrogen. But chemical energy in turn can be transformed into electrical energy (hydroelectric battery), or mechanical energy (internal combustion engine), or heat energy (combustion of coal in the stove), etc.

The enumeration could take pages. All these transformations are nothing other than matter in motion. We see that they are much richer than the simple displacement, or change of place, although they include it. ["All movement includes mechanical movement" says Engels (Dialectic of nature, p. 257. Social Editions). Indeed, a chemical reaction, for example, brings into play the atoms which constitute the material molecules. But these atoms are moving. And inside the atom, very rapid shifts occur in the nucleus, which nuclear physics studies. Likewise, electrical energy is inseparable from the movement of small particles, electrons.]

In addition to the discovery of the transformation of energy, that of evolution has profoundly enriched the notion of movement.

Evolution of the physical universe first. From the end of the 18th century, Kant and Laplace discovered that the universe has a history. Far from repeating itself, as Newton believed, the universe is change: the stars (including the sun), the planets (including the Earth) are the product of a prodigious evolution, which continues. So it is not enough to say, with Newton, that the parts of the universe move; it must also be said that they are transformed.

Thus, this small portion of the universe, the Earth, has a long history (five billion years, it seems), which is studied by geology.

Likewise the stars form, develop and die. And the Soviet astrophysicist Ambartsumian has just discovered that new stars are always born.

It is precisely because the universe is constantly changing that it does not need a "first motor", as Newton still thought. It carries within itself its possibility of movement, of transformation. He is his own change.

As for living matter, it is also subject to an incessant process of evolution. From the poorest stages of life, plant and animal species were formed. It is no longer possible today to give credit to the myth spread by religion for centuries: God creating, once and for all, species that do not vary. Thanks to Darwin (in the 19th century), science has shown that the prodigious diversity of living species comes from a small number of very simple beings, from unicellular germs (the cell being the unit "hence develops by multiplication and differentiation the whole plant and animal organism ”[Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 36; Etudes ... p. 46.]); these germs have themselves issued from a shapeless albumin.Species have transformed and continue to transform, as a result of the interaction between them and the environment. [The works of Michurin and his disciples even show experimentally that there can be, under certain conditions, transformation from one species to another.] The human species is not exempt from this great law of evolution.

From the first animals, developed essentially by continuous differentiation, the innumerable classes, orders, families, genera and species of animals, to arrive at the form where the nervous system reaches its most complete development, that of vertebrates, and in turn, ultimately, to the vertebrate in which nature comes to consciousness of itself: man. (Engels: Dialectic of nature, p. 41. Editions Sociales.)

So the whole of nature - physical universe, living nature - is movement.

Movement is the mode of existence of matter. Never, and nowhere, has there been matter without movement, nor can there be. Movement in the space of the universe, mechanical movement of smaller masses on each celestial body, molecular vibration in the form of heat or electric or magnetic current, chemical decomposition and combination, organic life: every singular atom of matter in the universe participates at each given moment in one or another of these forms of movement or in several at the same time ... Matter without movement is just as inconceivable as movement without matter. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 92. Editions Sociales.)

Astronomy or physics, chemistry or biology, the object that science studies is always movement.

But then one will say, why do not all scientists admit dialectical materialism?

In his concrete practice, every good researcher is a dialectician; he can only understand reality if he grasps it in its movement. But the same researcher who is a dialectician in practice is no longer so when he thinks about the world, or even when he reflects on his own action on the world. Why ? Because it then falls back under the authority of a metaphysical conception of the world - religion or philosophy learned in school - a conception which has for it the weight of tradition, an amalgam of diffuse prejudices that the scientist in some way breathes. so, without his suspecting it, and at the very moment when he believes himself to be "free-spirited." Such a physicist who does without God very well when he studies atoms experimentally, finds God when he leaves his laboratory; for him this belief "goes without saying".Such an expert biologist in the study of microorganisms is as helpless as a child before the slightest political problem. This physicist, this biologist are the prey of a contradiction, a contradiction between their practice as a scientist and their conception of the world. Their practice is dialectical (and it can only be operative insofar as it is dialectical.) But their conception of the world as a whole has remained metaphysical. Only dialectical materialism overcomes this contradiction: it gives the scientist an objective conception of the universe (nature, society) as a totality in the making; and by that very fact it allows him to correctly situate his practice (his specialty) in a whole where everything is held together.This physicist, this biologist are the prey of a contradiction, a contradiction between their practice as a scientist and their conception of the world. Their practice is dialectical (and it can only be operative insofar as it is dialectical.) But their conception of the world as a whole has remained metaphysical. Only dialectical materialism overcomes this contradiction: it gives the scientist an objective conception of the universe (nature, society) as a totality in the making; and by that very fact it allows him to correctly situate his practice (his specialty) in a whole where everything is held together.This physicist, this biologist are the prey of a contradiction, a contradiction between their practice as a scientist and their conception of the world. Their practice is dialectical (and it can only be operative insofar as it is dialectical.) But their conception of the world as a whole has remained metaphysical. Only dialectical materialism overcomes this contradiction: it gives the scientist an objective conception of the universe (nature, society) as a totality in the making; and by that very fact it allows him to correctly situate his practice (his specialty) in a whole where everything is held together.) But their conception of the world as a whole has remained metaphysical. Only dialectical materialism overcomes this contradiction: it gives the scientist an objective conception of the universe (nature, society) as a totality in the making; and by that very fact it allows him to correctly situate his practice (his specialty) in a whole where everything is held together.) But their conception of the world as a whole has remained metaphysical. Only dialectical materialism overcomes this contradiction: it gives the scientist an objective conception of the universe (nature, society) as a totality in the making; and by that very fact it allows him to correctly situate his practice (his specialty) in a whole where everything is held together.

In society

If it is true that the world is constantly moving and developing, if it is true that the disappearance of the old and the birth of the new are a law of development, it is clear that there are no more regimes. "immutable" social, "eternal principles" of private property and exploitation; that there are no longer "eternal ideas" of submission of the peasants to the landowners, of the workers to the capitalists.

Consequently, the capitalist regime can be replaced by the socialist regime, just as the capitalist regime replaced, in its time, the feudal regime. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 8.)

This is an essential consequence of the second feature of the dialectic. No immutable society, unlike what metaphysics teaches. For the metaphysician, in fact, society does not and cannot change, because it reflects an eternal divine plan: "the social order is willed by God". Private ownership of the means of production is therefore sacred; those who dispute this holy truth are condemned in the name of "morality". May they expiate! God is the providence of the owners, the guarantor of "free enterprise". If any change does occur, however, then it is an unfortunate accident; but it is not serious, it is superficial; we can and must return to the “normal” state of affairs. And so the crusade against the Soviet Union is justified:the recalcitrant, the lost under the common law, must be "brought in", since capitalism is "eternal".

Driven more and more from the natural sciences, metaphysics takes refuge in the sciences of man and society.

Let us admit that we can transform nature; man is what he was and always will be. There is “human nature”, immutable, with its irremediable imperfections. What is the use then of claiming to improve society? Poor utopia ... In short, it is the doctrine of original sin that François Mauriac preaches to the reader of Le Figaro in a hundred ways.

This point of view is far from being reserved for the Christian ideologue. It is widespread in certain petty-bourgeois circles who believe neither in God nor in the devil and pride themselves on him, believing that they are thereby vaccinated against all prejudice. Of course, they don't go to church; but they jealously cultivate the metaphysical, fixist conception of man, which the ancient religion bequeathed to them. Such an anticlerical editor of a newspaper intended for young teachers writes gravely on the fundamental imperfection of our species, and speaks of the "bag of skin" which imprisons us forever. Poor "human nature" promised to all errors ...

Lamentations very profitable to the exploiters of the "human race". Are you complaining that there are profiteers? Naive ... Know therefore once that "the man is thus made", you will not change it!

Here, then, are justified in the centuries of centuries the oppression of the great number, the misery of the small, the war. Society repeats itself indefinitely since "man" remains the same as himself. (We will notice that such a conception gives himself the man as a being-in-itself, whereas the man is in essence a social being.) And as this man is vicious, we must admit that society is cursed. . No doubt religion teaches that we can and must save the souls of individuals. But for society, it is another matter; all true improvement is denied to him, since there is no salvation here below.

Let us observe in passing that it is this metaphysics laden with years which, in the final analysis, justifies the steps taken by the leaders of the Social Democrats when they campaign against the Soviet Union. Stalin said on January 26, 1924:

The greatness of Lenin is above all to have, by creating the Republic of Soviets, in fact shown to the oppressed masses all over the world, that the hope of deliverance is not lost, that the domination of the big landowners and the capitalists is not eternal, that the labor regime can be instituted by the efforts of the workers themselves, that it is necessary to institute this reign on earth and not in heaven. He thus kindled in the hearts of workers and peasants all over the world the hope of liberation. This explains why the name of Lenin has become the name dearest to the toiling and exploited masses.

This is what a Blum, agent of the bourgeoisie in the workers' movement, could not admit. Considered as ideology, the stubborn anti-Sovietism of the socialist leaders is rooted in a philosophy of despair: Lenin, Stalin, the Soviet people are guilty of having wanted to suppress, of having suppressed the exploitation of man by man. Léon Blum, Guy Mollet, etc., multiply the speeches on “liberating socialism”. But they don't believe it. Domesticated by the reactionary and warmongering bourgeoisie, they have a mentality of eternally vanquished. In his book A Human Scale, Blum, at the same time as he proclaims his spiritual solidarity with the Vatican, launches the ban on the Communists; he claims to exclude them from the national community.Why ? Because the Communists show, by their actions, their confidence in a transformation of society, because they recognize in the Soviet Union the example offered to all workers.

This is intolerable to those who serve the bourgeoisie. At all costs, workers must be diverted from the Soviet Union, which shows them the way to possible changes. No calumny will be superfluous in trying to "demonstrate" that in the land of the Soviets nothing has fundamentally changed. That is why slander must necessarily be accompanied by censorship, the ban on all literature from the Soviet Union, which shows the reality of change, of the Revolution.

Social democratic ideology thus appears to be typically metaphysical. Its use is that of the snuffer. Stifle enthusiasm, blur the perspective, demobilize the combatants. Nothing is more significant in this regard than the daily Franc-Tireur, or Le Canard Enchaîné. Stomping or joking, flattery or insult, inevitably returns the evil idea that there will always be “lampists” as they say (a catch-all expression, which eliminates the need for a scientific analysis of classes); and that consequently, it is not worth the trouble to fight against capitalism, since "afterwards, it will be all the same". These “priest-eaters” who “don't get it” are in truth steeped in religious mentality; they are fundamentally convinced of human impotence. Bankruptcy,they bankrupt history. And that's why their laughter rings false; they are desperate.

In fact, not only is change inherent in social reality as well as in nature, but societies evolve much faster than the physical universe. Since the dissolution of the primitive commune, four forms of society have followed one another: slave society, feudal society, capitalist society, socialist society. Feudal society, however, believed itself untouchable, and theologians saw in it a work of God, just as Cardinal Spellmann today identifies American trusts with the will of the Almighty. Nevertheless, feudal society has given way to capitalist society, and the latter to socialism. And already, in the Soviet Union, the passage to a higher stage is being prepared: communism.

This is why, man being a social being, there is no eternal man. Didn't feudal man die at the dawn of modern times, killed by ridicule in the person of Don Quixote? As for the supposedly original egoism, it appeared with the division of societies into classes. The famous “cult of the self” - me above all - is a product of the reigning bourgeoisie, which makes society a jungle: to arrive at any cost, by cunning or violence; to build its happiness on the misfortune of the weak. But within capitalist society itself, a new type of man is being forged, who does not conceive of his happiness apart from collective happiness, who finds his highest joys in the fight for the whole of humanity, who accepts to this end the hardest sacrifices. So this mom,worker at the Renault agency, who, resolutely participating in a strike to increase wages, knows that we will be hungry at home as long as the strike lasts. Thus, these Rouen dockers who, putting the international solidarity of workers above all else, refused seventeen times to unload the weapons intended for the anti-Soviet crusade; they prefer to lack bread. [We will read, on this theme, the beautiful novels of André Stil: Le Premier choc, Le Coup du canon, Paris avec nous. French Editors Reunited.]seventeen times refuse to unload the weapons intended for the anti-Soviet crusade; they prefer to lack bread. [We will read, on this theme, the beautiful novels of André Stil: Le Premier choc, Le Coup du canon, Paris avec nous. French Editors Reunited.]seventeen times refuse to unload the weapons intended for the anti-Soviet crusade; they prefer to lack bread. [We will read, on this theme, the beautiful novels of André Stil: Le Premier choc, Le Coup du canon, Paris avec nous. French Editors Reunited.]

No more than there is original sin, there is no eternal man. All those who today are fighting against capitalism are thereby transforming their own conscience. They humanize themselves to the very extent that they fight an inhuman regime. Like all reality, human reality is dialectical. Out of animality, man rose up through a millennial struggle against nature. Not only is this grandiose story not finished, but it has only just begun, as Paul Langevin liked to repeat. This history is inseparable from that of societies; and here we find, beyond the second law (everything is transformed), the first law (everything is held together: the consciousness of the individual is unintelligible outside of society). This is also why,under certain conditions, man can go back. To safeguard its privileges, the reactionary bourgeoisie strives to turn the wheel of history against the tide; hence the fascism, that of Eisenhower and Mac Carthy, like that of Adolf Hitler. But, by that very fact, it degrades man: the SS who persecutes the deportees in fact persecutes humanity which could still doze within itself; trampling humanity in others, it tramples it in itself. What is best in man is not a gift from the gods; it is a conquest of human history. A conquest that the degenerate bourgeoisie puts in danger every day. The atomic bomb takes the place of reason; the dollar takes the place of conscience. And lawyer Emmanuel Bloch was not wrong to cry out,on the evening of the execution of the Rosenbergs: "Animals rule us!" "

How can we not oppose the magnificent blossoms of socialist humanity to the inhumanity of a rotten class? Here unfolds the power and truth of dialectical materialism, which illuminates the path of communism. The practice of Soviet men, freed from exploitation, does justice to lamentations over the eternity of misfortune. Thus, the Soviet penal code does not have as its object repression, but the qualitative transformation of the culprit by socialist labor. The criminal, in a capitalist regime, is marked with an indelible stain, even though his time in prison is over. In the Soviet Union, just like the misguided young people reeducated by Makarenko have found the “path to life” [Read Makarenko: The Path to Life. Editions du Pavillon; Educational poem.Editions in foreign languages, Moscow, 1953.], criminals and thieves have once again become honest and honored citizens, forever freed from a forgotten past. And it is no coincidence that juvenile delinquency has disappeared there, while in the decaying capitalist society it is spreading its ravages.

Fatality is dead for socialist society.

Magnificent proof of this is currently being administered by Soviet doctors, disciples of Pavlov. "Thou shalt give birth in pain" - the implacable verdict struck successive generations. But here in the USSR, and even among us now, thanks to the dialectical study of the functioning of the nervous centers and the elucidation of the problem of pain, childbirth is no longer a martyrdom. Thus is shaken the old idea that suffering is a law of childbirth, a ransom for "original sin" and "pleasure of the flesh". The new idea that has just emerged will grow and be passed on from generation to generation, while the old belief in childbirth will crumble and disappear forever. ThatA discovery as beautiful as the merit of Soviet doctors is, that is no coincidence: it is the work of profoundly dialectic scholars, for whom the human being has no eternal defects. [The best Soviet novels and films give a concrete representation of the forces of transformation which are impetuously unfolding in man thanks to socialism. See in particular the film: The Knight with the Gold Star; and read, among other novels: Ajaev: Far from Moscow, and G. Nikolaieva; Harvest. French publishers reunited.][The best Soviet novels and films give a concrete representation of the forces of transformation which are impetuously unfolding in man thanks to socialism. See in particular the film: The Knight with the Gold Star; and read, among other novels: Ajaev: Far from Moscow, and G. Nikolaieva; Harvest. French publishers reunited.][The best Soviet novels and films give a concrete representation of the forces of transformation which are impetuously unfolding in man thanks to socialism. See in particular the film: The Knight with the Gold Star; and read, among other novels: Ajaev: Far from Moscow, and G. Nikolaieva; Harvest. French publishers reunited.]

Conclusion

To reduce reality to one of its aspects, to reduce the process to a point in the process, and to believe that the past is strong enough for there to be no future, this is to ignore the dialectic of the real.

Whoever, judging America on Senator Mac Carthy, would believe that the future of the United States is like June 19, 1953 (execution of the Rosenbergs), that one would be seriously mistaken. The future of the United States belongs much more to the new forces that the bloody defenders of a doomed past want to destroy. "What matters above all, writes Stalin, is what develops." However weak the germ may be, it still carries life. It is this life that must be protected by all means: no effort for it is wasted. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg's fight against crime, even as crime has struck them, will be no less victorious. As surely as the first light of the morning announces the big day, theexample of the Rosenbergs announces a just and peaceful America.

Happy and green, my sons, happy and green

The world will be above our graves.

("Poem of Ethel Rosenberg to his sons", in Letters from the house of death. Editions Gallimard.)

As for those who killed them in the mad hope of stopping the story, they are already more dead than the dead.

The sense of change, the sense of the new, this is what the metaphysician lacks. On the other hand, this is what makes the superiority of the dialectician in all circumstances. This is what gives marxism its creative force: marxism is not a stock of catch-all recipes, applicable mechanically to all situations; science of change, it is enriched by experience. The metaphysician, on the contrary, is indifferent to what changes; "There have been two world wars, he thinks, so there will be a third." Everything around him changes, but he closes his eyes. The bourgeoisie finds its account in such appreciations: as it dreams of surviving itself, it dreads the dialectic, which shows that its reign is in decline, even when it seems solid to the superficial observer,who takes the whirling of the batons for a sign of strength!

This is why Stalin writes, commenting on the second feature of the dialectic:

... its action must be based not on the social layers which are no longer developing, even if they represent for the moment the dominant force, but on the social layers which are developing and which have a future, even if they are do not currently represent the dominant force. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 9. (Expressions underlined by us. GB-MC))

The scientific attitude is not to stop at what is "under the nose", but to understand what dies and what is born, and to take the maximum interest in what is born. To place everything on the same plane is not to respect reality, it is to distort it, because reality is movement. Marxists know how to see far because they consider all reality in its future: thus, the Communists, in true dialecticians, have from the beginning "revealed ... all that was contained in germ in the Marshall Plan" [M. Thorez at the Central Committee of Issy-les-Moulineaux, June 1953.] at the very moment when the socialist leaders welcomed it as a plan for prosperity.

In The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Stalin criticizes those who "only see external phenomena, those who are on the surface ...", those who "do not see the deep forces which, although acting momentarily in a invisible, will nonetheless determine the course of events ”.

Precious indication for all, and particularly for the militant workers. The unity of action which was first established here and there, between communist workers and socialist workers, then which widened to the point of giving birth to the hearts of the masses the certainty of the imminent victory, here is " what is born and develops ”is the“ invincible ”force which, the breeze becoming storm, will sweep away all obstacles. The daily struggle for unity of action among workers whose opinions diverge, but whose interests converge, conforms to the second law of dialectics. The scale and momentum of the strikes of August 1953 attest that no category of workers is doomed to passivity or immobility.

On the contrary, the sectarian is a metaphysician. On the pretext that his workmate is a socialist or a Christian, he refuses to invite him to common action. He thus ignores the great law of change; he does not want to see that, in united action for a common objective, first limited, then larger, the consciousness of this worker will be transformed: shoulder to shoulder action destroys apprehensions and prejudices. The sectarian reasons as if he himself had learned everything at once. He forgets that one is not born revolutionary; we become it. He forgets that he still has a lot to learn; and so should he not rather curse himself than against "the others"? The true revolutionary is the one who, a dialectician, creates the conditions favorable to the rise of the new. Moreaffirms the will of the socialist leaders to prevent unity, the more he affirms, by his attitude towards the socialist workers, his own will for unity.

See: Control questions

Qualitative change

An example

If I heat water, its temperature rises from degree to degree. When it reaches 100 degrees, the water boils: it turns into water vapor.

There are two kinds of changes. The gradual increase in temperature constitutes a change in quantity. That is, the amount of heat trapped in water increases. But at a certain moment the water changes state: its quality of liquid disappears; it becomes gas (without however changing its chemical nature).

We call quantitative change the simple increase (or simple decrease) in quantity. We call qualitative change the passage from one quality to another, the passage from one state to another state (here: passage from the liquid state to the gaseous state).

The study of the second feature of the dialectic has shown us that reality is change. The study of the third feature of the dialectic will show us that there is a link between quantitative changes and qualitative changes.

Indeed, and this is essential to remember, the qualitative change (liquid water becoming water vapor) is not the result of chance: it necessarily results from quantitative change, from the progressive increase in heat. When the temperature reaches a certain degree (100 degrees), the water boils, under the conditions of normal atmospheric pressure. If the atmospheric pressure changes, then, as everything is held together (first feature of the dialectic), the boiling point changes; but, for a given body and for a given atmospheric pressure, the boiling point will always be the same. This means that the change in quality is not an illusion; it is an objective, material fact, conforming to a natural law. It is therefore a predictable fact:science looks for what changes in quantity are necessary for a given change in quality to occur.

In the case of boiling water, the connection between the two kinds of change is indisputable and clear.

The dialectic considers that this link between quantitative change and qualitative change is a universal law of nature and of society.

We saw in the previous lesson that metaphysics denies change. Or, if it admits it, it reduces it to repetition; we gave the example of the mechanism. The universe is then comparable to a pendulum whose pendulum constantly travels the same path. Applied to society, such a conception makes human history an ever-starting cycle, an eternal return. In other words, metaphysics is powerless to explain the new. When the new imposes itself on her, she sees in it a caprice of nature, or the effect of a divine decree, of a miracle. On the contrary, the dialectic is neither surprised nor scandalized by the appearance of the new. The new necessarily results from the gradual accumulation of small, seemingly insignificant, quantitative changes:thus it is by its own movement that matter creates the new.

The third trait of dialectics

Unlike metaphysics, dialectics views the process of development, not as a simple process of growth, where quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, but as development which shifts from insignificant and latent quantitative changes to apparent changes. and radical, to qualitative changes; where qualitative changes are not gradual, but rapid, sudden, and take place in leaps, from one state to another; these changes are not contingent, but necessary; they are the result of the accumulation of insensitive and gradual quantitative changes. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism. P. 5.)

Let us clarify certain aspects of this definition.

The qualitative change, we said in the previous paragraph, is a change of state: liquid water becomes water vapor; or liquid water becomes solid water (ice). The egg becomes a chick. The button becomes a flower. The living being dies, becomes a corpse.

Development: what appears to the day has developed little by little and without it appearing. There is no miracle, but a slow preparation that only dialectics can detect. Maurice Thorez says in Fils du Peuple (p. 248): "Socialism will emerge from capitalism as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis".

The leap: if a candidate needs 60,223 votes to be elected, it is very precisely the 60,223rd vote that achieves the qualitative leap by which the candidate becomes a deputy. This leap, this rapid, sudden change, was however prepared by a gradual and insensitive accumulation of votes: 1 + l + l ... Here is a very simple example of a qualitative leap, of radical change.

Likewise the flower suddenly blooms after a slow maturation. In the same way the revolution which breaks out in broad daylight is a change by leaps which a slow evolution has prepared.

But that does not mean that all qualitative changes take the form of crises, of explosions. There are cases where the transition to the new quality is effected by gradual qualitative changes. In On marxism in Linguistics, Stalin shows that the transformations of language take place by gradual qualitative changes.

Likewise, while the qualitative passage of a society divided into classes hostile to socialist society takes place by explosions, the development of socialist society takes place by gradual qualitative changes without crises.

In the space of 8 to 10 years, writes Stalin, we have achieved, in the agriculture of our country, the transition from the bourgeois regime, from the regime of individual peasant exploitation, to the socialist collective farm regime. It was a revolution that liquidated the old bourgeois economic regime in the countryside and created a new, socialist regime. However, this radical transformation was not carried out by way of explosion, that is to say by the overthrow of existing power and the creation of a new power, but by the gradual passage of the old bourgeois regime. in the countryside on a new regime. We were able to do it because it was a revolution from above, because the radical transformation was carried out on the initiative of the existing power, with the support of the essential mass of the peasantry.(Stalin: “On marxism in Linguistics”, in Last Writings, p. 35-36. Social Editions.)

Likewise, the passage from socialism to communism is a qualitative change, but which takes place without crises, because in a socialist regime men, armed with marxist science, are masters of their history, and because socialist society is it is not made up of hostile, antagonistic classes.

We thus see that it is necessary to study in each case the specific character which the qualitative change assumes. Any qualitative change should not be mechanically identified with an explosion. But, whatever form qualitative change takes, there is never unprepared qualitative change. What is universal is the necessary link between quantitative change and qualitative change.

In nature

Consider a liter of water. Divide this volume into two equal parts; the division in no way changes the nature of the body; half a liter of water is always water. We can thus continue the division, each time obtaining smaller fractions: a thimble, a pinhead ... it's still water. No qualitative change. But there comes a time when we reach the water molecule [A body, whatever it is, is made up of molecules. The molecule is the smallest amount of a given chemical combination. It is itself made up of atoms: an atom is the smallest part of an element that can enter into combination. The molecules of a simple body (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen ...) contain identical atoms (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen ...)) The molecules of a compound body (water, cooking salt, benzine) contain atoms of the various component bodies.]: It has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Can we continue the division, dissociate the molecule? Yes, by an appropriate method ... but then it is no longer water! It's hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, oxygen obtained by the division of a water molecule do not have the properties of water. Everyone knows that oxygen keeps the flame alive, but water puts out fires.by an appropriate method ... but then it is no longer water! It's hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, oxygen obtained by the division of a water molecule do not have the properties of water. Everyone knows that oxygen keeps the flame alive, but water puts out fires.by an appropriate method ... but then it is no longer water! It's hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, oxygen obtained by the division of a water molecule do not have the properties of water. Everyone knows that oxygen keeps the flame alive, but water puts out fires.

This example is an illustration of the third law of dialectics: the quantitative change (here: the gradual division of the volume of water) necessarily leads to a qualitative change (sudden release of two qualitatively different bodies of water).

Nature is lavish on such processes.

... in nature, in a clearly determined way for each individual case, qualitative changes can only take place by quantitative addition or withdrawal of matter or movement (as we say: energy). (Engels: Dialectic of nature, p. 70. Editions Sociales.)

Engels himself gives a number of examples.

Or oxygen: if, instead of the two usual atoms, three atoms unite to form a molecule, we have ozone, a body which by its smell and its effects is distinguished in a well-defined way from ordinary oxygen. And what about the different proportions in which oxygen combines with nitrogen or sulfur, and each of which gives a body qualitatively different from all the others! What a difference between laughing gas (nitrous oxide N 2 O) and nitrogen anhydride (nitrogen pentoxide N 2 O 5)! The first is a gas, the second, at the usual temperature, a solid and crystallized body. And yet all the difference in the chemical combination is that the second contains five times more oxygen than the first.Between the two, there are three more nitrogen oxides (NO, N 2 O 3, NO 2), which all differ qualitatively from the first two and are different from each other. (Engels: Dialectic of nature, p. 72. Editions Sociales.)

It is this necessary link between quantity and quality which allowed Mendéléiev to make a classification of chemical elements [The element is the part common to all the varieties of a simple body and to the compounds which derive from it. Ex .: Sulfur is preserved in all varieties of sulfur and in sulfur compounds. There are 92 natural elements: they are conserved during chemical reactions between bodies. But under certain conditions, there is transmutation of elements (radioactivity).]: The elements are ordered by increasing atomic weights. [The atomic weight of an element represents the ratio of the weight of the atom of that element to the weight of the atom of a typical element (hydrogen or oxygen).] This quantitative classification of the elements, from the lightest (the hydrogen) to the heaviest (uranium),reveals their qualitative differences, their differences in properties. The classification thus established nevertheless included empty boxes: Mendéléiev concluded that there were thus qualitatively new elements to be discovered in nature; he described in advance the chemical properties of one of these elements, which was later to be actually discovered. Thanks to Mendeleev's methodical classification, more than ten chemical elements were predicted and artificially obtained which did not exist in nature.advances the chemical properties of one of these elements, which later was to be actually discovered. Thanks to Mendeleev's methodical classification, more than ten chemical elements were predicted and artificially obtained which did not exist in nature.advances the chemical properties of one of these elements, which later was to be actually discovered. Thanks to Mendeleev's methodical classification, more than ten chemical elements were predicted and artificially obtained which did not exist in nature.

Nuclear chemistry (which studies the nucleus of the atom), at the same time as it considerably increased the field of our knowledge, made it possible to better understand the importance of the necessary link between quantity and quality. This is how Rutherford, bombarding nitrogen atoms with helions (atomic corpuscles produced by the decay of the radium atom), carried out the transmutation of nitrogen atoms into oxygen atoms. Remarkable qualitative change. However, the study of this change has shown that it is conditioned by a quantitative change: under the effect of the helion, the nitrogen nucleus - which has 7 protons [The proton and the neutron are the constituents of the nucleus of the atom.] - loses one; but it "fixes" the 2 protons of the helion nucleus.This gives a nucleus of 8 protons, that is to say an oxygen nucleus.

The life sciences could also offer us a plethora of examples. The development of living nature in fact cannot be compared to a pure and simple repetition of the same processes: such a point of view makes evolution unintelligible; it is in short that of classical genetics (in particular of Weismann) for which the future of the living being is entirely and in advance contained in a hereditary substance (the genes), itself immune to any change and indifferent to middle action. Impossible then to understand the appearance of the new. In fact, the development of living nature is explained by an accumulation of quantitative changes which are transformed into qualitative changes. This is why Engels wrote:

... madness to want to explain the birth, even if it is from a single cell, starting directly from inert matter instead of living undifferentiated albumin, to believe that with a little stinking water we can constrain nature to do in twenty-four hours what has cost it millions of years. (Dialectic of nature: p. 305. (Word underlined by us. GB-MC))

It will be noted that this development, both quantitative and qualitative, of living nature is suitable for understanding what is meant, in dialectics, by passage from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher. The species engendered by evolution are indeed more and more complex; the structure of living things has become more and more differentiated. Likewise, from the egg, a large number of qualitatively distinct organs are formed, each having its own particular function: the growth of a living being is therefore not a simple multiplication of cells, but a process which passes through many qualitative changes.

If we approach the study of the nervous system and psychology we find the law of quantity-quality in the most diverse forms.

For example: the sensation (sensation of light, heat, auditory sensation, tactile sensation, etc.), which is a phenomenon specific to the nervous system, only appears if the excitation, that is to say the action physical stimulus on the nervous system, reaches a certain quantitative level called a threshold. Thus, a light excitation can only be transformed into a sensation if it has a minimum duration and intensity. The threshold of sensation is the point where the jump takes place from the quantity of the stimulant to the quality of the reaction: below the threshold, there is no sensation yet, the stimulant being too weak.

Likewise, it is through repeated practice that the concept is constituted, from sensations.

The continuation of social practice involves in men's practice the multiple repetition of things which they perceive through their senses and which produce an effect on them; as a result, a leap in the process of knowledge occurs in the human brain, the concept arises. (Mao Tsétoung: “About practice”, in Cahiers du communisme, n ° 2, February 1951, p. 242.)

Sensation is in fact a partial reflection of reality: it only gives us outward aspects. But men, through repeated social practice, through work, deepen this reality; they conquer the intelligence of internal processes, which first escaped them; they access the laws which, beyond appearances, explain reality. This conquest is the concept, which is qualitatively new in relation to sensations, although these are, in great number, necessary for the development of the concept. For example, the concept of heat could never have been formed if men had not had, in infinitely many and varied circumstances, the sensation of heat. But to move from sensations to the current concept of heat, as a form of energy,a thousand-year-old social practice was needed, which made possible the assimilation of the fundamental properties of heat: men have learned to "make fire", to use its calorific effects in a hundred ways for the satisfaction of their needs; then much later they learned to measure a quantity of heat, to transform heat into work, work into heat, etc.

Likewise, the passage from surveying, born of social needs (measuring land), to geometry (science of abstract figures) is a transformation of sensations, gradually accumulated in practice, into concepts.

The same goes for the principles of logic, which, in the eyes of metaphysicians, are innate ideas. For example, this universally spread axiom "the whole is greater than the part, the part is smaller than the whole", is, as a figure of logic, a qualitatively new product of a practice which imposed itself on most ancient societies in various forms: it takes less food to feed one man than to feed twenty.

Lenin writes in his Philosophical Notebooks:

The practical activity of man must have caused the consciousness of man billions of times to repeat different logical figures so that these figures can take on the value of axioms. [The "axioms" are the most general and fundamental truths of mathematical science. Idealism sees in it a revelation of the spirit. But like all truth, axioms are the fruit of laborious conquest.]

And even:

The practice of man, repeating itself billions of times, is fixed in the consciousness of man in figures of logic.

This is the third feature of the dialectic which puts us on the path to a rational interpretation of invention; the metaphysician considers the appearance of new ideas, the invention as a kind of divine revelation; or he attributes it to chance. Isn't invention (in the techniques, the sciences, the arts, and elsewhere) rather a qualitative change which takes place in the mental reflection of reality and which is prepared by the accumulation of small insignificant changes from human practice? That is why great discoveries are made only when the objective conditions are realized which make them possible.

The last examples that we have chosen (passage from sensation to concept; invention brought about by long practice) allow us to underline an important aspect of the quantity-quality process. The passage from the old qualitative state to the new qualitative state is, in fact, very often progress. It is therefore a passage from the lower to the upper. It is so when man goes beyond sensation (lower form of knowledge) to access the concept (higher form of knowledge). But it is also so in the qualitative passage from the non-living to the living; such a change of state constitutes decisive progress. The movement which results in such qualitative transformations is therefore, as Stalin writes, "a progressive, ascending movement". [Stalin:Dialectical materialism and historical materialism, p. 6.]

We will see that this is also the case in the development of societies.

In society

We saw in the previous lesson that, like nature, society is movement.

This movement proceeds from quantitative changes to qualitative change.

This was what Lenin understood when, still a student, in 1887, at the University of Kazan, and already committed to revolutionary action against Tsarism, he replied to the police commissioner, who said to him: to a wall ”-“ A wall? yes, but it is rotten! a push and it collapses ”. Tsarism, in fact, like the wall under the inexorable effect of the rain, had rotted from year to year; Lenin understood that the qualitative change (the collapse of the regime) was near.

The qualitative transformations of society are thus prepared by slow quantitative processes.

Revolution (qualitative change) is therefore the necessary historical product of an evolution (quantitative change). Stalin very strongly defined the quantitative aspect and the qualitative aspect of the social movement:

The dialectical method teaches that movement takes two forms: the evolutionary form and the revolutionary form.

The movement is evolutionary when the progressive elements spontaneously carry on their daily work and bring small quantitative changes in the old order of things.

The movement is revolutionary when these same elements unite, enter into a common idea and rush against the enemy camp to annihilate the old order of things to the root, bring qualitative changes to life, institute a new order of things.

Evolution prepares for revolution and creates favorable ground for it, while revolution completes evolution and contributes to its subsequent action. (Stalin: “Anarchisme ou socialisme?”, In Œuvres, t. I, p. 251 and 252. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1953. We will evoke Eluard's lines: They were only a few. They were a crowd. suddenly.)

And Stalin illustrates this analysis by the events of 1905. In the days of December 1905, the proletariat "the straightened spine attacked the arms depots and marched to the assault of reaction". Revolutionary movement prepared by the long evolution of the previous years "when the proletariat, within the framework of a" peaceful "evolution, was content with isolated strikes and the creation of small unions".

Likewise, the French Revolution of 1789 was prepared by a secular class struggle. In a few years (1789, 1790 ...) considerable qualitative changes took place in France which would not have been possible without the gradual accumulation of quantitative changes, that is to say without the innumerable partial struggles by which the bourgeoisie attacked feudalism until the decisive assault and the installation of the capitalists in power.

As for the Socialist Revolution of October 1917, we will read in the History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR how this prodigious qualitative change, the greatest date in history, was prepared by a series of quantitative changes. If we want to limit ourselves to the period 1914-1917, let us study Chapters VI and VII: they show how the movement of the masses was amplified in these crucial years until the seizure of power by the Soviets .

It should be observed here (as we did at the end of point III of this lesson), that the passage from the old qualitative state to the new qualitative state constitutes progress. The capitalist state is superior to the feudal state; the socialist state is superior to the capitalist state. The revolution ensures the passage from the lower to the upper. Why ? Because it brings the economic regime of society into line with the requirements of the development of the productive forces.

It is very important never to separate the qualitative aspect and the quantitative aspect of the social movement and to consider them in their necessary connection. To see only one or the other is to make a fundamental mistake.

To see only evolution is to fall into reformism, for which the transformations of society are achievable without revolution. In fact, reformism is a bourgeois conception; it disarms the working class by making it believe that capitalism will disappear without a struggle. Reformism is the adversary of revolution since it advocates

the partial mending of the collapsing regime in order to divide and weaken the working class, in order to maintain the power of the bourgeoisie against the overthrow of this power by revolutionary means. (Lenin: "Reformism in Russian Social Democracy", in Marx, Engels, marxism, p. 251. Foreign Language Editions, Moscow, 1947.)

Reformism is spread by socialist leaders, like Jules Moch, like Blum who proclaimed himself "loyal manager of capitalism". This was the position of Kautsky, for whom imperialist capitalism had to transform itself into socialism. These falsifiers of marxism invoke, in defiance of dialectics, an alleged “general law of harmonious evolution”. This is how they justify their betrayal of the interests of the working class. Their program is

... war on the idea of ​​revolution, on "the hope" of a revolution ("hope" which appears confused to the reformist, because he does not understand the depth of the current economic and political antagonisms); war against any activity consisting in organizing forces and preparing minds for the revolution. (Lenin: “Reformism in Russian Social Democracy” in Marx, Engels, marxism, p. 262.)

In contrast, there is another conception that is just as anti-dialectic and therefore counter-revolutionary: it is adventurism, which characterizes in particular anarchists and Blanquists. Adventurism consists in denying the need to prepare for qualitative change (revolution) through quantitative evolution. Concept just as metaphysical as the previous one, since it sees only one aspect of the social movement.

To want the revolution without wanting the conditions is obviously to make it impossible. Adventurism (revolutionaryism) and reformism are therefore identical in substance.

But the adventurists are deluding themselves with the leftist “sentence”. They talk about action at all times, but that is the better to prevent real action. Indeed, they despise modest actions, small quantitative changes, however necessary for decisive transformations.

In volume IV of his Works, p. 129, Maurice Thorez criticizes a certain number of communist factors which, in 1932, in various departments, had taken a stand against a protest petition addressed by all their colleagues from the PTT to parliamentarians. They said to the petitioners: "First join the Unitary Union (CGTU), otherwise your petition is useless". Maurice Thorez explains:

We should not despise the petition, even with a sentence on “mass action”. The petition is an - arguably elementary - form of mass action. It is both a means of pressure on the addressee and an element of rallying and organization for the signatories.

In the case which interests us, the petition is an organized form of the protest of the employees against their state-boss and against those who, parliamentarians, are supposed to hold a part of the power of the state.

The petition can and will have a real impact on the public authorities if, instead of condemning it, the revolutionary elements participate in it, if they patiently and fraternally explain to their fellow workers that the petition is only one of many. means of struggle, that there are others supplementing and supporting the petition and that, for example, a demonstration carried out opportunely in the department, in the region, even in the country, by the whole corporation, will give weight to the signatures .

Maurice Thorez observes that the petition

help to create a united front at the base. We can easily imagine the conversations that take place, about each signature, between fellow workers who are unitary, confederate, autonomous or unorganized. Everyone expresses their opinion, says their preferences. However, everyone believes that the conscious manifestation of the vast majority, perhaps even all postal workers, will have a certain effect. It is obvious that the unitary union member, while signing and having them signed, has formulated his opinion on the action to be developed. He proposed, for example, the election of committees for petitioning. He signed the eventual application of the regulations. He spoke of the possibility of a strike! His confederate or unorganized comrade listened to him, objected to him, asked for more complete explanations. VS'is a first approximation to the base with a view to

common action that will bear fruit.

We must not

gossip about "mass action", but learn to arouse, to organize, to support the most modest forms of protest of the masses in order to be able to reach with the proletarians, and at their head, the highest forms of class struggle. (Maurice Thorez: Œuvres, L. II, t. IV, p. 129, 130, 131. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1951.)

It is in fact in these partial struggles that workers educate themselves, accumulating irreplaceable experience. Daily action for a modest but common demand paves the way for broader action. The constitution of 'grassroots committees, where the workers discuss and fraternally decide on the objectives and the means, this is the condition of the united front. How can you achieve decisive change if this patient work is not done? In the same way, by the accumulation of their millions of signatures, the good people ended up "winning" the presidential signature which made Henri Martin leave the prison.

This is how the third law of dialectics shows its practical significance, its fruitfulness. It sheds light on the current perspectives, giving us the scientific certainty that the realization of the united front and the rallying of the French nation around the working class will be necessary consequences of the quantitative changes which are accomplished in the daily struggles, at the price of the obscure ones. and the patient efforts that the most conscious workers pursue in their companies and offices. The formidable scale of the strikes of August 1953 was precisely the consequence of the innumerable local actions which had developed everywhere during the months which preceded. At the height of the August movement, a union official exposed how workers who, ten days earlier,seemed indifferent to any argument, were now among the most resolute: "Definitely nothing is ever lost ..." he concluded. And it is true: nothing is wasted by the efforts made in the direction of history, the explanations given, the clarifications provided. Quantitative accumulation prepares for qualitative transformation, even when it does not appear.

This is why it is wrong to think that the reactionary policies of the bourgeois politicians will last "still a long time" under the pretext that the majority of the Assembly "is for them". It is wrong to say that France is "a finished country", doomed to vegetate under American tutelage. Forces are accumulating on all sides which will put an end to the policy of dishonor and to the enterprises of the corrupt. On all sides, day after day, the forces are accumulating which will one day reverse the course of events and place France back in the true day of her greatness. The people will have the last word. To say that in France "another policy is possible" than that of the reactionary and anti-national bourgeoisie is not to give in to illusions, it is to state a scientific truth.

Conclusion

Commenting on the third feature of the dialectic, Stalin observes: "Consequently, in order not to be mistaken in politics, one must be a revolutionary, and not a reformist". The revolutionary attitude is only dialectical since it recognizes the objective necessity of qualitative changes, products of a quantitative evolution.

The metaphysician either denies the qualitative changes, or else, if he admits them, does not explain them to himself and attributes them either to chance or to a miracle. The bourgeoisie has every interest in these errors and spreads them profusely. For example, the so-called information press presents political and social events to the general public without the internal links that prepare them and make them intelligible. Hence the idea "that there is nothing to understand".

The dialectician, on the contrary, understands the movement of reality as necessarily uniting quantitative changes and qualitative changes and he unites them in his practice. The leftist who has nothing but "revolutionary" phrases in his mouth does nothing in the perpetual wait in which he is of the decisive moment of "The Revolution". The reformist, precisely because he believes that "natural" evolution transforms society, does not even fight for the reforms he wants. The dialectician alone understands that it is necessary to struggle to obtain reforms and that it is good to do so, because he knows that revolution is linked to evolution. Only revolutionaries can, by their participation in the action, give a truly progressive content to the reforms. Alone, because dialecticians,they can unite around them, in the small ones, then in the big actions, the workers deceived by reformism like those who are seduced by the "leftist phrase". Only a dialectician can understand the value of gradual quantitative changes, the diversity of the paths of the struggle for socialism depending on the conditions, in short this truth that revolution is a process. Only masters of dialectics could guide the working masses in the conquests of the Popular Front and the Liberation. Approaching the most minimal action as a revolutionary and not as a reformist, the dialectician gives all his meaning to The International's just words:Only a dialectician can understand the value of gradual quantitative changes, the diversity of the paths of the struggle for socialism depending on the conditions, in short this truth that revolution is a process. Only masters of dialectics could guide the working masses in the conquests of the Popular Front and the Liberation. Approaching the most minimal action as a revolutionary and not as a reformist, the dialectician gives all his meaning to The International's just words:Only a dialectician can understand the value of gradual quantitative changes, the diversity of the paths of the struggle for socialism depending on the conditions, in short this truth that revolution is a process. Only masters of dialectics could guide the working masses in the conquests of the Popular Front and the Liberation. Approaching the most minimal action as a revolutionary and not as a reformist, the dialectician gives all his meaning to The International's just words:Approaching the most minimal action as a revolutionary and not as a reformist, the dialectician gives all his meaning to The International's just words:Approaching the most minimal action as a revolutionary and not as a reformist, the dialectician gives all his meaning to The International's just words:

Let's group together and tomorrow

The International will be the human race.

The universal victory of the proletariat is not a utopia, it is an objectively founded certainty.

Remarks

a) We have said: insignificant quantitative changes lead to radical qualitative changes.

This means that one cannot separate quantity from quality, quality from quantity, and that it is arbitrary to isolate them (as does for example the metaphysician Bergson for whom matter is pure quantity and spirit quality pure). The reality is both quantitative and qualitative. And it must be understood that qualitative change is a passage from one quality to another. The “liquid” quality becomes “gas” quality when the liquid reaches a certain temperature by quantitative accumulation.

Even in mathematics (which metaphysicians would like to make a science of quantity alone) quantity and quality are inseparable. Adding whole numbers (5 + 7 + 3 ...) is a quantitative process; but it has a qualitative aspect because integers are numbers of a certain kind, which have a different quality from mixed numbers, algebraic numbers, etc., etc.

The qualitative diversity of numbers is considerable: each species has its properties. To add whole numbers, or mixed numbers, or algebraic numbers, it is, one will say, always to add; yes, but each time the bill relates to different qualities. Likewise: adding 5 hats or adding 5 locomotives is always adding, but the objects are qualitatively very different. Quantity is always quantity of something, it is quantity of a quality.

b) Quantity changes into quality. But reciprocally, quality changes into quantity, since they are inseparable.

Example: capitalist production relations, from a certain moment, slow down the quantitative development of the productive forces, or even lead to their regression. The qualitative transformation of the relations of production is reflected in the socialization of the productive forces which thus take off again. Consequence: the productive forces will experience a great quantitative development.

See: Control questions

The struggle of opposites (I)

The struggle of opposites is the driving force behind any change. An example

We have seen that all reality is movement, and that this movement, which is universal, takes two forms: quantitative and qualitative, necessarily linked together. But why is there movement? What is the engine of change and, in particular, of the transformation of quantity into quality, of the passage from a quality to a new quality?

To answer this question is to state the fourth feature of dialectic, the fundamental law of dialectic, that which gives us the reason for movement.

A very concrete example will reveal this law.

I study marxist philosophy, dialectical materialism. This is only possible if at the same time I am aware of my ignorance and I have the will to overcome it, the will to conquer knowledge. The motor of my study, the absolute condition for progress in study, is the struggle between my ignorance and my desire to overcome it, it is the contradiction between the awareness that I have of my ignorance and the will that I have to get out of it. This struggle of opposites, this contradiction is not external to the study. If I am progressing, it is to the very extent that this contradiction is constantly arising. Of course, each of the acquisitions that mark out my study is a solution to this contradiction (I know today what I did not know yesterday); but immediatelyopens a new contradiction between what I know ... and what I am aware of ignoring; hence a new effort in the study, and a new solution, a new progress. Whoever thinks he knows everything will never progress since he will not seek to overcome his ignorance. The principle of this movement that is study, the engine of the gradual passage from less knowledge to greater knowledge, is therefore the struggle of opposites, the struggle between my ignorance (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) the awareness that I have to overcome my ignorance.he will not seek to overcome his ignorance. The principle of this movement that is study, the engine of the gradual passage from less knowledge to greater knowledge, is therefore the struggle of opposites, the struggle between my ignorance (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) the awareness that I have to overcome my ignorance.he will not seek to overcome his ignorance. The principle of this movement that is study, the engine of the gradual passage from less knowledge to greater knowledge, is therefore the struggle of opposites, the struggle between my ignorance (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) the awareness that I have to overcome my ignorance.

The fourth trait of dialectics

Unlike metaphysics, dialectics starts from the point of view that the objects and phenomena of nature involve internal contradictions, because they all have a negative side and a positive side, a past and a future, all of them have disappearing elements. or that develop; the struggle of these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between what dies and what is born, between what withers and what develops, is the internal content of the process of development, of the conversion of quantitative changes in qualitative changes. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 7.)

The study of contradiction as a principle of development will allow us to identify its main characteristics: the contradiction is internal; it is innovative; there is unity of opposites

Characteristics of contradiction
The contradiction is internal

All reality is movement, as we have seen. Now, there is no movement which is not the product of a contradiction, of a struggle of opposites. This contradiction, this struggle is internal, that is to say that it is not external to the movement considered, but that it is its essence.

Is this an arbitrary assertion? No. A little reflection indeed shows that if there were no contradiction in the world, it would not change. If the seed were only the seed, it would remain the seed, indefinitely; but it carries within itself the power to change since it will be planted. The plant emerges from the seed, and its hatching implies the disappearance of the seed. So it is with all reality; if it changes, it is because it is, in its essence, both itself and something other than itself. Why does life, after giving its flowers and fruits, decline to death? Because it's not just life. Life turns into death because life carries an internal contradiction, becauseit is a daily struggle against death (at every moment cells die, others replace them, until the day when death prevails). The metaphysician opposes life to death as two absolutes, without seeing their deep unity, unity of opposing forces. A universe absolutely void of any contradiction would be doomed to repeat itself: nothing new could ever happen.

The contradiction is therefore internal to any change.

The fundamental cause of the development of things is not to be found outside, but within things, in the contradictory nature inherent in things themselves. Everything, every phenomenon has its inherent internal contradictions. It is they who give birth to the movement and development of things. The contradictions inherent in things and phenomena are the fundamental causes of their development... [note 13]

Lenin already said: "Development is the struggle of opposites". [note 14]

Is it not true, to take the example of the man who studies, that this man is both ignorance and need to learn? In so far as he studies, he is a struggle of these two opposing forces. This is the essence of the man who studies (the essence: the deep nature).

If we return to the process examined in the previous lesson: the transformation of water either into ice or water vapor, we find that such a transformation is explained by the presence of an internal contradiction: contradiction between the forces the cohesion of water molecules on the one hand, and on the other hand, the movement specific to each molecule (kinetic energy that pushes the molecules to disperse); contradiction between the forces of cohesion and the forces of dispersion. Of course, when we limit ourselves to considering water in a liquid state, between 0 degrees and 100 degrees, this struggle does not appear, everything seems calm, inert. What appears is the stability of the liquid state. The apparent aspect (the phenomenon) conceals the deep reality, the essence, that is, the struggle between the forces of cohesion and the forces of dispersion. This internal contradiction is the real content of the liquid state. And it is this contradiction which explains the sudden transformation of liquid water into solid water or water vapor. The qualitative transition to a new state is only possible through the victory of one of the opposing forces over the other. Victory of cohesive forces in the passage from liquid to solid; victory of the forces of dispersion in the passage from liquid to gas. A victory which does not annihilate the opposing forces, but which in some way changes their "sign": in the solid state, it is the movement of molecules which is the negative (or secondary) aspect; in the gaseous state, it is the tendency to cohesion which is thenegative (or secondary) aspect.

Water, whatever its current state, is therefore a struggle between opposing forces, which are internal forces - and this explains its transformations.

Does this mean that the external, surrounding conditions play no role? No. The study of the first law of dialectics (everything fits) has shown us that one should never isolate a reality from its surrounding conditions. In the case of water, there is an external condition, necessary for the change of state: it is the decrease or the rise in temperature. The rise in temperature makes it possible to increase the kinetic energy of molecules, and therefore their speed. Cooling has the opposite effect. But we must not lose sight of the fact that, if there were not internal contradictions in the object considered (in this case: water) - as we have noticed above - the action external conditions would be inoperative.The dialectic therefore considers as essential the discovery of internal contradictions, inherent in the process studied, and which alone make it possible to understand the specificity of this process.

The contradictions inherent in things and phenomena are the fundamental cause of their development, while the mutual link and the reciprocal action of a thing or a phenomenon with or on other things or phenomena are second-order causes.

This is what the metaphysical mind cannot admit. As he ignores the internal contradictions, constitutive of reality and driving any qualitative change, he is forced to explain all the changes by external interventions. That is to say either by supernatural "causes" (God "creates" life, thought, kingdoms), or by artificial causes: there are privileged men who hold the mysterious power to make change. things; these are a few "leaders" who "make" the revolution, who "sow revolt", etc., etc. This is how certain reactionary ideologues reduce the Revolution of 1789 to the catastrophic action of a few bad shepherds. The same goes for the Socialist Revolution of October 1917. Dialectics, on the contrary,scientifically shows that the revolutionary outcome as a solution to the problems facing social development is inevitable if there is an internal contradiction, constitutive of this society: contradiction between antagonistic classes. The revolution is the product of this contradiction, which passes through various stages; the revolution comes neither from God nor from Satan.

The respective role of internal contradictions (fundamental causes) and external conditions (second order causes) should be remembered. It makes it possible to understand, in particular, that "the revolution cannot be exported". No qualitative transformation can be the direct product of external intervention. This is how the existence and progress of the Soviet Union transformed the general conditions of the struggle of the proletariat in the capitalist countries. But neither the existence nor the progress of the Soviet Union has the power to engender socialism in the other countries: only the development of the class struggle specific to each capitalist country, the development of the internal contradictions which characterize the countries. capitalists can bring about revolutionary changes in these countries.Hence Stalin's often-repeated phrase: “Each country, if it wishes, will make its own revolution; and if he doesn't want to, there will be no revolution ”. It is thus with the young child: all the means which you will employ to make him walk will be useless as long as his internal, organic development does not allow him to walk.

We can therefore see that the internal character of the contradiction, on which Stalin insists in his statement of the fourth line, has considerable practical significance.

The contradiction is innovative

If we take up the Stalinist statement of the law, we notice that the struggle of opposites is appreciated as "struggle between the old and the new, between what dies and what is born, between what withers and what develops" .

The struggle of opposites, in fact, develops over time. And we saw (third lesson) that, just like societies, just like living nature, the physical universe has a history. The qualitative changes thus bring to light, at a given moment in the historical process, new aspects which are the product of the victory over the old. But this is only possible because the forces of the new have developed against the old, even within the old. It was within the old feudal society and against it that the new productive forces and the corresponding production relations grew, from which capitalist society was to emerge. Likewise, it is in the child and against him that the adolescent grows; it is in and against the adolescent that the adult matures.

It is therefore not enough to note the internal nature of the contradiction. We must also see that this contradiction is a struggle between the old and the new. It is within the old that the new is born; it is against the old that he grows up. The contradiction is resolved when the new definitely wins over the old. Then appears the innovative character, the fruitfulness of internal contradictions. The future is prepared in the struggle against the past. No victory without a struggle.

The metaphysician fails to recognize the innovative power of contradiction. For him, the contradiction can bring nothing good. As he has a static, immobilist conception of the universe, as he wants being (nature or society) to always be identical, contradiction is synonymous with absurdity for him. He tries to push it aside. Thus the economic crises which, for the dialecticians, are the apparent sign of the fundamental internal contradictions of capitalism, are, for the metaphysician, temporary discomforts. Likewise, the class struggle is an unfortunate accident due to the malevolence of the “leaders”. The dialectician knows that where a contradiction develops, there is fruitfulness, there is the presence of the new, the promise of its victory. The class struggle heralds a new society.In all circumstances, the dialectician creates the conditions favorable to the development of this fruitful struggle; the resistance of the forces of the past does not frighten him, for he knows that the forces of the future are steeped in the struggle, as the whole history of the workers' movement attests. On the contrary, it is the essential task of social democracy to divert the revolutionary forces from the struggle; this is how she works to corrupt them, to sterilize them.on the contrary, it is the essential task of social democracy to divert the revolutionary forces from the struggle; this is how she works to corrupt them, to sterilize them.on the contrary, it is the essential task of social democracy to divert the revolutionary forces from the struggle; this is how she works to corrupt them, to sterilize them.

The history * of the sciences and the arts is profuse in examples showing brilliantly the fruitfulness of the contradiction. Great discoveries are the product of a resolute contradiction between old theories and new experimental facts. Example: Torricelli's experiment gave rise to a fruitful contradiction between the fact observed (the mercury contained in the tube overturned on the tank goes down to a certain level which varies according to the altitude; above it is the vacuum) , and the old idea taught everywhere ("nature abhors a vacuum"). The old idea is powerless, in fact, to explain why the level of mercury in the tube varies with altitude. It is the discovery of atmospheric pressure that resolves the contradiction.

Any qualitative change is the fruitful solution of a contradiction.

The fruitfulness of the contradiction is evident in Gorky's books. It is by fighting against her prejudices as an old woman resigned to oppression that Gorky's Mother turns into a revolutionary. (Internal contradiction which develops thanks to external conditions: the example of his son, revolutionary fighter). Likewise Pierre Zalomov, the initiator of the workers' demonstration of May 1, 1902 in Sormovo, the hero of Gorky's book, proudly declared at the Tsarist court:

Tortured by the disagreement between the life to which they aspire and that which is given to them in today's society, the workers are led to seek the means to be used to get out of the abominable situation to which they are condemned by the imperfection of the present regime. . (The Zalomov Family, p. 221. French Editors Reunited.)

And Pierre Zalomov explains how, through a stubborn struggle to overcome this contradiction, the desperate worker he once was became a new man, a revolutionary.

We said at the beginning of this lesson that the man who studies science progresses by constantly resolving the contradictions posed by study itself. Likewise the revolutionary militant, knowing the fruitful power of contradiction, endorses Maurice Thorez's maxim: "criticism and self-criticism are our daily bread." Critique of the work accomplished by the comrades. And also criticism by each of his own work (self-criticism). The worker influenced by social democratic ideology believes that self-criticism is dishonor and prostration. Rather, self-criticism proceeds from a scientific conception of revolutionary action. Through self-criticism, the activist creates the conditions for the victorious struggle of the new against the old in his own conscience,in his daily activity. To refuse self-criticism is not to safeguard one's dignity; it is wasting its possibilities of progress, it is condemning itself to retreat, it is degrading its own substance. It is the relentless, scientific practice of criticism and self-criticism that forged the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Lenin and Stalin. [See History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR Conclusion, point 4, p. 398-399-400.] It was through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that Maurice Thorez in the 1930s saved the French Communist Party from the stalemate to which the Barbé-Celor group was leading it. [See Maurice Thorez; Son of the People, chap. II.]is to waste its possibilities of progress, it is to condemn itself to retreat, it is to degrade its own substance. It is the relentless, scientific practice of criticism and self-criticism that forged the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Lenin and Stalin. [See History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR Conclusion, point 4, p. 398-399-400.] It was through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that Maurice Thorez in the 1930s saved the French Communist Party from the stalemate to which the Barbé-Celor group was leading it. [See Maurice Thorez; Son of the People, chap. II.]is to waste its possibilities of progress, it is to condemn itself to retreat, it is to degrade its own substance. It is the relentless, scientific practice of criticism and self-criticism that forged the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Lenin and Stalin. [See History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR Conclusion, point 4, p. 398-399-400.] It was through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that Maurice Thorez in the 1930s saved the French Communist Party from the stalemate to which the Barbé-Celor group was leading it. [See Maurice Thorez; Son of the People, chap. II.]self-criticism that forged the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Lenin and Stalin. [See History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR Conclusion, point 4, p. 398-399-400.] It was through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that Maurice Thorez in the 1930s saved the French Communist Party from the stalemate to which the Barbé-Celor group was leading it. [See Maurice Thorez; Son of the People, chap. II.]self-criticism that forged the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Lenin and Stalin. [See History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR Conclusion, point 4, p. 398-399-400.] It was through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that Maurice Thorez in the 1930s saved the French Communist Party from the stalemate to which the Barbé-Celor group was leading it. [See Maurice Thorez; Son of the People, chap. II.]

Unity of opposites

There is only a contradiction if there is a struggle between at least two forces. So contradiction necessarily encloses two opposing terms: it is the unity of opposites. This is a third characteristic of the contradiction. Let’s take a closer look.

For the metaphysician, to speak of the unity of opposites is to utter nonsense. For example: he considers science on one side, ignorance on the other. Now we have noticed that all science is a struggle against ignorance. Lenin observed that "the object of knowledge is inexhaustible". So there is no absolute science; there is always something to learn. So all science has an element of ignorance. But in the same way, there is no absolute ignorance: the most ignorant individual has sensations, a certain habit of life, a rudimentary experience (if not, how could he survive?); this is a germ of science.

Opposites fight each other, but they are inseparable. The bourgeoisie in itself does not exist. First of all, within feudal society, there was the bourgeoisie against the feudal class. Then it is, in capitalist society (and already within feudal society), bourgeoisie against proletariat. We cannot pose opposites one without the other, apart from one another. When the proletariat disappears as an exploited class, it is because then the bourgeoisie disappears as an exploiting class. [marxist political economy is extremely valuable for the study of the unity of opposites, because it is found at all levels of economics. Example: the commodity is a unit of opposites. On the one hand it is a use value (a consumable product), on the other hand it isis an exchange value (a product that is exchanged). These are truly opposites since a product can only be exchanged if it is not consumed, and since a product can only be consumed if it is not exchanged. Marx brilliantly developed all the consequences of this internal contradiction in Capital, a masterpiece of dialectics. Note: in the crises that periodically strike capitalism, this unity of opposites is fully manifested: the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to to be able to consume, buy, that is, exchange the product for money.]These are truly opposites since a product can only be exchanged if it is not consumed, and since a product can only be consumed if it is not exchanged. Marx brilliantly developed all the consequences of this internal contradiction in Capital, a masterpiece of dialectics. Note: in the crises that periodically strike capitalism, this unity of opposites is fully manifested: the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to to be able to consume, buy, that is, exchange the product for money.]These are truly opposites since a product can only be exchanged if it is not consumed, and since a product can only be consumed if it is not exchanged. Marx brilliantly developed all the consequences of this internal contradiction in Capital, a masterpiece of dialectics. Note: in the crises that periodically strike capitalism, this unity of opposites is fully manifested: the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to to be able to consume, buy, that is, exchange the product for money.]is not traded. Marx brilliantly developed all the consequences of this internal contradiction in Capital, a masterpiece of dialectics. Note: in the crises that periodically strike capitalism, this unity of opposites is fully manifested: the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to to be able to consume, buy, that is, exchange the product for money.]is not traded. Marx brilliantly developed all the consequences of this internal contradiction in Capital, a masterpiece of dialectics. Note: in the crises that periodically strike capitalism, this unity of opposites is fully manifested: the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to to be able to consume, buy, that is, exchange the product for money.]the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to be able to consume, buy, that is to say exchange the product for money .]the masses cannot consume their own products because these products are necessarily, under a capitalist regime, commodities, and therefore, in order to be able to consume, buy, that is to say exchange the product for money .]

This inseparability of opposites is an objective fact, denied by metaphysics. This is why the bourgeoisie favors metaphysical conceptions which claim, for example, "to suppress the proletarian condition" (notably by "capital-labor association"), while preserving the bourgeoisie! As if there could be a capitalist bourgeoisie without a proletariat working for it!

Dialectics never separate opposites; it places them in their inseparable unity.

Without life, no death; without death, no life. No top, no bottom; no bottom, no top. Without misfortune, no happiness; without happiness, no unhappiness; without easy, no difficult; without difficult, not easy. Without a landowner, there is no farmer; without a farmer, no landowner. Without bourgeoisie, no proletariat; without the proletariat, there is no bourgeoisie. Without an imperialist national yoke, no colonies and semi-colonies; without colonies and semi-colonies, no imperialist yoke. So it is with all opposites. Under determined conditions, they oppose each other on the one hand, and, on the other hand, they are reciprocally linked, interpenetrate, imbue each other, are interdependent. (Mao Tsétoung: "A propos de la contradiction", in the Cahiers du communisme, n ° 7-8,August 1952, p. 807.)

This reciprocal connection means that the opposite A acts on the opposite B to the very extent that the opposite B acts on the contrary A; and that B acts on A to the same extent that A acts on B. Thus the opposites are not juxtaposed one to the other in such a way that one can change, the other remaining motionless. This is why any strengthening of the bourgeoisie is a weakening of its opposite, the proletariat; any strengthening of the proletariat is a weakening of its opposite, the bourgeoisie. Likewise, any weakening of socialist ideology is progress of bourgeois ideology; and reciprocally. It is therefore perfectly illusory to believe that the bourgeoisie is weakening if the proletariat does not fight against it relentlessly; vs'It is then rather the bourgeoisie which is strengthening and the proletariat which is weakening. So Marx explained that if the working class did not seize every opportunity to improve its situation,

she would swallow herself up to being nothing more than a shapeless, crushed mass of starving beings for whom there would be no salvation. (Marx: Salaries, prices and profits, p. 39, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1948; Travail Salarié et Capital ..., p. 114. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1952.)

This unity of opposites, this reciprocal connection of opposites takes on a particularly important meaning when, at a given moment in the process, the opposites are converted into one another. Indeed, under determined conditions, opposites are transformed into one another. The reciprocal connection then becomes reciprocal transformation, a qualitative change occurs, and it is even this transformation which makes it possible to scientifically define the notion of "quality".

Example: at a given moment in the struggle of the bourgeoisie-proletariat opposites, each of the opposites converts into the other: the bourgeoisie, the dominant class, becomes the dominated class; the proletariat, a dominated class, becomes a dominant class. Likewise, the ignorant man who studies changes into his opposite, into a man who knows; but in his turn the learned man, discovering that he does not know everything, turns into his opposite, into an ignorant man who wishes to learn again.

The unity or identity of the contradictory aspects of an objectively existing phenomenon is never dead, fixed, but alive, conditioned, mobile, temporary, relative; all opposites, under determined conditions, change into one another; and the reflection of this situation in human thought constitutes the conception of the marxist materialist dialectical world; only the reactionary ruling classes, which now exist and which have existed in the past, as well as the metaphysics which is at their service, do not consider opposites as living, conditioned, mobile, converting into one another, but as dead, frozen; they propagate this false conception everywhere and mislead the popular masses in order to prolong their domination 1.

This is how the capitalist bourgeoisie today, like the feudal class in the past, teaches that its supremacy is eternal; it pursues the marxist-leninists who teach, in accordance with dialectical science, the reciprocal transformation of opposites, that is to say the ineluctable victory of the oppressed proletariat over those who exploit it.

It is important, however, not to give a mechanical interpretation of this conversion of opposites. When we say that opposites are transformed into one another, we do not mean by that a simple inversion so that once the passage from one into the other has been made, there would be no nothing changed. The bourgeoisie, the dominant class, becomes the dominated class; the proletariat, a dominated class, becomes a dominant class. But the proletariat is nonetheless a very different class from the bourgeoisie, for the latter is exploitative, while the proletariat, exercising its class dictatorship, does not exploit anyone, but creates the conditions for socialist construction. In other words, the reciprocal transformation of opposites creates a new qualitative state;it constitutes a passage from the lower to the upper, a progress.

In this case, the transformation of opposites leads to their destruction, since socialism liquidates the bourgeoisie as an exploiting class and also the proletariat as an exploited class. New contradictions appear, characteristic of socialist society, but the bourgeoisie-proletariat contradiction has been overcome.

On the other hand, and above all, the unity of opposites (and their reciprocal transformation) only has meaning in relation to the struggle of opposites, which is the essence of this unity. It is therefore not necessary to wish arbitrarily to carry out the reciprocal transformation of opposites, if the conditions for this transformation are not realized. Mao Tsetung does say, in the text quoted above, that the opposites change one into the other "under determined conditions". Determined by what? By the struggle and its concrete characteristics. The unity of opposites, their reciprocal transformation are therefore subordinate to the struggle. A unity breaks up, a qualitatively new unity appears, but all the moments of this process are explained by the struggle.

The unity ... of opposites is conditioned, temporary, transient, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and movement are absolute. (Lenin: Cahiers philosophiques (quoted by Mao Tsetung: "About the contradiction").)

In short, whoever forgot that the unity of opposites is made, maintained and resolved by struggle, would sink into metaphysics.

See: Control questions

The struggle of opposites (II)

Universality of contradiction

The motor of all change, the contradiction is universal. When we speak of "contradiction", idealistic philosophers simply understand "struggle of ideas". For them, contradiction is only conceivable between opposing ideas. They remain in the ordinary sense of the word ("to say the contrary"). But the contradiction between ideas is only one form of the contradiction: it is because the contradiction is an objective reality, present everywhere in the world, that it is also found in the "subject", that it is in humans (which is part of the world).

Any process (natural or social) is explained by the contradiction. And this contradiction exists as long as the process lasts: it exists even though it is not apparent. We saw the example of this in the previous lesson (p. 84) regarding water. In terms of companies,

Mao Tsetung comments on the error of certain theorists, criticized by Soviet philosophers. These theorists,

examining the French Revolution, felt that before the revolution, in the third estate made up of workers, peasants and the bourgeoisie, there were no ... contradictions, just differences. This point of view ... is anti-marxist. (Mao Tsétoung: “About the contradiction”, p. 786.)

They forget that

in every difference there is already a contradiction, that the difference is a contradiction. As soon as the bourgeoisie and the proletariat appeared, a contradiction arose between labor and capital; it just hadn't gotten worse yet. (Same.)

If indeed the contradiction did not exist from the start of the process, then the process would have to be explained by the mysterious intervention of an external force: however we saw in the previous lesson (III, a) that the external conditions, well than necessary for the process, cannot replace internal contradictions. The internal contradiction is permanent, although more or less developed. This is also why the study of a natural or social process is only possible if its contradiction (s) have developed sufficiently. Thus it was not possible to scientifically study capitalism in 1820, because it had not yet developed its essence: one could only then grasp partial aspects of it, which Marx's predecessors did. Likewise,one can only scientifically study the plant if its growth is quite advanced. Hastily generalizing the knowledge that we have of a process which is only just beginning is a metaphysical attitude, since it is to neglect important aspects of the process.

Once we have clarified the universal character (always and everywhere) of the struggle of opposites, let's see some concrete examples.

In nature

We have, in the previous lesson, exposed the example of water: it is the struggle of opposites which explains its qualitative transformation from liquid state to gaseous state, from liquid state to solid state. In fact, all natural processes involve the struggle of opposites. Already the simplest form of movement (see the third lesson, point III, p. 49), displacement, change of place, is explained by contradiction. Consider a moving vehicle (or a moving man). He can only go from A to B, then from B to C, etc., on condition of constantly "struggling" against the position he occupies. Let this struggle cease, and the march cease. Logicians will say: to affirm B, we must deny A; to affirm C, we must deny B. B comes out of the struggle against A; C comes out of the fight against B ... and so on.

... already the simple mechanical change of place itself can only be accomplished because at one and the same moment, a body is both in one place and in another place, in one and the same place and not in him. And it is in the way that this contradiction has to arise continuously and to resolve itself at the same time, that the movement precisely resides. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 152. Editions Sociales.)

In the physical world, the struggle of opposing forces is universal. A phenomenon as mundane as a rusty fork is the product of a struggle between iron and oxygen.

The fundamental form of movement in nature is the struggle between attraction and repulsion. The unity and the struggle of these two opposites: attraction and repulsion, determine the formation and evolution, the stability, the transformation and the destruction of all material aggregates, whether they are distant galaxies, stars or of the solar system, - solid masses, liquid drops or gaseous clusters, - molecules, atoms or their nucleus.

Let us take the solar system: the movement of the planets around the sun cannot be understood without the struggle of these two opposites: the gravitation which tends to make the planet fall on the sun, the inertia which tends to move it away from the sun.

Let us take a solid body which expands or contracts, a solid which melts and a liquid which solidifies - a liquid which vaporizes and a gas which liquefies: these processes cannot exist without the struggle of two opposites: the forces of molecular cohesion which is attractive and thermal energy which is repellent.

Let us consider the chemical phenomena in which simple bodies combine with one another and compound bodies resolve into simple elements: they all consist in the unity of contrary processes: the bonding and dissociation of atoms; hence the contradictions specific to chemistry: between acid and base, between oxidant and reducing agent, between esterification [We used to say etherification.] and hydrolysis.

Let us consider an atom: we will find there that the relative balance which maintains the electrons around the nucleus results from the struggle of these two opposites: the electrostatic energy which is here attractive, and the kinetic energy which is repulsive. And in the atomic nucleus itself, contemporary science suspects specific forms of attraction and repulsion between proton and neutron.

Everyone knows the two opposite modes of existence of electricity: positive and negative, the two poles - north and south - of the magnet, as well as the phenomena of attraction or repulsion between bodies electrified in a different or identical way, between the different or identical poles of two magnets.

Finally, modern physics has revealed that the particles which constitute all the material aggregates, the electrons of the atom for example, are far from being metaphysically identical to themselves. On the contrary, they are deeply contradictory, having a dual nature, both corpuscular and undulatory, being at the same time comparable to grains and waves. In this way the material character of waves like radio waves is demonstrated, and the old mystery of the nature of light is clarified. [This is why Paul Langevin wrote: “The history of all our sciences is punctuated by similar dialectical processes ... I am aware that I did not fully understand that of physics until the moment I started. learned about the fundamental ideas of dialectical materialism ”. (Thought,n ° 12, p. 12. 1947.)]

As for living nature, it develops according to the law of opposites. We have already noticed in the previous lesson (p. 83) that life is a ceaseless struggle against death. Let us consider a given species, - animal or plant -. Each of the individuals who constitute it succumbs in turn, inexorably. However, the species is perpetuated and multiplied! At the level of the individual, there is victory of death over life; but at the level of the species, it is life that wins. Life being a conquest over the non-living, we can say that the death and decomposition of an individual is a setback, a return from the superior to the inferior, from the new to the old. On the other hand, the general development of the species is a triumph of the new over the old, a progress from the lower to the upper.Life and death are therefore the two aspects of a contradiction which arises and resolves itself indefinitely. Nature is thus transformed, always the same and yet always new. [Readers who would like to make an in-depth study of the struggle of opposites in nature should consult the beautiful work by F. Engels: Dialectique de la Nature, published by Editions Sociales. Note: The dialectical power which manifests itself in nature has struck various great minds since Antiquity (eg the Greek Heraclitus). And we find, later, in Leonardo da Vinci, the presentiment of an analysis of this natural dialectic. Let us judge by this interesting extract: "The body of everything that feeds itself dies unceasingly and is constantly reborn ... But if we replace as much asit is destroyed in a day, it will be reborn as much life as it is spent, in the same way that the light of the candle nourished by the humidity of this candle, thanks to a very rapid influx from the bottom, constantly replenishes that which above, in dying, is destroyed and, in dying, of dazzling light, turns into dark smoke; this death is continuous as this smoke is continuous and the continuity of this smoke is the same as that of food and in an instant the light is entirely dead and entirely born again, with the movement of its food. "]bright light, turns to dark smoke; this death is continuous as this smoke is continuous and the continuity of this smoke is the same as that of food and in an instant the light is entirely dead and entirely born again, with the movement of its food. "]bright light, turns to dark smoke; this death is continuous as this smoke is continuous and the continuity of this smoke is the same as that of food and in an instant the light is entirely dead and entirely born again, with the movement of its food. "]

Mathematics does not escape the law of opposites either, even at the simplest level. In elementary algebra, subtraction (a - b) is an addition (- b + a). Doesn't this unity of opposites seem paradoxical to common sense, which says: “an addition is an addition; a subtraction is a subtraction ”? Common sense is right, but partially: the algebraic operation is itself and its opposite. Mathematical thought cannot escape the laws of the universe, and it progresses only to the extent that it is, like the universe, dialectical. Engels devoted remarkable pages to mathematics, examined from a dialectical point of view. [See Engels: Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature. Ed. Social. (To facilitate the reading of these works, use theexcellent index which follows each of them.)]

In society

All the processes that constitute social reality can also be explained by contradiction. And first of all, the very formation of the company. Human society, as a qualitatively new aspect of reality, is indeed the product of a struggle between nature and our distant ancestors, who were closer to the superior apes than to humans today. The concrete content of this struggle was and remains work, which both transforms nature and transforms people. It is work which, bringing together our ancestors in the struggle for their existence, is at the origin of societies. It is the work that has achieved the qualitative passage from animals to humans. Marx, by discovering the decisive role of work, as a struggle of opposites generating society, made a discovery ofimmense scope; he founded the science of societies, whose general theory is historical materialism. On this contradiction-mother of societies which is work (unity of nature and of man, but unity of opposites) we will read with the greatest profit, in Dialectic of Nature, the magnificent chapter entitled: "The role work in transforming ape into man ”. [Friedrich Engels: Dialectic of Nature, p. 171. Social ed.]"The role of work in the transformation of the monkey into man". [Friedrich Engels: Dialectic of Nature, p. 171. Social ed.]"The role of work in the transformation of the monkey into man". [Friedrich Engels: Dialectic of Nature, p. 171. Social ed.]

But the contradiction does not end there. From the primitive commune to the socialist and communist society, it is the contradiction which is the engine of history, and the lessons devoted to historical materialism will analyze this movement more closely. Fundamental contradiction between the new productive forces and the old production relations. From a certain moment, contradiction between the classes, that is to say the class struggle. The struggle between exploiting classes and exploited classes is an essential aspect of the great law of opposites. And it was in order to be able to deny the role and even the existence of the class struggle that Blum, falsifier of marxism, rejected dialectical materialism (that is to say in particular the struggle of opposites).

If we take a determined social regime, we find that it is also explained by a fundamental contradiction and secondary contradictions, all of which evolve. There is no capitalism without contradiction between the capitalist bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production, and the proletariat. This capitalism is not static, it is transformed: this is how the capitalism of the first period, competitive capitalism, is transformed in a second period into monopoly capitalism: competition, in effect, ensures the victory of the capitalists. the most powerful, and it is then monopoly capitalism that comes out of competition, but to overtake it. Competition turns into its opposite.

The in-depth analysis of the constitutive contradictions of capitalism can be found in Marx's Capital.

Antagonism and contradiction

A question is frequently asked. “No capitalism without internal contradiction, since it is a regime of exploitation, where the interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are irreducibly opposed. But isn't socialism the end of all contradiction? To which we must answer: "Socialism does not escape the great law of contradiction. As long as there is a society, there are constitutive contradictions of this society ”.

The illusion that the end of capitalism is the end of contradiction stems from a confusion between antagonism and contradiction. But antagonism is only a particular case, a moment of contradiction: all antagonism is contradiction, but all contradiction is not antagonism.

There is certainly a contradiction between an extremely low dose of arsenic and your body; but if the absorbed dose remains very low, the contradiction will not evolve into antagonism. Increase the dose, and it is then the antagonism: the contradiction evolves into violent opposition, fatal for the organism. Likewise within capitalist society, there is always a struggle of opposites which coexist bourgeoisie-proletariat.

But it is only when the development of the contradiction between [these classes] reaches a determined stage that this struggle takes the form of a declared antagonism which, in the process of its development, turns into a revolution. (Mao Tsétoung: "About the contradiction", p. 813.)

Antagonism is only a moment of contradiction: the most acute. The war between imperialist states is the most acute moment of the struggle which constantly opposes them. We must therefore know how to consider the contradiction in all its development. For example, the contradiction between classes stems from the division of labor within the primitive commune; at this stage, there was a difference between social activities (hunting, fishing, herding); but this difference evolved into a struggle when it brought about the birth of classes, a struggle which becomes antagonism in a revolutionary period.

So what happens in the case of socialism? Class antagonism disappears, thanks to the liquidation of the exploiting bourgeoisie. However, for a whole period there were differences between the working class and the peasantry, between town and country, and likewise between manual and intellectual labor. Differences which are not antagonisms, but are so many contradictions to be overcome since man, in a communist society, will be capable of the most diverse activities (which today are shared between different individuals) and since, in particular, the contradiction manual labor-intellectual labor will be resolved into a higher unity. Polytechnic education creates the conditions for this unity, which will make each individual both a practitioner and a scholar.

We can therefore see that the end of the antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat does not mean the end of contradictions. So Lenin wrote, criticizing Bukharin:

Antagonism and contradiction are not at all one and the same thing. The first will disappear, the second will remain under a socialist regime. (Quoted by Mao Tsétoung: Book cited.)

How, indeed, could there be progress without the contradiction, which is the engine of progress? Thus, in The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Stalin explains that the gradual transition from socialism to communism is only possible by solving the contradiction that exists (in socialist society) between two forms of socialist property: collective farm ownership, socialist property of a more or less large group, and national property (eg factories) which is socialist property of the whole community. [See Stalin: “The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”, in Latest Writings, p. 156. Ed. Sociales.] However, in a socialist society, contradictions do not evolve into conflicts, antagonisms,because the interests of the members of this society are united and because it is led by a party armed with marxist science, the science of contradictions: thus the solution of contradictions is carried out without crisis. But these contradictions are no less fruitful, since they allow society to move forward.

Likewise, the general practice of criticism and self-criticism in the lives of Soviet men is one of the purest examples of the development of contradictions without antagonisms. Georges Malenkov declared at the XIXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union:

In order to advance our cause, we must wage the struggle against negative facts, direct the attention of the Party and all Soviet men to the liquidation of defects in work.

Criticism that is the business of mocking workers, masters of the country.

The broader the criticism from below, the more fully the creative forces and energy of our people will be manifested, and the more powerfully will the feeling that they are masters of the country penetrate the masses. (Malenkov; Activity Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, p. 76.)

Malenkov gives examples of faults to be corrected by such a criticism: waste of raw materials in some companies; wasted time in some collective farms; or even an underestimation of the reality of the capitalist encirclement; or insufficient control of the tasks entrusted to certain organizations or activists.

It is precisely the role of the Communist Party, Malenkov explains, to create the conditions so that all honest Soviet men can boldly and fearlessly criticize the shortcomings in the work of organizations and administrations. Assemblies, activists' meetings, sessions and conferences of all organizations must in fact become a broad forum for bold and vigorous criticism of shortcomings. (Malenkov; Activity Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, p. 76.)

This mass criticism is obviously an aspect of the struggle of opposites, since it makes it possible to eliminate the defects and the survivals which hamper the progress of socialist society; but it is a fraternal criticism because it is the work of men with the same interests.

Within the Party itself, the struggle of ideas is the specific expression of the struggle of opposites. A struggle which allows the marxist-leninist-atalinist Party to constantly improve its work, but a struggle which does not degenerate into antagonism. If it becomes antagonism, it is because then there is a struggle of the Party against enemies who are in the place and who operate as agents of the bourgeoisie: the struggle of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) against Trotsky, Bukharin or Beria.

The struggle of opposites, the driving force of thought

If the law of contradictions plays such a large role in nature and in society, it is easy to predict that, man being both a natural and a social being, his thought is also subject to the law of opposites. We have already observed the dialectical character of thought in the fourth lesson. It should not surprise us. Materialists, we consider thought to be a moment of universal becoming; the laws of dialectic therefore reign over thought as over the whole of reality. The dialectic of thought is, in its essence, of the same nature as the dialectic of the world; its fundamental law is therefore contradiction. That is why Lenin writes:

Knowledge is the process by which thought infinitely and eternally approaches the object. The reflection of nature in human thought must be understood not in a "dead" way, not "abstractly", not without movement, not WITHOUT CONTRADICTIONS, but in the ETERNAL PROCESS of movement, of the birth of contradictions and their resolution. (Lenin: Philosophical Notebooks.)

It is thus that the qualitative passage from sensation to concept (of which we spoke in the fourth lesson, p. 70) is a movement which takes place by contradiction: sensation in fact reflects a singular, limited aspect of the real; the concept denies this singular aspect in order to affirm the universal ["deny" must be understood not in the sense of annihilating, but in the dialectical sense: to go beyond while relying on ... The (universal) concept goes beyond sensation (limited), but while relying on it.]; it overcomes the limitations of sensation to express the totality of the object. In this sense, the concept is the negation of sensation (for example: the scientific concept of light, as the unit of the wave and the particle, denies the sensation of light, a sensation which reveals to us the presence of light,but don't tell us what it is). But the concept, which is thus developed by the negation of sensation (by the struggle against this lower level of knowledge), acts in return on the sensation. After having denied it, he gives it the means to assert itself with a new force, because we perceive better what we have understood. [This is why culture is said to educate sensitivity.]

Our practice attests that we cannot immediately understand things perceived by our senses and that it is only after being understood that things can be perceived even more deeply by the senses. (Mao Tsétoung: "About practice", Cahiers du communisme, n ° 2, February 1951, p. 243. [Expression underlined by noue, GB-MC])

Thus sensation and concept, concept and sensation constitute a unit of opposites in interaction, each affirming itself against the other, although they are strengthened one by the other (the sensation needing the concept which enlightens it, and the concept needing the sensation which is its fulcrum).

We could consider the various processes specific to thought, we would find there the law of opposites. It is thus that analysis and synthesis, steps absolutely necessary for all thought, and which are considered by the metaphysician as opposed to each other, are certainly opposed, but it is the opposition of two processes inseparable! Analysis and synthesis involve each other. Indeed, to analyze is to find the parts of a whole; but the parts are parts only as parts of a whole, there are no "parts in itself": the whole is therefore present in the parts, synthesis and analysis are therefore defined one by one 'other, although each is the reverse of the other.

Likewise, theory and practice are two opposing forces in dialectical interaction: they permeate and mutually enrich each other.

It is because thought is dialectical that it can understand the dialectic of the world (nature and society). The contradictions of the objective world which sustains and feeds it are reflected in it, and the movement of thought thus created is itself dialectical, like all other aspects of reality.

A thought that ignores contradictions therefore lets the essence of reality escape. The simple definition of the most banal object is already the expression of a contradiction. If I say: "the rose is a flower", I make the rose something other than itself; I put it in the flower class. This is the beginning of dialectical thought, because step by step, from this humble rose, I will find the whole universe (we know that “everything fits together”). A non-dialectical thought will be content to say: "the rose is the rose", which teaches nothing about the nature and the characteristics of the rose.

However, it is sometimes useful to remember that a rose is a rose and not a chariot. Elementary logic, that is to say non-dialectical, which has for principle the principle of identity (a is a, a is not non-a) is not false. It is simply partial, it expresses the immediate, superficial aspect of things. She says: "water is water"; "The bourgeoisie is the bourgeoisie". Dialectical logic, beyond the stable appearance, grasps the internal movement, the contradiction. She discovers that water carries within it contradictions that explain that we can switch from water to hydrogen and oxygen. Likewise, dialectical logic defines the bourgeoisie in opposition to the proletariat, its opposite,and it also defines it in the qualitative diversity of the elements that constitute it (she says: the bourgeoisie is the bourgeoisie, as a class identical to itself, but there is an anti-national bourgeoisie and a national bourgeoisie, which up to a point certain point have conflicting interests).

That said, the logic of identity, known as formal logic or non-contradiction, is necessary although not sufficient. To ignore or flout it is to turn your back on reality. Example: Jules Moch writes in Confrontations:

In the current regime, two classes - capitalism and proletariat - are present.

Absurd phrase. It is quite true that the proletariat is a class; but the antagonistic class of the proletariat is the bourgeoisie, and not capitalism, which is a social regime. The author places in the same category realities which are not of the same order. A class is a class; a social regime is a social regime. To take this for that is to insult the most elementary logic, which wants us to define the terms we use. And this is consequently to insult dialectical logic, which in no way authorizes such a mishmash, but considers identity as an aspect of reality, an aspect which cannot be ignored without falsification. The dialectical contradiction does not oppose anything to anything; for her a cat is first of all a cat,although this is not sufficient to explain what a cat is.

The adventure of Jules Moch is also instructive: it shows that the rejection of dialectics, of the struggle of opposites, leads to the rejection of the most common logic. Because they are at odds, for political reasons, with science, the falsifiers are at odds with common sense.

See: Control questions

The struggle of opposites (III)

The specific nature of the contradiction

The absolute universality of the contradiction should not make us forget the infinite wealth of concrete contradictions. The great law of opposites is the general expression of a fact which, in its reality, takes the most diverse forms. The good dialectician is not satisfied with asserting the universality of the struggle of opposites, as the principle of all movement. It shows how this law is particularized according to the multiple qualitative aspects of reality, how this law is specified.

When dealing with each particular form of movement, we must keep in mind what it has in common with the various other forms of movement. However, it is even more important, and this is what is at the base of our knowledge of things, to consider what each form of movement has that is specific, of its own, that is to say to consider what qualitatively distinguishes it from other forms of movement. Only thus can one distinguish one phenomenon from another. Every form of movement contains its specific contradictions, forming the specific nature of the phenomenon which distinguishes it from other phenomena. Herein lies the internal cause or the basis of the infinite diversity of things and phenomena existing in the world. (Mao Tsétoung: "About the contradiction",Cahiers du communisme, n ° 7-8, August 1952, p. 788.)

In other words, asserting the universality of the struggle of opposites is not enough. Science is the unity of theory and practice, and it is always in a concrete way, with the particularities of life itself, that the universal law of opposites manifests itself. Give an egg the necessary heat and thus ensure that the internal contradiction characteristic of the egg can develop, until the chick hatches. The same amount of heat applied to a liter of water will cause quite different effects, specific to water. Each aspect of reality has its own movement, therefore its own contradictions.

Anything does not turn into anything. Such war turns into such peace; such capitalism, having such peculiarity of development, will give way to a socialist regime having itself such peculiarity: it is in this sense that the old is preserved in the new. Thus, on the one hand, it is wrong to say that a new social system wipes out the past; but on the other hand there is no "synthesis", no possible reconciliation between the old and the new, for the new can only be asserted against the old. The "overcoming" of opposites does not mean their synthesis, but the victory of one over the other, of the new over the old.

It is the specific nature of each stage of material movement that explains the diversity of the sciences, from physics to biology, from biology to the humanities. Each science must detect and understand the specific contradictions of its own subject. It is thus that there are laws particular to electricity; the more general laws of energy (of which electricity is a form) are not sufficient to determine electricity: it is still necessary to carry out the dialectical analysis of the fact "electricity" as such. But it happens that a certain quantity of electricity causes chemical reactions: we then find ourselves in the presence of a new object, with its specific laws. Likewise when we pass from chemistry to biology, from biology to political economy, etc. Certainly,all the moments of reality constitute a unity, but they are nonetheless differentiated and irreducible to each other.

This does not apply only to all sciences. Within the same science, we find the need to study specific contradictions. Example: there are specific movements of the atom; when the physicist passes from the movement of visible bodies (a falling ball) to atomic movements, new laws appear which are the object of wave mechanics.

The dialectic is closely molded on its object in order to understand its movement. It is thus, to give another example, that art is a form of activity irreducible to others, and in particular to science (although art is also a means of knowledge, since it reflects the world) . There are therefore specific contradictions in this domain as elsewhere, and the artist is a dialectician insofar as he resolves them; if he does not solve them, he is not an artist. The great critic Bielinsky wrote:

As filled as it is with beautiful thoughts, as powerfully as it answers the questions of the time, if a poem does not contain poetry, it cannot contain neither beautiful thoughts, nor any questions, and all that one can. to notice it, it is only a fine intention well served. (Bielinsky: Selected Works, vol. III of the Russian edition of 1948.)

While science expresses reality by means of concepts, art expresses it in typical images endowed with great emotional power. Of course, art can only achieve its goal if the artist (poet, painter, musician ...) is capable of dominating his first sensations, of generalizing his impressions; but if the work of art does not know how to find the appropriate images for the artist's idea, it fails.

Lenin's merit was, in particular, to discover, based on the marxist analysis of capitalism, the specific contradictions of capitalism at the imperialist stage (in particular: the unequal development of the various capitalist countries, hence the frenzied struggle for a new division of the world between the best endowed and the others). He showed that these contradictions made war inevitable and that the revolutionary movement of the world proletariat, supported by the national movement of the enslaved peoples, could under these conditions break the chain of capitalism at its weakest point. Lenin thus knew how to foresee that the socialist revolution would triumph first in one or a few countries.

In The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Stalin, at the same time as he shows the objective character of the laws of the economy, emphasizes one of their specific characteristics: that they are not durable:

One of the special features of political economy is that its laws, unlike the laws of nature, are not durable; that they act, at least most of them, during a certain historical period, after which they give way to other laws. They are not destroyed, but they lose their strength as a result of new economic conditions and leave the scene to give way to new laws which are not created by the will of men, but arise on the basis of new economic conditions. . (Stalin: "Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR", Latest Writings, pp. 95 and 96. Ed. Sociales.)

This is how the law of value appeared with commodity production: it is the specific law of commodity production and will disappear with it. The specific law of capitalism is the law of surplus value, because it determines the essential features of capitalist production. But this law cannot suffice to characterize the current stage of capitalism, during which monopoly capitalism has developed all its consequences: it remains too general, and Stalin therefore sets out the specific law of current capitalism, the law of maximum profit. . [Stalin: “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”. Latest writings, p. 128. On the law of maximum profit, see lesson 18, point II b, p. 352.]

Only the careful study of the specific characteristics of a given aspect of reality can keep us from dogmatism, that is, from the mechanical application of a uniform framework to different situations. That is why Lenin recommended that revolutionaries exercise their brains in all circumstances. The true marxist is not one who, knowing his classics by heart, believes he can solve all problems by means of a few standard solutions, but an analyst capable of putting each problem concretely, without neglecting any of the data necessary for its solution.

To really know an object, it is necessary to embrace it, to study all its aspects, all the relations and "mediations". We will never quite get there, but by making it an obligation to consider objects in all their aspects, we will protect ourselves from errors and sclerosis. (Stalin: Again about the unions.)

The dogmatic is satisfied with generalities. For example, if a slogan is given by the union, it does not concern itself with appropriating it exactly to his company, to each workshop of his company. Likewise, it does not know how to take into account the demands specific to each category of workers.

This schematism always has serious consequences, because it cuts off activists from the mass of workers. This is how to reduce the Resistance to the armed struggle of the Francs-Tireurs and Partisans is to distort it, to neglect its specific character: the Resistance was the patriotic struggle of the French people under the leadership of the working class and of his party, the Communist Party. Whoever ignores this specific character of the Resistance cannot correctly appreciate its various aspects (including this important aspect which was the struggle of the FTP).

Likewise, as Stalin observes in his Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the world movement for peace has no objective of establishing communism. Its essence, its own law, is the gathering of millions of ordinary people, friends or opponents of communism, for the safeguard of peace; its goal, in France in particular, is not the proletarian revolution, it is the passage from a policy of war to a policy of negotiations. One thing is the "war policy - peace policy" contradiction, another thing is the "capitalism - socialism" contradiction (although imperialist capitalism is responsible for the war policy).

In his study A propos de la contradiction, Mao Tsétoung insisted on the need to resolve “qualitatively different contradictions” by “qualitatively different methods”. He writes:

For example, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is resolved by the method of socialist revolution. The contradiction between the popular masses and the feudal regime is resolved by the method of democratic revolution. The contradiction between the colonies and imperialism is resolved by the method of national-revolutionary war. The contradiction between the working class and the peasantry in socialist society is resolved by the method of collectivization and mechanization of agriculture. The contradictions within the Communist Party are resolved by the method of criticism and self-criticism. The contradictions between society and nature are resolved by the method of the development of productive forces. The process changes,the old process and the old contradictions are liquidated, a new process and new contradictions are born, and as a result, the methods to be employed to resolve these contradictions also change. The contradictions resolved by the February Revolution and the October Revolution in Russia, as well as the methods employed in these two revolutions to resolve the contradictions were radically different. [The aim of the February 1917 revolution was to overthrow Tsarism. It was a bourgeois democratic revolution. Lenin and the Bolsheviks applied the appropriate method to this problem: they broke Tsarism by the alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry, by isolating the liberal monarchist bourgeoisie whichstrove to win over the peasantry and liquidate the revolution through an agreement with Tsarism. The objective of the October Revolution of 1917 was to bring down the imperialist bourgeoisie, to get out of the imperialist war, to found the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was a socialist revolution. Lenin and the Bolsheviks applied the appropriate method to this problem: they broke the imperialist bourgeoisie by the alliance of the proletariat with the poor peasantry, paralyzing the instability of the petty bourgeoisie (Menshevik, Socialist-Revolutionary) which was striving to win the mass of the working peasants and liquidate the revolution through an agreement with imperialism. (See on this subject: Stalin: Principles of leninism ("Strategy and Tactics".)] Resolving different contradictions by different methods is a principle which marxist-leninists must strictly observe. (Mao Tsetung: "About the contradiction", p. 790.)

These remarks have, among other practical consequences, the following, which concern the activity of the Revolutionary Party:

a) The Revolutionary Party, the marxist-leninist-stalinist Party, can only fulfill its scientific function of leading the movement if each militant strives, as far as he is concerned, to pose and solve the tasks which are properly his; that if each Party organization, each cell, as far as it is concerned, sets out and resolves the tasks which are specifically its own (in its company, its locality, its neighborhood). Each militant is a brain; each cell is a collective which reflects before acting.

b) The Party can fulfill its scientific function of direction only if each militant, each cell, brings it its share of experience, its specific experience, the synthesis being made by the whole of the Party in its regular organizations. That is why the statutes of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union oblige every Communist to always tell his Party the truth. [Statutes of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Point 3. i.] The experience of each militant, each cell is indeed irreplaceable, because who will make known to the Party, for example, the demands of the young people of a village if the country's young communist ignores them?

c) The Party can only fulfill its scientific function of leadership if its members keep the closest contact with the masses of workers, if they are truly the men whom all know and esteem. How, without this permanent contact, could they know the problems specific to each layer of the population and resolve these specific contradictions for a given period?

A party that neglects these demands jeopardizes its future; he loses direction of movement.

Universal and specific are inseparable

We insisted on the need to study the specific character of concrete contradictions. But it is obvious that this study would lose all dialectical character if it made us forget that the specific is not absolute, but relative, that it has no meaning if we separate it from the universal.

An example: we said in the first part of this lesson that there is a specific law of capitalism (the law of surplus value) and a specific law of current capitalism (the law of maximum profit). But this does not suppress the action of a much more general law, the law which has been exercised since the existence of human societies and has subsisted through the various social regimes, as Stalin reminds us in Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, and in The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR: the law of necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the productive forces. (The study of this law will be the subject of lesson 16.)

A good dialectical analysis therefore takes hold of the specific character of such a process, but this is only possible if it does not isolate this process from the overall movement which conditions its existence (see the first feature of the dialectic). The specific takes its value only in relation to the universal. The specific and the universal are inseparable. [We can also notice that the same process is universal or specific depending on the case. The law of surplus value is specific to capitalism, whereas the law of correspondence necessary between productive forces and relations of production is universal (it is valid for slave society, for example, as well as for capitalist society). But the law of surplus value is universal in relation to concrete, specific aspects9 thatit takes at the various stages of capitalism; it thus has a more extensive universality than the law of maximum profit. As for the universal law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces, it is specific to societies.]

Because the particular is linked to the universal, because not only what is particular in the contradiction, but also what is universal are inherent in every phenomenon, the universal exists in the particular. This is why, when we study a given phenomenon, we must discover these two aspects and their mutual relationship, discover what is particular and what is universal, what is inherent in a given phenomenon, and the mutual relationship between them, discover the mutual relationship between a given phenomenon and the many other phenomena which are external to it. In his remarkable work The Principles of leninism, at the same time as he explains the historical roots of leninism, Stalin analyzes the contradictions of capitalism which reached their extreme limit under imperialism,he shows how these contradictions made the proletarian revolution a matter of immediate practice and how they created the conditions favorable to the direct assault on capitalism; moreover, he analyzes the causes for which Russia became the center of leninism, why Tsarist Russia was then the nodal point of all the contradictions of imperialism and why it is precisely the Russian proletariat that could become the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat.why Tsarist Russia was then the nodal point of all the contradictions of imperialism and why it is precisely the Russian proletariat which was able to become the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat.why Tsarist Russia was then the nodal point of all the contradictions of imperialism and why it is precisely the Russian proletariat which was able to become the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat.

Thus, after having analyzed what is general in the contradictions peculiar to imperialism, Stalin showed that leninism is the marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution; after having analyzed what is specific in these general contradictions, what was peculiar to the imperialism of Czarist Russia, he explained why it is precisely Russia which has become the homeland of the theory and the tactics of the revolution proletarian and that, moreover, this specific contained in itself what has been the general in the given contradictions. This Stalinist analysis is for us a model of knowledge of the specific and the general in the contradictions and the mutual relationship between one and the other. (Mao Tsétoung: "About the contradiction", p. 798.)

The metaphysician does not know how to maintain this unity of the specific and the universal. It sacrifices the specific to the universal (which is what the abstract rationalism of Plato, for example, for whom concrete experience is contemptible), or else it sacrifices the universal to the specific (this is then empiricism). , which refuses any general idea and condemns itself to limited practicalism). The marxist theory of knowledge considers such an attitude as anti-dialectic, one-sided. Knowledge, in fact, starts from the sensible, which is narrowly circumscribed and reflects a specific situation; but, through practice, it gains access to the universal, to return to the sensible with a new force. The physicist, for example, has at the outset only a limited number of experimental facts; leaning on them,he accedes to the law, the discovery of which allows him to profoundly transform reality through new experiences. The two stages of knowledge are inseparable: it goes from the specific to the general and from the general to the specific, a movement that never stops. Lenin compared this process to a spiral movement: we start from the immediate, sensitive experience (for example the purchase of a commodity), we analyze the operation to discover the law of value, from there we return to the concrete experience (spiral movement); but, armed with the law of value, we understand this experience, the deep meaning of which escaped us at first: we can therefore foresee the development of the process, create conditions suitable for limiting or extending it, etc., etc ..We cannot reach the universal if we do not start from the specific; but in return, the intelligence of the universal makes it possible to deepen the specific. The spiral movement is therefore not a sterile back and forth, it is a deepening of reality. It was by studying the specific contradictions of the capitalism of his time that Marx discovered the universal law of correspondence between relations of production and productive forces. In this way, it made it possible to understand the specific contradictions of social regimes prior to capitalism, insofar as these contradictions come under the universal law of correspondence; and it also made possible an ever more in-depth, ever more specific study of capitalism itself, in its subsequent movement (monopoly capitalism, imperialism).

The artist is great insofar as, striving to achieve the typical (see point I of this lesson), he knows how to express the universal in the singular. All the distress of Paris occupied by the Nazis, Eluard expresses it in two lines, through a daily "little fact": Paris is cold, Paris is hungry Paris no longer eats chestnuts in the street. (Extract from "Courage" (1942), in Au rendez-vous german.)

In the lives of the most successful characters of Balzac and Tolstoy, the essential features of the society of their time are reflected. The novel by G. Nikolayeva: The Harvest, remarkably links the personal and family history of its heroes to the history of a collective farm and of Soviet society: the personal contradictions from which the heroes of the book suffered are resolved in the movement itself. by which the larger contradictions which held back the impetus of the collective farm are resolved; and it is by struggling to ensure in the collective farm the victory of the future over the past that Vassili and Avdotia assure in themselves the victory of the future over the past.

Isn't it this deep unity of the universal and the singular that characterizes the heroes loved by peoples? In June 1917, the soldiers of a regiment wrote to Lenin:

Comrade and friend Lenin, remember that we, the soldiers of this regiment, are all ready as one man to follow you everywhere because your ideas are truly the expression of the will of the peasants and workers. In Stalin are embodied the purest features of Soviet man.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg aroused the love of ordinary people around the world, because the magnitude of the sacrifices they made (their young life, their children, their happiness) was the most overwhelming expression of the invincible love. that men bring to peace.

Main contradiction, secondary contradictions

Having become aware of the strength of the link which unites the specific to the universal, we will see more clearly the relationship between main contradiction and secondary contradictions. Indeed, a given process is never simple, precisely because it owes its specific existence to a large number of objective conditions, which link it to the whole. As a result, any process is the seat of a series of contradictions. But among these contradictions, one is the main contradiction, that which exists from the beginning to the end of the process and whose existence and development determine the nature and progress of the process. The others are secondary contradictions, subordinate to the main contradiction.

What, for example, is the main contradiction of capitalist society? Obviously, the contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie. As long as capitalism subsists, this contradiction subsists; and it is this which in the last analysis decides the fate of capitalism, since the victory of the proletariat spells the death of capitalism. But capitalist society, seen in its historical process, includes other contradictions, secondary to the main one. For example: contradiction between the reigning bourgeoisie and the remnants of defeated feudalism; contradiction between the working peasantry (small landowners, sharecroppers, day laborers ...) and the bourgeoisie; contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie; contradiction between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the non-monopoly bourgeoisie, etc.All contradictions that appear and develop in the very history of capitalism. And as this development takes place on a world scale, we must also consider the contradiction between the various capitalist countries, the contradiction between the imperialist bourgeoisie and the colonized peoples.

All these contradictions are not juxtaposed. They become entangled and, according to the first law of dialectics, they are in reciprocal action. And what is the effect of this interaction? This: under certain conditions, a secondary contradiction assumes such importance that it becomes, for a given period, the main contradiction, while the main contradiction takes a back seat (which does not mean that its action ceases). In short, the contradictions are not fixed, they change place.

This is how the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the colonial countries, although it is in the last analysis decisive since it will be resolved by the victory of socialism in these countries, passes however, for a time, to the second plan. What comes to the fore is the contradiction between colonizing imperialism and the colonized nation (working class, peasantry, national bourgeoisie uniting in a national front in the struggle for independence). This in no way suppresses the class struggles within the colonial country. (All the more so since a fraction of the bourgeoisie of the colonial country is complicit in colonizing imperialism.) But the contradiction to be resolved as a matter of urgency is that posed by theimperialism and that resolves the national struggle for independence. In his Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Stalin brilliantly sheds light on the problem of shifting contradictions about the German question, which is of the utmost importance to our people. [Capital text: Stalin; "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR". Latest writings, p. 122 to 126.]

He first recalls that capitalism has specific internal contradictions, objective contradictions that will last as long as it does. Contradictions which push the bourgeoisie to seek in imperialist war a solution to its difficulties. As a result, inevitably (ie necessarily) the various capitalist countries are bitter rivals. It is an illusion to believe that the supremacy of American capitalism over other capitalist countries puts an end to the contradictions that are inherent in capitalism as such. No Atlantic Pact, no aggressive alliance against the USSR has the power to extinguish these contradictions. Stalin shows how the English bourgeoisie and the French bourgeoisie cannot indefinitely endure the stranglehold of American capitalism on theeconomy of their respective country. It is the same in the defeated countries, Germany and Japan.

Everyone can verify today how right Stalin was. The contradictions between capitalist countries (in particular between the United States and Great Britain) have considerably worsened since the time when Stalin expressed his appreciation (February 1952), to the point that a whole part of the English and French bourgeoisie prefers the understanding. with the USSR as its own liquidation in an anti-Soviet war under American command.

Thus can we understand the scope of the Stalinist appreciation:

It is said that the contradictions between capitalism and socialism are stronger than those existing between capitalist countries. Theoretically, that's right, of course. This is not only fair today, it was also fair before World War II. This is what the leaders of the capitalist countries understood more or less. And yet the Second World War did not begin with the war against the USSR, but with a war between capitalist countries. Why ? Because, first of all, the war against the USSR, the country of socialism, is more dangerous for capitalism than the war between capitalist countries. Because if the war between capitalist countries only poses the problem of the predominance of such capitalist countries over such others, the war against the USSRmust necessarily pose the question of the very existence of capitalism. Because, secondly, although the capitalists, for the purposes of "propaganda", make noise about the aggressiveness of the Soviet Union, they do not believe in it themselves, since they take into account the policy of the Soviet Union. peace of the Soviet Union and know that the USSR will not attack the capitalist countries on its own. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR" Latest writings, p. 124.)Soviet Union and know that the USSR will not attack the capitalist countries on its own. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR" Latest writings, p. 124.)Soviet Union and know that the USSR will not attack the capitalist countries on its own. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR" Latest writings, p. 124.)

And Stalin recalls the events after the First World War. Whatever the common hostility of the capitalist countries towards the socialist country, yet imperialist Germany (restored by the English and French bourgeoisies, who dreamed of launching the Hitler hordes on the Soviet Union!) Led its first blows ... against the Anglo-Franco-American capitalist bloc.

And when Hitler's Germany declared war on the Soviet Union, the Anglo-Franco-American bloc, far from rallying to Hitler's Germany, was forced, on the contrary, to unite with the USSR against the Soviet Union. Hitler Germany. (Id., P. 125.)

Conclusion:

The struggle of the capitalist countries for the possession of the markets and the desire to sink their competitors have practically proved to be stronger than the contradictions between the camp of capitalism and that of socialism. (Id., P. 125, [Expression underlined by us. GB- MC])

This displacement of contradictions - a secondary contradiction becoming, for a time, the main contradiction - must be considered in all its practical consequences. In this case, we point out two:

a) The rearmament of the Wehrmacht, supervised by the criminal war generals, with the complicity of the French bourgeoisie, proposes aggression against the Soviet Union. But just as in 1940 Hitler seized Paris before marching on Moscow, so it should be noted that the assassins of Oradour are prepared to occupy and sack our country, once again, in an attempt to solve their own economic difficulties. The policy of Adenauer, protector and accomplice of the Nazis, is not in doubt in this regard. And this is how Eisenhower should be understood when he declares:

It is in our interests, and it is our job, to do things in such a way that the German army can attack in any direction that we Americans deem necessary.

A France weakened by the bloodletting of Indochina and plundered by American imperialism, here is for the German bourgeoisie (put back in the saddle with the help of the French bourgeoisie!) A prey much easier to eat than the powerful Soviet Union.

6) The contradictions between capitalist countries take on such importance that it becomes more and more difficult for American imperialism to impose its law in this jungle: the delay in ratifying the Bonn agreements and the Treaty of Paris, despite American pressure, is just one example among many. Soviet diplomacy, because it perfectly masters the dialectic of opposites, makes the most of the contradictions between capitalists (this is how the USSR develops its trade with capitalist England). The peaceful coexistence between different regimes will thus be the product of a struggle in which the internal contradictions of capitalism, although secondary to the contradiction between capitalism and socialism, will play an important role.

So we see how necessary it is, when we study a process, to follow it in all its development and not to stick to a momentary view. Such a secondary contradiction which arises today will in fact be the main contradiction tomorrow.

This method of analysis applied to France today reveals a very complex set of contradictions: contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie; contradiction between petty bourgeoisie (of towns and countryside) and bourgeoisie; contradiction between rival fractions of the bourgeoisie, etc. But there is also, on the external level, a contradiction between French imperialism and the colonized peoples it exploits; contradiction between French imperialism and other imperialisms (mainly US imperialism and resurgent German imperialism), etc. And there is, of course, a contradiction between French capitalism and socialism. Can we put all these contradictions on the same level? No.If we consider contemporary French society as a whole, we discover that the main contradiction is the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, a struggle which, since the triumph of the bourgeois revolution [Under the Old Feudal Regime, the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie already existed, but it represented only a secondary contradiction.], runs through the history of France like a common thread, and the outcome of which will decide the future of the country by ensuring victory. of socialism. But the capitalist bourgeoisie, in order to survive, appealed for the protection of US imperialism. It thus betrays the interests of the nation. Its class policy therefore opposes it not only to the revolutionary proletariat, but to other classes,including that fraction of the bourgeoisie which does not benefit from Yankee domination. Consequence: born of the main contradiction indicated above, a secondary contradiction develops (American imperialism and anti-national bourgeoisie on the one hand against the French nation led by the working class on the other hand). This secondary contradiction has taken on such importance that it becomes for a time the main contradiction. The current task of the French Communists, the vanguard of the working class and of the nation, is to resolve this contradiction by raising and carrying forward, at the head of an irresistible united national front, the flag of the national independence trampled by the bankrupt bourgeoisie. [See Stalin's speech at the XIX Congress of the Communist Party of theSoviet Union.]

It is clear that a theoretically poorly armed revolutionary party could not understand and foresee the reciprocal movement of contradictions. He would be in the wake of events.

Main and secondary aspects of the contradiction

To study the specific character of the moving contradictions is not only to differentiate each time the main contradiction from the secondary contradictions, it is also to bring out the relative importance of the two aspects of each contradiction.

Any contradiction, in fact, necessarily involves two aspects, the opposition of which characterizes the process envisaged. However, these two aspects - or, if you will, these two poles - are not to be put on the same level. Let be a contradiction (A against B, B against A). If A and B were two rigorously and constantly equivalent forces, nothing would happen; the two forces balancing each other indefinitely, all movement would stop. So there is always one force that outweighs the other, even if very slightly, and this is how the contradiction develops. We call the main aspect of the contradiction that which, at a given moment, plays the main role, that is to say, determines the movement of opposites present. The other aspect is the secondary aspect.

But, just as the main contradiction and the secondary contradictions can change place - such a secondary contradiction passing to the foreground - so the reciprocal situation of the main aspect and the secondary aspect of a contradiction is shifting. Under certain conditions, the main aspect changes to a secondary aspect, the secondary aspect to the main aspect.

Water, which we spoke about in the fourth lesson, is the seat of a contradiction between the force of cohesion, which tends to bring the molecules together, and the force of dispersion, which tends to move them apart. In the solid state, the main aspect of the contradiction is the force of cohesion, in the gaseous state, the main aspect is the force of dispersion. As for the liquid state, it is a state of unstable equilibrium between the two forces.

In France, under the Ancien Régime, the main aspect of the contradiction between feudalism and capitalism was the “feudalism” aspect. But the capitalist bourgeoisie has developed in its struggle against the old relations of production in such a way that it has imposed the supremacy of new, capitalist relations. These, a secondary aspect of the contradiction, have thus become the main aspect.

Very important remark: we see that there is a qualitative change (see fourth lesson) when the respective position of the two aspects of the contradiction changes radically, the principal becoming secondary, the secondary principal. At the same time there is the dismemberment of the old unity of opposites and the appearance of a new unity of opposites.

Determining each time the main aspect is essential since it is this aspect which determines the movement of the contradiction. The main aspect of the main contradiction is the decisive point of application of dialectical analysis. This does not mean that the secondary aspect is of no interest. Consider the struggle between the old and the new: at its birth, the new is still very weak, it is only the secondary aspect of the contradiction. But because he is the new one, he has the future for him; it will become the main aspect, and its victory will bring about a qualitative change.

Studying historical materialism, we will see how production develops on the basis of a fundamental contradiction, between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces - and how the main aspect of this contradiction is sometimes the productive forces. sometimes the relations of production (see lesson 16).

Another example: social practice and revolutionary theory constitute a unity of opposites, each acting on the other. The determining aspect, if one considers the process over a long period, is the practice: marxism would not have been constituted and would not have progressed without the objective struggles of the proletariat. But at times, the secondary aspect becomes main, the theory takes on a decisive importance. Thus in 1917, if the Bolshevik Party had not made a correct theoretical assessment of the objective situation, it would not have been able to launch the slogans appropriate to this situation, it would not have been able to mobilize masses and organize them for the victorious assault. The future of the revolutionary movement in Russia would have been compromised for a long time.Not only then is the theoretical aspect not negligible but, under certain conditions, it becomes the main aspect, that is to say determining.

When we say with Lenin: "Without revolutionary theory, no revolutionary movement", the creation and the diffusion of revolutionary theory then begin to play the main, decisive role. When anything has to be done and there is no specific direction, method, plan or guidelines, the development of the direction, method, plan or guidelines becomes then essential, decisive. (Mao Tsetung. "On the Contradiction," p. 805.)

Objective factor, subjective factor are in interaction, and it is necessary at each moment to evaluate as closely as possible their relative importance.

Do these theses sin against materialism? No, they don't sin. For we recognize that in the general course of historical development the material principle determines the spiritual principle, the social being determines social consciousness, but at the same time we recognize and must recognize the return action of the spiritual principle on the principle material, the action in return of social consciousness on the social being ... (Idem, p. 805.)

And Mao Tsetung points out that this is to ensure the definitive superiority of dialectical materialism over mechanistic materialism (which is metaphysical since, for him, the main element remains main and the secondary element remains secondary, whatever the circumstances). .

General conclusion on contradiction – marxism versus proudhonism

Dialectics proper is the study of the contradiction in the very essence of things. (Lenin: Cahiers philosophiques.) Lenin insists on the major importance of this fourth law, which he considers to be the core of the dialectic. The inability to understand this law strikes socialism to the heart. The most notable example is Proudhon. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx classifies Proudhon in the category of conservative or bourgeois socialism: The bourgeois socialists want the conditions of modern society without the struggles and dangers that inevitably follow. They want the current society but purged of the elements that revolutionize and dissolve it. They want the bourgeoisie without the proletariat. (K. Marx-F. Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 56-57. Social Editions, Paris, 1951.)

Proudhon indeed considers the unity of opposites as the unity of a good side and a bad one. He wants to eliminate the bad side by keeping the good. This is to deny the internal character of the contradiction: the bourgeoisie-proletariat contradiction is truly constitutive of capitalist society, and capitalist exploitation can only disappear with this contradiction. The reconciliation of fundamentally opposed class interests is utopian.

Marx characterizes Proudhon as follows:

He wants to hover like a man of science above the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; he is only the petit bourgeois constantly tossed between capital and work ... (Marx: Misère de la Philosophie, p. 101. Editions Sociales, Paris.)

This misunderstanding of the dialectic leads Proudhon to reformism, to the negation, a hundred times repeated, of revolutionary action, that is to say of the class struggle. It is therefore not surprising that he wrote to the Emperor Napoleon III (letter of May 18, 1850):

I preached the reconciliation of classes, symbol of the synthesis of doctrines.

or that he wrote in his notebook in 1847:

Try to get along with Le Moniteur Industriel, the masters 'journal, while Le Peuple will be the workers' journal,

to declare, after the coup d'etat of Badinguet:

Louis-Napoleon is, like his uncle, a revolutionary dictator; but with this difference that the First Consul came to close the first phase of the Revolution, while the President opens the second.

Socialist leaders, like Blum (the author of A Human Scale), like Jules Moch (in Confrontations, which we spoke about in a previous lesson) are working to reinstate Proudhonism, under the pretext of respecting "the universal laws of balance and stability ”. Thus they justify surrender to the bourgeoisie. Thus they behave, to use Blum's expression, as "loyal managers of capitalism". To capitulate, to deliver the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, this is the real meaning of their so-called "struggle on two fronts", of their so-called "third force". Social democracy is opportunism across the board; the proletariat must fight it mercilessly if it wants to defeat the class enemy.

The scientific socialism of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin is the only revolutionary because it brings to the fore the struggle of opposites, as the fundamental law of reality. Thus he leads a merciless and constant fight against the "opposite" of the revolutionary proletariat, the reactionary bourgeoisie and against the leaders of the social democracy who are working, denying the dialectic, to hide the contradictions, for to demobilize the proletariat in the midst of combat.

The example of the militant dialectician who knows the innovative virtue of the struggle of opposites is, in France, Maurice Thorez. Evoking his “apprenticeship” as a revolutionary leader, he writes in Fils du peuple:

A central thought of Marx impressed itself in my mind: the dialectical movement carries the revolution and the counter-revolution in a ceaseless fight; the revolution makes the counter-revolution ever more bitter, ever more enterprising; in its turn, the counter-revolution advances the revolution and obliges it to create a truly revolutionary Party. (Maurice Thorez: Fils du Peuple, p. 65.)

But the dialectic does not only allow us to understand and push to the limit the main contradiction that constitutes the class struggle (proletariat against bourgeoisie), a struggle which will engender socialism. It gives the proletariat the means of recognizing the immense forces whose alliance it can conquer against the bourgeoisie. The very development of the reactionary policy of the bourgeoisie arouses growing opposition from the working peasantry, the middle classes, intellectuals, etc. As many contradictions that the dialectic brings to light, as Maurice Thorez, theorist of the Popular Front against the reactionary bourgeoisie and of the National Front for the independence of the country, knows how to do.

All the contradictions do not appear at first glance, and this is why the dialectician always goes from appearance to reality and avoids impatience which slows down the movement by wanting to accelerate it. Such a small employee votes RPF, reads L'Aurore, "eats communism" ... Is he a reactionary? To reason thus is not to reach the heart under the bark. If this employee votes RPF and reads L'Aurore, it is because he is dissatisfied and believes he finds allies to the RPF and L'Aurore. His behavior is therefore the subjective reflection of the objective contradictions of which he is a victim. The task of the militant who masters the theory is to help this discontented petty bourgeois to see clearly in himself,to become aware of the objective contradictions which are inherent in capitalism and of which it is a victim, to realize that the solution of these contradictions can only come from the struggle waged by the proletariat in alliance with all the workers, and not from the RPF and L'Aurore who fiercely defend the freedom of the big capitalists in the name of "the freedom of the little ones".

A note: The necessary search for contradictions has nothing to do with the confusion of ideas. We must not mix everything under the pretext of seeking the unity of opposites. A thought which contradicts itself is not a dialectical thought. Why ? Because a dialectical thought understands contradiction, whereas a thought which contradicts itself is its victim: it is a confused thought.

Example: some bourgeois and social democratic leaders have said for years: "We want to negotiate in Vietnam and make peace, but we do not want to negotiate with Ho Chi Minh". Antidialectical reasoning because it turned its back on reality: indeed, to make peace is to negotiate with the adversary, and the adversary of the colonialist bourgeoisie in Vietnam is Ho-Chi-Minh and no one other.

The reasoning is therefore false. If, however, we ask ourselves why, we discover that this reasoning is false because it reflects an objective contradiction, of which those who speak thus are victims: contradiction between the interests of the colonialists, who want to continue the war, and the interests of the people, who wants peace (which forces the colonialists to speak of peace). False and confused reasoning can therefore translate a perfectly objective and dialectical reality. Dialectical analysis goes from false reasoning to the reality that it conceals or ignores.

See: Control questions

Study of marxist philosophical materialism

What is the materialist conception of the world?

The dialectics that we have just studied does not make sense if we separate it from the real world - nature and society -, as all the examples we have presented have shown. From our first lesson on dialectics, we said that dialectics is in reality itself; it is not the mind that introduces it. If human thought is dialectical, it is because reality is before it. [A "dialectical" reasoning which does not reflect the contradictions which are in the things themselves is only a trap, a "sophism". The enemies of marxism try to confuse “dialectics” and “sophistry.”] Dialectics comes from the real world. This is why in marxist-leninist theory, if the method is dialectical, the conception of the world is materialist. VS'is this "conception of the world" that we will now expose.

The two meanings of materialism

We must first beware of serious confusion. Marxist philosophy is materialist. This has earned it, since its inception, the countless attacks and calumnies of the class opponents of marxism. The same attacks, the same calumnies were, moreover, directed from Antiquity against materialism in general. They all consist essentially of a gross falsification of the meaning of the word "materialism", the exact philosophical meaning of which is concealed in order to attach to it a "moral" meaning likely to discredit it.

So "materialism" would be immorality, the unbridled desire for enjoyment, the limitation of man's horizon to material needs only. Slander is not new. It was already used in the past by the Church against the philosophical school of Epicurus which affirmed the right to happiness and the need to satisfy the essential needs of human nature for this happiness to be achieved. The clerical and later academic tradition knowingly distorted Epicurean philosophy for centuries. Thus the materialists would be the "pigs of Epicurus' herd".

In truth, if we want to retain only this meaning of the word, we can apply it more precisely not to Gabriel Péri, to Georges Politzer, to Pierre Timbaud, or to Beloyannis, not to the revolutionary proletariat, but to the bourgeoisie itself, to the class of exploiters, which makes its opulence and its pleasures with the misery of the exploited.

Engels masterfully turned against its authors the impudent slander:

The point is that [...] one makes here, though perhaps unconsciously, an unforgivable concession to the Philistine prejudice against the word materialism which has its origin in the old calumny of priests. By materialism, the Philistine understands gluttony, drunkenness, the pleasures of the senses, the sumptuous lifestyle, lust, avarice, greed, the hunt for profits and speculation on the Stock Exchange, in short all sordid vices to which he devotes himself in secret. (Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, p. 23; Philosophical Studies, p. 34.)

The proper meaning, the exact meaning of the word materialism, is the philosophical meaning. In this sense, materialism is a conception of the world, that is to say a certain way of understanding and interpreting, starting from defined principles, the phenomena of nature, and consequently also those of social life. This "conception of the world" applies in all circumstances, it is the basis of the various sciences. It therefore forms a general explanation of the universe giving a solid basis to scientific work of all kinds, in short what is called a theory.

To determine in general what is the basis of materialist theory is the object of this lesson.

Matter and spirit

We must first clarify what is meant by "matter", from which the word "materialism" is taken. The world, that is to say nature and society, presents phenomena that are infinitely numerous, infinitely varied, and which include multiple aspects. However, among all the distinctions that can be made between the various aspects of phenomena, there is one more important than all the others and which can be grasped without prior scientific studies.

Everyone knows that there are things in reality that we can see, touch, measure and that we call material. On the other hand, there are things that we cannot see, touch or measure, but which nevertheless exist, such as our ideas, feelings, desires, memories, etc .: to express what 'they are not material, they are said to be ideal. We thus divide everything that exists in two areas: material or ideal. We can also say, in a more dialectical way, that the real presents a material aspect and an ideal aspect. Everyone understands the difference between the sculptor's idea of ​​the statue he is going to model and the statue itself once completed. Everyone also understands that another person will not be able to have theidea of ​​the statue until she sees it with her own eyes. However, ideas can be transmitted by means of language: thus this person can have an idea of ​​the statue if the sculptor has explained to him what he wants to do, for example a bust of Henri Martin. Thus the material world is in a way doubled by an ideal world which represents it to us, and which we moreover call our "representations".

In the field of social life, too, it is not allowed to confuse the material aspect with the ideal aspect. Thus the socialist mode of production, the social ownership of the means of production, is unquestionably a reality in the Soviet Union. However, the idea that a worker deceived by the SFIO leaders has of it is not the same as that of the communist militant who knows the principle. Here again there is therefore reality on the one hand, and the “representations” that we have of it on the other.

This fundamental distinction has obviously not escaped the notice of any of the men who, at a certain stage in the development of societies, tried to establish, long before the birth of sciences worthy of the name and by the sole forces of their thought, a coherent picture of the universe. This is why we were led to lay down another principle alongside matter: spirit. This word generally designates the whole domain of non-material things, that is to say, in addition to the phenomena of our thought, the products of our imagination, imaginary beings, such as those who inhabit our dreams. Thus was formed the belief in spirits, the belief in the existence of a world of spirits, and finally the idea of ​​a superior spirit, which religions call God.

We therefore understand that the distinction between matter and spirit is of immense importance. You have to know how to find it in all the forms in which it occurs. For example, we find it in the distinction that religions make between the soul and the body. Sometimes, instead of using the expressions "matter" and "spirit", we speak of "being" and "thought", or else we oppose "nature" and "consciousness" ..., but it's always the same distinction.

The fundamental problem of philosophy

The preceding analysis is in no way overtaken by the modern development of the sciences. The distinction between the material aspect and the ideal aspect of reality is on the contrary necessary for the good philosophical training of any man of science: he must know how to distinguish between matter and the idea he has of matter. , just as the militant must know how to distinguish between his desires and what is really possible.

Moreover, the philosophers themselves did not see clearly at the first attempt that these two fundamental principles are the most general notions of philosophy. Little by little, during the development of human knowledge, they became aware of it. It is a merit of the great French philosopher Descartes (1596-1650) to have clearly identified them. However, even today, more than one philosopher of the bourgeois university fails to conceive in all its grandeur and simplicity this fundamental distinction and the consequences it entails. He thus lags behind the militant worker trained in the school of marxism.

Once we have seen clearly that the world as a whole is explained in the last analysis by two principles and only two, we inevitably find ourselves in the presence of the fundamental problem of philosophy. It can therefore be said that most of the “philosophers” of the bourgeois university have not even clearly addressed the fundamental problem of philosophy. They even refuse to take it into consideration, they forbid that one clearly asks them this question.

However, it must be noted that the whole history of philosophy is only a long debate around this fundamental problem which, formulated in various ways, always comes down to this: if it is true that there is, finally, two principles, and only two, to explain the world, which of these two principles explains the other? which one is more fundamental than the other? which is prime, which derivative? which is eternal and infinite, and therefore produces the other?

This is the fundamental question of philosophy.

Such a question has, however it is returned, only two possible answers.

Either matter (being, nature) is eternal, infinite, primary - and spirit (thought, consciousness) is derived from it.

Or the mind (thought, consciousness) is eternal, infinite, primary - and matter (being, nature) is derived from it.

It is the first answer which constitutes the basis of philosophical materialism.

As for the second, it is found in one way or another in all the doctrines which come under philosophical idealism.

These two philosophical attitudes - the only ones which are coherent - are diametrically opposed.

The two meanings of the word "idealism"

Before going any further, we must beware of a trap set by the enemies of materialism, who knowingly substitute for the philosophical meaning of the word "idealism" a "moral" meaning.

In the moral sense, an ideal is a lofty, noble, generous goal as opposed to selfish, narrow perspectives, baseness, etc. And we sometimes misuse the word "idealist" to designate the man who devotes himself to a cause, who sacrifices himself to an idea, achievable or not. The enemies of materialism would like to persuade the good people that, because they explain the world by the existence of a spirit prior to matter, they are the only ones capable, in practice, of devoting themselves to an idea! the only ones capable of having an ideal! A fine example of fallacy.

The reality is quite different. Philosophical idealism, far from being the only one able to inspire martyrs, is commonly used as a cover for the most criminal acts. The calumny according to which the triumph of the revolutionary proletariat would be the triumph of the "spirit of enjoyment" over "the spirit of sacrifice" was in the mouths of the traitor Pétain, as in that of the assassins of Oradour who claimed to fight "barbarism. Bolshevik ”.

As for the materialists, they in no way deny, as we have said, the existence of ideas and we will see the primordial role that they recognize in them. In practice, it is clear that there is a workers' ideal. The revolutionary proletarians have an ideal, the most beautiful ideal that men can propose to themselves: communism, the liberation and the development of all men. This ideal, the highest and most difficult there is, is also the most disinterested since the hope of personal “salvation” in the hereafter has nothing to do with it.

This does not in any way mean that these revolutionaries are "idealists" or "Christians who ignore each other", as those who absolutely want one to be idealist as soon as one widens one's horizon beyond reality. hideous capitalist reality. Neither does this mean that it is a dream, which we always talk about without ever doing anything to make it come true. This does not at all mean that it is an alibi, as when Truman or Eisenhower invoke God and Christian civilization to justify the imperialist massacres in Korea. The revolutionary proletarians have an ideal which they intend to realize and this realization is based on a materialist conception of the world which preserves it as well from utopia as from hypocrisy.

Engels has definitely pilloried the “idealist” bourgeoisie for whom big words about the ideal are only the fig leaf with which it tries to cover the exploitation it imposes on workers:

... by idealism, [the philistine] means faith in virtue, in humanity, and, in general, in a "better world", which he displays before others, but in which he himself does not believe that as long as it is a question of going through the period of unease or crisis which necessarily follows his customary "materialist" excesses, and that he will also repeat his favorite refrain: "What is man? Half beast, half angel! ". (Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 21; Philosophical Studies, p. 34.)

Materialism and idealism are opposed in practice as well as in theory

We can now return to the two answers given to the fundamental question of philosophy.

It is clear that these two answers are absolutely mutually exclusive, and that there can only be one that is right. Why did people fail to recognize the right answer the first time? we will see it later in connection with the origins of idealism.

Let it suffice for us to see for the moment that, since idealism and materialism are absolutely mutually exclusive, and there can be only one correct answer, we are in the presence of a contradiction. Idealism and materialism form a unit, are indissolubly linked as are two opposites. Each progress of one is a retreat of the other. Every advance of materialism is a blow to idealism. And conversely, each abandonment of materialism is an advance of idealism. This unity of opposites therefore means that the struggle between idealism and materialism is inevitable, that there can be no synthesis, no reconciliation between idealism and materialism. (See lesson five, iii, c, and lesson seven: General Concl.) This is important because some idealistic philosophers, seeking to falsify marxism, claim that dialectical materialism is a synthesis, a going beyond the opposition between materialism and idealism. Such a "synthesis" can in reality only be a disguise of the idealistic commodity.

It is true that Marx wrote that dialectical materialism made the old opposition between materialism and idealism obsolete. By this he meant that dialectical materialism makes it possible to conclude the millennial debate for the benefit of materialism precisely because it is fully developed materialism, because it inflicts an irremediable defeat on idealism.

It is therefore by the struggle against idealism and not by "conciliation", "synthesis" that the contradiction can be resolved, as we have seen by studying dialectics.

However, this theoretical struggle has immense practical importance. The two opposing conceptions of the world indeed command opposing practical attitudes.

When lightning threatens to fall, there are two ways to try to ward it off. Use a lightning rod, or burn a candle while imploring Heaven. The first method starts from the idea that lightning is a material phenomenon, having determined material causes, and whose effects are avoidable by the means that scientific knowledge and technology give us. The second method starts from the idea that lightning is above all a sign of divine anger and power, having a supernatural cause, and that one must therefore attempt to ward off by magical and supernatural means such as candle and prayer, action of the spirit of man on the spirit of God. So the way of conceiving the causes of phenomena inevitably involves different practical means,materialist in the first case, idealist in the second - and different practical results!

The theoretical opposition has still other practical consequences: it is not difficult to understand that the more the use of the lightning rod spread, the less one burned with candles and the better one did without prayers; and consequently the Church, which saw its credit diminish, regarded with a negative eye the progress of science and the decline of credulity. The opposition is no less real when it comes to the phenomena of social life. Rabelais, in the episode of the Picrocholine War, left us an eloquent picture of the two attitudes. When the aggressor Picrochole attacks the convent which he proposes to plunder, the majority of the monks shut themselves up in the chapel and recommend their soul to God: only Brother Jean des Entommeures, arming himself with a solid club and striking with good moves,routs the mercenaries of Picrochole who were already devastating the orchards, thereby showing that the response is better than prayer to get rid of an aggressor.

Thus during the National Resistance to the Nazi aggressor, Catholics participated in various forms of struggle against the occupier. It is a general fact, moreover, that the proponents of idealistic philosophies often behave as materialists in life.

The practical dangers of idealism are thus illuminated. The idealism of the monks of Rabelais would in fact lead in practice to leaving the field open to the aggressor. Likewise the idealism of the pacifists, who refused concrete action against the war and affected to believe in the "good will" of the imperialists in general and of Hitler in particular, practically played into the hands of the Nazis and in 1939 endorsed the shameful word. of order: "Rather servitude than death".

Likewise, today, the idealistic conception that war is fatal and that we must therefore resign ourselves to it as a punishment from Heaven for the sins of mankind still excludes many Christians from the struggle for peace.

Since idealism thus leads to practical attitudes which play into the hands of warmongers and exploiting classes in general, (in accordance with the old idealist precept: "We must not resist the wicked",) it is easy to understand that the classes exploiters have, throughout history, taken all useful measures to encourage, develop, support idealism among the masses. We remember that in May 1940 the gravedigger Paul Reynaud went noisily to Notre-Dame to call for divine protection over France.

Generally speaking, the exploiting classes, determined to maintain at all costs the state of affairs that benefits them, have an interest in teaching that it is the embodiment of a "supreme will" or that it represents. "universal reason", etc .; they have an interest in propagating the idealism which inculcates resignation in the masses.

We can therefore see the immense practical importance of always knowing how to recognize idealistic conceptions, and consequently of studying philosophical materialism.

marxist philosophical materialism is distinguished by three fundamental features

Philosophical materialism as a conception of the world historically predates marxism. We will indeed see that materialism consists in considering the world as it is without adding anything foreign to it. However, this way of considering the world has long been imposed on man, insofar as the satisfaction of his needs forced him to dominate nature by effective technical means. The progressive rising classes throughout history have thus encouraged materialist thought. On the one hand because their future was linked to the progress of technology and science; on the other hand because they fought the idea that the old order of things against which they fought could be the embodiment of a providential will. They foresaw that, since theman modifies matter and nature by his work; he can also, by his action, improve his own lot.

We cannot study the history of materialism here. The great eras of materialist philosophy were mainly Greek Antiquity, with the merchant class, which was then the most evolved, the French eighteenth century, with its revolutionary bourgeoisie, finally the contemporary period from the mid-nineteenth century. , with the support of the revolutionary proletariat, and mainly in the country where this class gained power, in the Soviet Union. [We must add the Russian materialists of the 19th century, linked to the Russian democratic bourgeoisie of the time: Bielinsky, Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolioubov.] We will study in detail the marxist philosophical materialism which represents the materialism of the last period, the materialism in its completed form. We will see inother lessons [See the introductory lesson, the 9th (point III) and 14th lessons.] why materialist philosophy could have taken, in the brilliant works of Marx and Engels, its founders, its completed form, precisely towards the mid-nineteenth century.

We will also see that premarxist materialism was not dialectical, in a systematic and consistent way, and therefore could not reflect reality in all its peculiarities, nor therefore constitute a complete conception of the world.

It is therefore important to fundamentally distinguish marxist philosophical materialism from all previous materialist doctrines, and this is why we will study its basic features in the next few lessons.

These are three in number, which are exactly opposed to the main forms of philosophical idealism.

1. - The world is by nature material.

2. - Matter is the primary datum, consciousness is a second, derived datum.

3. - The world and its laws are perfectly knowable.

Studying each of these points, we will link the study of materialism to the struggle against idealism, and we will characterize the consequences of materialism in the field of social life.

See: Control questions

Traits of marxist materialism

The materiality of the world

The idealistic attitude

The oldest form of idealism consists in explaining the phenomena of nature by the action of intangible forces, in considering nature as animated by "spirits".

It seems that this form of idealism is not very difficult to fight. Progress in production, technology and science have indeed marked the gradual elimination of such explanations. It has been a long time since the most developed peoples banished from nature the geniuses of fire, water and air, the mysterious powers over which magic alone had taken hold, and that the stories of fairies and goblins have become tales for little children.

Fetishism has therefore been abandoned and in general the conception which claims to see "spirits" or "souls" everywhere, and which is therefore called "animism".

On a higher level, we no longer say that "nature abhors a vacuum" when we want to explain the rise of mercury in the barometric tube, nor that opium makes you sleep because it has a "dormant virtue". Only children get angry at objects that hurt them as if those objects have a malignant will, in this similar to people who get angry with "bad luck" or use good luck charms.

Newton removed from the celestial spaces the guardian angel that, it was believed, Providence attributes to each of the planets to lead it into its orbit. The Cartesian philosophers, for their part, reduced to nothing the idea that animals had a "soul" and Diderot ironically asked on this subject if, when a severed limb of an animal is still the seat of muscular movements, it is necessary to conceive that there is also a “piece of soul” which remained in this part of the severed body to explain this movement!

However, if the idea that each natural phenomenon would require the action of a particular spirit is foreign to us today, the idea that the world taken as a whole needs in order to exist a superior, universal spirit, persists, as we know, especially in the form of monotheistic religions.

Christian monotheism, for example, well recognizes the material reality of the world. But this is a secondary, created reality. The true being, the ultimate and deep reality is spirit: it is God, who is pure spirit and universal spirit. This is an example of what is called objective idealism.

This philosophical conception has taken many forms. For Plato, material reality was only the reflection of an ideal world, the world of Ideas, where pure intelligence reigned which did not need the material world to be. For the ancient Greek school of the Stoics, the world was only a huge living being, animated by an inner divine fire. For Hegel, the nature and development of human societies were only the outer shell, the visible aspect, the embodiment of absolute and universal thought, existing by itself.

We therefore see that for all these philosophies the world is only apparently material; in the final analysis, its deep reality is elsewhere, its deep reason must be sought in the existence of the spirit. This spirit is independent of our individual human consciousness: so we classify these philosophies in the group of objective idealism.

We can also note that with regard to man, objective idealism most often leads to distinguish the soul and the body, by connecting the first to the spiritual world, the second to the material world. This is particularly the case with Christian idealism. The conception that man thus depends on two principles is called dualism. Dualism in the human sciences is typically idealistic in inspiration,

a) because it explains a being of nature by the existence of a "soul" interior to this being. What joins animism;

b) because it necessarily connects this "soul" ultimately to the existence of a higher spirit. In fact, if he linked it to the material principle, he would no longer be dualist, but monist.

We see by this that vulgar atheism is indeed dualism: it denies the existence of God, but without appealing to a scientific materialist conception; he speaks of "the human mind", of "human consciousness", as if this mind were a distinct, independent principle; it thus remains dependent on the flattest idealism. This is particularly the case of our academic, secular or spiritualist philosophers. The Church is not overly afraid of these idealistic atheists: Maine de Biran under Napoleon, Bergson, Freud or Camus at the time of imperialism. She knows and rightly says that these are just lost sheep. And very often, in fact, we see the sheep, once their career is made, return to the fold!

If, at certain times, objective idealism has been able to give birth to great philosophies with a rational core, in our time - that of imperialism - when the dying bourgeoisie needs to divert the masses, by all means , from the materialist explanation of the world, idealism becomes frankly irrationalist and obscurantist.

Freud, for example, explains man and the phenomena of social life by the existence in man of an immaterial force, a mysterious power, with its occult "tendencies", which he calls "the unconscious". . Good luck for charlatans determined to exploit the credulity of good people. The unconscious is in fact the last form of animism, of the belief in the existence of intangible forces in the world.

Bergson, for his part, purely and simply destroys the materiality of the world. In fact, for him, matter is the product of a creative act. It is in its essence life. All matter is the product of an immense "vital momentum" which lifts the world. Now what is life itself for Bergson? It is consciousness, it is thought, it is spirit. “Consciousness in general, he says, is coexisting with universal life”. [Bergson: Creative Evolution, p. 84.] Consciousness is the principle of life. Far from matter being the necessary basis for the development of consciousness, it is on the contrary consciousness which explains the development of matter by being embodied in it.

Here is the "brilliant" contemporary philosopher, equaled to the greatest by the reactionary bourgeoisie; this is in the name of what "philosophy" he slams "scientism" and tries to discredit the work of intelligence.

In the scientific field itself, idealism continues its offensive since we have been able to see American idealistic scientists seeking to demonstrate "scientifically" the creation of the Universe, the age of the Universe, the time taken by this creation, and restore the old theory of "the death of the Universe", etc.!

If we are finally careful with the revival of brilliance given nowadays to the "occult sciences", to "spiritualism" (encouraged by Bergson and supported by Freudianism), to divert the ignorant and dupes from the materialist explanation of social evils from which they suffer, we will grasp even more clearly all the topicality of the marxist thesis on the materiality of the world. [See Engels: "The Science of Nature in the World of Spirits", Dialectic of Nature, p. 53-63.]

The marxist conception

Unlike idealism which considers the world as the embodiment of the "absolute idea", of the "universal spirit", of "consciousness", the philosophical materialism of Marx starts from the principle that the world, by its nature, is material, that the multiple phenomena of the universe are the different aspects of matter in motion; that the relations and reciprocal conditioning of phenomena, established by the dialectical method, constitute the necessary laws for the development of matter in motion; that the world develops according to the laws of the movement of matter, and does not need any "universal spirit". (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 10.)

Stalin refers here mainly, when he speaks of idealism, to Hegel's philosophy of which we have said a few words above. He does so because Hegelianism represents the last great idealist synthesis in the history of philosophy, the quintessence and the most coherent summary of all the historical features of objective idealism, both in the realm of nature and in that of society.

Stalin stresses that the various phenomena of the universe are not due to the intervention of spirits whatever they are or of immaterial "forces", but are the various aspects of matter in motion.

Stalin emphasizes the existence of a natural necessity, inherent in matter, which is the basis of the laws of the universe as established by the dialectical method.

Finally, Stalin underlines the eternity of the world, of matter in motion, in perpetual transformation.

We will go over each of these points in detail in turn.

Matter and movement

The question of the relationship between matter and movement is decisive in delimiting idealism and materialism.

For idealism, in fact, movement, dynamism, activity, creative power belong to the mind alone. Matter is represented as an inert, passive and formless mass of its own. For it to take shape, it must receive the imprint of the Spirit, be animated by him. So from the point of view of idealism, matter cannot produce anything by itself; when it is in motion, it is because it comes to it from elsewhere: from God, from the Spirit.

Separating matter from movement is a characteristic feature of metaphysical thought. It is also, let us note it, an indispensable method in the beginnings of science, insofar as the matter in rest (rest which can only be apparent) is of an easier study than the matter in state of change. .

Even when the modern sciences had taken off, the idea persisted that the movement had been given to matter, at the origin of time, by God himself. This is how Newton, who developed the science of the movements of celestial bodies, pictured the Universe as an immense clock, with perfectly regulated mechanical cogs, and he matched his scientific picture of the world with the idea that was needed. an initial shock, a "divine flick" to set this enormous machine in motion.

This is because the first science which reached a certain degree of completion was mechanics, that is to say the science of displacements in space (or changes of place) of solid bodies, celestial and terrestrial, the science of gravity. Now as a first approximation we can, in mechanics, suppose that the quantity of matter of a moving body is independent of the speed with which it moves. Hence, it seems, a confirmation of the metaphysical idea that matter and motion, mass and energy are two distinct realities in themselves.

For materialism, on the contrary, movement is the fundamental property of matter, matter is movement. Already Democritus pictured the atoms, the elements of the world, as animated by an eternal movement. These ideas exerted an influence during the Renaissance. It was Galileo who, at the beginning of the 17th century, scientifically studied the fall of bodies. The development of mathematics made it possible for the first time to satisfactorily reflect the movement of a falling body. The progress of the sciences advanced materialism, and philosophers, including Descartes, came to the idea that everything in Nature is explained by the play of the laws of the mechanical movement of bodies. A rigorous, mechanical determinism, an implacable system of gears succeeded the mysterious action of thedivine intelligence. This explains the French materialism of the 18th century, immense progress over the various forms of religious idealism. However, due to the very peculiarities of the development of science, this materialism was incomplete. First - as we have just seen - mechanics, at the point of development at which it had reached, could suggest that mechanical movement is communicated to matter at the "origin of time", which leaves the door open to an offensive return of religious idealism. Despite this, the most vigorous thinkers, like Diderot, brilliantly defended the idea that movement is an inherent property of matter.religious idealism. However, due to the very peculiarities of the development of science, this materialism was incomplete. First - as we have just seen - mechanics, at the point of development at which it had reached, could suggest that mechanical movement is communicated to matter at the "origin of time", which leaves the door open to an offensive return of religious idealism. Despite this, the most vigorous thinkers, like Diderot, brilliantly defended the idea that movement is an inherent property of matter.religious idealism. However, due to the very peculiarities of the development of science, this materialism was incomplete. First - as we have just seen - mechanics, at the point of development at which it had reached, could suggest that mechanical movement is communicated to matter at the "origin of time", which leaves the door open to an offensive return of religious idealism. Despite this, the most vigorous thinkers, like Diderot, brilliantly defended the idea that movement is an inherent property of matter.could suggest that mechanical movement is communicated to matter at the "origin of time", which leaves the door open to an offensive return of religious idealism. Despite this, the most vigorous thinkers, like Diderot, brilliantly defended the idea that movement is an inherent property of matter.could suggest that mechanical movement is communicated to matter at the "origin of time", which leaves the door open to an offensive return of religious idealism. Despite this, the most vigorous thinkers, like Diderot, brilliantly defended the idea that movement is an inherent property of matter.

But here we have to take into account a historical fact: we only knew scientifically the laws of the simple change of place or displacement. The other forms of motion of matter had not yet revealed their laws: chemistry, thermodynamics, biology did not exist. Or rather, all the phenomena that these sciences study, we tried to explain them by mechanical causes. We were on the wrong track by ignoring the specific character of the various forms of movement of matter. Hence the name mechanistic materialism given to the materialism of this period. It was, underlines Engels, one of the main limitations of premarxist materialism.

So he failed to give a satisfactory explanation of the higher forms of movement of matter: life, thought. For example, the Cartesians considered that animals had no soul, and they concluded that they were comparable to machines; we began to build automata, robots to imitate them. But it is quite obvious that, apart from the movements of locomotion, the living organism cannot be assimilated to a machine, however perfected it may be, and the famous duck of Vaucanson, which accomplished, it is said, all functions of life, however omitted at least one: the function of reproduction. Thus mechanistic materialism mutilates reality. Finally, he makes man a passive product of nature, without action on matter, without power, and therefore without freedom.

In its attacks on materialism, idealism constantly refers to mechanistic materialism, which leaves it in good stead; it brings out without difficulty the aspects of reality that mechanistic materialism mutilates. Hence the tales of "materialism which assimilates man to a machine, makes him a robot ...", etc.

When it came to the study of other forms of material movement, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical processes, life, idealism did not consider itself beaten. Always starting from the idea that matter is inert, he declared that God had endowed matter with "forces", electric force, magnetic force, chemical affinity force, vital principle, finally spiritual principle, and that matter could not not create them. This was among others the opinion of the English physicist Joule (1818-1889).

Only dialectical materialism could give a satisfactory explanation of these phenomena, showing that they were specific forms of the movement of matter, showing that matter is capable not only of mechanical movement, but of real changes and transformations. qualitative, finally that it possesses an internal dynamism, an activity, a creative power which rests on the existence of contradictions within the very things.

By studying dialectics, we have characterized this dialectical conception of the movement of matter, which has been fully confirmed by the sciences. This is the reason why Stalin, in the text quoted on page 80, specifies that the materiality of the various phenomena of the universe can be scientifically understood only when their laws are established by the dialectical method. Otherwise all science leaves a door open to idealist interpretation.

The great scientific discoveries which brought the dialectic of nature to the fore and made it possible to definitively overcome mechanistic materialism, to constitute dialectical materialism, were three in number:

a) the discovery of the transformation of energy, which gave the idea of ​​qualitative change and made the various physical "forces" appear as aspects of the movement of matter;

b) the discovery of the living cell, which revealed the secret of the constitution of living organisms, made it possible to glimpse the passage from chemical to biological, and to understand the development of living beings;

c) the discovery of the evolution of living species, which broke down the metaphysical barrier between the various species, between man and the rest of nature, and the theory of evolution in general which revealed the entire universe, including human societies, as a process of natural history, as matter engaged in historical development.

However, in order to perceive the full scope of these discoveries, it was already necessary to have a thorough understanding of the dialectical method, it required the genius of Marx and Engels. Thus, dialectical materialism is the only one that can really give higher phenomena, such as life and also thought, a natural explanation without however taking away from them anything of their own character and without the help of any "vital principle" or "spiritual principle". ". What does the detail of this explanation consist of? It is obviously up to science to respond, to science whose progress is informed by the principles of dialectical materialism, to the science of Michurin and Lysenko, that of Olga Lepechinskaya, that of Setchénov, of Pavlov and their followers.

Dialectical materialism trusts the power of science. Idealism, on the contrary, hastens to proclaim its impotence as if it had to have a ready answer. Only fools can demand an immediate response to the problems facing science. Science has no one-size-fits-all answer. Idealism has one: it is "the spirit". But it is only a word which covers ignorance. As "spirit" has, by definition, none of the properties of matter known at a given time, it allows "to explain" everything that relates to properties still unknown to matter. What I do not know, I attribute to the mind, says the idealist in short.

The idealist, who "reproaches" materialism for not having evolved for two thousand years (!) And for always repeating the same thing (we have been able to judge the value of the "reproach"), is moreover of matter a fixed and dogmatic idea. Each time, then, that science discovers a new aspect of the universal movement of matter, and thus reduces the margin left for idealist "explanation", the idealist hastens to proclaim that "matter" has vanished, evaporated. , etc. What has vanished is the narrow, mechanistic, metaphysical idea he had of matter, and nothing else. We must not confuse the successive scientific notions of matter, increasingly rich and profound, which express (with a given approximation) thestate of our knowledge at a given moment, with the philosophical notion of matter which serves precisely as a solid theoretical basis for scientific research.

“Materialism,” said Engels, “is bound to take on a new aspect with each new great discovery. "

Concluding on this point, let us say with Engels that "motion is the mode of existence of matter", that the source of animation, of autodynamism is found in matter itself.

The materialist conception of nature signifies nothing other than a simple understanding of nature, as it stands, without extraneous addition. (Engels: “Unpublished fragment of the“ Feuerbach ”in Etudes philosophiques, p. 68. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1951.)

Natural necessity

New details should be provided here if we want to understand correctly the idea of ​​the autodynamism of matter. This autodynamism leads in fact to the appearance of natural beings having determined forms, and it is the occasion of a new offensive of idealism.

For example, how to explain that snow crystals (or any crystallizable body) always take a specific geometric shape? How is it that the chicken egg gives a chick and the duck egg a duckling when, obviously, the two animal forms: chick and duckling, do not yet exist in the eggs: these indeed differ only in material and not in form. We see that this question is general and arises in all the parts of the sciences called "morphologies" because they study forms: geographical forms, crystalline forms, plant and animal forms, and even grammatical forms, without forgetting the forms. forms of movements and behaviors of animals called "instincts".

To these questions, idealism offers an answer. According to him, the form of the natural object would be "realized" by matter, but would exist prior to this "realization"; it is the form which would command the development of the natural being, it would be in a way its "destiny"; nature would conform to a "plan" which preexisted. Likewise, evolution would be "oriented" in advance, it would be determined not by the actual conditions of life of organisms, but by a "goal" to be reached. Likewise, instinct would be the manifestation of a blind "intention" of animals. In short, one way or another, nature would reveal the presence in it of an "intelligence". In fact, where can the “form”, the “plan”, the “goal”, the “intention” exist?do they pre-exist the still unfinished development of matter? They can obviously only exist in a supreme intelligence which conceives them. This doctrine is that of finality; we see that finality is a consequence of idealism, which sees the world as the embodiment of an "idea".

The answer of dialectical materialism to this question is quite different (mechanistic materialism, for its part, is unable to provide an answer and leaves the field open to finality). For him the form is determined by the actual content, that is to say by the "reciprocal relations and conditioning of phenomena", by the current state of matter and the state of the contradictions which develop therein. indissoluble bond with the conditions due to the surrounding environment. The best proof is that we can intervene in the development of a given shape. Biologists have experimentally demonstrated the link between form and content. If a small portion of the material from a developing egg is transported to another point in the egg,for example, we will see a paw develop where normally there is none: we will have artificially created a monster. Now, at the time of the operation, the various parts of the egg's matter are distinguished from each other only by their chemical properties, by the nature of the substances which are gathered there. And this chemical content of the egg differentiates itself under the influence of external conditions (eg heat) and on the basis of its internal contradictions. It is therefore the biochemical nature of the substance of the eggs of the various species that ultimately determines the shape of the animal's body: it is the development of content which precedes the development of form. There is no ideal "preformation", there is no predetermined "form in itself". If ofelsewhere it was thus all the individuals of a species would be strictly identical!

For dialectical materialism, form cannot exist without content, without determined content, and conversely, content cannot exist without form, without determined form.

To say that content cannot exist without form does not at all mean that it is determined by it. Rather, it is he who determines it. This means that the form is not preexisting, immutable, but changing and that it changes as a consequence of the changes that occur in the content. It is the content that first changes due to the modification of the conditions of the surrounding environment: the form then changes in accordance with the change of the content, the development of the internal contradictions of the content. It follows that far from pre-existing to development, form reflects it, with a certain delay: form lags behind content.

... in the course of development, content precedes form, form lags behind content ... Content without form is impossible; however, this or that form, given its lag behind the content, never fully corresponds to the latter, and thus the new content is "forced" to temporarily assume the old form, which causes a conflict between them. (Stalin: “Anarchism or socialism?” In Œuvres, t. 1, p. 264-265. Social Editions.)

How is it done in each case, in each area of ​​nature and society, the new form being brought to light under the pressure of developing content which "seeks a new form and tends towards it"? (Stalin) It is obviously here again for the sciences to respond, to the sciences enlightened by dialectical materialism. What is certain is that the lag of form over content inevitably generates inconsistencies in nature; far from being "harmonious", nature is thus full of conflicts, "contradictions", imperfections.

We see that dialectical materialism fundamentally undermines the idealist theory of finality; but he also rejects the mechanistic determinism which represents the action of various phenomena on one another in the manner of a simple mechanism, of a mesh of solid bodies, with immutable forms.

marxist materialism brings to science a fruitful doctrine: the idea that the laws that it discovers, that the relations that it establishes by the dialectical method, are not arbitrary relations, but the necessary laws of matter in motion . Materialist science ignores the anguish of the "empiricists" who are content to note the succession of phenomena and can constantly ask themselves whether the sun will rise tomorrow! Materialist science starts from the idea that it is not possible, under given conditions, that the predicted phenomenon does not occur, because nature is not unfaithful to itself, nature is one.

Materialist science starts from the idea that the scientific law expresses an objective property of matter, expresses the inevitability of the appearance of a given phenomenon, during a given development, under given conditions.

Engels emphasized the inevitability of the appearance of life on any planet when the necessary conditions are met and the inevitability of the appearance of man in the process of the evolution of species, including on a another planet and another time, if the necessary conditions were met.

This then is what is meant by natural necessity, by unity of the Universe, by universality of the laws of matter.

It follows that one cannot create, destroy or abolish the laws of nature or of society. We can only discover them.

These laws, we can discover them, know them, study them, take them into account in our actions, exploit them in the interest of society, but we cannot modify or abolish them. A fortiori cannot one form or create new laws of science. (Stalin: “The economic problems of socialism in the UR SS”. Latest writings, p. 94.)

Consequently, dialectical materialism alone provides a solid theoretical basis for scientific forecasting of the phenomena of nature and of society; it fundamentally eliminates any doubt as to the result of an action undertaken on the basis of scientific knowledge of reality; it therefore assures man at the same time the maximum of certainty and the maximum of freedom by providing him the possibility of acting without fail.

marxism and religion

Everything we have seen so far allows us to measure the inconsistency of the most widespread form of objective idealism, the religious form.

We know that the Christian religion, for example, requires in order to explain the world the intervention of a creator God, an infinite and eternal spirit. We now see what this requirement is:

a) for idealism, matter is passive and inert: it must therefore receive its movement from the mind;

b) for idealism, matter has in itself no natural necessity, no unity: a mind must therefore keep constant and immutable the laws of matter;

c) for idealism, matter is not engaged in a historical process of development: the world therefore has a beginning and will have an end, so it must have been created by an eternal being.

For materialism on the contrary, the conception of matter in internal and necessary development naturally leads to the thesis of the eternity and the infinity of the Universe in incessant transformation, the affirmation that matter is indestructible and uncreated.

Diderot was already asking that the world should not be explained, under the pretext that the eternity of matter would be incomprehensible, by another eternity even more incomprehensible than the first.

Scientific discoveries since Diderot have made the position of creationism even more untenable. As early as the 18th century, the German Kant formulated his famous hypothesis on the evolution of the solar system and the French Laplace, who took it up scientifically, quietly replied to Napoleon, who complained of not seeing God in his system: “Sire! I did not need this hypothesis ”. The discoveries of the English Lyell in the field of the evolution of the Earth, of the French Lamarck and especially of Darwin in the field of the evolution of living species definitively founded the general theory of evolution and allowed to leave far in behind the old materialism which lacked this historical conception of the universe. It was the second of his limitations,of its inevitable narrowness. [The first narrowness of the old materialism was its mechanistic character. See point III above.]

Finally, the discoveries of Marx and Engels in the field of the science of societies extended this deeply historical conception to all the phenomena of social life and liquidated the third narrowness of the old materialism, which did not know how to consider human society. like a natural history process.

As Lenin wrote, the materialist conception of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus for whom

the world is one, was created by no god or man; was, is and will be an eternally living flame, which is kindled and extinguished according to determined laws

therefore constitutes a

excellent exposition of the principles of dialectical materialism. (Lenin: Philosophical Notebooks.)

The emergence of dialectical materialism has profoundly transformed the critique of religion and theology. Previously, rationalist philosophers developed their criticism of the Christian God by showing the innumerable inconsistencies which such a notion entails: how can a pure spirit generate matter? how can a being independent of time, of becoming, of change, immutable at the bottom of an immobile eternity, create the world at a given moment in time? how could an infinitely “good” being create the monsters, pests, earthquakes and evils symbolized by the three black riders of Revelation: war, famine and pests? Could God who is almighty have made 2 and 2 make 5 and the true to be the false? and, if he couldn't,was he then all-powerful? and, if he is supremely perfect, can he not punish injustice? but, if he is supremely good, can he not be lenient, and consequently unjust? etc., etc..

In short, rationalist criticism has rightly pointed out all the impossibilities contained in the notion of God, all the "contradictions" which it conceals, which the theology of the remainder recognizes and for which it invokes the divine "mystery" impenetrable to the creature and all the devilments necessary to forge the idea of ​​so-called original sin.

The idealistic rationalist philosophers therefore undertook to revise the notion of the Christian God: they proposed conceptions which, each more impossible than the other, raised new difficulties as soon as the previous ones seemed conquered. As for the pre-marxist materialists, they came up against all the difficulties mentioned above: the explanation of life and thought, the explanation of the becoming of the world, the explanation of the contradictions of nature and of social phenomena with all the evils they cause to humanity: disease, death, famine, war.

Dialectical materialism has removed these difficulties and the notion of God, already challenged by non-dialectical rationalists, has emptied of all content. The debate on the existence or non-existence of God, raised by vulgar, non-marxist atheism, has ceased to arise in these terms: God has become, as Laplace said, a mutilous hypothesis. The "problem" of the existence of God has been replaced by the problem of the existence of the idea of ​​God in the minds of men, two problems which objective idealism confuses.

It is a fact that the idea of ​​God, religious feelings, religion exist and this fact requires an explanation. Far from being a “divine” being, both natural and supernatural, mortal and immortal, living here below and in the hereafter, we must say: it is “God”, religion, which is a human phenomenon: the divine is a production of man, and not man a production of the divine.

Already Voltaire, speaking of religions, said that "if God had created man, man had given him back." The German materialist Feuerbach began to criticize the religious phenomenon from this new angle. But it was marxism which provided the decisive elements of explanation. Here are the principles:

1. The lower forms of religion, magical practices, the primitive idealistic explanation of natural and social phenomena, as well as the higher forms, involving philosophical and moral conceptions and "spiritualized" magical practices such as prayer and mystical sacrifices, express, translate, reflect, on the level of feelings and of thought, a real datum of human practice, namely its relative powerlessness, very great at the beginning of humanity: powerlessness in the face of nature, neither understood nor dominated, powerlessness linked to the weak development of production [See the example of the lightning rod in the previous lesson, 8 th lesson, point V.]; impotence in the face of social phenomena, neither understood nor dominated, linked to class oppression, to the absence of prospects,to the weakness of social conscience.

Everyone knows that religious practices are supposed to ensure success, achievement, including "in business", victory over the adversary, eternal happiness, etc. Religion therefore appears as a means for man to achieve his ends, a practice linked to the ignorance of the causes of his unhappiness and at the same time to the confused aspiration to happiness.

But if it thus reflects the data of practice, it reflects them upside down, not according to objective data, but according to subjective data: the visions of dreams, the inconsiderate desires of man in the grip of ignorance. . “God” for example becomes the supreme savior, the perfection of perfections. The "contradictions" that we have noted in the very idea of ​​"God" only express the internal contradictions of the ideas of "absolute perfection", of "absolute knowledge", of "infinite happiness", which man is. forge, fantastic and metaphysical ideas in which he transposes the contradictions of the real world and the fantastic desires that he conceives in his ignorance upside down. The idea of ​​God only sums up,to accumulate and concentrate in a single bundle all these contradictions which at the same time become metaphysical, absolute, insoluble.

Religion is thus the exact opposite of dialectical materialist science which, for its part, reflects the contradictions of reality, but right side up, faithfully, without extraneous, imaginary, fantastic additions. As Engels said:

Religion has its roots in narrow-minded and ignorant conceptions of the state of savagery. (Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 15; Philosophical Studies, p. 25.)

2. However, in order to study religion, we must take into account a second fact, because, to the very extent that, born of ignorance, it substitutes for scientific explanations for imaginary explanations, religion contributes for an immense part to mask reality, to veil the objective explanation of phenomena, and the religious man who clings to his chimera is in a way hostile in principle to science, the work of the demon. This peculiarity could not fail to be fully utilized by the exploiting classes interested in concealing their exploitation from the eyes of the masses, as we noted in the previous lesson. To perpetuate their class oppression, they need the passivity and inaction of the masses, their resignation, the belief in the inevitability of misfortune,but at the same time the hope of happiness of the masses must be diverted towards the beyond: the consoling prospect of paradise is offered to the exploited masses as the price of their earthly "sacrifices". Thus the belief in the immortality of the soul, first conceived in antiquity as an overwhelming fatality, was transformed into a hope of salvation in the hereafter.

From the earliest times, religion was therefore used as an ideological force for the "maintenance of order", as the opium of the people, according to Marx's formula, even though the enlightened ruling classes no longer believed a word of the mystifications which they perpetuated influence among the masses. Already the priests of ancient Egypt "manufactured" miracles by making the statues of the gods move, the Romans assured that "two auguries cannot look at each other without laughing" and Cicero declared that religion is good for women and slaves . The feudal reactionaries of the Ancien Régime used religion to try to slow the progress of science: they banned medical research, surgery and vaccination,they had Galileo condemned for having maintained that the Earth is not the center of the world; in the twentieth century again, in the Russia of the tsars, Michurin was denounced as sacrilege to the tsarist police: he practiced crosses of plant species!

Very hard blows were dealt to religion by French materialism of the 18th century. However, it was restored in our country by a whole series of reactionary political measures after the Revolution and throughout the 19th century, in particular after the fall of the 1st Empire, after June 48, after the Paris Commune, under the Vichy regime. The staging of so-called miracles was one of the processes of colonialism.

On the theoretical level, this political use of religion, even though its philosophical content had suffered a definitive defeat, is marvelously represented by Kant, a contemporary of the Revolution of 1789. For him, the existence of God is unprovable. However it must be "admitted", because without this idea, everything would be allowed, there would be no longer a great vigilante, a celestial policeman, guaranteed reward and punishment, the "just" was discouraged, the "wicked" would be emboldened, in short the bourgeois order would be compromised. “God” is therefore a counter-revolutionary weapon, quite simply; it is not even necessary to be theoretically certain of its existence, it suffices to admit it practically, usefully. NOT'is this not the constant practice of the bourgeoisie in religious matters? And what better proof of the complete theoretical fiasco of religious idealism?

The historic victory of socialism puts an end to the domination of the reactionary classes. Religion, as an ideological force in the service of these classes, thus loses its social basis. But it lasts for a certain time, as a survival in the consciousness of men. Thus continues, under a socialist regime, a theoretical struggle between science and religion, between ignorance and knowledge. This struggle is an aspect of the knowledge process, since knowledge progresses through struggle. [See lesson 11, point III, and lesson 5, point III, b.] This is the content of the principle of freedom of conscience in the USSR

Conclusion

An idea emerges from this lesson on the materiality of the world: dialectical materialism is only revolutionary today. If "God" or "spirit" etc. is only an empty notion, symbol of all the past ignorance of humanity, then, as the International beautifully says, "there is no supreme savior".

Man has nothing to expect but from himself and from earthly life, and it is precisely materialism that teaches him to see "the world as it is", the world upside down and no longer upside down.

Far from crushing man, materialism reveals to him that there is no destiny, no fatality, and that by scientific knowledge of reality, he can transform his condition, access a new life, know the happiness of life.

As the Greek materialist Epicurus taught, materialism liberates human consciousness oppressed for millennia by the superstitious fear of divine wrath, and, we may add, by the superstitious fear of the state, from "the established order. ", Supposedly incarnation of the wills of" Providence ". As Marx pointed out, materialism leads to socialism.

Nothing is atonement, contrary to what Pétain claimed. Nothing is fatal. Nothing is "written". Nothing is eternal, if not matter in motion. Just as the science of disease enables them to be combated by combating their causes, so the science of the causes of war enables war to be combated. The better we know the causes which, without being able to doubt it, necessarily engender wars, the better equipped we are to fight them effectively. War is therefore not fatal. Instead of generating passivity and resignation, materialism is a call to action; it makes it possible to recognize with precision what is possible, and to define the effective power of man. Such is freedom: not a sound proclamation, but a power which is exercised.

See: Control questions

Matter is prior to consciousness

New idealistic subterfuge

We noted in the previous lesson that the objective idealism of religion had been largely undermined by the development of science since the Renaissance and that in the 18th century it was succumbing to the blows of materialism.

It was then that a new form of idealism appeared, destined to replace the sinking conception of the world, a form that we find today in many philosophers. It is due to the English bishop Berkeley (1685-1753). Its purpose is to undermine the theoretical importance of scientific discoveries by trying to demonstrate that the material principle in the world does not exist. As it is hardly possible at this time to suppress the materialists by sending them to the stake as in the heyday of the Inquisition, we will suppress the matter itself, in order to ridicule them, by passing them off as naive, incapable of "philosophizing". We will decree that matter is an illusion and we will thus put an end to this philosophy which claims to relate to reality.Henceforth, we will no longer philosophize except on "consciousness" and anything that goes beyond the limits of consciousness alone will be declared non-philosophical.

Berkeley, moreover, made no secret of the extra-philosophical reasons which, according to him, militated in favor of this conception. He stated bluntly:

Matter, once banished from nature, takes with it so many skeptical [hear: atheists] and impious constructions, so many discussions and muddled questions, ... it has given men so much useless work, that even if arguments which we bring against it were recognized not very convincing ..., I would be no less convinced that the friends of the truth [read: of feudal ideology], of peace [read: of the feudal order] and religion have every reason to want these arguments to be recognized as sufficient. (Quoted by Lenin: Materialisme et empiriocriticisme, p. 17. Social Editions, Paris, 1948. (The expressions in brackets are of name GB-MC))

Elsewhere he still declared:

If these principles are accepted and regarded as true, it follows that atheism and skepticism are at the same time completely demolished, obscure questions cleared up, almost insoluble difficulties resolved, and men who delighted in paradoxes brought back to common sense. . (Berkeley: Three dialogues of Hylas and Philonoüs, preface.)

In his idealistic frenzy, Berkeley attacked all the discoveries of science, including calculus in mathematics, declaring them absurd, illogical and paradoxical.

Studying Berkeley's conception is important because it expresses well the essence of modern idealism. It is at the origin of the opinion accepted in the bourgeois university that a materialist is a crude mind and at the origin of the calculated contempt of the idealistic "philosophers" for the sciences and "scientists".

Diderot was not mistaken about the reactionary importance of the Berkeley system, which, he said,

to the shame of the human mind and of philosophy, is the most difficult to fight, although the most absurd of all. (Quoted by Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 24.)

How does Berkeley go about achieving its goal? Diderot thus defined the kind of idealism he founded:

We call idealists those philosophers who, being aware only of their existence and of the sensations which follow one another within themselves, admit nothing else. (Diderot. Quoted by Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism.)

It is therefore a question of "demonstrating" that nothing exists outside of our consciousness, our representations, our ideas. There is no “external” reality; it all comes down in the final analysis to mental representations that are ours. And if we remove consciousness, or, as we say, the "me", all reality disappears. Thus being, nature, matter cannot exist outside and independently of consciousness, of my consciousness. This is why this sort of idealism is called subjective idealism. Let's listen to Berkeley:

Matter is not what we think it is when we think it exists outside of our mind. We think that things exist because we see them, because we touch them; it is because they give us sensations that we believe in their existence.

But our sensations are just ideas that we have in our mind. So the objects that we perceive through our senses are nothing other than ideas and ideas cannot exist outside of our mind. (Berkeley: work cited.)

Immerse your hands in lukewarm water, says Berkeley, and assume one is hot and the other is cold. Won't the water appear cold to the hot hand and hot to the cold hand? Should we therefore say that the water is both hot and cold? Isn't that absurdity itself? Conclude therefore with me that water in itself does not exist materially, independently of us; it is only a name that we give to our sensations; water exists only in us, in our mind. In short, matter is the idea we have of it; matter is an idea!

We see the sleight of hand, the fallacy, by which Berkeley achieves his objective. From what my feelings are contradictory, relative, he concludes that matter does not exist. He forgets to indicate that, precisely because my feelings are contradictory, I will conclude that the water is lukewarm. From the fact that the moon seems sometimes to be crescent, sometimes round, it does not follow that it does not exist outside us, but that it exists under conditions such that I see it in a different way depending on the moment. . If someone tells me that they see a red tissue yellow, I will not conclude that this tissue only exists in our respective consciousnesses, but that this person has something like jaundice. That a stick seems broken to me if it is immersed in water,I do not conclude that this phenomenon exists only in my consciousness, but on the contrary that the refraction of light rays by water is an objective phenomenon independent of me.

We also see on what Berkeley bases his fallacy: quite simply on the metaphysical way of reasoning, which excludes contradiction in phenomena and the reciprocal action of phenomena on one another. In his opinion, the contradiction can only exist in the mind and not in objective reality. Therefore, it seems to him, if my feelings are contradictory, it is because the thing they represent exists only in my mind, is only an illusion, an imagination like the siren made up of a woman's body and a fish tail.

One question remains: if matter does not exist, where can these sensations come from which arise "in us" at any time? The answer is ready: it is God himself who sends them to us. The bishop becomes bishop again after his foray into "the psychology of sensations" and Berkeley's subjective idealism embraces the drowning old objective idealism; by saving the "inner" God, Berkeley hopes to save the traditional God, the creator, and all theology as well.

This explains the well-known formulas of Berkeley: "To be is to be perceived or to perceive". But as I know the existence of other men only through the sensations by which my "mind" represents them to me, it must logically follow that men too are only ideas of my mind. Consequently, only my conscience exists in the world! Berkeley denies this absurd conclusion which we call "solipsism" (thesis of the existence of the "only myself"), but what means of dismissing it, if he wants to be logical to the end? with himself? We must never fail to point out that, unlike dialectical materialism, idealism can never be consequent, for it always recoils from the absurd conclusion that is solipsism.

After Berkeley, subjective idealism tried to "perfect" itself on many points of detail, to find a new vocabulary, more and more obscure, in order to rejuvenate itself and to raise higher the credit of the idealist philosopher! But it's always a mill grinding the same grain.

Most modern (idealistic philosophers) have produced none, literally no arguments against the materialists that cannot be found in Bishop Berkeley. (Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 26.)

The academic vogue for "philosophies of the mind," of "consciousness," which never take matter with a grain of salt and make it a substitute for the mind, expresses the persistence of subjective idealism à la Berkeley . It is the favorite philosophy of the reactionary bourgeoisie which was all the rage in schools, after the Paris Commune in particular, and which reflects the fear of the bourgeoisie in the face of the progress of materialism within the proletariat. The bourgeois philosophers, responding to the wishes expressed by Thiers in 1848, tried by all means to rehabilitate religion.

Thus, for a Lachelier, the universe is "a thought which cannot be thought of, suspended from a thought which is thought". For Boutroux, "God is this very being whose creative action we feel in the depths of ourselves in the midst of our efforts to draw us closer to him". For a Hamelin, reality is the result of a "construction" operated by our mind. For a Duhem, scientific notions are only "symbols" created by the human mind. For one Brunschvicg, "the mind can only respond for the mind" and the progress of science is attributed to the progress of "consciousness" in the West. And we are not talking about the lesser lords. At the same time "philosophy" is surrounded by a ritual, a mystery; the word "philosophy" is no longer used except as a synonym ofofficial idealism. It is suggested that the correct use of the word is not within the reach of everyone; you have to know how to say the idealistic mass. We are increasing the number of books entitled "Initiation to philosophy", in order to be able to respond to those whom idealistic arguments have not convinced that they "are not philosophers".

The triumph of this philosophical reaction is the philosophy of Bergson, leader of the bourgeois ideologues from 1900 to 1914 and beyond, which we have already had the opportunity to discuss in the previous lesson. Taking up Berkeley's thesis without saying it, Bergson affirms, at the beginning of his book: Matter and Memory, that the world is made of images, which exist only in our consciousness; the brain itself is only one of these images: consequently, far from consciousness not existing without the brain, it is on the contrary the brain which would not exist without "consciousness"! This is an "independent reality", the brain a mechanism at the service of pre-existing thought. It follows that if the brain is affected, the memory subsists ... outside it, in the “unconscious”!As in the oldest religions, there is a pure mind without organic support. Politzer, in the last chapter of his pamphlet: The End of a Philosophical Parade: Bergsonism, showed the very material historical significance of this philosophy of mind. In 1914, Bergson and his pure spirit put themselves at the service of the French imperialists. Following in the footsteps of the most chauvinistic theses, he presents the German people as emptied matter. The spirit has taken refuge in the folds of the usurped flags of French imperialism! The same "philosopher" is panicked by the incurable wounds of dying capitalism and blames ... machinery! He writes:The End of a Philosophical Parade: Bergsonism, has shown the very material historical significance of this philosophy of mind. In 1914, Bergson and his pure spirit put themselves at the service of the French imperialists. Following in the footsteps of the most chauvinistic theses, he presents the German people as emptied matter. The spirit has taken refuge in the folds of the usurped flags of French imperialism! The same "philosopher" is panicked by the incurable wounds of dying capitalism and blames ... machinery! He writes:The End of a Philosophical Parade: Bergsonism, has shown the very material historical significance of this philosophy of mind. In 1914, Bergson and his pure spirit put themselves at the service of the French imperialists. Following in the footsteps of the most chauvinistic theses, he presents the German people as emptied matter. The spirit has taken refuge in the folds of the usurped flags of French imperialism! The same "philosopher" is panicked by the incurable wounds of dying capitalism and blames ... machinery! He writes:Following in the footsteps of the most chauvinistic theses, he presents the German people as emptied matter. The spirit has taken refuge in the folds of the usurped flags of French imperialism! The same "philosopher" is panicked by the incurable wounds of dying capitalism and blames ... machinery! He writes:Following in the footsteps of the most chauvinistic theses, he presents the German people as emptied matter. The spirit has taken refuge in the folds of the usurped flags of French imperialism! The same "philosopher" is panicked by the incurable wounds of dying capitalism and blames ... machinery! He writes:

The material development of civilization, when it claims to be self-sufficient, all the more so when it puts itself at the service of base feelings and unhealthy ambitions, can lead to the most abominable of barbarities.

Here again we recognize the old calumny against materialism. Bergson thus plays his role as a seasoned reactionary ideologist to distract people from the real questions and bring science into disrepute.

At the same time in Germany, the idealist Husserl affirms that consciousness exists before its content, and consequently recommends, as a "philosophical method", to put the world and its objective contradictions "in parentheses". Instead of seeking the origin of consciousness in reality, he claims to seek the origin of reality in consciousness, a desperate attempt which reflects the anguish of the bourgeoisie in the face of its inability to submit to its will the impetuous development of the sciences. which constantly poses new and insoluble dialectical problems to idealism. For Husserl, the answer to the philosophical problems posed by the sciences must at all costs be independent of the existence or non-existence of matter.

Finally, the last version of idealism, the existentialism of the German Heidegger and his French disciples (among others, Jean-Paul Sartre): the "existence" in question here is nothing other than "consciousness. of my existence ”. This consciousness is the only reality. Being and scientific knowledge, objective data and the notions that reflect them are discredited. Rational ideas must give way to "existence". Of course, this "existence" is limited by a "situation", man is "in a situation". But this does not determine his conscience; on the contrary, it is his conscience which determines his situation. Because any situation ultimately boils down to the awareness we have of it, and at any moment we can have the awareness we want,we can "choose". From which we can conclude that ultimately the prisoner in his cell is freer than the swallow in spring as soon as he does not "experience" his deprivation of liberty "existentially"! Thus consciousness makes fun of being, of objective data; it is - supposedly - independent of it. Matter no longer exists as soon as I manage to no longer feel that it exists; and if the proletarian does not "choose" himself proletarian, he is not proletarian!it is - supposedly - independent of it. Matter no longer exists as soon as I manage to no longer feel that it exists; and if the proletarian does not "choose" himself proletarian, he is not proletarian!it is - supposedly - independent of it. Matter no longer exists as soon as I manage to no longer feel that it exists; and if the proletarian does not "choose" himself proletarian, he is not proletarian!

Atheists or not, such "philosophies" bring water to the mill of obscurantism since they deny that science is necessary to unravel social problems. The question is no longer: capitalism or socialism, but only whether the proletariat will "choose" itself revolutionary or not. The Church therefore only fights these philosophies softly or not at all; it allows a Christian Bergsonism and a Christian existentialism to live; it even uses them to give itself an “advanced” guarantee, to divert Christian intellectuals from philosophical reflection on the unbearable contradictions of religious dogma, on the sciences and on materialism. As for social democracy, it uses subjective idealism to falsify marxism.

The marxist conception

Unlike idealism asserting that only our consciousness really exists, that the material world, being, nature, only exists in our consciousness, in our sensations, representations, concepts, marxist philosophical materialism starts from this principle that matter, nature, being is an objective reality existing outside and independently of consciousness; that matter is a primary datum, because it is the source of sensations, representations, of consciousness, while consciousness is a secondary datum, derived, because it is the reflection of matter, the reflection of being; that thought is a product of matter when the latter has reached a high degree of perfection in its development; more precisely, thought is the product of the brain, and the brain the organ of thought;one cannot, consequently, separate thought from matter under penalty of falling into a gross error. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, pp. 10-11.)

Stalin thus enunciates two fundamental theses of the marxist theory of knowledge: being is an objective reality, consciousness is its subjective reflection. He then indicates that materialism concretely poses the problem of the origin of thought during the development of living beings, the problem of the relationship between thought and the brain. It goes without saying that the scientific study of this question can only lead to new precisions in the field of the theory of knowledge. So let's take a look at these various points.

Objectivity of being

We noted in the previous lesson that it is not permissible to confuse the conceptions that science has of matter, which evolve, deepen and enrich themselves by becoming more and more dialectical, because the properties of matter are inexhaustible [This idea will be clarified in the next lesson.], and the philosophical notion (or concept) of matter which is at the very basis of all scientific work, of all knowledge and which cannot grow old. [On this subject one can read: Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 236-238-239-240 and 110-111.] The time has come to clarify this philosophical concept of matter:

Matter is a philosophical category used to designate the objective reality given to man in his sensations, which copy it, photograph it, reflect it without its existence being subordinate to them. (Idem, p. 110.)

And Lenin elsewhere further specifies:

Objective reality exists independently of the human consciousness which reflects it. (Idem, p. 238.)

So far from reducing reality to what we perceive of it, as Berkeley did, it is a question of explaining what we perceive of reality by reality itself.

Idealism then appears as the attitude of a man who believes himself to be alone, for whom nothing would exist independently of him, who would explain everything by his states of mind, naively. The world would be his world. Naivety coupled with an incredible sufficiency, as if there was no need to go outside to find out! It is the attitude of the one who has an answer to everything as if his "judgment" were the law and the prophets, of the one who takes his conscience to be the measure of all reality and who sets mankind once and for all a limit. which is in fact that of his own consciousness.

The development of science over several centuries has precisely brought to light previously unsuspected aspects of reality. To assert that the world does not need our conscience and the authorization of idealists to exist, it is necessarily the constant point of view of the sciences, which in this profess a spontaneous materialism and admit an objective reality external to the conscience . If science is constantly discovering new properties of matter, it is obviously because the latter does not exist in us but outside of us.

No one doubts that microbes existed before they were even discovered, since there were diseases then considered incurable, which their discovery made it possible to cure.

No one doubts that there was a time when all the conditions required for a living being to exist were not met on earth.

To this the idealists oppose the following "objection": "but what does" exist independently of all consciousness "mean, since it is your consciousness which represents the existence of the world without man, before man? - what does the existence of America mean before its sight caught the eye of Christopher Columbus, since it is "your conscience" that imagines this previous existence? The desert island does not exist without you since it is you who represent it ”, etc.

Lenin replied long ago that the whole theory of knowledge consists precisely in knowing how to distinguish the real existence of man present in the world, under certain conditions of time and place, and the imaginary presence of thought, of consciousness. mentally associated with the representation of the world actually existing before man or in the absence of man. Not knowing how to distinguish that is properly not to be a philosopher.

No one doubts that the material life of society exists independently of the conscience of men, for no one, neither the capitalist nor the proletarian wants the economic crisis which nevertheless inevitably occurs.

The law of value according to which the quantity of labor included in a commodity is expressed by means of value and its forms, operates from the beginnings of commodity production, although the economist Ricardo only discovered it in the nineteenth century.

The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the nobility has been a reality since the beginnings of the bourgeoisie; yet it was not until the 19th century that bourgeois historians, Guizot, Mignet, Thiers, discovered this truth and consciously expressed it.

What then to think of idealistic assertions like the following:

Everything that is not thought out is pure nothingness ... It is not nature which imposes on us the conceptions of space and time, but it is we who impose them on nature. (H. Poincaré: The value of science.)

if not that only the virginal ignorance of bourgeois ideologists with regard to dialectical materialism allows them to support such theses. Without doubt, it may seem to those who do not have the marxist philosophical method, that nature, being, matter reflects the thought of man, who imposes his demands on him. For example, once a dam is built, nature will reflect the plan devised by engineers, and the tamed torrent will submit to human will. Does this mean, however, that the laws of nature will have been violated, transformed, abolished, that they do not exist independently of human consciousness, and that without it they would vanish?

On the contrary, all these measures are taken on the exact basis of the laws of nature, the laws of science, because any violation of the laws of nature, the slightest violation of these laws would lead to disorganization, the failure of these measures . (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 95.)

Consequently, when we speak of "subjugating" the forces of nature or the economic forces, of "dominating" them, etc., by this we do not mean by any means that we can "abolish" the laws of science or the laws of science. "Train". On the contrary, we only mean by that that we can discover laws, know them, assimilate them, learn to apply them in full knowledge of the facts, to exploit them in the interest of society, and to conquer them by this means, subject them to its domination. (Idem, pp. 99-100.)

This allows us to measure the full scope of the fundamental marxist thesis, expounded by Stalin in his last work, on the laws of science:

marxism conceives of the laws of science - whether they are the laws of nature or the laws of political economy - as the reflection of objective processes that operate independently of human will. (Idem, p. 94.)

Consciousness, reflection of the being

What does the idea that consciousness is the reflection of being, of reality, natural and social mean?

This means first of all that it is the end of dualism; thought is inseparable from matter in motion. Consciousness does not exist outside and independently of matter.

The material world, perceptible by the senses, to which we ourselves belong, is the only reality. (Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 18; Philosophical Studies, p. 28.)

But this does not mean at all that thought is material, as are the substances that our organs secrete. To believe this is to take a false step towards the confusion of materialism and idealism, to establish an identity between matter and thought, between matter and consciousness. It is to fall into vulgar materialism.

The idea that consciousness is a form of being does not at all mean that consciousness, by its nature, is also matter ... According to Marx's materialism, consciousness and being, idea and matter are two different forms of one and the same phenomenon, which bears the general name of nature or society. So one is not the negation of the other [Here Stalin points out that this in no way contradicts the thesis of the conflict between form and content (see the previous lesson), because the conflict is not between form and content in general, but between old form and new content.]; on the other hand, they do not constitute one and the same phenomenon. (Stalin: “Anarchism or socialism?” Works, Volume I, p. 265.) Nor does the marxist thesis mean that consciousness is passive, has no role, that marxists “deny the role of consciousness”, etc. To believe it is to confuse marxism with the false conception of "epiphenomenism" is to follow the falsifiers of marxism. If consciousness exercised no action, why would Marx have written so many books, founded the First International, used all means to disseminate his ideas?founded the First International, employed all means to disseminate its ideas?founded the First International, employed all means to disseminate its ideas?

The marxist thesis means that the content of our consciousness has no other source than the objective peculiarities presented by the external conditions in which we live, and which are given to us in sensations:

Our representations, our “me” only exist insofar as there are external conditions, generating impressions of our “me” ... The object located outside of us is prior to the image we have of it. ; here also our representation, the form, lags behind the object, its content. If I look and see a tree, it just means that long before the representation of the tree arose in my head, there was the tree itself, which gave rise to a corresponding representation in me ... (Idem , p. 266.)

Consciousness is the reflection of the movement of matter in the human brain.

Finally, the marxist thesis means that consciousness, both from the point of view of the history of nature and of society, and from the point of view of the history of the individual, of each person's personality, is a product of historical development:

In the development of nature and of society, consciousness, that is, what is accomplished in our brain, is preceded by a corresponding material change, that is, by what is outside of us a material change which, sooner or later, will inevitably be followed by a corresponding ideal change. (Idem, pp. 265-266.)

The development of the ideal side, of consciousness, is preceded by that of the material side, of the external conditions: first change the external conditions, the material side, and then change, accordingly, the consciousness, the ideal side. (Idem, p. 262.)

This fact, which anyone can verify, constitutes the experimental proof of materialism, of the dependence of consciousness on being. At the same time, it shows that consciousness cannot be from the outset an exact reflection of reality, like the reflection in a mirror, but constitutes a living, mobile, changing reflection, in constant progress.

Of course, when we think, it does not appear to us first. It seems that the thought holds superbly on its own. We can imagine, as Descartes admitted, that it is enough to think in order to exist, and that this thought does not need the body to be exercised. And idealistic philosophers are so happy to think, that they are ready to believe that all that exists exists by virtue of their sovereign and "free" thought. Ignoring the natural and social roots of thought, they believe that everything starts from her and before her fall in adoration:

The whole universe totters and trembles on my rod. (Paul Valéry.)

Dreadful and pleasant temptation: to believe that ideas hold by themselves, develop by themselves, that consciousness is a way of all-powerful inner God. Illusion already mocked by the great materialist Diderot; he compares the process of formation of idealism to the illusions of a piano which, endowed with sensitivity, would believe itself alone in the world and would think that "all the harmony of the universe" takes place in it. [Diderot: Interview with d'Alembert; in Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 24-25-26.]

Thought and the brain

Materialism has always fought this illusion. Diderot already formulated the hypothesis that matter can think. Marx wrote:

We cannot separate thought from thinking matter. This matter is the substratum of all the changes that are taking place. (Cited by Engels in: Utopian Socialism and Scientific Socialism, p. 17. Editions Sociales. Paris, 1948.)

Engels for his part indicates:

Our consciousness and our thought, however transcendent they appear to us, are only the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. (Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 18; Philosophical Studies, p. 28.)

And Lenin:

The world picture is a picture that shows how matter moves and how "matter thinks". (Lenin: Complete Works, vol. XIII, p. 310. (Russian edition).)

and he observed that to say that thought is not movement, but "thought" is about as scientific as to advance: "heat is not movement, it is heat".

The natural sciences show that the insufficiency of brain development in an individual constitutes a major obstacle to the development of consciousness, of thought: this is the case with idiots. Thought is a historical product of the development of nature to a high degree of perfection, which is represented in living species by the sense organs, the nervous system, and in particular its upper, central segment, which controls the entire organism: the brain. The brain reflects both the conditions in the body and the external conditions.

What is the starting point of consciousness, of thought? It is sensation, and the source of sensations is in the matter which man works under the pressure of his natural needs. It is the work, the practice, the production, which gives rise to the first movements of thought at the origins of the human species. Work is not the fruit of the curse: "You will earn your bread by the sweat of your brow". Work is the substantial union of man and nature, the struggle of man against nature in order to be able to live, the source of all thought.

The main flaw of all past materialism ... is that the object, the reality, the sensible world are ... not considered there as a concrete human activity, as a practice. (K Marx: Ludwig Feuerbach, “Theses on Feuerbach”, p. 51; Philosophical Studies, p.57.)

Engels has shown in a famous text how the work, by multiplying the sensations of the man barely emerging from animality, had developed his hand, and consequently his brain, which allowed him to make further practical progress. Thus, the hand, the organ of work, is also the product of work. [See Engels: “On the role of work in the transformation of the monkey into man”, Dialectic of nature, p. 168-179.]

The sciences teach on the other hand that, if an individual is cut off from all social life, his thought is profoundly altered, atrophied; his memory is crumbling; his will weakens and becomes null. If he has never known a social life, his human character disappears. We have seen children abandoned in the forests and taken in by wolves take on the habits of wolves.

And Engels remarks that all human work is and has been from the beginning a work in society, without which man could not even have survived natural dangers.

This remark is of the utmost importance for understanding the origins of thought, of reflection. The work constantly highlights new aspects of reality, it poses new problems. It reveals new objective connections that sensations are not sufficient to reflect.

Now, work requires joint effort, joint action, so that all the energies of a group of men apply at the same point and at the same moment - for example, moving a rock. To get men to act together, you need a signal, an order. But as soon as the action becomes more complicated, neither the cry nor the gesture is enough: it is necessary to be able to explain the work to be done, that is to say that it is necessary, beyond the sensations, new signals, qualitatively new, which express the connections between sensations: words. Work thus requires communication, between men, of the complex impressions that it arouses in them. It is therefore the work that created the need for communication. Thus was born language, which is communication before being expression. [Animals,who do not work, who do not transform reality and consequently their sensations, have no need of language. Sensory signals are sufficient for their behavior.]

At the same time, the human brain is refined and enriched with new connections. The brain is therefore also a social product. Finally, the appearance of language signifies the appearance of thought proper, of reflection. A decisive step has been taken. Without work, social activity, no language and no thought.

It is said that thoughts come to the mind of man before being expressed in speech, that they are born without the material of the tongue, without the envelope of the tongue, naked so to speak. But it is absolutely wrong. Whatever thoughts come to the mind of man, they can arise and exist only on the basis of the material of language, only on the basis of terms and sentences, of language. There are no bare thoughts, freed from the materials of language, freed from the "natural matter" that is language. “Language is the immediate reality of thought”. (Marx.) The reality of thought manifests itself in language. Only idealists can speak of a thought detached from "natural matter", language, of a thought without language. (Stalin:“On marxism in Linguistics”, Latest Writings, p. 45-46.)

These theses of dialectical materialism received, as Lenin had foreseen and demanded, a striking confirmation of the natural sciences, with the physiological work of the great scientist Pavlov.

Pavlov discovered that the fundamental processes of brain activity are conditioned reflexes, triggered by sensations, both external and internal, that occur under specific conditions. He showed that these sensations serve as signals for all the activity of the living organism.

Second, he discovered that words, with their content, their meaning, can replace the sensations provided by the objects they designate and in turn trigger conditioned reflexes, responses, either organic or verbal. They thus form signal signals, a second signaling system, which is constituted on the basis of the first and which is specific to man. Language is thus the condition of man's higher activity, of his social activity, the support of abstract thought which goes beyond the sensation currently present, the support of reflection. It is he who allows man to reflect reality with the maximum precision.

Thus Pavlov showed at the same time that what mainly determines the consciousness of man, it is not his organism, the biological conditions, as vulgar materialists and psychoanalysts believe, but on the contrary it is the society where he lives, and the knowledge he has of it. In man, the biological is subordinate to the social. Social conditions of life are the real regulator of organic and mental life. [See "Introduction to the work of Pavlov", Scientific questions, n ° 4. Edit. of the New Critique. Lectures given during the philosophy course of the New University.] Thought is by nature a social phenomenon.

It is thus quite true that the brain is the organ of thought, but it is only its organ, and this in no way contradicts the central assertion of marxism:

It is not the conscience of men which determines their existence, it is on the contrary their social existence which determines their conscience. (Marx: “Contribution to the critique of political economy”, in Marx-Engels: Etudes philosophiques, p. 79.)

Two degrees of knowledge

Pavlov's physiological works and discoveries allow us to further specify the way in which the reflection of reality, the reflection of being, that is to say knowledge, is formed in consciousness.

Let's take a simple example: how do you teach a child the meaning of common words? in the first place it is necessary to show him several times in a row the thing which the word designates; secondly and at the same time, you have to tell him the name and make him pronounce it as often as necessary until he correctly and "spontaneously" associates the word with the thing and knows how to use it. the word in the absence of the thing, that is to say in the abstract.

Thus the meaning of the word, as soon as it: is assimilated, represents the idea of ​​the thing, and this idea or concept is formed on the basis of repeated sensations and on the basis of the language which signals them. There are therefore two degrees of knowledge: immediate sensation, and the abstract idea (or concept). Besides, it is easy to see that the isolated sensation is a less perfect knowledge than the idea; in fact, as long as the child has seen only white swans, he will believe that the swan is a white bird, which is partially false; on the contrary, the zoologist who knows the swan by its scientific definition will have a more precise, more exact, more "adequate" idea. We can therefore see that it is the abstract idea which most accurately reflects reality, but it is quite certain that this scientific idea of ​​the swan does notwas able to form only on the basis of a systematic inventory of species and varieties that exist in nature, on the basis of sensations.

When it is a question of things in themselves "abstract", for example the notions of kinship, the child can acquire them again only by means of the social practice often enough repeated.

Let us take a more complex example: the small trader has excessively heavy tax forms, the textile worker is threatened with unemployment, the small civil servant earns 20,000 francs a month. Suppose the first read L'Aurore, the second Franc-Tireur, and the third Le Figaro. Each one finds in his newspaper an echo of his misery; the bourgeois editor moans over the sad fate of the little people. These newspapers therefore reflect the situation in part, in its sensitive aspects. But they stay there, they are careful not to explain it, they blame anything, the waste of the Administration, the number of small businesses or the peasants. On the contrary, the reader of L'Humanité, the reader of a report by Maurice Thorez, will find the explanation which gives the key to all aspects of the situation, theanalysis of the crisis of capitalism and its contradictions, the notion, abstract, but which deeply reflects reality, of the fundamental law of current capitalism, the search for maximum profit.

Thus in all fields, knowledge goes from the sensible to the rational. For Berkeley seeing the sun flat and red was "proof" that it only existed in our consciousness; for marxism it is simply the proof that sensitive knowledge is insufficient because, if it gives us contact with reality, it does not make us understand what reality is. Dialectics have taught us that in order to understand a phenomenon, it is necessary to relate it to others, to know its origin, to grasp its internal contradictions. Science, knowledge by ideas, will not only let us know what the sun really is, but also why we see it flat and red. Science gives us the essence of phenomena.

Logical knowledge differs from sensible knowledge ... in that sensible knowledge embraces particular aspects of the phenomenon, the external connection of things, while logical knowledge, taking an immense step forward, embraces what things have of common, embraces the totality and the essence of things and their internal connection, leads to the discovery of the internal contradictions of the world around us, and can thus assimilate its development in its totality and with all the multiplicity of its internal connections. (Mao Tsétoung: “About practice”, Cahiers du communisme, February 1951, p. 243.)

The passage from the first degree of knowledge, the degree of sensations, impressions, emotions, to the second degree, that of concepts, constitutes a remarkable example of dialectic, since it is the quantitative accumulation of sensations that qualitatively produces this phenomenon. new: the concept.

What is called the emotional degree of knowledge, that is to say the degree of sensations and impressions, ... such is the first degree of knowledge.

The continuation of social practice involves in the practice of men the multiple repetition of things [This repetition is not fortuitous, it results from natural necessity. See previous lesson, point IV.] Which they perceive through their senses and which produce an effect on them; consequently there takes place in the human brain a leap in the process of knowledge: the concept arises. By its very nature, the concept represents the assimilation of the nature of things, of what they have in common, of their internal connection.

There is a difference between the concept and the sensation, not only in quantity, but in quality. (Idem, p. 242.)

So, to use Lenin's formula:

Concepts are the highest products of the brain, which is itself the highest product of matter. (Lenin: Philosophical Notebooks.)

And if there are contradictions in the ideas of men, it is because there are contradictions in the reality that our thinking reflects:

The dialectic of things produces the dialectic of ideas and not vice versa. (Lenin: Philosophical Notebooks.)

Marx had already said:

The movement of thought is only the reflection of the real movement, transported and transposed in the human brain. (Marx: Afterword to the 2nd German edict, in Le Capital. LI, t. I, p. 29. Editions Sociales.)

Conclusion

We realize the immense practical importance of the marxist thesis on the anteriority of matter in relation to consciousness.

First, if it is the conditions which change first, and then consequently the consciousness of men, we must seek the underlying reason for this or that doctrine, theory or ideal, not in the brain of men, nor in their imagination or their genius of invention, but in the development of material conditions. Only the ideal which is based on a study of these conditions is good and acceptable.

Second, if men's consciousness, feelings, mores and customs, are determined by external conditions, it is evident that only a change in these conditions can change men's consciousness. There is no such thing as an eternal man, of "eternal human nature". In a private property regime where the individual struggle for existence flourishes, it is "natural" that man should be a wolf for man. In a system where socialist emulation flourishes, socialist property, it is inevitable that the ideas of brotherhood among men will triumph. Man is neither good nor bad: he is what circumstances make him. Marxism provides a decisive answer to the question posed by bourgeois ideologues:must it be said that it is "bad institutions" that make man bad, or that man's wickedness perverts "institutions"? It is not a question of "institutions", but of capitalism which perverts man. The idea of ​​revolution through "moral renewal" is a lie.

In reality a new man can be formed, with a new socialist conscience, in new, socialist conditions of life. What is needed for this? To hasten the advent of these new conditions by transforming action on social reality, on the inhuman capitalist system. As Marx said, "if man is formed by circumstances, circumstances must be formed humanly". [K. Marx: “Contribution to the history of French materialism”, in Etudes philosophiques, p. 116.]

Thus appears in all its clarity the connection between materialism and socialism, already glimpsed by certain French philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. Right-wing social democratic leaders who do not want socialism are therefore led to do all they can to falsify marxism by rejecting materialism, by sheltering behind the most retrograde idealism, as we will see in other lessons. Materialism, on the contrary, opens to the proletariat and to humanity the path to its material and cultural emancipation, the revolutionary path.

See: Control questions

The world is knowable

The ultimate refuge of idealism

We saw in the previous lesson that the appearance of the subjective idealism of Berkeley in the eighteenth century is explained by the need to save by a roundabout route the objective idealism of religion, which succumbed to the blows of the natural sciences. and materialism. But Berkeley's philosophy had the serious fault of being unable to account for the progress of the sciences which were contemporary to it, and to cite only this example, of mathematics. She pretended to ignore them, declared them absurd. And we have seen that idealistic philosophers of the Berkeley line tend to stay away from scientific questions. But that cannot be enough. From the eighteenth century the development of science was such, especially after theelaboration of the general mechanical theory of the universe by Newton, that Berkeley's position became untenable. Idealism had to find a fallback position: it is a question of at least reserving for religion the possibility of surviving itself, of giving it the benefit of the doubt. "Materialism claims that matter is raw, we don't know anything about it," the new philosophy will claim.

So this philosophy tries to present itself as a "third way", between idealism and materialism; it refuses to take sides on the fundamental problem of philosophy by deciding that it is not possible to take sides; it flatters itself in adopting a “critical” and not a “dogmatic” position.

Objective idealism subordinated matter to a universal Spirit, subjective idealism dissolved matter in our consciousness. But one is ruined by the natural sciences, the other is ruined by physiology and the social sciences. Comes our new philosophy which says: "But where do you know that science makes us know reality as it is? Certainly the sciences exist; but, to know if the objective reality is in its principle matter or spirit, it would first be necessary to know if our spirit can know the objective reality in itself ”. So this "third philosophy" does not subordinate matter to spirit, does not dissolve matter in consciousness, but initially reasons as if one were foreign to the other,as if matter were impenetrable to the mind, to our knowledge, and as if our knowledge was also incapable of unraveling the nature and possibilities of our mind.

Generally speaking, this tendency, which claims that it is impossible to answer the fundamental question of philosophy because we are and always will be incapable of knowing the first principles of things, is called agnosticism (from two Greek words meaning " unable to know ”).

The precursor of this philosophy is in the 18th century the Scotsman David Hume. Its main representative is the German Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), a contemporary of the French Revolution, of whom we have already spoken. [See the 9 th lesson: marxism and religion, point V.] In France, in the 19th century Auguste Comte (1798-1857) supported a similar position, and a series of authors in whom agnosticism took root. mixture with other forms of idealism (indeed, among these authors, one never finds the philosophical tendencies in their pure state as among the founders of doctrines, but of unstable proportions). Furthermore, Kant's philosophy played a role in the labor movement because enemies of marxism relied on it to attempt a "revision" of marxism.

So let's look at the “arguments” of agnosticism. Hume writes:

It can be taken for granted that men are inclined by their natural instinct ... to trust their senses, and that without any reasoning, we always assume the existence of an external universe, which does not depend on our perception. and which would exist even if we were annihilated with all sentient beings.

We see it: so far Hume recognizes that materialism corresponds to common sense,

But this primordial and universal opinion is promptly shaken by the most superficial philosophy which teaches us that nothing other than the image or the perception will never be accessible to our mind ... The table which we see seems smaller when we we move away from it, but the real table that exists independently of us does not change; therefore our mind has perceived nothing other than the image of the table. (Quoted by Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 22.)

So here we are faced with an argument in the purest Berkeley style: let us remember the example of the "flat and red" sun (previous lesson). With one difference, however: Berkeley denied the independent existence of matter; Hume does not deny it: he admits the existence of a "real table" which exists independently of us and does not change while our sensations change, but this table we will never know how it is, since we do not know of any it than the relative images that our senses give us. The table itself is unknowable.

So Hume distinguishes in reality two levels: on the one hand the table as we see it, the table for us, which is in our consciousness in the form of an image, which is subjective, and which is only appearance. ; on the other hand, the "real" table, the table in itself, which is outside our consciousness, which is objective and constitutes reality, but which is unknowable. Conclusion: we never know anything but the appearances of things, we always ignore their being and therefore we cannot decide between idealism and materialism. The idealist and the materialist who are perpetually discussing what things are in themselves, matter or spirit, are like two men walking in the snow with their noses on one in blue glasses, theanother with rose-colored glasses and who would discuss what color the snow is. The materialist sees the importance of the material side of things, the idealist the importance of the ideal side; very clever who will say what things are in themselves, because everyone is "a prisoner from his point of view." We can see the importance of this philosophy for people who claim to “remain neutral” and maintain themselves “in a scientific reserve”.importance of this philosophy for people who claim to “remain neutral” and maintain themselves “in a scientific reserve”.importance of this philosophy for people who claim to “remain neutral” and maintain themselves “in a scientific reserve”.

It is precisely with regard to science that Kant, relying on Hume's reasoning, will intervene. Kant has the reputation of a very difficult philosopher. [Our criticism of Kantian philosophy in no way calls into question the contribution of his scholarly work: hypothesis of the nebula, which the French Laplace was to take up and develop.] In fact, Kantian ideology is found everywhere. It is the idea that there is a "secret" of things and that this secret escapes us, it is the false neutralism imposed on the bourgeois school as if it were possible to keep the balance equal between the truth and error, science and ignorance is the idea that it is not good to be too affirmative, that there is truth everywhere, that "everyone has their point of view" , etc. VS'is therefore the very type of ideology capable of disorienting the masses.

Kant, therefore, starts from the distinction between the unknowable thing-in-itself and the thing-for-us, the appearance, which results from the shock produced on our sense organs by the thing-in-itself. We are not in things, we will never be there. On the other hand, appearances are multiple, chaotic, contradictory. The task of science will therefore consist in putting it in order, in forming a coherent picture that satisfies our need for logic. How is it going to be done? It is the human mind which, then specifies Kant, interprets the data of the senses according to its own requirements. Science is nothing other than the result of this interpretation. So the laws of science, the relations between phenomena, are only the product of the human mind.Far from reflecting the real laws of matter in motion, they reflect the "laws", the demands of the human mind. Far from representing objective truth, they represent only a subjective truth. Of course, they do not depend on Peter or Paul, but the fact remains that for Kant they relate to the human mind; (as if there could be a divine spirit that sees the world differently).

What is the consequence of this theory? Science remains on the surface of things. In fact, an absolute, impenetrable, eternal mystery is the real background against which the illusory progress of science takes place. Consequently, no absolute truth should be attributed to science. It is only a question of interpretation. Kantianism leads straight to skepticism and inaction, including in the field of theoretical scientific research. Agnostics are thus led to make no difference between the errors of yesterday's science and the truths of today's science. "Truth today, mistake tomorrow," they say, concluding that if science has been wrong once, we cannot know when it is right. They confuse themethodical critical mind of the scientist in his laboratory with the mind of universal skeptical doubt. For them knowledge raises a barrier between the world and us. Hence the interminable considerations, made fashionable in the bourgeois university, on the value of science, the bankruptcy of science, etc. If science is only about appearances, it is ultimately only an appearance of science, an appearance of knowledge.is ultimately only an appearance of science, an appearance of knowledge.is ultimately only an appearance of science, an appearance of knowledge.

Agnosticism, as we have said, has taken on similar forms which must be recognized. Auguste Comte's positivism affirms that science must confine itself to noting the relations between facts without seeking the reason for these relations; it must refrain from seeking the “why” of things, not wanting to reach the absolute; any research of this kind, any explanatory theory of phenomena which brings to light their essence, is condemned by Auguste Comte as "metaphysics", by an illegitimate use of the word. This is the official credo of the bourgeois university in scientific matters.

For nominalism, supported for example by Henri Poincaré, science is only a "language", a way of formulating what we perceive of phenomena, but not a decisive explanation of reality. Henri Poincaré even questions the great discovery of the Earth's rotation around the Sun, and only wants to see Copernicus's system as a “language”. These philosophies not only give science a false view, but also engage it in ways where it is sterilized; they deprive him of the beautiful boldness of the science of the Renaissance; they agree to make it harmless. All these tendencies have had for a hundred years an abundant posterity in France and in Germany, in England and in America. They have had particular success in the social sciences.

Now let's take a look at agnosticism.

1. Agnosticism does not attack science head-on; in the time of Kant and Comte this is no longer possible. Neither does he deny the existence of objective reality; before science, the agnostic is therefore materialist. But he hastens to give pledges on the other side, to protest that science is not all knowledge. The agnostic therefore strives to diminish the credit of science, to hide its materialistic content and its value of knowledge, to flee matter while admitting it, so as not to get into trouble. In short, it is a question of confiscating science for the benefit of idealism; science will be used to sing the praises of the "human spirit". In short, this materialism is a shameful materialism.

If, however, the neo-Kantists in Germany strive to give new life to Kant's ideas, and the agnostics in England to Hume's ideas (where they had never disappeared), this constitutes, to the point of scientific view, a regression from the long-standing theoretical and practical refutation of it, and, in practice, a shameful way of accepting materialism in secret, while publicly denying it. [Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 17; Philosophical Studies, p. 27.]

2. This “intermediate” position perfectly matches the needs of the bourgeoisie which, at the time of the rise of capitalism, could not do without the development of the sciences in the service of production, but which at the same time seeks a compromise. with feudal ideology, religion, either because it already needed to consolidate its power: this was the case in France in the time of Comte, or because it had not yet been able to emancipate itself from it. feudal order: this was the case in Germany in Kant's time.

3. Agnosticism is only an "intermediary" position in appearance. Practically first, what does the refusal of the absolute mean for Comte, for example in politics? This can be seen by his slogan: “Neither restoration nor revolution”, a bourgeois slogan par excellence. By contenting himself with a shameful materialism, which does not dare to fight openly under the pretext that one cannot take sides, the agnostic leaves the field open, not to the two partners equally, but to the stronger. But which is the strongest in practice? As Lenin showed in What to do ?, it is unmistakably idealism, because it has the benefit of seniority as an official ideology, and because theoretically it draws minds down the slope of ease.Materialism, on the contrary, is unofficial, difficult because it is scientific, unusual. Agnosticism's “impartiality” therefore resembles Leon Blum's “non-intervention” in the conflict between the Spanish Republic and fascist intervention. Kant himself knows very well that, left without a valid theoretical answer, men will turn to those who claim to provide one, and who are in place, idealists and theologians, for men have a need for philosophical certainty; agnostic "neutrality" is therefore only hypocrisy. We will also see that, on the theoretical level, agnosticism has idealistic presuppositions.agnosticism therefore resembles Leon Blum's "non-intervention" in the conflict between the Spanish Republic and fascist intervention. Kant himself knows very well that, left without a valid theoretical answer, men will turn to those who claim to provide one, and who are in place, idealists and theologians, for men have a need for philosophical certainty; agnostic "neutrality" is therefore only hypocrisy. We will also see that, on the theoretical level, agnosticism has idealistic presuppositions.agnosticism therefore resembles Leon Blum's "non-intervention" in the conflict between the Spanish Republic and fascist intervention. Kant himself knows very well that, left without a valid theoretical answer, men will turn to those who claim to provide one, and who are in place, idealists and theologians, for men have a need for philosophical certainty; agnostic "neutrality" is therefore only hypocrisy. We will also see that, on the theoretical level, agnosticism has idealistic presuppositions.for men have a need for philosophical certainty; agnostic "neutrality" is therefore only hypocrisy. We will also see that, on the theoretical level, agnosticism has idealistic presuppositions.for men have a need for philosophical certainty; agnostic "neutrality" is therefore only hypocrisy. We will also see that, on the theoretical level, agnosticism has idealistic presuppositions.

4. Finally, agnosticism leads straight to mysticism, to fideism. We call this the reactionary doctrine which admits, above reason, another kind of "knowledge": faith. Indeed agnosticism rejects all attempts at a rational demonstration of religious dogmas, to which objective idealism indulged, since for it, knowing the principles of the world, God or matter, is impossible by reason, by philosophy. Consequence: as we do not know the end of things, as man is enveloped in an unfathomable mystery, nothing prevents having access to the supreme reality by non-rational, mystical ways, nothing prohibits to give faith a chance, nothing prevents us from thinking that it is true knowledge. [We saw (lesson 9) that, for Kant,faith has a practical, counter-revolutionary role. My philosophy, he explained, has this precious advantage that it makes room for science and faith altogether.] Agnosticism does not say like religious idealism: "Religion is philosophically the truth," it says, "Maybe religion is not a mistake, maybe there is truth in religion." We see the “nuance”, a nuance which is enough to attract the theoretical wrath of the Church and its support in practice!is it not a mistake, perhaps there is some truth in religion ”. We see the “nuance”, a nuance which is enough to attract the theoretical wrath of the Church and its support in practice!is it not a mistake, perhaps there is some truth in religion ”. We see the “nuance”, a nuance which is enough to attract the theoretical wrath of the Church and its support in practice!

Contemporary fideism in no way repudiates science; it only repudiates "excessive pretensions", namely the pretension to discover objective truth. If there is an objective truth (as the materialists think), if the natural sciences, reflecting the outside world in human "experience", are the only ones capable of giving us objective truth, all fideism must be absolutely rejected. . (Lenin; Complete Works, vol. XIII, p. 98-99. (In Russian).)

By making science a subjective truth, agnosticism leaves objective truth to faith. “Scratch the agnostic,” said Lenin, “you will find the idealist”. Starting from subjective idealism, it ends up in objective idealism. Just give it a chance, that's all theology can ask for today. By limiting the horizon of scholars, by prohibiting them from any major theoretical generalization, agnosticism and positivism deliver them bound hand and foot, to the fantastic inventions which theology has for them; the Pope speaks to them more or less this language: "Science, you see, is powerless: only faith, which goes beyond it, makes it possible to pierce the mystery of the universe". Only the marxist conception of knowledge,and the method of dialectical materialism, can draw science from this "impotence" in which positivism locks it up.

The marxist conception

Unlike idealism which contests the possibility of knowing the world and its laws; who does not believe in the value of our knowledge; which does not recognize objective truth and considers that the world is full of "things in themselves" which can never be known to science, marxist philosophical materialism starts from the principle that the world and its laws are perfectly knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, verified by experience, by practice, is a valid knowledge, that it has the meaning of an objective truth; that there are no things unknowable in the world, but only things still unknown, which will be discovered and known by the means of science and practice. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism,2-c, p. 12.)

We see that Stalin emphasizes the central role of practice as a means of discovering the truth and as a means of verifying our knowledge, as the basis of science.

The role of practice

Engels, in a famous text, criticized Kant's theory of the thing-in-itself:

The most striking refutation of this philosophical fad, as indeed of all the others, is practice, especially experience and industry. If we can prove the correctness of our conception of a natural phenomenon by creating it ourselves, by producing it with the aid of its conditions, and, what is more, by making it serve our ends, it is so. end of Kant's elusive "thing-in-itself". The chemicals produced in plant and animal organisms remained such "things-in-themselves" until organic chemistry set about preparing them one after the other; thus, the "thing-in-itself" became a thing for us, like, for example, the coloring matter of madder, alizarin, which we no longer grow in the fields in the form of madder roots,but that we extract coal tar much more simply and cheaply. The Copernican solar system was, for three hundred years, a hypothesis on which one could bet 100, 1000, 10,000 to one, but it was, despite everything, a hypothesis; but when Leverrier, using the figures obtained thanks to this system, calculated not only the necessity of the existence of an unknown planet, but also the place where this planet must have been in the sky, and when Galle la then actually found, the Copernican system was proven. (Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 16-17; Etudes philosophiques, p. 27. We have seen above that the agnostic Poincaré, who is posterior to Engels, persisted in considering the Copernicus system as a hypothesis;he had simply neglected the glaring verification that Engels quotes.)

Why does the analysis of practice provide a refutation to this "philosophical fad" of agnosticism? How to refute a theory by practice? Doesn't that even make us "get out of philosophy", as idealists often say? Let us first observe that their own point of view is untenable: they affirm that science has a practical, industrial value, that it should be used, and at the same time they deny it any theoretical value. How do they arrange with each other, what do they mean by the "practical" value of science? In fact, they cannot answer. If the separation of theory and practice has any meaning, it can only be this: it signifies separation,opposition that exists under the capitalist regime between intellectual labor and manual labor, and nothing else.

What then is the marxist conception of practice? The word applies at the same time: 1 ° to work, to production, to industry; 2 ° scientific research work, experimentation, experimental verification; 3 ° to social practice, the highest form on which the other two depend, for example the practice of class struggle. Practice is the activity of man transforming reality; it begins with material labor and sensation. Kant considers sensation as a simple image, sensibility as a passive faculty; for the dialectic, sensation is movement and we saw in the previous lesson that sensation is linked to practical activity. Sensitivity and activity are not separated like Kant teaches, as a metaphysician.[“Im Anfang war die Tat” (Goethe) (in the beginning was action), quoted by M. Thorez, Fils du Peuple, p. 68.]

If practice is the source of sensations, impressions, of the first degree of knowledge, it is also the production of objects. Kant says: we are not in things; it metaphysically separates the object and the subject, introduces a break between thought and reality. Nothing is more wrong. We are "in" things to the extent that we produce them: by producing them, we incorporate our activity, our thought into them. If we know how to produce alizarin "artificially", it is because we have mastered its nature, we know it in itself. For materialism, the superstition that an "artificial" product is not worth a "natural" product is irrelevant. If therefore our conception of a thing is right, exact, theeffect of our practice will correspond to our expectations and this will constitute the objective verification of our knowledge. Everything is indissolubly linked to the process which produces it. By intervening correctly in this process, by stimulating it, man literally binds himself to the thing itself, penetrates into it and thus proves the correctness of his conception.

As long as we employ these objects for our own use according to the qualities we perceive in them, we put to an infallible test the correctness or inaccuracy of our sense perceptions. If these perceptions are false, the use of the object they suggested to us is false; therefore our attempt must fail. But if we succeed in achieving our goal, if we find that the object corresponds to the representation we have of it, that it gives what we expected from its use, it is positive proof that, within the framework of these limits, our perceptions of the object and its qualities are consistent with the reality outside us. And if, on the other hand, we fail, we usually do not take long to discover the cause of our failure;we find that the perception which served as the basis of our attempt, was either by itself incomplete or superficial, or had been related in a way that reality did not justify to the data of other perceptions. This is what we call faulty reasoning. As often as we have taken care to educate and use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)either was by itself incomplete or superficial, or had been related in a way that reality did not justify with the data of other perceptions. This is what we call faulty reasoning. As often as we have taken care to educate and use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)either was by itself incomplete or superficial, or had been related in a way that reality did not justify with the data of other perceptions. This is what we call faulty reasoning. As often as we have taken care to educate and use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)a way that reality did not justify with the data of other perceptions. This is what we call faulty reasoning. As often as we have taken care to educate and use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)a way that reality did not justify with the data of other perceptions. This is what we call faulty reasoning. As often as we have taken care to educate and use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)to use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)to use our senses correctly and to enclose our action within the limits prescribed by our correctly obtained perceptions [ie "scientifically controlled". (Engels).] And correctly used, so often we will find that the result of our action demonstrates the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the objects perceived. (Engels: “Historical Materialism,” in Philosophical Studies, pp. 93-94.)))

To use a phrase quoted by Engels, "the proof of pudding is that you eat it", the proof that science is true, it is that it allows to transform the natural and social world. This is why Marx wrote:

The question of whether human thought can arrive at objective truth is not a theoretical question, but a practical one. It is in practice that man must prove the truth, that is to say the reality and the power ... of his thought. (Marx: "Second thesis on Feuerbach", in Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 51; Philosophical studies, p. 61.)

So practice gives us the criterion of truth. But one will perhaps ask why this is so, and why science is possible, what is the foundation of the possibility of science, the foundation of truth. The answer to this question is contained in the lesson above. Kant in fact speaks to us of the "human mind" and doubts that it can know reality, he imagines it foreign to matter, prior to experience; moreover, he believes him to be immutable, incapable of transformation. We recognize here its metaphysical, anti-dialectical position, and at the same time we grasp from life the presupposition of all idealism for which the spirit is originally given, with its "faculties" constituted once and for all.We have seen that materialism, on the contrary, poses and resolves the question of the origin of the human spirit, shows that it is a product of evolution, a product of the millennial experience of humanity, a product of in practice, consciousness is a social product. If consciousness comes out of nature and society, it is not foreign to them. It can therefore correctly reflect the laws of nature and society. "It is the dialectic of things which produces the dialectic of ideas, and not vice versa". (Lenin.)It can therefore correctly reflect the laws of nature and society. "It is the dialectic of things which produces the dialectic of ideas, and not vice versa". (Lenin.)It can therefore correctly reflect the laws of nature and society. "It is the dialectic of things which produces the dialectic of ideas, and not vice versa". (Lenin.)

Consequently, unlike idealism which presents error as natural to man and the discovery of truth almost as a miracle, materialism shows that truth is first, even if it is not at first glance perfect. , because it is nothing other than the reflection of reality in the brain of man, and this reflection is a natural process: the being of the world is always present to us.

Under these conditions, how does materialism explain error? How is it possible? Where does it come from, in particular, that there are false conceptions of the world, such as idealistic conceptions and, among others, religions? To answer these questions, we must start from the fact that things have multiple aspects that our senses discover successively thanks to the development of our practical activity. If one sticks to one of its aspects, it is not possible to have valid knowledge of things. For example, the shape of a staff dipped in water cannot be exactly known if we only stick to the testimony of our eyes. So it is with all things. The error is not absolute.It takes root when one part of the practice is isolated from all the others. That is why it can always be corrected and eliminated by the practice itself.

But we saw in the previous lesson that knowledge includes two degrees: sensation and concept. The passage from the first to the second constitutes a generalization. This is a second possible source of error, because sometimes we generalize from insufficient bases. Such is the case of the one who observes the behavior of a few bourgeois politicians and who asserts: all politicians are corrupt. We recognize here the metaphysical way of thinking which brings an aspect of reality to the absolute: it is here again the insufficiency of concrete analysis which is at the origin of the error. But it should be noted that, as soon as we generalize, there is the possibility of leaving the real, of distorting the image we have of it. The error is not absolute: itis distorted truth. In the very process of knowledge exists, to use Lenin's term, the possibility of an imaginative flight out of reality. Ideas have a driving force of their own. Once born, they exist in themselves. In other words, cerebral activity can be exercised in a relatively autonomous way, by detaching itself from the practice, the only one capable of controlling the value of the constructions of ideas which form outside it. Practice, there too, is therefore the only way to reduce error to the dimensions of truth, to "bring back to earth" thought.Once born, they exist in themselves. In other words, cerebral activity can be exercised in a relatively autonomous way, by detaching itself from the practice, the only one capable of controlling the value of the constructions of ideas which form outside it. Practice, there too, is therefore the only way to reduce error to the dimensions of truth, to "bring back to earth" thought.Once born, they exist in themselves. In other words, cerebral activity can be exercised in a relatively autonomous way, by detaching itself from the practice, the only one capable of controlling the value of the constructions of ideas which form outside it. Practice, there too, is therefore the only way to reduce error to the dimensions of truth, to "bring back to earth" thought.

It should be noted that certain conditions of production and social existence do not favor this constantly necessary elimination of error. For example, the weak development of the productive forces at the beginnings of societies did not allow man to discover the true causes of natural phenomena, which he then explained by imaginary causes: hence legends, myths, religious beliefs. Engels wrote:

[The] instinct of personification [of the forces of nature which created gods everywhere, ... [considered] as a necessary transitional stage, ... [explains] the universality of religion. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 380. See also above, lesson 9, point V.)

The division of society into antagonistic classes, one of which works, while the other, the owner, directs production, designs plans, and can indulge in some intellectual work, promotes the development of purely speculative conceptions. At the same time the products of man's mental activity, the ideas by which he directs production and social life appear to be the true origin of reality and to depend only on themselves. This reversal of the relationship between objective reality and ideas, which is only possible by “the imaginative flight out of reality”, constitutes the idealist conception of the world, which gives all things an inverted, “fantastic” image and represents the supreme form of error.

So materialism not only refutes idealism, but explains its origin. Lenin wrote that idealism is an outgrowth, one of the features or one of the facets of knowledge which gives excessively in the absolute, detached from matter. Idealism certainly reflects reality, but in reverse, and makes it walk on its head. Idealists, Lenin said, are fruitless flowers, parasites that grow on the living, productive, all-powerful tree of true human, objective, absolute knowledge. And Mao Tsetung wrote, "Knowledge detached from practice is inconceivable." (Mao Tsétoung: "About practice", in the Cahiers du communisme, February 1951, p. 245.)

A falsification of the marxist notion of practice

This notion of practice has taken on such importance with the rise of marxism that it is no longer possible to do without it. This is why the reactionary bourgeoisie tried to seize it and falsify it. She also wanted to have a philosophy of action, this is the doctrine called pragmatism.

Born in the United States of America during the period of imperialist expansion, pragmatism has enjoyed wide distribution in Europe, especially since World War II.

Practice proving the truth of knowledge, pragmatism claims to conclude that anything that succeeds, anything that is useful is true. Starting from the formula "whatever is true is useful", pragmatism turns it around and proclaims "all that is useful is true". It is therefore the exact opposite of marxism.

It is not difficult to see that pragmatism is a crude variety of agnosticism. According to him, the foundation of truth is not conformity with reality, the correct, verified and controlled reflection of reality, but simply utility. But whose usefulness? of Peter or of Paul, of the bourgeoisie or of the proletariat? Everything that is true is useful, except for those who need the lie. It is the lie which is more and more useful to the reactionary bourgeoisie, and only the truth can be useful to the proletariat. For pragmatism, therefore, the truth is subjective, and not objective. In fact, it loses interest in the truth in itself, it is a philosophy of ignorance, the most backward of idealisms.

For example pragmatism will say: "religion exists, it is useful to some people, therefore it is true". In fact, pragmatism, an ideology typical of the decadent bourgeoisie, which denies science, quite simply subordinates truth to the interests of the ruling class. It is the apology of Machiavellianism. Reason of State (McCarthyism) justifies the assassination of the Rosenbergs. The most opposite things will be declared true in turn, if such is the interest of Capital. It is the idolatry of maximum profit.

As a philosophy of action, pragmatism recommends action that succeeds, whatever the principles; for him the end, the utility, justifies the means. This is the typical philosophy of fascist adventurers, according to the formula: "The truth is what Mussolini is thinking at this moment".

In scientific matters, pragmatism recommends the abandonment of theory, of thought, of forecasting. He advocates “experiments to see”, at random, whatever they are. If they are successful, so much the better; if not so be it. Pragmatism thus authorizes criminal “experiments”. This abject "theory" constituted all the ideological baggage of the Nazi doctors and their Japanese emulators who experimented on prisoners; it is now that of their American followers, in terms of bacteriological warfare. The bourgeois ideologues, at the same time as they try to "justify" the class practice of the bourgeoisie in this way, claim to attribute pragmatism to the marxists. To hear them, the marxists would put "efficiency" above all else,would consider as true only what is useful to the obscure purposes of their sect. Certain ideologues thus claim to attribute Hitler's theory of the "vital lie" to marxists.

The marxist conception is quite different. Far from an idea being true because it is useful, it is on the contrary because it is true, that is to say objectively founded, and only in this case, that it is useful, applicable. , because practice, as the rationalist Descartes already pointed out [Discourse on Method, Part 1], will “punish” the false conception, the erroneous method. American imperialism, as well as Hitler, experiences this every day. It is not because an idea fails that one declares it false, it is on the contrary because it was objectively false that it has failed.

To make the "useful" lie the equivalent of the truth is the "tactic" of the opportunist. Only unprincipled upstarts and adventurers, products of imperialist decadence, can advocate such a course of action. Marxism never sacrifices the truth. Marxists know how to endure apparent and fleeting "failures" and how to proclaim scientific truth for the greater good of practice. There was a time when the Communists alone in France condemned the Marshall Plan as contrary to the national interest. Pragmatism, on the contrary, is always on the side from which the wind blows, it seeks only immediate success. But practice has made it possible to verify the theoretical data on which the condemnation of the Marshall Plan was based,it made it possible to bring out the truth in the eyes of the broad masses, to show which appreciations were in conformity with reality, and which were contrary.

It is in this sense that practice is the criterion of truth.

Relative and absolute truth

Practice therefore allows us to verify the correctness of our idea of ​​the properties of a thing. What then remains of Kant's "thing-in-itself"? Nothing.

Dialectics indeed, and even the idealist dialectician Hegel, teaches that the distinction between the properties of a thing and the thing in itself is absurd. If you know all the properties of a thing, you know the thing itself; it remains that these properties are independent of us? This is precisely what must be understood by materiality of the world; but this objective reality is by no means unknowable since we know its properties. It would be absurd to say: “Your character is one thing, your qualities and your faults are another; I know your qualities and your faults, but not your character ", because" character "is precisely the set of faults and qualities. In the same way, painting is the totality of pictorial works;it would be absurd to say: there are the pictures, the painters, the colors, the processes, the schools, and then there is "painting" in itself, which hovers above and is unknowable. There are not two parts ”in the object. It is a whole whose various aspects we gradually discover through practice.

With regard to the “hidden” properties of things, dialectics have taught us that they are revealed by the internal struggle of opposites which gives rise to change: the liquid state “in itself” is precisely this state of relative equilibrium which reveals its internal contradiction at the time of freezing or boiling. Therefore:

There is and there can be no difference in principle between the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself. There is only a difference between what is known and what is not yet. (Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 85.)

Through a deeper and deeper knowledge of reality, the thing "in-itself" gradually becomes a thing "for-us".

We therefore see that, for the materialist dialectical theory of knowledge, there exists an absolute truth, that is to say, in conformity with reality in itself. Unlike Kant, for whom the truth was relative to the human mind, marxism defines truth as a natural process: the more and more exact reflection in the consciousness of men of the objective reality external to this consciousness. To say that marxists deny the existence of truth is therefore pure slander.

But if we return to the example of the liquid, we see that it is through the change that the internal content of a phenomenon appears. It is therefore necessary to wait sometimes for a phenomenon to have reached a certain degree of development, of ripening, so that its truth appears clearly; when the contradictions are too young, we do not yet distinguish them. This is what makes it difficult to study the beginnings of a living being, for example. This is the case with capitalism, whose incurable wounds, insoluble contradictions, appear better and better in the eyes of the broad masses when it is in agony. As the dialectician Hegel observed:

The Minerva owl (symbol of science, of truth) does not take flight until dusk.

It is consequently the very development of phenomena which allows the progress of knowledge; and that is why one must know how to observe patiently and take into account the time necessary for the reflection of reality to form in the brain. [This in no way contradicts the fact that it is possible to hasten the process of knowledge by means of imagination, scientific anticipation, hypothesis.]

On the theory of knowledge, as in all other fields of science, it is important to always reason dialectically, that is to say never to assume our consciousness to be invariable and ready-made, but to analyze the process by which knowledge arises from ignorance, or whereby vague and incomplete knowledge becomes more adequate and precise knowledge. (Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, pp. 85-86.)

So are there things forever unknowable? Not at all, but only unknown things, which "will be discovered and known by means of science and practice".

The entire history of science confirms the inexistence of the unknowable, the incessant transformation of the unknown into the known. Kant, on the contrary, considered certain problems insoluble. Its scientific horizon was also limited by the limits of the science of time: for example organic chemistry, biology ... did not yet exist. Since then, the horizon has widened, but those who rehash Kant do not want to see him.

So while agnosticism is pessimistic and laments the infirmity of the "human spirit", materialism is optimistic, and does not hold any problem, such as cancer, to be unsolvable. There is only the provisional unknown and the capitalist regime, by slowing down the development of science, prolongs this provisional. Better still, materialism makes it possible to plan the development of science by foreseeing the fields where the discoveries are ripe, by taking all measures to hasten them. Besides, has it not often happened in the past that mature discoveries have been made almost simultaneously by scientists who did not know each other, magnificent proof that knowledge is a natural process brought about in us by things themselves. same.But we must also consider that the development of a given phenomenon is not independent of all the others, everything is linked and nature is infinite in space and time, nature always produces something new, it is inexhaustible. . This is why the development of knowledge is itself infinite. There is more in the world than there will ever be in our knowledge, but since everything fits together, what we ignore is what we know. Consequently science cannot stop at a given point and, in this sense, each of its truths, considered in itself, is relative because it is relative to all the other truths. Beyond the molecule, we have discovered the atom, beyond the atom the electron, the nucleus, beyond the nucleus of other particles, but it does notthere is no reason to believe that one can exhaust reality. "The electron itself, said Lenin, is inexhaustible."

Moreover, this does not detract from the objective value of our knowledge, because "in the relative, there is the absolute". (Lenin.)

From the point of view of modern materialism, that is to say of marxism, the limits of the approximation of our knowledge to absolute objective truth are historically relative, but the very existence of this truth is not contestable, as it is not disputable that we are approaching it. The outlines of the painting are historically relative, but it is undeniable that this painting represents an objectively existing model. The fact that at such and such a moment, under such and such conditions, we have progressed in our knowledge of the nature of things to the point of discovering alizarin in coal tar or of discovering electrons in the atom, is historically relative, but what is not relative at all, itis that any such discovery is an advance of "absolute objective knowledge". (Lenin: Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p. 116.)

Therefore, there can be no exact scientific theory which over time becomes false or out of date; each retains its value; when its narrowness, its limitations are discovered, they are overcome by the inexhaustible contribution of experience. The progress of science is not a race for originality, for ingenuity, it is progress in truth, in depth.

The union of theory and practice

For dialectical materialism, knowledge is not an operation by which the mind "interprets" the data of the senses, but a complex process by which the increasingly exact reflection of reality is constituted in the human brain. . We know that this process includes two qualitatively distinct degrees: the sensible degree and the rational degree, or again the practice and the theory. We have also seen that practice is the necessary starting point of theory, the source of knowledge, and that it is also the criterion of its truth. So any theory must necessarily return to practice and this for two reasons: the first is that the theory is precisely made for the practice, it is developed not for the vain curiosity of a dilettante, who contemplates the world,but precisely to help transform it; the second is that, since the real is movement, incessant change, the theory which seeks to be sufficient in itself sterilizes and is nothing more than a dead dogma; without the constant return to practice, the process of knowledge stops, it is no longer possible to obtain an increasingly accurate reflection of reality, to correct the insufficiencies of the theory, to deepen the knowledge of the world.to obtain an increasingly accurate reflection of reality, to correct the insufficiencies of the theory, to deepen knowledge of the world.to obtain an increasingly accurate reflection of reality, to correct the insufficiencies of the theory, to deepen knowledge of the world.

We call empiricists those philosophers who think that knowledge holds entirely in the first degree, sensations; we call idealistic rationalists those who admit well the role of ideas, of theoretical knowledge, but consider that they have fallen from the sky, that they cannot leave practice. Both arbitrarily separate the two degrees of knowledge, do not understand their unity.

We can see the importance of this thesis in the field of revolutionary practice. Here, as in the sciences, each individual cannot experience everything by himself; a social experience has accumulated, which theory elaborates and which each one must strive to assimilate, if he does not want to fall into conceptions whose falsity has already been recognized and corrected thanks to the secular experience of the labor movement.

He who neglects theory gets bogged down in practicality, acts blind and walks in darkness. Whoever neglects practice freezes in dogmatism, he is no more than a doctrinaire whose reasoning rings hollow.

Obviously, theory becomes irrelevant if it is not linked to revolutionary practice; just as practice becomes blind if its path is not illuminated by revolutionary theory. (Stalin: Des Principes du léninisme, p. 18. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1951.)

The marxist conception of knowledge allows us to refute the misconception that to be "impartial", "objective", to see the truth in itself, one should stay away from practice. This is called bourgeois objectivism, a war machine against marxism. One might as well say: the physicist who has carried out experiments cannot be objective since he has been "influenced" by his experiments!

If you are looking to gain knowledge, you need to participate in practice, which changes reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you have to take it in your mouth and chew it. If you are looking to know the organization and the nature of the atom, you have to carry out physical and chemical experiments, modify the medium of the atom. If you want to know the theory and methods of the revolution, you must participate in the revolution. All genuine knowledge comes from direct experience. (Mao Tsétoung: "About the practice", p. 244.)

This is why it is impossible to assimilate marxism correctly and deeply if one stands with folded arms, contemplating the action instead of participating in it; with all due respect to the petty-bourgeois ideologues who claim that one could only judge the value of marxism by staying away from the very movement by which the theory is constituted, verified and enriched. Only revolutionary practice makes it possible to discover the truth of capitalist society because only it proposes to transform this society, to modify the conditions in which this society moves; and only revolutionary practice needs the truth since without a correct theory one runs to failure. That is why

Materialism in a way supposes the spirit of party; it obliges us, for the appreciation of any event, to hold ourselves openly and unequivocally to the point of view of a determined social group. (Lenin: Works, t. I, p. 380-381, 4th Russian edition, and Brief overview of his life and work, p. 31. Editions in foreign languages, Moscow, 1946.)

This social group today is the revolutionary proletariat.

It is through practice that truths are discovered, through practice that truths are confirmed and developed. It is necessary to actively move from sensations, from sensitive perceptions to rational knowledge, from rational knowledge to the active leadership of revolutionary practice, to the transformation of the subjective and objective world. Practice goes to knowledge, then there is practice again, knowledge again: this movement is endless in its cyclical repetition - the content of each cycle of practice and knowledge rising, relative to the preceding cycle. , at a higher level. (Mao Tsétoung: "About the practice", p. 252.)

It is therefore radically wrong to consider marxism as a theory which represents only the "subjective" meaning that History takes for the proletariat (in other words its subjective interpretation of events), and not as a science. It would follow that the proletarians would not need to learn marxism, since it would be their spontaneous point of view, and that the non-proletarians should not learn it, since it would not represent their point of view.! On the contrary, we say: marxism is a science; all need it and must learn it; it is neither superfluous nor contraindicated for anyone!

Being objective does not mean rejecting all theories; it is to stick to a theory consistent with the objective processes of social development. This conformity can only be verified by social practice; this practice does not create the process of development, it only helps it, just as a scientist in a laboratory can propose to accelerate the progress of a process, but not to destroy or create its law.

Consequently, we must not only defeat agnosticism theoretically, but also practically ruin it by making by action the proof that one can act on the world knowingly, the proof that marxism is the historical truth. For example, while agnosticism says about war: Whose fault? we do not know! the action of honest people leads them to discover the warmongers. This is how the proletariat has verified by experience the value of marxist materialism, its value of forecasting. He judged that the Communists were never wrong to be the first to be right. Now, who says exact forecast, says exact science.

Thus agnosticism serves the class interests of the bourgeoisie: if there is no science of society, nothing can be foreseen and nothing must be done; let the ruling class sleep on its two ears! Agnosticism drives the exploited to impotence. On the contrary, if scientific knowledge of society is possible, the oppressed and exploited can seize it and make the unity between practice and theory the guiding star of their struggle.

In the face of agnosticism which breeds skepticism and pessimism, which is the act of men overwhelmed by events they do not understand, men who no longer believe in anything, that is to say who are ready to believe anything, dialectical materialism generates reasoned optimism and makes it possible to understand that man can consciously direct the course of events. Materialism inspires unlimited confidence in the power of thought united with action. Thus the deep truth of Marx's thesis becomes clear:

Philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways, but it is about transforming it. (Marx: "XI th thesis on Feuerbach", in Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 53; Philosophical studies, p. 64.)

See: Control questions

Dialectical materialism and the spiritual life of society

The spiritual life of the society is a reflection of its material life

An example

We read in some UNESCO brochures that peace can only be guaranteed by the "pacification of minds" and that if we want to end war, it is necessary to kill it in the minds of the people. . In short, the cause of wars is subjective. Or, the psychoanalysts would say, it is an “instinct of aggression” lurking in the consciousness of every man. Or ... “hereditary hatred”.

Such a conception of the causes of war is idealistic. The position of marxist materialism is quite different: the cause of wars is in the objective reality of societies. In the era of imperialism, wars originate from economic crises which lead to the search by violence for new outlets. It is thus an objective law, the law of maximum profit, which explains wars. As for the subjective process (the idea of ​​war, hatred, the instinct for aggression, etc.), it originates precisely from the material contradictions which create an objective situation of war. It is objective reality which explains the appearance of the subjective process. And not the reverse.

We could take many other examples. Generally speaking, the present times reveal a powerful opposition between the ideology of dying capitalism, the ideology of national and racial hatred, the ideology of brigandage and war [A pamphlet sponsored by Eisenhower and the president of Harvard University bears these lines: "War endows man with the lofty feeling one has when participating in a common effort, a feeling which is in absolute contradiction with the petty fear and miserable ambition to have a certain social security. . »], - and the ideology of triumphant socialism, ideology of mutual aid and fraternity between nations and men, ideology of peace. This struggle of opposing ideologies, Paul Eluard expressed it in magnificent verse.

In either case, it is the objective reality of societies - here capitalism, the cosmopolitan big bourgeoisie, there socialism and the international workers' movement - which makes the struggle of ideas intelligible. The spiritual life of society is a reflection of its material life.

The spiritual life of society has very diverse aspects. Art, law, religion, etc. fall under it. We cannot study them all in detail. The reader who will refer to Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism will see that Stalin particularly retains, because of their considerable practical importance, social ideas, social theories, political opinions, political institutions.

Social ideas: that is to say the ideas that the individual, in a given society, has about his place in existence (such and such a craftsman believes himself to be "independent"); ideas about ownership; "moral" ideas about the family, love, marriage, the education of children ... (what Flaubert called "received" ideas). Legal ideas are part of this set: for example the bourgeois idea that the right to property is a "natural right" which has no other foundation than itself, this idea reflects this material fact that private property is the basis of bourgeois society; and as the ownership of the means of production is intangible, in the eyes of the possessing bourgeoisie, we understand that the idea of ​​private property is, for bourgeois morality, a given in principle.

Social theories: that is to say the theories which systematize in an abstract body of doctrine the social ideas noted above: for example the theory of the City, in Plato; the theory of the state in Hobbes, JJ Rousseau, Hegel; the social theories of the Utopians (Babeuf, Saint-Simon, etc.).

Political opinions: that is, monarchist or republican, conservative or liberal, fascist or democratic opinions, etc .; ideas about freedom of opinion, assembly, demonstration, etc.

Political institutions: that is, the state and the various cogs of the state apparatus. A very important marxist thesis considers the State as an element of the spiritual life of society: it reflects its material life.

Idealistic "explanations"

Let us return to the idealistic position from which we started. It is the most widespread, in various aspects of which here are a few.

a) The oldest and most obscurantist thesis is the religious, theological thesis. She sees in the material life of societies a reflection of the divine idea, the realization of a providential plan. The "social order" is willed by God. Just as, according to theologians, the nature and spirit of man are immutable, so any change in society is impious, sacrilegious; change is demonic since it is an attack on the will of God, any idea of ​​change is guilty. A consequence of this point of view is clericalism: only the clergy, depositary of God's designs, can guarantee "social order". Perfectly adapted to feudal society, this thesis was opposed by the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

b) Then comes an idealist thesis of bourgeois essence, developed in particular by the philosophers of the 18th century French. They fought against "divine right" in the name of "natural law", "natural religion", Reason. They taught that the feudal order is disorder because it does not conform to the requirements of Reason, the image of which each man finds in himself. It is therefore in the name of Reason, posited by them as original, universal, eternal, that society must be transformed: the social order will then, finally! the reflection of the rational order.

Although in progress on the previous one, since it expressed the ideology of the revolutionary bourgeoisie in the face of the ideology of reactionary feudalism, this thesis is, like the other, idealist. It does not question the origin of ideas: it considers them as a primary datum, from which the material reality of societies is deduced.

It should be noted however that the materialist philosophers of the XVIII E century - in particular Helvétius - had understood that the ideas of an individual are the fruit of his education. They had insisted on the variation of ideologies in societies across time and place. But, not possessing the science of the societies that Marx was to found, they could not push their analysis any further.

c) We must give a particularly important place to Hegel. In fact, in his Philosophy of History, he resolutely approached the study of the relations between the material development and the spiritual development of society. Idealist, he places at the outset the sovereign Idea which generates society no less than nature. History is a development of the Idea. This is how the history of ancient Greece is the revelation of the idea of ​​Beauty. Likewise Socrates, Jesus Christ, Napoleon are “moments” of the Idea.

A dialectician, Hegel sometimes makes remarkable analyzes. But his idealism led him to attribute to great men an exaggerated role; they become the sole agents of historical progress. This aspect of Hegelian philosophy was to be shamelessly exploited by fascist ideology for which the mass is nothing; only the infallible "superman" counts. "Fascism is what Mussolini is thinking right now," said an admirer of Le Duce. Hitler shouted to his shock troops: "I will think for you".

d) Another form of idealism: the “sociology” of Durkheim and his disciples. We would surprise many people by telling them that Durkheimian sociology, which was very popular in France, is of idealistic inspiration. Did not sociologists condemn theology and metaphysics? Did they not propose the "positive" study of social facts (institutions, law, mores) considered in their development, without favorable or unfavorable prejudice? Of course, but it is a long way from the cut to the lips. As a rule, bourgeois sociologists explain material transformations by the development of "collective consciousness", which itself remains a mystery. The history of societies then appears as the progressive realization of moral aspirations,that have been wandering somewhere in human consciousness since the early ages. Why does "collective consciousness" evolve in one direction rather than another, we do not know ... It is because sociologists ignore (and some want to ignore) production, the class struggle , engines of history. They stay on the surface. If for example Social Security exists, well! it is because “ideas have evolved”. Everything comes back, as in the philosophy of Léon Brunschvicg, to "the progress of consciousness".If for example Social Security exists, well! it is because “ideas have evolved”. Everything comes back, as in the philosophy of Léon Brunschvicg, to "the progress of consciousness".If for example Social Security exists, well! it is because “ideas have evolved”. Everything comes back, as in the philosophy of Léon Brunschvicg, to "the progress of consciousness".

e) It should be emphasized that one of the most ardent champions of idealism in this domain as elsewhere was Proudhon, of whom we have already spoken. [See lesson 7: general conclusions.] For Proudhon, the history of societies is the progressive incarnation of the idea of ​​Justice, "immanent" in "consciousness" since the origin of humanity. . Thus, the relations of production [See the definition of these terms, Lesson 15.] Are the realization of "economic categories" which lie dormant in the "impersonal reason of humanity". This uncreated consciousness - "social genius", as Proudhon says - is present in the whole of history; by it everything is explained, itself not having to explain itself. And since consciousness has always been what it is,Proudhon comes to deny the very reality of history:

It is ... not correct to say that something happens, something happens: in civilization as in the universe, everything exists, everything has always been active. This is the case with the entire social economy. (Proudhon: Philosophie de la misère, t. II, p. 102; quoted by Marx: Misère de la Philosophie, p. 93. Ed. Sociales.)

Absolutely nothing new under the sun: the story is wiped out at once.

Let us note in passing that Proudhon, always so quick to declaim against Jesuits and theologians - in the name of conscience - Proudhon who emphatically opposes the “system of revolution” (his) to the “system of revelation”, Proudhon that frightens the revolutionary organization of the proletariat and which, panicked by the action, assimilates the workers' party to a "Church" - as his social-democratic disciples are doing today -, Proudhon is himself the victim of the clerical ideology that he believes he is fighting. "The conscience" of the bourgeois eater of priests, who takes himself for the

the measure of the world and of history, it is little more than the ancient God, vaguely secularized. At its root, Proudhonism is idealistic.

Marx brought it to a halt in one of his most prestigious works, Misère de la Philosophie (1847). He writes in particular:

Let us admit with M. Proudhon that real history, history according to the order of time, is the historical succession in which ideas, categories, principles have manifested themselves.

Each principle has had its century to manifest itself in it: the principle of authority, for example, had the 11th century, as did the principle of individualism in the 18th century. Consequently, it was the century which belonged to the principle, and not the principle which belonged to the century. In other words, it was the principle that made history, it was not history that made the principle. When then, to save principles as well as history, we ask ourselves why such and such a principle manifested itself in the eleventh or the eighteenth century rather than in another, we are necessarily forced to examine minutely what were the men of the eleventh century, who were those of the eighteenth; what were their respective needs, their productive forces, their mode of production,the raw materials for their production, and finally what were the man-to-man relationships that resulted from all these conditions of existence. To go deeper into all these questions, is not to make the real, profane history of men in each century, to represent these men both as the authors and the actors of their own drama? But the moment you present men as the actors and the authors of their own stories, you have, by a detour, arrived at the real starting point, since you have abandoned the eternal principles you spoke of first. (Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 92.)Isn't that making the real, profane history of men in each century, representing these men both as the authors and the actors of their own drama? But the moment you present men as the actors and the authors of their own stories, you have, by a detour, arrived at the real starting point, since you have abandoned the eternal principles you spoke of first. (Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 92.)Isn't that making the real, profane history of men in each century, representing these men both as the authors and the actors of their own drama? But the moment you present men as the actors and the authors of their own stories, you have, by a detour, arrived at the real starting point, since you have abandoned the eternal principles you spoke of first. (Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 92.)(Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 92.)(Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 92.)

The criticism thus made by Marx to Proudhon applies to all the forms of idealism that we have indicated in a, b, c, d ... In all cases, reality is turned upside down, so that the The concrete explanation of ideas becomes unintelligible. It is dialectical materialism which, putting things right, shows that social ideas reflect the objective material development of history. Dialectical materialism alone is the basis of the science of ideologies. Idealism proclaims ideas, it parades them, reproaching "vile" materialism for denying them (which, we will see, is false); but in truth he speaks of them all the more because he understands them less; he asks them to explain everything, but they remain inexplicable to him.

The dialectical materialist thesis

If it is true that nature, being, the material world is the first datum, while consciousness, thought, is the second, derived datum; if it is true that the material world is an objective reality existing independently of the consciousness of men, while consciousness is a reflection of this objective reality, it follows from there that the material life of society, its being is also the first datum, while its spiritual life is a second, derived datum; which the material life of the society is an objective reality existing independently of the will of man, while the spiritual life of the society is a reflection of this objective reality, a reflection of the being.

— Stalin, Dialectical and Historical Materialism[note 15]


The thesis according to which the spiritual life of society reflects its material life is thus a direct consequence of the philosophical materialism exposed in The spiritual life of the society is a reflection of its material life

The material life of the society is an objective reality existing independently of the conscience and the will not only of individuals, but of man in general

It is precisely this objective reality, independent of conscience, that some thinkers, because they do not understand its laws, call fatality. Existentialists have renewed the vocabulary while keeping the same thing: they speak of "man thrown into the world", of man "in situation". We will see in the fourth part of this work, devoted to historical materialism, that this situation is not a mystery and that it can be studied scientifically.

A few examples will help us understand what is happening to this objective reality, independent of consciousness.

When, under feudalism, the young bourgeoisie of Europe began the construction of the great manufactures, it was unaware of the social consequences of this "innovation" which was to lead to a revolution against the royal power whose benevolence it appreciated at the time (the monarchy encouraged the nascent manufactures) and against the nobility into which it dreamed of entering!

When the Russian capitalists implanted modern large-scale industry in Tsarist Russia, they were not aware that they were preparing the conditions for the future triumph of the socialist revolution.

When the shoemaker, whom Stalin refers to in Anarchism or Socialism?, joined Adelkhanov, he "did not know that the distant consequence of this decision, which he believed to be provisional, would be his adherence to socialist ideas.

Here is the very interesting passage that Stalin devotes to the shoemaker:

Imagine a shoemaker who had a very small workshop, but could not compete with the big bosses, so he had to close his workshop and, let's suppose, he was hired in a shoe factory in Tiflis, at Adelkhanov's house. He was hired at Adelkhanov's, not to become a permanent salaried worker, but to raise money, build up a small capital and then be able to reopen his workshop. As we can see, the shoemaker's situation is already proletarian, but his conscience is not yet proletarian; it is entirely petty-bourgeois. In other words, the petty-bourgeois situation of this cobbler has already disappeared, it no longer exists, but his petty-bourgeois conscience has not yet disappeared, it is behind his de facto situation. It is obvious that here again, in social life, it is the external conditions, the situation of men, that change first, and then, as a consequence, their consciousness. Let us return, however, to our shoemaker. As we already know, he is thinking of raising money to reopen his workshop, so the proletarian shoemaker is working, and he realizes that it is very difficult to raise money, because his salary is barely enough to provide for his existence. He also notices that it is not very attractive to open a private workshop: the rent of the premises, the whims of the customers, the lack of money, the competition of the big bosses and so many other worries, such are the worries that haunt the spirit of the craftsman. However, the proletarian is relatively free of all these worries; he is not worried about the client or the rent to be paid; in the morning, he goes to the factory; in the evening, he leaves it "the most quietly in the world", and, on Saturdays, he also quietly puts his "pay" in his pocket. It is then that for the first time the petty-bourgeois dreams of our shoemaker have their wings clipped; it is then that, for the first time, proletarian tendencies are born in his soul. Time passes, and our shoemaker realizes that he lacks the money to get the bare necessities, that he is in great need of a wage increase. At the same time, he realizes that his comrades are talking about unions and strikes. From that moment on, our shoemaker becomes aware that in order to improve his situation, it is necessary to fight against the bosses, and not to open a workshop of his own. He joined the trade union, went on strike and soon embraced the socialist ideas... So the change in the shoemaker's material situation ultimately brought about a change in his consciousness: first his material situation changed, and then, some time later, his consciousness changed accordingly. The same has to be said of the classes and the society as a whole.

— Stalin, Anarchism or Socialism?[note 16]


When the U.S. imperialists, and subsequently the Western capitalists, in 1947, on the basis of the Marshall Plan, organized the economic blockade of the U.S.S.R. and the people's democracies, it was far from clear that they would contribute to the formation of a new world market, a socialist market, and to the disintegration of the old single capitalist market.[note 17]

Such is the "fatality" on which many novelists have embroidered. The struggle for the satisfaction of immediate interests leads, in the more or less long term, to social consequences independent of the will of those who engaged in this struggle. These immediate interests are by no means arbitrary since they respond to the objective situation, at a given moment, of a society, of a given social class. This is a fundamental proposition of historical materialism, as formulated by Marx:

In the social production of their existence, men enter into determined, necessary relations, independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a determined degree of development of their material productive forces

— Marx, Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy[note 18]


For example, the capitalist relations of production have not been chosen by men. The development of the productive forces within feudal society necessarily led to the formation of capitalist relations of production and not to others, whether men wanted it or not. This is how each new generation is forced to start from the objective conditions that are made for it. "Fatality" then? No, because as we shall see, the scientific study of the objective relations of production makes it possible to understand their nature, to foresee their evolution, to accelerate it.

Alleging the 'independence' of the mind, in the manner of the idealists, is quite simply to ignore the objective conditions that impose themselves first and foremost on the mind, even though it knows nothing about them, for such is the unfortunate fate of the idealist thinker: as he starts from his consciousness, without questioning the objective conditions that make it exist and that make it exercise itself, he believes that it is sufficient for itself. Illusion fought by materialism.

Having said that, it is necessary to draw an important practical conclusion from the remarks we have just presented: we have shown that very great material changes have taken place in history without those who participated in the transformation, or who brought it about, being aware of its consequences, without their having wanted it. It is therefore false to claim that there will be no socialist revolution in a country where all the workers have previously acquired revolutionary theory! The millions of people who, in October 1917, made the revolution with their hands did not see as far as Lenin and the Bolsheviks the scientific vanguard of the revolution. But in carrying out this great historical task, they were working on the transformation of their own consciousness, on the victory of the new man, a victory scientifically foreseen by Marx.

The spiritual life of the society is a reflection of the objective reality of the society

It is not the will of men that arbitrarily determines social relations, as we have said, but rather the conscience of men, which is conditioned by the material reality of the society of which they are members.

Now this society-we will return to this at greater length in Part 4 of this manual-is not born of a miracle: it is the totality of relationships that have been formed to assure men a victorious struggle over nature; relationships necessarily conditioned by the level of productive forces available to men and which they had to accommodate (ten thousand years ago, relationships between men could not be those that great industry engendered!).

It is this very complex set of factors that must be taken into account when one wants to understand how social ideas are a reflection of society.

History shows that if, at different times, men have had different ideas and desires, it is because at different times men fought differently against nature to provide for their needs, and that, consequently, their economic relations took on a different character. There was a time when men fought against nature in common, on the basis of primitive communism; at that time their property was also communist, and therefore they hardly distinguished between "mine" and "yours"; their conscience was communist. The time came when the distinction between "mine" and "yours" became part of production; from then on, property itself took on a private, individualistic character. This is why the feeling of private property entered into the consciousness of men. And this is finally the time - the time of today, when production again takes on a social character; consequently, property will not be long in taking on, in its turn, a social character - and this is why socialism gradually penetrated the consciousness of men.

— Stalin, Anarchism or Socialism?


We see the error of vulgar materialism. Noting that there is no thought without a brain, he concluded that social ideas have a purely organic determination: modify the organism of an individual, and you will change his political ideas!

Philosophical materialism certainly states that the brain is the organ of thought. But the brain itself is inseparable from the objective conditions that make men exist: it is the brain of a social being. As Marx wrote, "...man in his reality is the totality of social relations."[note 19] In the thinking brain is thus reflected "the totality of social relations" (that the individual is unaware of this fact, that such and such a university philosopher has never thought about it, is powerless to change the fact).

One of the most characteristic examples of ideology as a reflection is provided by religion. The idealists, like the theologians, profess that every man spontaneously finds in himself the idea of God, that this idea has existed since the origins of mankind, that it will last as long as it does. In reality, the idea of God is a product of the objective situation of men in ancient societies. According to Engels' formula, religion is born from the limited conceptions of mankind, but in what way? On the one hand, by the almost total impotence of primitive man before a hostile and incomprehensible nature; on the other hand, by their blind dependence on a society they did not understand and which seemed to them the expression of a superior will. Thus the gods, inexplicable and all-powerful beings, masters of nature and society, were the subjective reflection of man's objective impotence before nature and society.

The progress of the natural and social sciences was to reveal the illusory character of religious beliefs. However, as long as the exploitation of man by man persists, objective conditions remain for the belief in a superhuman being who dispenses happiness and misfortune. "Man proposes, God disposes": the peasant of ancient Russia, crushed by misery and with no prospects for the future, entrusts his fate to the divinity. The socialist revolution, by giving the community control over the productive forces, gives mankind the possibility of scientifically directing society, while at the same time increasing his power over nature at an ever-increasing rate. The objective conditions are created so that the religious mystifications which other objective conditions had generated and maintained are gradually erased from human consciousness.

In the same way, moral ideas are a reflection of objective social relations, a reflection of social practice. Idealists see in morals a set of eternal principles, absolutely independent of circumstances: they come to us from God, or they are dictated to us by the infallible "conscience. But we need only beware that, for example, the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" could only have existed and had meaning from the day private property appeared. In communist society, the notion of theft will lose all real basis because the abundance of goods will be such that there will be nothing to steal. How then can one speak of eternal morality? Morality is transformed with and by society. This is why, since society evolves through class struggle, there is a counter-current struggle between the morality of the dominant class and the morality of the exploited class; the first is conservative or reactionary in spirit; the other is more or less revolutionary. But since the ruling class has, for many years, powerful means to impose its ideas, millions of men accept without discussion the morality of the ruling class as the morality. Mystification of which the members of the dominant class are themselves victims.

Let us illustrate this with an example. The revolutionary French bourgeoisie of the 18th century led its leap against feudalism in the name of eternal Liberty, Reason and Justice. It identified its revolutionary class interests with those of mankind in general, and it was sincere. But the victory of the bourgeois revolution gave words their true meaning, their historical meaning. It showed that these universal moral ideas were the expression of class-specific interests. Freedom? yes, freedom for the bourgeoisie to produce and trade for its class profits; freedom to keep political power for itself, etc. But to the proletariat, this bourgeoisie which had made the Revolution under the flag of freedom, refused the freedom to form unions, to fight by strike, etc., and to the proletariat, this bourgeoisie which had made the Revolution under the banner of freedom, refused the freedom to form unions, to fight by strike, etc. It is the name of eternal morality that it guillotined Babeuf, because in fact it wanted to suppress bourgeois property.

Engels said:

We know today that this reign of reason was nothing other than the idealized reign of labour, that eternal justice as it was then proclaimed found its adequacy in bourgeois justice. (Engels. Anti-Dühring)

Does this mean that there will never be universal morality? Not at all. Morality will be the same for all men when the social conditions which will make such a morality effective will be objectively realized, that is, when the world triumph of communism will have abolished forever all opposition of interests among men, abolished all classes. It is therefore the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie (and against its supposed universal morality), and not the easy preaching of the idealists, which objectively opens the way to the triumph of a universal morality, that is to say, a fully human morality. Is this universal morality impenetrable to us today? No, its principles of fraternal solidarity find their first realization already in capitalist society in the morality of the revolutionary class, the proletariat. And even more so, of course, in the countries where socialist revolution has already triumphed. Indeed, while the bourgeoisie, liquidating feudalism, substitutes one exploitation for another, the proletariat, breaking capitalism, suppresses all exploitation of man by man.

The suppression of class antagonisms prepares the blossoming of the universal communist morality, of which the class morality of the revolutionary proletariat constitutes the first form[note 20].

We see that the opposition of moral ideas in the course of history, and in a general way, the opposition of ideologies, reflects the opposition of the interests of the social classes in presence. It is in this way that we can understand how social and political ideologies evolve. If, for example, the bourgeoisie in France, in one hundred and sixty years, has gone from moral universalism ("All men are brothers") to fascist racism (hatred of the Jews, hunting of North African workers, etc.), this can be explained by the material evolution of this class. Revolutionary, it believed that it could speak for all men. Threatened in its turn in its reign, it justified its domination by a claim of right of blood. This is how the feudal lords used to do it!

How new ideas and social theories emerge

For idealism, ideas arise in the minds of men without knowing why, regardless of their conditions of existence. But then a question arises which idealism is incapable of answering: why has such an idea appeared in our days and not in antiquity?

Dialectical materialism, which never separates ideas from their objective basis, does not believe that new ideas arise by a magical operation. New ideas arise as a solution to an objective contradiction that has developed in society. Indeed, we know that the driving force behind any change is contradiction (see lesson 5). The development of contradictions in a given society poses the task of resolving them when these contradictions become more acute. New ideas then emerge as an attempt to resolve these contradictions.

It is the objective development of the contradictions peculiar to feudal society-divorce between old and new productive forces-that gave rise to revolutionary ideas in the rising class: hundreds of plans for social and political reform arose, and a similar process took place in capitalist society: socialist ideas were born to resolve the contradictions from which millions of men, women and children suffered.

What distinguishes the great innovators is their ability to solve problems that, as a reflection of the objective contradictions of society, are more or less confused in the consciousness of their contemporaries:

Humanity only ever poses problems that it can solve, because, on closer inspection, it will always be found that the problem itself only arises where the material conditions for solving it already exist or at least are in the process of formation.

— Karl Marx, Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy


Incomprehensible for those who are not initiated into dialectical materialism, this famous phrase can be explained in this way. Who says "problem" says "contradiction" to be solved. But what is contradiction if not a struggle between the old and the new? If therefore a contradiction appears, it is because the new is already there, even if only partially. For example: feudal society could only be called into question today when, within it, the antagonistic forces that were later to destroy it (industry, the bourgeoisie) began to exercise themselves. The solution of the problem was the victory of this newcomer who sought Savoy.

The issue of survivorship

The concept we have outlined in this lesson sheds light on an important feature of the history of ideas: the question of survivorship.

Survival occurs when an idea survives in the mind when the objective conditions that founded its existence have disappeared.

An essential thesis of philosophical materialism is that consciousness is posterior to material reality (nature and society). It is posterior to the consciousness of the objective situation. This is how the former shoemaker Stalin talks about leads an objectively proletarian life, but keeps, for a certain time, a petty bourgeois consciousness.

In the same way, in a society whose material base is changing, men only become aware of these changes with a certain delay. When these appear, then they look for solutions in the arsenal of old ideas they have kept from the past. Survivors (ideas born in old objective conditions) are an obstacle to new ideas, which correspond to the new objective conditions. Example: at the very beginning of capitalism, the proletarians exploited by the industrial bourgeoisie, were looking for a solution to their misery in an unutopic return to craftsmanship: they therefore destroyed the machines.

But the survivors must inevitably retreat, as the contradictions of objectives develop: then the return to the past appears more and more impossible, while new ideas are reinforced, the only ones adapted to the objective forces that are rising. The past is prolonged in consciousness until the day when the present becomes intolerable to the point that a new one must be found; then the future prevails.

Conclusion

The title of this lesson was justified. It is from the material life of societies that one must start to understand their spiritual life.

From this we will draw some lessons of great practical significance.

  1. The only problems that can be solved in a given period of time are those posed by the real needs of society. marxists, therefore, base their action on a thorough study of the objective conditions in a given period; that is why this action is fruitful. They thus oppose Blum's idealism which, denying the material character of social facts, especially economic facts, transformed socialism into mysticism; all action was therefore doomed to failure.
  2. In his relations with the workers, the revolutionary militant must never stop at what the workers think. Ideas are one thing, material conditions are another. Such a proletarian can have conservative ideas without knowing it, under the ideological pressure of the bourgeoisie. Is that surprising? No, since the ruling class, at the same time as it exploits the workers, does everything possible to persuade them that it is perfect this way (the official morality taught in school does not preach class struggle, but serene acceptance of what is). We must not condemn this proletarian: his misconceptions express the objective reality of a society where the bourgeoisie reigns. Much more! Beyond the diversity of opinions that share the workers, the revolutionary, proceeding with the materialist analysis of the objective conditions, will highlight the community of interests, thus founding the unity of action: unity of action is possible because in the last resort it is not the ideas that determine the conditions of the class struggle, but the conditions of the class struggle that determine the ideas. That is why in 1936, Maurice Thorez, addressing the Catholic workers or Cross of Fire, said to them: You are workers like us, who are communists. "Let us unite in the common struggle for the good of our people and our country"[note 21]
  3. The transformation of ideas, as we have shown in this lesson, has a material basis. This is of great consequence for the revolutionary education of the workers: the penetration of revolutionary ideas can only take place in and through struggle, in connection with the concrete tasks of life, on the construction site, in the workshop, in the office. It is the social struggle (objective condition) that makes possible the decisive changes in the consciousness of the workers (subjective reflection). It is thus through the united struggle to resolve the objective contradictions of capitalist society that the non-encrusted revolutionary workers make their experience, with the help of the marxist-leninist vanguard, discovering solutions to their ills. In turn, they become revolutionaries.

See: Control questions

The role and importance of ideas in social life

An example

A very widespread prejudice consists in believing that marxist materialism is indifferent to ideas, that it recognizes no importance or role in them.

This lesson will show that this is not the case, that on the contrary marxists take ideas and theories quite seriously. The proof was given by Marx himself: if he had refused all power to ideas, would he have devoted his life to the development and dissemination of revolutionary theory? The proof is also given by his disciples, communist militants who, in the harshest hours of the struggle, are the first to set an example, and if necessary make the heroic sacrifice of their lives for the triumph of the great ideals of the world. socialism.

Let us refer to the example by which we introduced the previous lesson: the idea, spread by UNESCO, that wars are born "in the conscience of men" and that, consequently, to destroy war, it is sufficient to pacify the spirits. We have seen that this thesis does not stand up to materialist examination, war - and consequently the idea of ​​war - having its origin in the material reality of societies.

However, UNESCO's thesis, however false it may be, is nonetheless of great importance. In practice, it has a very precise role: under the guise of fighting war, this idealistic thesis distracts from the search for its true causes! Invoking "the conscience of men" in general (as a source of war) this hometown idealism conceals the very real responsibilities of the real culprits, the imperialists. This idealism speaks well, but it hurts the forces of peace while favoring the forces of war. The real "peacekeepers" are not those who hide from the spirits with a veil of idealism the objective causes of war, but those who, materialists, analyze these causes and denounce the imperialist aggressors.

So far, therefore, that marxism neglects the power of ideas.

... we have said that the spiritual life of society is a reflection of the conditions of its material life. But as regards the importance of these social ideas and theories, of these political opinions and institutions, of their role in history, historical materialism, far from denying them, emphasizes, on the contrary, their role and importance. considerable in social life, in the history of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism. P. 15.)

Materialist, marxist philosophy finds the origin of social ideas in the material life of societies. Dialectical, it shows their objective importance and defines their proper role: this is the subject of our 13 th lesson.

The error of vulgar materialism

Those who reproach marxism for neglecting ideas, knowingly or not, put it on trial which does not concern it. They impute to him an error which is that of vulgar materialism. To deny the importance of ideas is an anti-scientific position, which dialectical materialism has always fought.

“We think differently in a palace and in a cottage”. This Feuerbach formula is simplistic and equivocal. Indeed, it forgets that, among the conditions which determine the conceptions of an individual, are precisely the existing ideologies. So that the inhabitant of a thatched cottage may very well have pretensions of a prince! The worker can have petty bourgeois pretensions! The Georgian shoemaker, of whom Stalin speaks, would not have come to socialist ideas if these had not already had an existence and a role in society.

In La Musette by Jean Brécot, Gaston Monmousseau illustrates with a living example - read “A Noble Cow”, p. 84, - the truth that such and such individuals can preserve for a long time an ideology in contradiction with the material conditions of their existence.

The mechanistic conceptions of anti-dialectic materialism - we call it “vulgar” materialism as opposed to scientific materialism - are very dangerous. Why ? Because they play the game of idealism. By denying the role of ideas, vulgar materialism gives idealistic philosophers the possibility of occupying the ground thus left free. We then have on the one hand a simplified materialism, which impoverishes reality - and on the other, to "compensate" for these inadequacies, the "supplement of soul" generously provided by idealism. Idealism corrects the mechanism. The error corrects the error.

What then is the position of dialectical materialism?

While, for mechanistic materialism, social consciousness is only a passive reflection (we also say: an "epiphenomenon") of material existence, for dialectical materialism social consciousness is indeed a reflection, but it is an active reflection.

We know indeed that reality is movement (2nd law of dialectics, see the 3rd lesson), that every aspect of reality is movement. Now ideas and theories, although posterior to matter, are nonetheless aspects of total reality. Why then deny them the fundamental property of all that is? Why refuse them movement, activity? The dialectic is universal; it is therefore manifested as well in ideas as in things, in social consciousness as in production.

The thesis which denies all power to ideas is anti-dialectic in a second sense: we know (1st law of dialectic, see the 2nd lesson) that reality is interdependence; the various aspects of reality are connected, act on each other. Hence this consequence: derived from material life, the spiritual life of society is nonetheless inseparable from this material life; it therefore acts in return on the material life of societies.

Thus the application of the laws of dialectics not only gives all their importance to social ideas and theories, but makes it possible to understand how their action is exercised.

This reciprocal relationship, this interaction of society and ideas, Engels expresses it thus:

The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure - the political forms of the class struggle and its results, - the Constitutions established after the battle has been won by the victorious class, etc., - the legal forms, and even the reflections of all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political, legal, philosophical theories, religious conceptions, and their subsequent development into dogmatic systems, also exert their action on the course of historical struggles and in many cases determine it, predominantly, the form. There is action and reaction of all these factors ... (Engels: “Letter to Joseph Bloch” (September 21, 1890) ”, in Marx-Engels: Etudes philosophiques, p. 128. (We devote the 19th lesson to reports between base and superstructure.) (Except form, all other underlined expressions are by us. (GB-MC))

Engels critic

... this stupid idea of ​​the ideologues [according to which], as we deny the various ideologies which play a role in history, independent historical development, we also deny them any historical effectiveness. It is to start, observes Engels, from a banal, non-dialectical conception of cause and effect as poles rigidly opposed to one another ... (Engels: Letter to Franz Mehring, ( July 14, 1893) ”, idem, p. 140.)

And even

[The fact that] ... an ideological point of view reacts in its turn to the economic base and can modify it, within certain limits, seems to me to be obvious.

... when Barth claims that we would have denied any reaction of the political reflections, etc., of the economic movement on this very movement, he is only fighting against windmills.

... What all these gentlemen lack is dialectics. They always see here only the cause, there only the effect ... That the whole great course of things takes place in the form of action and reaction of forces, no doubt, very unequal, - whose economic movement is by far the most powerful, the most initial, the most decisive force ... that, ... they do not see it. (Engels: “Letter to Conrad Schmidt”, idem, p. 133, 135. (Except ideological point of view, expressions underlined by us. GB-MC))

Starting, with good reason, from the fact that economic laws are the basis of historical development, some popularizers of materialism draw the wrong conclusion: they believe that it is enough to let these laws act by themselves by crossing their arms. They thus doom man to impotence. However, experience shows that the better men know the objective laws of society, the more effective is their struggle against backward social forces which hinder the application of these laws because they injure their class interests.

How then to deny the role of consciousness which knows these laws? How to deny its power when it has such effects? Depending on whether the laws of social development are known or ignored by men, they make them their auxiliaries or are their victims. Scientific knowledge of the causes of imperialist war thus makes it possible to fight effectively against it. When marxists say, with Stalin, that wars are "inevitable" between capitalist countries, vulgar materialism concludes that they are fatal; in which it joins the idealism of the theologian, for whom war is divine punishment. To say that capitalism makes wars inevitable [See Stalin: “The economic problems of socialism in the USSR”. Latest writings, p. 122.], c 'is to say that by its nature capitalism engenders imperialist war. But, if capitalism is the necessary cause of wars, its existence is not enough to start war; Why ? Because the people still have to agree to wage this war. The capitalists need soldiers. Hence their policy of war, their ideology of war which tends to persuade the peoples that it is necessary to wage war: thereby they work to ensure that the law of capitalism - the law which impels it to war - is carried out. freely, in their interest. But the peoples, by fighting step by step, and without delay, the war policy and the ideology of war, prevent the capitalists from realizing the conditions favorable to war. We see the importance of ideas. The idea, in particular,that peaceful coexistence is possible between different social regimes is becoming a decisive obstacle to the anti-Soviet crusade. Why ? Because the masses are taking hold of this idea more and more strongly. But capitalism which needs war (it is in the sense that it is necessary for it) will not be able to satisfy this need if the masses say: "no"! (it is in this sense that war is not fatal).is in the sense that war is not fatal).is in the sense that war is not fatal).

The dialectical materialist thesis

It is the material origin of the ideas which founds their power

At the same time as it affirms the objective character of the laws of society - in the first place economic laws -, dialectical materialism therefore affirms the objective role of ideas (which allows men to accelerate or delay, to favor or obstruct the exercise of the laws of society). Some, prisoners of vulgar materialism, will say: “Inconsistency! Or it's one or the other! Either you admit the power of the "objective factor" or you admit the power of the "subjective factor". It's necessary to choose ". Metaphysical position.

Dialectical materialism does not make matter and thought two isolated, unrelated principles. These are two aspects just as real as the other

... of one and the same nature or of one and the same company; we cannot represent them one without the other, they coexist, develop together, and therefore we have no reason to believe that they are mutually exclusive.

And Stalin said again:

Nature, one and indivisible, expressed in two different forms, material and ideal; social life, one and indivisible, expressed in two different forms, material and ideal: this is how we must consider the development of nature and of social life. (Stalin: “Anarchism or socialism?”, Works, t. I, p. 261-262.)

It being understood that the material aspect is prior to the spiritual aspect.

Therefore dialectical materialism not only admits the power of ideas over the world, but it makes this power intelligible. On the contrary, by separating ideas from the whole of reality, idealism turns them into mysterious beings: one wonders how they can act on a world (nature, society) with which they have nothing in common. The superb isolation of ideas paralyzes them.

The merit of dialectical materialism is that, having rediscovered the material origin of social ideas, it is thereby able to understand their effectiveness on this world from which they emerge. We see it: not only does the material origin of ideas and theories harm neither their importance nor their role, but it gives them all their effectiveness.

It is not dialectical materialism that despises ideas. Rather, it is idealism, which transforms them into empty words, which turns them into powerless phantoms. Dialectical materialism recognizes in them a concrete force, just as material in its consequences as the forces of nature.

This force - although it becomes unintelligible as soon as one wants to consider it apart, unrelated to the rest - can, however, and to a certain point, develop by its own movement. Example: religion was born on the basis of the material, historical conditions of society. May ”this set of ideas which is religion is not passive. It has a life of its own, which develops in the brains of men. And all the more so since they, ignoring the objective causes of religion, believe that it is God who makes everything work. Ideas can therefore be transmitted to generations, and be maintained, while the objective conditions which had given rise to them have changed. But in the long run the whole of the real acts on this aspect of the real which is religious ideology. Theidea has relatively independent development; but when the contradiction is too acute between the idea and the objective world, it is resolved in favor of the objective world, in favor of the ideas which reflect this objective world. It is thus the true theories which, ultimately, clear the way and impose themselves on the masses against mystifications and lies.

Old and new ideas

Studying the origin of ideas, we have seen (lesson 12, point III, c) that the contradiction in ideas and theories reflects an objective contradiction in society.

Consider, for example, the economic crises engendered by capitalism. Their objective cause is the contradiction between the private character of the ownership of the means of production and the social character of the production process. [We will study this question more specifically in Part IV, Lesson 18 (point II b).] How to resolve this contradiction?

The revolutionary proletariat responds: with the socialization of the means of production, with socialism; then there will be no more crisis, the productive forces will resume their development, for the happiness of all. The bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production, from which it derives maximum profit, answers: Let us limit the productive forces since they put our regime in danger; thus we will safeguard the capitalist relations of production which guarantee our privileges. And the same class that once sang the praises of science, curses it today, considering that it's science to blame if there is - as it says - "overproduction". On the contrary, the proletariat praises science. He considers that crises are not attributable to scientific progress, but to the social system, to capitalism;in a socialist regime, science will bring prosperity.

We see that there is a struggle of ideas on the basis of an objective contradiction, that of capitalism in crisis.

On the one hand, the idea widely spread by ideologues and bourgeois journalists: science is bad; we must keep an eye on it, its progress is a calamity, it is time to subordinate it to religion. And it is not for nothing that in magazines and digests, magic, witchcraft, the "occult sciences" take the good part, in the company of anti-communism and pin-ups. It is not for nothing either that, in an official document [Circular of September 29, 1952 published by the National Education, October 2, 1952.], the Minister of National Education advocated the return to empiricism, that is to say, to the investigative processes that science has long passed. This rowdy or sly propaganda against science, with a return to medieval mystics,does she come by chance? Is it coincidence that the bourgeoisie of today recounts in a hundred ways that there are no objective laws, and that consequently one should not "seek to understand"? Is it coincidence that the project of "reform" of education due to Minister André Marie, taking the example of Franco, tends to degrade general culture? All this (which must be compared with the themes developed under the fascist Vichy regime) is in fact the ideological expression of the interests of a class condemned by the development of societies and which would like history to reverse.and that consequently one should not "seek to understand"? Is it coincidence that the project of "reform" of education due to Minister André Marie, taking the example of Franco, tends to degrade general culture? All this (which must be compared with the themes developed under the fascist Vichy regime) is in fact the ideological expression of the interests of a class condemned by the development of societies and which would like history to reverse.and that consequently one should not "seek to understand"? Is it coincidence that the project of "reform" of education due to Minister André Marie, taking the example of Franco, tends to degrade general culture? All this (which must be compared with the themes developed under the fascist Vichy regime) is in fact the ideological expression of the interests of a class condemned by the development of societies and which would like history to reverse.a class condemned by the development of societies and which would like history to reverse.a class condemned by the development of societies and which would like history to reverse.

There are old ideas and theories, which have had their day and which serve the interests of the withering forces of society. Their importance is that they slow down the development of society, its progress. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 16.)

It is obvious that hatred or contempt for the sciences currently benefits the bourgeoisie, since their peaceful development would jeopardize its regime. [This does not prevent the bourgeoisie from using science and technology for its war industries, to the detriment of works of peace. But at the same time it reinforces the idea that science can give nothing good.]

But in contrast, the idea that we must encourage the progress of science is spread by the proletariat, the revolutionary class. It is an idea which, in fact, is in full agreement with the development of the productive forces; now only the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat can ensure this development.

There are new, avant-garde ideas and theories which serve the interests of the avant-garde forces of society. Their importance is that they facilitate the development of society, its progress; and, what is more, they acquire all the more importance the more faithfully they reflect the needs for the development of the material life of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 16.)

This is why, when the working class seizes power, it creates the material conditions most conducive to the development of science. It promotes in all ways the idea that science is necessary for the happiness of men. Thus, in the USSR, the development of Michurinian biology became the concern of collective farm farmers, who take part in the formation of new species. The march towards communism is thereby accelerated. (See the film Un Eté prodigieux.)

Ideas are therefore forces. Old ideas are forces of reaction, and that is why reactionary classes cultivate them. Avant-garde ideas are forces which contribute to the progress of societies, and that is why the rising classes favor them to the maximum.

We must not conclude, by an excessive simplification, that the present classes spontaneously create, as classes, the ideologies appropriate to their needs. Ideas are products of the knowledge process; in a society where the division of labor reigns (this is the case of societies divided into classes), ideas are developed as theories by individuals more particularly reserved for this task: priests, philosophers, scientists, technicians, educators, artists, writers, etc. But they are used by the class as a whole.

On the other hand, when we speak of new ideas, it should not be understood in a schematic way. It happens in fact that an idea abandoned by one class is later taken up in other forms by another class. Thus the idea that science is beneficial was cultivated by the revolutionary bourgeoisie (Diderot, Condorcet). It is taken up and renewed by the revolutionary proletariat, which, however, can draw all the practical consequences (in the construction of socialism), while the bourgeoisie could not follow this idea to the end. Classes can then use ideas that have already been used. There is nothing surprising about this: men having learned by experience the power of ideas, one class does not neglect, among all the pre-existing ideas,those which (in whole or in part) favor his reign or his ascension. Conversely, a class can expel from its ideology such idea which no longer suits it: the fascist bourgeoisie, today, tramples underfoot "the flag of bourgeois democratic freedoms" which once won it, against feudalism, the alliance of the oppressed masses. .

In addition, it strives to pass off as "new" ideas that serve it and which are only old ideas dressed in new: for example, Hitler wanted to pass as the last word of science the old obscurantist theory and medieval race and "blood". And there were "scholars" to believe it. Mussolini declared that proletarian socialism was an "old myth" and fascism a "new myth"! "New" is not measured by the date, but by the ability to solve problems that arise at any given time. Marx's Capital is newer than anything more recent to be taught in bourgeois faculties as political economy.

Another remark: from the fact that ideas are always at the service of such and such a historically determined class or society, we should not conclude that all ideas are equal. The idea that science is evil is a false idea, that is to say contrary to reality, since the progress of human societies is impossible without the sciences. The idea that science is beneficial is a correct idea, in accordance with the reality of the facts. The proletariat, the rising class, needs the truth just as the bourgeoisie, a bankrupt class, needs the lie. [That the reactionary classes want, through repression, to kill ideas, that's what history teaches. “We hunted down the innocent Like animals We looked for the eyes That saw clearly in the darkness. To burst them. "(Paul Eluard.)] But misconceptions are an active force, no less than true ideas. They must be combated with the help of correct, avant-garde ideas which, reflecting more faithfully the needs of social development, are assured of the final victory and acquire every day more importance to the point of becoming indispensable; which explains why their influence is spreading.

New ideas have an organizing, mobilizing and transforming action

New ideas and social theories do not arise until the development of the material life of society has posed new tasks for society. But once they arise, they become a force of the highest importance which facilitates the accomplishment of the new tasks posed by the development of the material life of society; they facilitate the progress of society. It is then that the importance of the organizing, mobilizing and transforming role of new ideas and theories, of new political opinions and institutions, appears precisely. To tell the truth, if new ideas and social theories arise, it is precisely because they are necessary for society, because without their organizing, mobilizing and transforming action,the solution of the pressing problems involved in the development of the material life of society is impossible. Aroused by the new tasks posed by the development of the material life of society, new ideas and theories make their way, become the heritage of the popular masses that they mobilize and organize against the wasting forces of society, thereby facilitating the reversal of those forces which slow down the development of the material life of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 16.)become the patrimony of the popular masses which they mobilize and organize against the wasting forces of society, thereby facilitating the reversal of these forces which slow down the development of the material life of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 16.)become the patrimony of the popular masses which they mobilize and organize against the wasting forces of society, thereby facilitating the reversal of these forces which slow down the development of the material life of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 16.)

This text is of the utmost importance, because it sheds light on the forms in which new ideas act:

- they mobilize, that is to say they arouse energies, arouse enthusiasm, put the masses in. Movement [Idealist affirmation? No, because an idea can only set the masses in motion if it reflects material conditions, only if it proceeds from a study of the objective situation.];

- they organize, that is to say they give this movement unity and lasting cohesion (example: the idea of ​​the united struggle for peace gave birth to peace committees, which organize the movement for peace);

- they transform, that is to say that they not only act on the conscience, raise them, but they allow the effective solution of the problems posed to the company.

"Theory becomes a material force as soon as it penetrates the masses" [Marx: Critique of the Philosophy of Law of Hegel.], History illustrates abundantly this triple role of new ideas.

In 1789, the avant-garde idea: the nation is sovereign, it must give itself a Constitution which will make all French people equal before the law and will suppress privileges - this idea mobilized the broadest masses because it responded to the historical problem of the time. It aroused, against the old feudal order, the organized and transforming impetus of the people.

In October 1917, the idea of ​​the avant-garde, - to end the war, to conquer the land, to ensure the liberation of oppressed nationalities, etc., it was necessary to liquidate the bourgeois government of Kerensky and give all power to the Soviets - this idea allowed the organization and mobilization of the masses, and thereby the transformation of society.

One could multiply such examples. But isn't there one which, for French workers, is the most current, the most convincing?

Analyzing the situation at the Central Committee of the French Communist Party (June 1953), Maurice Thorez observed:

"The decisive fact of the hour is the progress of the idea of ​​unity among the popular masses." Unity for what? To "make triumph in our country a policy of peace and national independence, a policy of freedom and social progress". How did the workers, more and more numerous, come to this idea? Because “all the contradictions of the policy resulting from the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact” burst, a ruinous policy of war and enslavement, a policy of fascization and social reaction. The workers understand that to change this “there is no other way than union and action through union”. The idea of ​​unity is therefore taking hold of the masses more and more strongly. She mobilizes and organizes them, whetheract strike committees, peace committees, or committees for the defense of freedoms. Thus are being prepared - by the increasingly conscious action of the masses more and more widely mobilized, better and better organized - the material transformations which the situation has made inevitable.

Thus, aroused by the tasks posed by history, new ideas take on their full weight when the masses, who make history, take hold of them. They then act with as much power as material forces. It is so true that the enemies of progress are obliged to cunning with these 1 ideas which have become formidable in the hands of good people. This is the case with the bourgeoisie and its servants, the socialist leaders: these, observes Maurice Thorez in the text cited above, are so frightened by the magnitude of the unitary current that they "try to seize the slogan of unity to fight against unity ”. "Homage of vice to virtue"! But no more than police violence, demagogic ruses cannot resist the omnipotence of the masses who,become aware, know where they are going, what they want and what is needed. [One will find in volume II, p. 178, from the Selected Works of Lenin, an example which shows with great force the organizing and transforming role of new ideas when they take hold of the masses. Lenin commented (in October 1917) on the decree which abolished large landholdings and gave the land to the working peasants. The decree refers to a mandate drawn up in the countryside by the Social Revolutionaries (who still had a great influence in the peasantry), a mandate which is not similar in all respects to that of the Bolsheviks. On behalf of the revolutionary government led by the Bolsheviks, Lenin declared: “Voices are being heard here,saying that the decree itself and the mandate were drawn up by the Social Revolutionaries. Is. It doesn't matter who wrote them. But as a democratic government, we cannot override the decision of the deep popular masses, even if we disagree with them. In the fire of life, by practically applying it, by implementing it on the spot, the peasants themselves will understand where the truth is. And if even the peasants continue to follow the Socialist-Revolutionaries, if they even give this party the majority in the Constituent Assembly, we will still say: So be it. Life is the best teacher; it will show who is right. Let the peasants work to solve the problem from one end to the other; we will do the same on the other end. Life will force us to come closer in the common torrent ofrevolutionary initiative, in the elaboration of new forms of State. We have to follow life; we must leave full freedom to the creative genius of the popular masses. The old government (Kerensky), overthrown by the armed insurrection, intended to resolve the agrarian question with old Tsarist officials who were not dismissed. But instead of settling the question, the bureaucracy was only fighting the peasants. The peasants have learned many things in these eight months of our Revolution; they intend to resolve all questions concerning the land themselves. That is why we are voting against any amendment to this bill. We don't want to go into details, because we are writing a decree, not a program of action. Russia is great,local conditions are diverse. We have no doubt that the peasantry itself will know better than we do; resolve the issue correctly, as it should. Will it do so in the spirit of our program or that of the Socialist Revolutionaries? This is not the point. The essential thing is that the peasantry acquire the firm certainty that there are no longer any landowners in the countryside, that it is up to the peasants themselves to decide all the questions, to organize their lives. "]is that the peasantry acquires the firm certainty that there are no longer any landowners in the countryside, that it is up to the peasants themselves to decide all the questions, to organize their lives. "]is that the peasantry acquires the firm certainty that there are no longer any landowners in the countryside, that it is up to the peasants themselves to decide all the questions, to organize their lives. "]

Conclusion

The importance and role of social ideas and theories are considerable.

We will draw some conclusions from this:

1. Ideas are active forces. So the revolutionary who neglects to fight the mistaken views prevalent among the workers is damaging the whole movement. He is on the wrong ground of vulgar materialism; it is not on the solid ground of dialectical materialism, the theoretical basis of scientific socialism. Example: letting the bourgeois press (including Franc-Tireur) operate among the workers is to leave the latter prey to the old ideas of capitulation, which are so many obstacles to social progress. In the 1900s, it was a newspaper, Iskra, which, written by Lenin, threw the grain of new ideas into the consciousness of workers: this grain has germinated. Ideas of Iskra, taken in hand by revolutionaries,in 1903 came out the Party which was later to lead the socialist revolution. The struggle of ideas is a necessary aspect of the class struggle. Not to fight against ideas useful to bourgeois domination is to tie the hands of the proletariat.

2. Social existence determines social consciousness. But this acts in return on society. However, not only is this feedback action necessary for material changes to take place, but at some point it is the idea that plays the decisive role. The correctness of the slogans is then the determining element.

Example: At the moment, the interests of workers, peasants, officials, etc., etc. are harmed by the same enemy, the reactionary big bourgeoisie. So unity of action is materially possible. It is still necessary that those concerned understand it! Therefore, the decisive element is the idea that unity is possible. It is because this is the decisive element that, on the one hand, the socialist leaders, who divide the movement, repeat to the socialist workers: do not go with the Communists! - and that on the other hand the communist militants, champions of unity, increase their efforts to train the socialist workers in common action. The success of joint action gives birth to them the idea that unity is possible and beneficial;this idea facilitates new common actions, and so on, until common victory.

Another example. The strengthening of the material forces of peace (Soviet Union, people's democracies, World Peace Movement) and the weakening of the material forces of war (imperialism) create objective conditions more and more favorable to the triumph of international negotiation. But it is precisely then that the will for peace of millions and millions of ordinary people becomes the determining factor. For, if this will is fully exercised, it must necessarily succeed, since the objective conditions for its success are met.

This example shows very clearly that the idea is all the more powerful the better it reflects the objective situation of the moment, the more rigorously it is appropriate to the objective possibilities of the moment. The subjective element is all the more decisive the better it reflects the objective element. It just goes to show that dialectical materialism not only does not suppress consciousness, but gives it all its value. Unlike the simplistic materialist who, conceiving the “ideological reflection” as an inert and uninteresting product, will say: “The objective conditions are good. Perfect! Let us go, everything will be fine! », The true materialist never lets himself be carried away.

This decisive force of the idea at the moment when the best objective conditions are met, Stalin expressed it in a well-known sentence:

Peace will be preserved and consolidated if the peoples take up the cause of peacekeeping and if they defend it to the end. War can become inevitable if the warmongers succeed in enveloping the popular masses in lies, deceiving them and dragging them into a new world war. (Stalin: "Statements on the problems of peace [to an editor of Pravda] (February 17, 1951)", Latest writings, p. 67. (Expression underlined by us. GB-MC))

3. The active role of social ideas and theories obliges us to have a theory rigorously suited to the material needs of society, to the needs of the working masses who make history and who alone have the strength capable of breaking down the resistance of society. the exploiting bourgeoisie. To despise theory, as the opportunists do - from the Russian Mensheviks to Leon Blum and Jules Moch - is to deprive the working class of the compass which guides the revolutionary movement.

Without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary movement. (Lenin: What to do? P. 26, quoted in History of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the USSR, p. 45.)

One of the merits of scientific socialism, which we will discuss in the next lesson, is that, relying on dialectical materialism, it correctly appreciates the importance and role of ideas. he

therefore places theory in the high rank that it deserves, and considers it its duty to make full use of its mobilizing, organizing and transforming force. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 17.)

See: Control questions

The formation, importance and role of scientific socialism

While idealism is incapable of understanding the origin and role of social ideas and theories, dialectical materialism can. But he does not himself escape the laws which govern the appearance of ideas and their action. This is why, while idealism does not understand itself (for it could only do so by ceasing to be idealist, by becoming materialist), marxist theory is able to objectively study its own history. , to objectively appreciate its importance.

This fourteenth lesson is devoted to the more properly social and political aspect of marxist theory: scientific socialism. We will study its formation and its role.

The three sources of marxism

Considered as a whole (dialectical materialism, historical materialism, scientific socialism), marxism is not a spontaneous product of the human mind. On the one hand it was born on the basis of the objective contradictions of capitalist society; he resolves them in innovative ways. On the other hand, and inseparably, it proceeds from a movement of ideas which had been formed under older objective conditions, a movement which sought there an answer to the problems posed by the development of societies.

The history of philosophy and the history of social science show quite clearly that marxism has nothing resembling "sectarianism" in the sense of a doctrine folded in on itself and ossified, arisen in deviation from the main road of the development of universal civilization. On the contrary, Marx is brilliant in that he answered questions that advanced humanity had already raised. His doctrine was born as the direct and immediate continuation of the doctrines of the most eminent representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism. (Lenin: "The three sources and the three constituent parts of marxism", in Karl Marx and his doctrine, p. 37. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1953.)

This text indicates three theoretical sources of marxism considered as a whole; we must quickly characterize their importance.

German philosophy

German philosophy at the start of the 19th century is a source of marxism; we have already had the opportunity to deal with it (see Introduction and first lesson).

We know that Hegel, admirer of the Revolution of 1789, wanted to accomplish on the level of ideas a revolution analogous to that which the French Revolution had accomplished in practice. Hence the dialectic: just as the revolution put an end to the feudal regime that was believed to be eternal, so the dialectic discourages the truths that believed themselves to be eternal: it sees in history a process which has as its motor the struggle of the contrary ideas. In this way the aspirations of the German bourgeoisie were expressed ideologically at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century. Germany, fragmented, was still under feudal rule and the young German bourgeoisie dreamed of doing for itself what the French bourgeoisie had masterfully accomplished on the other side of the Rhine. But, too weak, she doeswas unable to fulfill this historic task; and this explains Hegel's radical insufficiency: his idealism. Idealism is always a reflection of objective helplessness. Theoretical expression of a bourgeoisie which would like to throw down feudalism, but is not capable of doing so, Hegel's philosophy was, to use Engels' expression, a "colossal abortion". [On the historical significance of Hegelianism, see Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part 1.] Dialectical development thus remains purely ideal. Much more! Allying with the Prussian feudal state [Its leader Frederick William II had indeed promised a “representative monarchy”, which could not change the feudal character of the state.],he comes to regard this State as the necessary historical expression of the Idea. The dialectic is thus silted up in the idealization of what is ... Its movement is blocked by the impotence of a class which can only make the revolution ... only in spirit.

However, the bourgeois philosophers of the generation which immediately followed Hegel (died in 1831) had to be led, by their struggle against clerical feudalism, to find in the atheistic materialism of the 18th century in France theoretical weapons against the class enemy. This stage is embodied in Ludwig Feuerbach. His book L'Essence du Christianisme (1841) replaced "materialism on its throne". He exerted a strong influence on Marx (born in 1818) and Engels (born in 1820), both from the German liberal bourgeoisie. But Feuerbach's materialism remained mechanistic (see lesson 9). Feuerbach rightly sees man as a product of nature. But he does not see that man is also a producer, who transforms nature, and that this is the origin of society. Devoid ofFeuerbach replaces a scientific conception of history with a vague religion of love, that is, by a return to idealism. Powerlessness which reflected that of the German bourgeoisie: in 1848, it could not successfully lead its revolution against the feudal lords.

We know that, through the elaboration of dialectical materialism, Marx brought to light an entirely scientific philosophy which went beyond both the idealist dialectic of Hegel and the mechanistic materialism of Feuerbach. [See the first lesson. We have shown from this first lesson how Marx was able to give a materialist content to the dialectic because he relied on the decisive progress of the natural sciences. We will not come back to it.] The first exposition of dialectical materialism is given by the Theses on Feuerbach, which Marx wrote in the spring of 1845. The eleventh thesis expresses the passage from classical German philosophy to marxism:

Philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways, but it is about transforming it. (Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 53; Etudes ..., p. 64.)

English political economy

At the beginning of the 19th century, England was the most advanced country, economically. At the end of the 18th century, the English bourgeoisie had been the first to pass from manufacture to manufacture, that is to say to the use of machines; thus was born great industrial production, the technical basis of capitalist society. Objectively favorable condition for the development of political economy,

science of the laws that govern the production and exchange of material means of subsistence in human society. (Engels: Anti-Dühring, p. 179.)

The great English economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo initiated the theory of labor value. But they did not know how to grasp, beyond the exchange of commodities, the objective relations between men. They could not therefore show that the value of any commodity is determined by the labor time socially necessary for its production. Marx's merit was precisely to identify the true nature of exchange value, as the crystallization of social work. In doing so, Marx overstepped the bounds of English political economy, which had been unable to carry the analysis of capitalism to its limits because powerful class interests opposed it. Economists believed capitalism to be eternal. Marx made a decisive leap to thepolitical economy through the discovery of surplus value.

The appropriation of unpaid labor has been proven to be the fundamental form of capitalist production and of the exploitation of workers which is inseparable from it; that the capitalist, even though he pays the labor-power of the worker at the real value which, as a commodity, it has on the market, nevertheless extracts from it more value than he has given for acquire it; and that this surplus value constitutes, in the final analysis, the sum of the values ​​from which comes the ever-increasing mass of capital, accumulated in the hands of the possessing classes. The way of proceeding of capitalist production as well as the production of capital were explained. (Engels: Utopian Socialism and Scientific Socialism, p. 57.)

Capital (the first volume of which dates from 1867 and on which Marx worked until his death, 1883) was to constitute the masterpiece of marxist political economy.

French socialism

It is in the materialism of the French philosophers of the 18th century that we must look for the germ of modern socialism, of which scientific socialism is the flourishing. The Helvetiuses, the d'Holbachs, etc., were by no means socialists. But by its main theses - natural goodness of man; omnipotence of experience, habit, education; determining influence of the physical and social environment on character and manners; etc. - their materialism

... is necessarily linked to communism and socialism ... If man is shaped by circumstances, circumstances must be shaped humanly. (Marx: “Contribution to the history of French materialism” in Marx-Engels: Etudes philosophiques, p. 116.)

Gracchus Babeuf, who gave his life for communism (he was guillotined in 1797 by the Thermidorian bourgeoisie), was the disciple of the philosophers of the 18th century. [See Babeuf: Selected texts, presented by G. and C. Willard. (Classics of the people). Editions Sociales, Paris, 1950.] As for Marx's predecessors, the three great Utopians, the French Saint-Simon and Fourier, the Englishman Owen, they had deeply assimilated the materialism of the 18th century.

This is how Engels' assessment of modern socialism is justified:

Like any new theory, it had to relate to the ideas of its immediate predecessors, although in reality it had its roots in the field of economic facts. (Engels: Utopian socialism and scientific socialism, p. 39. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1948.)

But the socialism prior to Marx was not yet scientific. It was utopian socialism. French socialism constitutes the largest part of it; but it also encompasses certain German thinkers and the great English theorist Owen.

Utopian socialism

It was formed under the conditions created by capitalist society. The bourgeoisie had fought against the feudal regime in the name of liberty, of fraternity. However, his reign in France and England turned society into a jungle. The development of industry within the framework of capitalism having as a condition the exploitation of the workers, one saw the constitution of new feudalities, the feudalities of money, ensuring to the bourgeoisie possessing opulence and power, while in the Another pole of society, the misery of the working masses assumed appalling proportions.

The starting point of utopian socialism was the generous denunciation of this situation, which bourgeois economists presented as "natural" since it ensured the development of industry. Utopians are ruthless criticism of a regime where, as Fourier put it, "poverty is born of superabundance itself."

Saint-Simon (1760-1825) noted that within capitalism, production developed in an anarchic manner, in an implacable struggle between industrialists, which generated the greatest suffering for the masses. Convinced that the development of industry will bring happiness to humanity, he describes the benefits of a rational organization of production in the hands of men associated to jointly exploit nature. Thus will be suppressed the exploitation of man by man; we will pass "from the government of men to the administration of things." [See Saint-Simon: Selected texts, presented by J. Dautry. (Classics of the people). Social Editions, Paris, 1951.]

Charles Fourier (1772-1837) studies the crises of capitalism and condemns the disastrous effects of competition. He denounces in particular the misdeeds of speculation and trade. A supporter of the equality of men and women, he developed an acute critique of the exploitation of women by the bourgeoisie. He identifies the state as the defender of the interests of the ruling class and shows how the bourgeoisie, converted to the Christian religion that it had once fought against, spreads the “moral” ideas of resignation which are favorable to it. He advocates the Association as a remedy for these ills. The owners, associating their goods, their work, their talents, will organize themselves in small communities of production (the phalansteries), which will ensure to theindefinitely perfectible humanity the possibility of a harmonious development. Wage earning will be excluded; education will be polytechnic; emulation in attractive work will work for the common good; major projects will be opened, highlighting the planet. [See Fourier: Selected texts, presented by F. Armand. (Classics of the people). Social Editions, Paris, 1953.]

Deeply convinced, as a disciple of the materialists of the 18th century, that the character of men (vices or virtues) is the product of circumstances, the young manufacturer Robert Owen (1771-1858) considers that the industrial revolution accomplished in England created the favorable conditions to everyone's happiness. First a philanthropic patron, he made the New-Lanark spinning mill

a model colony where drunkenness, police, prison, trials, public assistance, and the need for private charity were unknown. (Engels: Utopian Socialism and Scientific Socialism, p. 47.)

Then it came to communism: the productive forces developed by big industry must be collective property, and all members of the community must also be beneficiaries. He thought he could prepare the communist organization of society through production and consumption cooperatives (islands in the capitalist ocean, they were on the verge of disappearance).

The great Utopians had high merits, which Marx and Engels like to point out. They saw, described, denounced the flaws of burgeoning capitalism and predicted its end in a time when it could believe itself to be eternal. They wanted to abolish the exploitation of man by man. Champions of a progressive education, they trusted humanity, convinced that its happiness is possible on this earth. They thus occupy a place of primary importance in the history of socialism.

However, they have not been able to transform society. Why ?

The great utopians are located in the first period of capitalism: its contradictions begin to develop, generating anarchy in production and the misery of the masses. But capitalism is still too young for the force objectively capable of fighting capitalism, of defeating it and of founding socialist society, to be able to manifest itself within the regime. This force is the proletariat, which the development of the capitalist bourgeoisie necessarily generates since its power rests entirely on the exploitation of the proletariat.

However, at the beginning of the 19th century, the proletariat was still few in number, weak, crumbled by competition. Its class struggle against the bourgeoisie exists, but in a rudimentary state: unorganized, it cannot at this stage have any other goal than immediate demands, in particular the reduction of the working day. He is in too much pain to have any prospects for the future. On the political level, the proletariat is still under the tutelage of the bourgeoisie (which, in France in particular, uses it in its struggle against the vestiges of feudalism: thus in 1830 the proletarians helped the bourgeoisie to drive out the Bourbons to put in their place a bourgeois king, Louis-Philippe).

The great utopians, from the bourgeoisie, observe with pain the suffering of the exploited proletariat. But this even prevents them from seeing the enormous strength it conceals and which makes it the class of the future, at a time when the bourgeoisie believes itself to be eternal. [Let us note in passing an excellent example for the study of contradiction. We know (lesson 7) that every contradiction has a main aspect and a secondary aspect. From the outset, the situation of the proletariat presented an internal contradiction: on the one hand extreme poverty under the yoke of the bourgeoisie, on the other the force which one day was to break this yoke. The first aspect of the contradiction being, in their time, the main aspect, the utopians did not see the other aspect. But'secondary aspect of the contradiction (the revolutionary force of the proletariat) would in turn become the main aspect. This is what Marx understood.]

Consequence: not finding in the society of their time the objective means to suppress it, they have no other resource than to develop an ideal plan. They draw from their brains the completed description of a perfect society, which they contrast with sad reality. But ignoring the law of the development of capitalist society, they cannot discover the objective link between the society they criticize and the one they dream of. Hence the qualification of their socialism: "utopian". So they behave like idealists, disciples of 18th century philosophers who believed that "Reason" has the power to create a just society. They invoke Justice, Morality.

And what means do they propose to achieve the new society? Not suspecting the creative force of the class struggle - they fear, moreover, the political action of the masses, which they identify with anarchy - they have only one resource: preaching. They therefore try through their writings or through witness communities, to convince men of the excellence of their system.

Saint-Simon affirms that the workers' party [He means by that, not a revolutionary formation, but an economic and social association grouping both capitalists and workers.] "Will be created forty-eight hours after the publication of its manifesto" , or that we must not "reject religion, because socialism is one of them."

They are working to convert the bourgeoisie to their ideas, in the hope that, possessing power, it will want to realize them. Utopia, since the class interests of the bourgeoisie are in absolute contradiction with socialism.

That is why Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen could not succeed. What radically differentiates Marx from the great Utopians is that instead of imagining a plan for an ideal society, he founded socialism on scientific bases. The great Utopians, although their criticism of capitalism was in general acute, did not yet possess the historical materialism, the science of societies, which was to ensure to Marx a decisive superiority. From then on, while noting the effects of capitalist exploitation, they were unable to grasp its mechanism. On the other hand, they could not discover the role that the proletariat would necessarily play in the destruction of capitalism. Their theoretical helplessness translates into practical helplessness. [The great French revolutionary Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) understood,unlike utopians, the importance of political action. But he did not know how to make a scientific study of capitalist society any more than they did. Blanqui, in fact, while denouncing the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, has not detected its true origin. For him, the essential form of exploitation is taxes and interest-bearing loans (in which he is similar to Proudhon). Marx showed that the support of capitalist exploitation is unpaid labor (surplus value). These serious theoretical insufficiencies did not allow Blanqui to have a correct conception of the revolutionary struggle. Instead of seeing in it a mass struggle, that of the proletarian class as a whole, he stuck to the thesis (inherited from Babeuf) of an “active minority”,a thesis dear to petty-bourgeois anarchists, incompatible with scientific socialism.]

Thanks to Marx, science takes the place of utopia. Thanks to Marx, socialism, the dream of the Utopians, has come true.

Scientific socialism

Its evolution

Younger than the great Utopians, Marx and Engels benefit from better objective conditions: when their thought comes to maturity, the contradictions of capitalism are more apparent, and above all the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat is in full swing.

In 1825 the first great economic crisis of capitalism broke out, and from now on the crises appear periodically: the productive forces set in motion by the regime are turned against it.

On this basis, the proletariat, more and more numerous, concentrated by big industry, deploys a more intense, better organized struggle. In 1831: first workers' uprising in Lyon. 1838-1842: in England, Chartism, the first national workers' movement, reaches its peak.

The class war between proletarians and bourgeois burst onto the foreground of the history of the peoples who decide the fate of humanity. (Engels: Utopian Socialism and Scientific Socialism, p. 56.)

And June 1848, in France, was to see the barricades rise up against the bourgeoisie where the working class defended its right to life, arms in hand.

Marx and Engels were not only the witnesses of this struggle. Revolutionary activists, unlike the Utopians, they participated in it personally - in Germany, France, England. They work for the organization of the workers' movement, founding in 1864 the first International Association of Workers.

These are the conditions from which their genius was able to extract the maximum.

Its traits

The falsifiers of marxism present it as a myth, conceived by the feverish imagination of an inspired prophet. At the same time, they believe they can give themselves the right to make marxism their fashion, for the greater benefit of the bourgeoisie.

We must therefore assert with intransigence the eminent character of marxist socialism; it is neither a myth, nor an act of faith, - nor one "system" among others and worth neither better nor worse. It's a science.

Science is objective knowledge of reality, which it provides the means to transform. So it is with scientific socialism.

It is based on two great discoveries.

These two great discoveries: the materialist conception of history and the revelation of the mystery of capitalist production by means of surplus value, we owe them to Karl Marx. They made socialism a science ... (Engels: Utopian socialism and scientific socialism, p. 57.)

We know that Marx finds in the study of philosophy and the natural sciences a conception of the world, dialectical materialism - the application of which to societies gives rise to historical materialism.

Darwin had discovered the law of development of organic nature, Marx, he discovered the law of development of human society. (Engels: “Extract from the speech delivered on Marx's tomb” (March 17, 1883), in Marx et le marxisme, p. 52. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1953.)

Objective law, external and anterior to the conscience and the will of men. It is production - that is to say the activity by which men ensure their means of existence - which constitutes the fundamental fact of societies and conditions their history. Social relations, political institutions, ideologies are in the final analysis determined by the production of material goods.

With this scientific conception of societies, Marx was able to approach the study of the society of his time: capitalism. He wrote in the preface to Capital:

[...] Our ultimate goal is to unveil the economic law of motion of modern society. (Quoted by Lenin in "What are the Friends of the People", Selected Works, t. I, p. 87; Le Capital, L. I, t. I, p. 19. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1946.)

It is therefore objective analysis - and not an unfavorable prejudice! - which leads him to discover the contradiction which germinates and develops in capitalism, until it bursts into crisis and from which it will inevitably perish: contradiction between the social character of the productive forces (large industry) developed by capitalism and the private character of appropriation (capitalist profit). It is not favorable prejudice, it is not "sentiment" which leads him to see the proletariat as the class called upon to succeed the bourgeoisie; it is the objective analysis of capitalism: Marx discovers that capitalism can only exist through surplus value, that is to say through the exploitation of the proletariat. So the contradiction between the interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is inherent in capitalism,their struggle is a necessary product of capitalism. We see that it is absurd to reproach Marx for "inventing the class struggle". [Class struggle (without s) means struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Class struggle ”means struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.] Marx quite simply notes that it exists [He is not the first to note the existence of the class struggle, and he says so in particular in a letter to Weydemeyer (1852): “As far as I am concerned, the credit for having discovered neither the existence of classes in modern society, nor their struggle between them, belongs to me. Long before me, bourgeois historians [those of the Restoration: Thierry, Guizot ...] had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists had expressed its economic anatomy. What I did again was: 1 ° to demonstrate that the existence of classes is linked only to phases of determined historical development of production; 2 ° that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3 ° that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. Quoted in Marx-Engels: Philosophical Studies, p. 126. Editions Sociales.], As it has always existed since the dissolution of the primitive commune: it is the engine of history because it is through it that the contradiction between productive forces and relations of production is resolved.So it will be with capitalism: the struggle of the proletariat, the exploited class, against the exploiting class, the bourgeoisie, will resolve the contradiction between productive forces and capitalist relations of production. How? 'Or' What ? By the adaptation of these to those, by the socialization of the means of production, by socialism, a necessary stage of historical development (like capitalism in the past).

Marx concludes that the inevitable transformation of capitalist society into socialist society is based entirely, exclusively, on the economic laws of the movement of modern society. (Lenin: "Karl Marx" in Marx, Engels, marxism, p. 34, Foreign Language Editions, Moscow, 1947.)

It is absurd to believe that Marx, himself a bourgeois by origin, has "hatred" of the bourgeoisie, and that "everything comes from there". Marx, studying the history of the capitalist bourgeoisie, notes that, against feudalism, it waged an objectively revolutionary struggle. It was this which allowed the development of large-scale production, a condition for the progress of societies. But the role of the revolutionary class now falls to the proletariat, against the bourgeoisie which is slowing down social development. If Marx condemns the capitalist bourgeoisie, it is to the extent that, putting its class interests above all else, it is capable of the worst misdeeds to safeguard them.

As for the proletariat, if it is henceforth the only revolutionary class, it is not because Marx would have sentimentally decided that it should be. It is objectively so because of its historical position within capitalism. [This does not mean that the consciousness of the proletariat is too. In order for the proletariat to become aware of its historical role, it needs the help of marxist science. See point IV of this lesson.] Why is he revolutionary?

Because, as a specific product of bourgeois society (unlike other classes: artisans, peasants, petty bourgeois ...), it can only ensure its life by waging battle against the ruling class, the capitalist bourgeoisie. Because the concentration of capitalism inevitably strengthens that of the proletariat and raises it in numbers. Because, stripped of everything, he has nothing to lose, only his chains. Because, linked to the most advanced productive forces, the only way he has to free himself is precisely to suppress the capitalist relations of production which cause these productive forces to turn against the proletariat; its interest is thus to wrest the great means of production and exchange from the bourgeoisie to make them the property of all, in a society where all exploitation will have disappeared.In other words, the proletariat necessarily has only one perspective, only one: the socialist revolution.

Factual situation, studied by Marx, who draws the consequences. If, then, he calls the proletariat to struggle for socialism, it is on the basis of the laws of history. It is not in the name of a preconceived idea, Justice or Liberty, although socialism must objectively liberate men and found social justice. Marx "does not lecture men", although the struggle for communism and its advent gave rise to a new moral. He is a scientist who draws practical conclusions from the study of societies, independent of his mood.

Such is the incomparable merit of scientific socialism. He puts an end to utopias because, through him, socialism descends from heaven to earth. [On the formation of scientific socialism and the history of the Communist Manifesto, we refer to the beautiful book by Jean Fréville: Les Breakers de chains. Social Editions, Paris, 1948.]

This explains the worldwide and still current significance of the work in which Marx and Engels first exposed scientific socialism: The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847).

The role of scientific socialism

The fusion of socialism and the labor movement

Marx did not create the workers' movement, an objective reality independent of him, brought about by the existence of capitalism. But he gave him, along with scientific socialism, the compass that would light his way and make him invincible.

Through him the fusion of socialism and the workers' movement took place. The oppressed proletariat, monopolized by the urgent struggle for bread, then had neither the time nor the means to develop social science, political economy itself. It is from outside that this science came to it, thanks to Marx, who had previously had to assimilate the best achievements of human thought, which scientific socialism crowns. Scientific socialism was thus the work of advanced bourgeois intellectuals.

But they could not succeed in their business unless they broke with their class. Why ? The bourgeoisie, which had supported the impetus of the natural sciences - necessary for technical innovations, which benefited it - could not, once feudalism was conquered, encourage the science of societies without harming its exploiting class interests, since this science concludes in the inevitable destruction of capitalism! The bourgeoisie declared war on the science of societies, a fierce war which led it to bring marxism to the courts, in the person of its adepts, the Communists, - as in the past clerical feudalism condemned Galileo, because it demonstrated that the earth revolves around the sun.

From now on, it is no longer a question of knowing whether this or that theorem is true, but whether it sounds good or bad, agreeable or not to the police, useful or harmful to capital. Disinterested research gives way to paid boxing, conscientious investigation to bad conscience, to the miserable subterfuge of apologetics. (Marx: “Afterword to the 2nd German edition of Capital”. Capital, Book I, t. I, p. 25, Editions Sociales.)

Breaking with their class, Marx and Engels took the point of view of the proletariat. Unlike the bourgeoisie, the proletariat not only could not be hostile to social science, but its class interest objectively coincided with that of scientific socialism. An oppressed class, it found in scientific socialism the explanation of its ills and the possibility of overcoming them.

Any theory must be confirmed by experience, and it is experience that has shown workers the incomparable merits of marxism. For a century, and more and more, marxist theory has been confirmed as the only scientific expression of the interests of the proletariat.

Necessity of the communist party: criticism of "spontaneity"

How did the fusion between the workers' movement and scientific socialism come about? By the constitution of a party which groups and organizes the vanguard of the proletariat and which, armed with scientific socialism, leads the revolutionary struggle of the whole working class and its allies.

It is the party of the Communists, the task of which Marx and Engels specify in the Manifesto. The communists, internationally and in each country, bring to the proletariat a clear understanding of the conditions, the course and the general ends of the proletarian movement. (Marx-Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party (II: "Proletarians and Communists", p. 41.))

The need for such a party is a fundamental fact of scientific socialism. It conforms to the teachings of dialectical and historical materialism. Why ? Because if it is true that the proletariat exploited by the bourgeoisie is materially led to fight against it, this in no way means that its conscience is spontaneously socialist. The thesis of spontaneity is contrary to marxism; revolutionary theory is a science, and there is no spontaneous science. [It is because of its scientific character that marxism has universal value, marxist theory is not reserved for the proletariat. It is accessible to any man who seriously wants to make an effort to understand the history of societies. The marxist Party therefore groups, alongside the militant workers,workers belonging to other classes and social categories.]

In What to do? Lenin developed a classic critique of spontaneity. It should be remembered, because many, believing themselves to be marxists, say that marxism is at one with "the class instinct". This leads to putting on the same level the educated proletarian and the proletarian who, while wanting to fight, does not strike where it should be because he does not have a fair awareness of his interest.

Why is socialism not a spontaneous product of the proletariat? Because, in capitalist society, the ideology which spontaneously offers itself to the proletariat is bourgeois ideology. It is, for example, religion, or even morality taught at school, which invites him to "be patient", virtue being "always rewarded". Bourgeois ideology has on its side, in addition to the strength of tradition, the powerful material means at the disposal of the ruling bourgeoisie.

It is often said: the working class goes spontaneously to socialism. This is perfectly correct in the sense that, more deeply and more exactly than all the others, socialist theory determines the causes of the evils of the working class: this is why the workers assimilate it so easily, if however this theory does not itself does not capitulate to spontaneity, if however it submits to this spontaneity ... The working class is spontaneously attracted to socialism, but the most widespread bourgeois ideology (and constantly resuscitated in the most varied forms) does not it is none the less that which, spontaneously, imposes itself above all on the worker. (Lenin: What to do?, P. 44, note. Ed. Sociales, 1947.)

And Lenin observes that the spontaneous movement of the proletariat cannot take it beyond trade unionism, that is to say the formation of unions which, grouping workers of all political convictions, have as their goal the struggle for standard of living, for wages. But no union, as such, can bring to the workers what makes the originality of the marxist political party: the revolutionary perspective and the science of the Revolution. Only in this way are the roots of capitalist exploitation uncovered.

So it is through a stubborn struggle against the everywhere diffuse bourgeois ideology that scientific socialism can find its way to the working class. An impossible task to achieve without a party which, formed in revolutionary science and linked to the working masses (where it is recruited), brings them socialist consciousness. The revolutionary interest of the proletariat thus commands it to defend against any attack, to strengthen the Communist Party, whose existence is necessary for its victory. As for the theory of spontaneity, it places the proletariat under the control of the bourgeoisie.

The theory of spontaneity ... is ... the logical basis of all opportunism. (Stalin: Des Principes du léninisme, p. 20. Editions Sociales. [This fatal theory is at the bottom of all the anti-communist reasoning of certain union leaders. By recommending that workers not "play politics" on the pretext of saving their " independence ", by claiming that unionism is enough for everything, they divert the workers from seeking and combating the causes of exploitation (and its political instrument: the bourgeois state). By doing so, they prolong the reign of the bourgeoisie. It is characteristic of opportunism which, of course, takes on “left airs” (notably in Franc-Tireur).])

The scientific role of the revolutionary party explains its characteristics, defined by Lenin fifty years ago. Characters whose necessity escapes the workers whom bourgeois ideology influences. Here are a few:

a) Error has a thousand forms, but for a given object science is one. Hence the unity of principles which characterizes communist militants. This is not the "sheep" spirit. All physicists agree to recognize the laws of nature. We would find absurd anyone who prides himself on having his own little physique. Likewise, the science of societies does not depend on the mood of one or another. [On the objectivity of the laws of society, see Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, Social Editions, 1951.] His conclusions, drawn from experience, are objective truths, valid for all . This explains the “monolithic unity” of the marxist Party.

b) The criticism and self-criticism to which communist militants unceasingly submit their action is an absolute condition for the progress of science. Any science - that of societies like any other - must control its methods and results. This matters greatly to the success of the revolutionary struggle, and therefore to the interests of the workers. When the People's editors joke heavily about self-criticism, claiming that it “dishonors” those who use it, they are doing nothing but flaunt their contempt for the interests of workers.

c) Collective leadership is likewise a scientific necessity, at all levels of the revolutionary party. A decision, a slogan can only correctly reflect the needs of the movement if they are worked out in a collective discussion, in which all the militants participate, each bringing the experience he has from his contact with the masses. All these contributions, the Party as a whole generalizes them:

Theory is the experience of the labor movement of all countries, taken in its general form. (Stalin: On the Principles of leninism, p. 18.)

Is it not normal that this generalization, which reflects the various aspects of the movement for a given period, should be law for every militant?

Conclusion

For a hundred years, the working class has been able to measure the clairvoyance of scientific socialism, its capacity for forecasting. In return, the workers, assimilating this science more and more deeply, have enriched it with their experience. This constant exchange between theory and practice ensures scientific socialism against all aging: and here again its quality of science is recognized, because true science is always progressing.

The picture of the progress of scientific socialism, in theory and in practice, is, a century after the Manifesto, truly stupendous. This is true of Marx's sentence:

Theory becomes a material force as soon as it penetrates the masses. (Marx: Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law.)

The great followers of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin knew how to arm scientific socialism with new generalizations, and to reject the theses which were no longer appropriate to the historical situation.

Example: when capitalism entered its imperialist phase at the beginning of the 20th century, Lenin, relying on the principles of socialism, analyzed the objective conditions that imperialism created for the workers' movement. He discovered the law of unequal development of imperialist countries. He thus arrives at this new conclusion: the possibility for the revolution to overcome the world front of capitalism at its weakest point, socialism thus triumphing, first of all, in one or a few countries. [marxists hitherto believed that socialism would triumph in all capitalist countries at once.] So it was for Russia in 1917, and later for other countries.

The building of socialism in the USSR, then the march to communism, under the leadership of Stalin; the resounding successes of popular democracies, a new form of the dictatorship of the proletariat - all of this was carried out in the light of scientific socialism. A light that makes the profiteers of the old world tremble.

Faced with this record of struggles and victories, take stock of those who, within the workers' movement, fought scientific socialism.

In this lesson, we started with utopian socialism: we showed that Marx had rejected utopian jumble in order to collect socialist inspiration. How? 'Or' What ? By bringing to the fore the class struggle, the driving force behind the transition to socialism.

Well, the enemies of marxism, from Proudhon to Blum, have done exactly the opposite. Enslaved to the bourgeoisie, they have never ceased to call on the proletariat for class collaboration, while offering it, to put it to sleep, the drug of utopia. Thus, at the start of imperialism, the leaders of the Second International, who posed as revisers of scientific socialism (hence the name "revisionists"), wanted to persuade the workers that the class struggle could cease since capitalism was itself going to transform into socialism! Thereafter, Blum was to present his submission to US imperialism as the first step of socialism!

In truth, from the day when scientific socialism was established, all utopia thereby became reactionary. The role of such an ideology could only be a diversionary role, tending to detach the proletariat from the class struggle. The only revolutionary path is that of scientific socialism. As for utopian reveries, they can henceforth only be counter-revolutionary poisons.

Suddenly a major truth emerges: the immense victories won thanks to scientific socialism were also victories over its enemies in the workers' movement. The intransigent struggle against anti-marxist ideologies is therefore not a secondary, episodic aspect of the world struggle of the proletariat. This is a necessary aspect. Not to struggle to snatch workers from the deadly influence of Proudhonism, anarchism, revisionism, blumism ... is to put the future in the tomb. Marx and Engels have also shown the example: they have waged an implacable war for their entire lives against false socialists, who are capitalism's best allies.

See: Control questions

Historical materialism

Production: productive forces and relations of production

The conditions of the material life of society

We saw in the third part of this treatise what are the consequences of dialectical materialism applied to the history of societies; we have studied in particular how the spiritual life of society reflects the conditions of its material life.

But a question arises: "What should we understand, from the point of view of historical materialism, by these" conditions of the material life of society "? The material conditions, that is to say existing independently of the will of men, required for a society to develop are numerous and in interaction.

What then, in the system of the conditions of the material life of society, is the main force which determines the physiognomy of society, the character of the social system, the development of society from one regime to another? (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3, a, p. 19.)

Some argued that it was the geographic environment, others that it was population growth. Geographical fatality or demographic fatality therefore.

In order to live, society would therefore have, in case of need, only two solutions: either to change territory, as nomadic tribes do, to conquer new lands, or to reduce the number of the population, by practicing eugenics following the example of the ancient Spartans [They abandoned ill-conformed or puny newborns in the mountains.], or by letting useless mouths perish, old people, infirm, sick, mad, as certain primitive tribes did.

The war of conquest and the mass extermination of populations combine the two solutions. Eugenics and the extermination of the mentally ill, in particular, accompanied the Hitlerites, in theory as in practice, with the doctrine of "living space". The same barbaric theses are now flourishing in the United States. [See Vogt's book: World Hunger, which claims that there are "too many men on earth" and openly advocates war as a remedy: in fact at the imperialist stage, capitalism needs war to survive. to survive. “They do their best to be alone on earth,” said P. Eluard.]

These theses reduce man to the rank of animal. When an animal species lives in a territory of a given area with given food resources, “population laws” are established which make it possible to predict the fluctuations of the species. The lack of food, the obligation to consume a different food, can lead either to the disappearance or to the transformation of the species.

But man is not the animal: he works, he fights against nature. Let us not forget the dialectic: there is not on one side nature, on the other men: here geography, there biology, each having a fatal effect.

This idea is belied by the millennial practice of humanity which transformed the Earth for its use.

The geographical environment

The geographical environment, the nature that surrounds society, with its climate, its natural resources, its communication facilities, its soils, is undoubtedly a necessary and permanent condition of the material life of society. It is obvious that it influences its development: it favors it or slows it down. The ease of coal mining in England favored the development of industry in this country. On the contrary, the presence of a marshy area which requires drainage works, or of a desert area which requires irrigation, or even the absence of oil are circumstances which can slow down the development of a region.

But the influence of the geographic environment is not decisive. The proof is that changes in society take place much faster than changes in geographic environment. If the geographical environment exerted a determining influence on the history of societies, these should keep the same features as long as the geographical environment remained essentially the same. However, in three thousand years Europe has known four and even five different social regimes: the primitive commune, slavery, the feudal system, capitalism, and socialism. During this time the geographical conditions of Europe have hardly changed.

On the contrary, it is the social system which is determining for the modification of the geographical environment. Ancient slavery exhausted the lands of the Mediterranean basin and pushed for the conquest and the clearing of Gaul. The Dutch merchant bourgeoisie conquered at the dawn of modern times part of its country from the sea. Free trade capitalism transformed the English wheat fields into pastures for breeding; capitalism has deforested entire regions of Europe, thus promoting flooding; it impoverishes cultivable soils and turns entire regions of the United States into deserts. On the contrary, the great works of communism in the USSR fertilize the deserts, divert the course of rivers, improve the climate; avant-garde science, studying the laws of soil development,created polar agriculture, regenerated the famous “black soils” and discovered the laws of landscape evolution. [See Saponov: The Earth in Bloom. Part Three: "The Creation of Life". Editeurs Français Réunis.] In China, People's Democracy has put an end to the catastrophic flooding of major rivers.

The reactionary classes invoke the "geographical environment" to discharge their responsibilities in public calamities. But if Holland's dykes broke in 1953, it was because the reactionary bourgeoisie refused to distract a penny from the war budget in order to maintain them; If, in Greece, entire populations are left without aid against earthquakes, and in Italy against floods, it is the class politics of the bourgeoisie and not the "geographical environment" that is the determining cause.

Social democratic historians who want to cover up the real engine of social development claim to explain history by "geographic background." This crude materialism has no other aim than to make people believe in the immutability of a so-called Western or Atlantic "civilization", in the opposition of "East" and "West", and in short to justify the Cold War.

The population

The population, its growth, its density are undoubtedly essential elements among the conditions of the material life of society. Without a minimum of men, no society can ensure its material life, stand up to the forces of nature. The number of the active population is one of the elements which must be taken into account in order to assess the productive forces. Population growth influences social development: it facilitates or slows it down. The influx of immigrant labor to the United States fostered the rapid development of a large industry that is barely a century old. Conversely, the partial extermination of the Indian peoples of North America by the Anglo-Saxon colonizers contributed to the technical and economic stagnation of the surviving tribes.

But this influence, again, cannot be decisive. The proof is that the growth of the population, even itself, cannot explain why a given social regime succeeds precisely this new regime and not another, to slavery, feudalism, to the latter the bourgeois regime. , etc. If population growth were to have a decisive influence, the countries with the highest density should automatically enjoy the most advanced social systems. Absurd thesis: before 1939, the population density in Belgium was 26 times higher than in the USSR; however Belgium is still in capitalism when the USSR is done with this regime.

On the contrary, it is the social system which is decisive in explaining the movement of the population. It is not difficult to understand that capitalism by decreasing the purchasing power of the masses, by exhausting the workers, by imposing a miserable life on them increases mortality (especially among children.) In the USSR, on the contrary, where the Socialist living conditions are opposed to each other, the population increased from 1949 to 1952 by nearly 10 million, that is to say Belgium and the North department taken together.

The bourgeois economists who, in their analyzes, start from the movement of the population, without seeing that it is in reality only a resultant, thus commit a gross error.

Therefore, it is neither the geographic environment nor the growth of the population that determines the character of the social system and the development of society from one system to another.

Historical materialism considers that among the conditions of the material life of society there is another force, the existence of which is independent of the will of men, and which is the main force of social development. This force is constituted by the way in which men obtain their means of existence, the material goods necessary for life. This is called the mode of production of material goods.

The mode of production

Apart from nature and men there is nothing, and we have just seen that neither of these two elements taken apart can explain the development of societies. Only their dialectical unity can provide the answer, and their dialectical unity is work, it is production. Without work, without production, society can neither live nor develop: it is not a divine curse, it is the objective condition of all human existence.

But there are many ways that society can obtain the necessary means of existence: it can do so, for example, by using artisan tools or by using machines, by using animals or by using slaves, etc. We must therefore study closely the way in which production is carried out, the mode of production.

When we speak of how to obtain material goods essential to existence, the petty bourgeoisie means the conditions under which they can be bought on the market. But this is about distribution and consumption, not production at all. It is obvious that without production there would be neither distribution nor consumption.

Productive forces

To live you need food, clothes, shoes, shelter, fuel, etc. In order to have these material goods, society must produce them. To produce them you need appropriate instruments, you have to know how to make these instruments and know how to use them.

The analysis of the forces which allow us to derive the subsistence of society from nature therefore leads us to distinguish:

- the instruments of production, with the help of which material goods are produced (it being understood that, among material goods, we must classify not only consumer goods but also the instruments of production themselves);

- the men who handle these instruments (their number in particular), and without whom these instruments cannot be set in motion;

- production experience, acquired by successive generations: trades traditions, technical and scientific knowledge; it is difficult, for example, to replace in a short time the experience accumulated in the Lyon silk industry;

- the work habits specific to each worker, his qualification, his skill, the fact that he is familiar with the trade.

So many material forces which, taken all together, in their interaction, constitute the productive forces.

In this whole, what is the determining element which makes it possible to define the state of the productive forces? These are the instruments of production. It is their nature in fact which determines the number of men necessary for a given job, the essential technical knowledge, as well as the working habits that the producer acquires by using them. The manual aspect of work as well as its intellectual aspect depend on the nature of the instruments of production.

The development of the productive forces is conditioned by that of the instruments of production: coarse primitive stone tools; then bow and arrows, which allows the passage from hunting to the domestication of animals and to primitive breeding; then metal tools, which allows the transition to agriculture; then new improvements allowing the work of materials, pottery, work in the forge, and consequently the development of trades and their separation from agriculture; subsequently, the appearance of factories characterized by the division of labor into partial tasks with a view to the manufacture of a single given product ["It is the collective worker formed by the combination of a large number of plot workers who constitutes the specific mechanism of the manufacturing period.(K. Marx: Le Capital, L. 1er, t. II, p. 39.)]; then passage from artisanal production instruments to the machine allowing the passage from the manufacture to the mechanized factory, to the factory, to the large modern mechanical industry with machine systems; appearance of the steam engine, then of electrical energy. This is roughly the picture of the development of the productive forces throughout the history of humanity.This is roughly the picture of the development of the productive forces throughout the history of humanity.This is roughly the picture of the development of the productive forces throughout the history of humanity.

We note that this development is at the origin of the division of labor between men, in particular the first major division of labor: between the primitive hunters and fishermen and on the other hand the tribes practicing breeding, then agriculture. - and the second major division of labor: between trades and agriculture. This second division of labor necessarily entails the obligation to exchange products between farmers and craftsmen, to find a form of distribution other than domestic distribution: this is how it will appear, under specific conditions which we will specify, the merchandise. [See the next lesson, point II.] It is also this second division of labor which is at theorigin of the progressive differentiation between the countryside and the city (the latter necessary both as a center of artisanal production and as a center of exchange.)

Finally, the development of the instruments of production has not remained without effect on the other aspects of the productive forces:

It goes without saying that the development and improvement of the instruments of production have been carried out by men, who relate to production, and not independently of men. Consequently, at the same time as the instruments of production change and develop, men - an essential element of the productive forces - also change and develop; their production experience, their working habits, their ability to handle the instruments of production have changed and developed. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.c .; p. 23.24.)

Thus, for the needs of large modern industry, the capitalist bourgeoisie had to resign itself to teaching workers to read, write and count: it had to organize free and compulsory primary education as well as some schools. professional.

Leon Blum tried to reintroduce idealism here by arguing that tools could only be perfected thanks to the inventions of the human mind, and that therefore it is the spirit that is found at the origin of the progress of productive forces. But we know how ideas arise from practice itself: it is under the stimulation of the needs of material life that ideas for improvement arise; they arise in the practice of this or that tool.

The tool is the intermediary between man and nature; its function is to allow the transformation of natural objects into objects usable by man. This is why the tool reflects both the requirements specific to the material to be worked (copper is not worked with the same tools as steel) and the vital requirements of man. that is to say the properties of the object which must be used and which must be manufactured (different tools for different tasks).

Under the first aspect, the tool expresses man's submission to natural necessity; under the second it expresses the subordination of nature to the needs and action of man, hence man's freedom. The tool thus expresses in a deeply dialectical way the struggle between man and nature, and the productive forces express

human behavior towards objects and the forces of nature which they use to produce material goods. (Stalin: op. Cited, 3.a, p. 20.)

What do men produce with? with the primitive plow or with the towed plow with multiple coulters? This is basically, to take an example, the first question raised by the analysis of the mode of production: the question of the level of the productive forces.

Relations of production

However, far from it that we are at the end of our analysis. Production is the struggle of man against nature. But never and nowhere does man struggle in isolation, on pain of succumbing or reverting to the animal state. Men fight against nature together. Whatever the conditions, production is always social production. It is society which made man what he is, it is social production which drew him out of animality.

One of the basic errors of bourgeois political economy is to reason from the outset on the economic activity of an isolated man, a sort of Robinson or economic Adam who never existed: it is there pure metaphysical fiction. This is why we did not start from material goods necessary for the individual, but from those which are necessary for society as a whole. If production always and everywhere has a social character, it is inevitable that on the occasion of production, within production, certain relationships between men will be established. These are not platonic relations, they are relations which closely concern production, which are controlled by it.Not only do the relationships of men with nature (productive forces) exist, but also the relationships of men with each other in the process of production; these relations between men, we call them relations of production.

The relations of production between men can be of various types:

- men can associate freely to carry out in common, by helping each other, by collaborating, a common work: for example building a house; these are then relations of collaboration and mutual aid between men free from any exploitation;

- but a man can also, under certain conditions, oblige his fellow man to produce for him: from then on the relations of production change radically in character; they become relations of domination and submission, there is exploitation of the work of others;

- finally in the course of history, we can meet societies where these two types coexist, one being in the process of withering away, the other of reinforcement: there are relations of transition from one form to another.

But whatever the type of production relations, they are always an indispensable element of production. Taking for the moment a simple example, let us say that the man who works for himself never works like the one who works for others: this is so true that the exploiters always seek to mask exploitation under a pretended collaboration, to pass off exploitation relationships in the eyes of the exploited as “family” collaboration relationships; it is paternalism: “defend the interests of the boss, you will be rewarded in the other world. "

But if the character of the relations of production is an essential element of production, they cannot be reduced, with all due respect to the paternalistic employers, to the idea that one can have them. Leon Blum said hypocritically that he did not see what the economic relations between men have more "material" than the others. But we know that materiality is the fact of existing independently of the will and consciousness of men. Production is an objective necessity for men and it can only be accomplished within the no less objective framework of society as it exists. For example, the one who does not have any of the material goods necessary for life is materially constrained to work for others, in relationships of submission. Thus the operation does notis not an "idea", it is an objective fact, which weighs with all its weight on the production.

In production, people not only act on nature, but also on each other. They only produce by collaborating in a determined way and by exchanging their activities among themselves. In order to produce, they enter into relations and determined relations with one another, and it is only within the limits of these relations and these social relations that their action on nature, on production, is established. (K. Marx. Wage labor and capital, followed by Wage, price and profit, P. 31.)

We cannot therefore separate the action of the productive forces from the character of the relations of production. Productive forces and relations of production are two indissolubly linked aspects of the mode of production which "embodies", to use Stalin's expression, their dialectical unity in the process of production of material goods.

It is a fundamental error to reduce the study of production to the study of the productive forces only. Yet this is the error made by those who believe that marxism consists in explaining the development of societies by the only development of the productive forces and who ignore the nature of the relations of production. To explain the modern world through the steam engine while omitting the analysis of capitalist relations of production is not to be materialist, it is to falsify marxism. To explain to school children the historical progress of techniques while failing to teach them what capitalist exploitation is is to deceive them, to give them a false image of the past, the present, the future.

The same error is made by those who, forgetting social progress and the progress of the relations of production, see in "progress" only technical progress. It was the bourgeois utopia of the 19th century. In this way, bitter disillusions were prepared because technical and scientific progress can be used as well for works of peace as for works of war, the machine can either crush the worker or emancipate him. When, in the imperialist era, the decline of capitalism revealed its incurable wounds, misery, oppression, war, the use of the most modern technique for works of death, the utopians of "technique" cried out for the bankruptcy of progress, they made the machine responsible for the evils that only Capital generates! VS'is to the same mystification that certain bourgeois sociologists, apostles of "industrial sociology" devote themselves, and in particular their leader, Georges Friedmann: adopting the "point of view" of the bosses, they pretend to seek in machinery the cause of the "negative" attitude of the worker in capitalist countries towards labor, when the real cause is the capitalist use of machines for output, for capitalist productivity, for over-exploitation. The productive forces, says Marx, exercise their action only within the limits of the relations of production. This is why in the Soviet Union, where reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.and in particular their leader, Georges Friedmann: adopting the "point of view" of the bosses, they pretend to seek in machinery the cause of the "negative" attitude of the worker in capitalist countries towards work, while the the real cause is the capitalist use of machines for output, for capitalist productivity, for over-exploitation. The productive forces, says Marx, exercise their action only within the limits of the relations of production. This is why in the Soviet Union, where reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.and in particular their leader, Georges Friedmann: adopting the "point of view" of the bosses, they pretend to seek in machinery the cause of the "negative" attitude of the worker in capitalist countries towards work, while the the real cause is the capitalist use of machines for output, for capitalist productivity, for over-exploitation. The productive forces, says Marx, exercise their action only within the limits of the relations of production. This is why in the Soviet Union, where reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.worker in capitalist countries before labor, while the real cause is the capitalist use of machines for output, for capitalist productivity, for overexploitation. The productive forces, says Marx, exercise their action only within the limits of the relations of production. This is why in the Soviet Union, where reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.worker in capitalist countries before labor, while the real cause is the capitalist use of machines for output, for capitalist productivity, for overexploitation. The productive forces, says Marx, exercise their action only within the limits of the relations of production. This is why in the Soviet Union, where reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.where the reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.where the reports of exploitation have disappeared, the use of the machine can have only happy effects for the worker.

In the USSR, machines not only save labor, but at the same time facilitate the labor of workers; consequently, under the conditions of the socialist economy, unlike what happens under the conditions of capitalism, the workers very willingly use machines in their work. (G. Malenkov: “Report to the XIXth Congress of the CPSU.” Cahiers du communisme (Special issue), Nov. 1952, p. 113.)

Historical materialism therefore considers the mode of production as a whole, in its unity: relations of production and productive forces. However, as the productive forces act only within the limits of the relations of production, we usually designate the various modes of production by the character of the relations of production which are dominant there: when we speak of the feudal mode of production, we mean that feudal production relations were dominant there, and left their mark on all social life; we don't necessarily mean that they were the only ones. Conversely, it is not scientific to designate a historical epoch by the state of the productive forces, as in the expressions: the stone age, the age of metals, the era of the steam engine or the era atomic.

Ownership of the means of production

Studying the productive forces (point II, a), we have seen that the instruments of production constitute the determining element. It is in fact the nature of the instruments of production which determines the level of the productive forces.

Let us now see what is most important in the relations of production. What is the element that determines their character?

It is the property of the means of production.

It is clear, in fact, that the one who is deprived of these means can only live on condition of accepting the domination of the one who possesses them.

The means of production should not be confused with consumer goods (furniture, dwelling house, family automobile, etc.). By means of production we mean everything that is necessary to produce.

What, for example, are the means of production in a modern society? First, natural goods (land, forests, water, subsoil, raw materials); then the instruments of production, which allow the transformation of these natural goods; then the installations necessary for the productive activity: factory buildings, mining installations, etc .; the means of transport, communication. We must add the means of exchange between members of society: facilities necessary for distribution, trade (warehouses, sales stores) and credit organizations (bank).

The question to ask when we want to define the character of the relations of production is therefore this: who owns the means of production?

Is it the whole society? Or individuals or groups, who use it to exploit other individuals and groups?

To answer this question is to indicate the state of production relations, the state of economic and social relations between men.

It is therefore understood that, if the means of production are in the possession of the whole of society, relations between men can be relations of collaboration and mutual aid.

Otherwise, those who are deprived of all means of production will not be able to live without making themselves available to those who have them. Some work, others exploit this work. The interests of some are opposed to the interests of others. Solidarity only exists between those who play the same role in production: it is class solidarity.

Society is then divided into antagonistic social classes. There is private ownership of the means of production.

By social class is meant a set of people who, in production, play a similar role, are in relation to other men in identical relations. (Lenin). [We will come back to the notion of social class at greater length in lesson 17.]

The expression social class therefore only has meaning at the level of production relations. It is a notion that is defined by the type of property, or by the absence of property, and which should not be confused with social categories, which are defined by the techniques, trades, social activities necessary for life of society, for example: metallurgist, miner or railway worker. To be a "peasant" is to belong to a social category, but that does not define the class to which one belongs: one can be a large capitalist landowner (a "white-handed peasant"), or owner-operator with help. farm workers, or owner of a family farm, or farm worker, etc. [In the expression: "alliance of workers and peasants",we want to designate the working peasants (small landowners, farmers, sharecroppers) and, of course, agricultural workers.]

Likewise in the factory, the “boss” is not the manager, the engineer, but the capitalist or the group of capitalists (“society”) who own the means of production.

When a social class owns the means of production, it personifies, so to speak, the production relations that are favorable to it: we will therefore speak indifferently of “capitalist” production relations or of “bourgeois” production relations. When these relations of production are dominant in a given mode of production, the same expressions are also used to designate the mode of production: we say thus: the “feudal” class, the “feudal” relations of production, the “feudal” mode of production », Because the bourgeoisie is not then the dominant class.

We can now specify the notion of relations of production:

These relationships include: a) forms of ownership of the means of production; b) the situation of different social groups in production and their reciprocal relations or, to use Marx's expression, “the exchange of their activities”, which flow from these forms; c) the forms of distribution of products, which depend entirely on them. It is all this which, taken as a whole, constitutes the object of political economy. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 162.)

It is therefore the forms of property that constitute the decisive element in the relations of production. It goes without saying that the exploiting classes take all the necessary measures to safeguard the forms of property which ensure their privileges. The relations of production, characterized by the system of ownership of the means of production, form the economic basis of the entire social system. We now have all the notions necessary to understand that the mode of production constitutes the main force of social development.

The change in modes of production, a key to the history of society

The production has this particularity of being always in process of change and development, of never stopping at the same point for a long period, while the geographical environment remains roughly the same. Humans are in fact constantly seeking to make the most of what nature offers them, they are constantly trying to improve production which is therefore always in motion.

If man did not seek to satisfy his material needs always better, he would not be a conscious being, but an animal subjected to blind necessity. But man finds in production the means of utilizing natural necessity for his own benefit, which is why production never stops at the same point for long.

This truth is, for the idealist, a subject of scandal: he denounces the insatiable thirst for material goods; Christianity sees in it the work of the devil, of evil. But we also know that these themes are for the exclusive use of the working masses; fasting and abstinence are preached to them, while the exploiting classes wallow in a sickening profusion of material goods. In reality the increase of production is an objective requirement of human societies, and only the exploitation of man by man prevents this requirement from having its natural and beneficial effects.

It is the change in the mode of production which alone makes it possible to explain why such and such a regime succeeds another, why social ideas, opinions and political institutions change, why it becomes necessary at a given moment to overhaul the entire social system and Politics.

Aristotle had already glimpsed the link between slavery and the level of the productive forces.

If each tool, such was the dream of Aristotle, the greatest thinker of Antiquity, if each tool could perform on summons, or on its own, its own function, like Daedalus' masterpieces. moved on their own, or as Vulcan's tripods spontaneously set about their sacred work; if, for example, the weavers' shuttles were to weave on their own, the foreman would no longer need help, nor the slave master. (K. Marx: Le Capital, L. I, t. II, p, 91. Editions Sociales.)

In the Middle Ages, Christian metaphysics, considering society as an immutable reflection of the divine plan, justified the existence of corporations which, by limiting the growth of the productive forces, contributed to the stability of the feudal regime. But if, at the origin, this system was intended to guarantee society against scarcity, in the long run this fear of movement, of change turned out to be nothing other than the fear of the feudal lords in the face of the rise of the bourgeoisie. The latter, once in power, removed restrictions on production and banned corporations.

Thus political power was necessary to impose the new law, reflecting the new mode of production. And new ideas were needed to justify this new power and this new right. Philosophy was an ideological weapon against the old order of things. The triumphant bourgeoisie inscribed the right of bourgeois property in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, it organized bourgeois parliamentary assemblies, it made its morality prevail, it created a new teaching from which it banished the philosophy of the Middle Ages, - and at the same time it prohibits workers' associations, to protect themselves against the struggle of the exploited proletariat.

Thus she imposed on the whole nation the bourgeois "kind of life" and the ideas which were appropriate to her: "Such kind of life, such kind of thought. "[Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3. b. This formula therefore does not have the same meaning at all as Feuerbach's mechanistic formula: “We think differently in a palace and in a cottage. "]

Let us reread the immortal pages of the first part of the Communist Party Manifesto:

Wherever it [the bourgeoisie] has gained power, it has trampled on feudal, patriarchal and idyllic relations. All the complex and varied links which unite feudal man to his natural superiors, she broke them mercilessly, to leave no other link, between man and man, than cold interest, harsh demands. cash payment. It drowned the sacred shivers of religious ecstasy, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of petty-bourgeois sentimentality in the icy waters of selfish calculation. She made personal dignity a simple exchange value; it substituted for the many freedoms, so dearly won, the unique and pitiless freedom of commerce. In short, instead ofan exploitation masked by religious and political illusions, it has introduced an open, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of their halo all the activities which until then passed for venerable and which were regarded with holy respect. The doctor, the jurist, the priest, the poet, the scientist, she has made employees in her wages.

The bourgeoisie has torn the veil of sentimentality which covered family relations and reduced them to being nothing more than mere money relations. (Manifesto, p. 31.)

Failing to understand that the bourgeoisie wanted to consolidate by all means the mode of production of which it is itself the product, we refrain from any understanding of the historical events which take place, for example, between 1789 and 1815.

Bourgeois historians themselves distinguish between a primitive period, antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times. Now, what is the difference between these eras? In this for the most part: originally there was common ownership of goods; the dawn of history and civilization saw the establishment of the slavery mode of production which dominated in antiquity; while the Middle Ages are dominated by feudal land ownership, and modern times see the development of mercantile bourgeois property, then the triumph and decline of the capitalist bourgeoisie. But, say anti-marxist historians, there are features common to antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times: the thought of

Plato or Cicero's speeches for example are not foreign to us. That's right; and here is how these common traits are explained, at least with regard to institutions and ideologies:

1. Slavery, feudalism, capitalism have a common character, whatever the extent of their differences: they are relations of production based on the exploitation of one class by another, on the private ownership of the means of production. So the class struggle is found in these three types of societies, with all its consequences on the level of institutions and ideas.

2. Under these three modes of production exist layers of the petty bourgeoisie (merchant, artisanal, rural, intellectual). This lasting historical fact has the effect of forming and maintaining a psychology of the "average man", individualistic, attached to private property, full of contradictions, for, as a passive witness of the class struggle, he constantly capitulates. in front of the exploiting dominant class.

But, at the same time that they resemble each other, these three regimes differ, qualitatively, by their economic basis. They constitute distinct social formations. The object of historical science is precisely to study both their specific differences and their similarities.

Conclusion

Historical materialism is the general theory of modes of production.

Political economy is the specific science of the objective laws which govern the relations of production between men.

The specific object of historical science is the reciprocal relations between the classes which personify these relations of production, and in particular their political relations.

There is no historical science if we do not constantly ask the question of the character of the relations of production, of the character of property, of social classes, of class interest.

True historical science cannot therefore confine itself to studying the acts of kings, heads of armies, and conquerors, for history is, in the final analysis, the history of peoples.

The history of social development is ... the history of the producers of material goods, the history of the toiling masses who are the fundamental forces of the production process and produce the material goods necessary for the existence of society. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.b, p. 21.)

Indeed, the profound law of history is the necessary correspondence between relations of production and productive forces: this law expresses the vital interests of the great masses of humanity.

So marxism is, to use Stalin's expression, "the science ... of the revolution of the oppressed and exploited masses ..."

But if men make their own history, they do it "under given conditions which determine them" (Marx). The key to history should not be sought in the brains of men, in their opinions and ideas, but in the relations of production and objective economic laws, which are exercised independently of the will of the people. men, as soon as they produce socially, and who depend on the form of ownership of the means of production, that is to say on the economic base.

True historical science cannot do without knowledge of these laws.

This is why the party of the proletariat, if it wants to lead the working class to its historic mission, must not only call it to mass action for its interests, but establish its program and its practical activity on knowledge. laws of economic development. [The establishment of the new program of the Communist Party of the USSR and the practical guidelines for the transition to communism was not scientifically possible without the discovery of the laws of socialist economy, without the study of socialist relations of production and conditions for their transformation into communist production relations. It is this requirement that Yaroshenko ignored and to which Stalin responded in his latest work: The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR;see Latest Writings, in particular p. 146 and following.]

See: Control questions

The law of necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces

We saw in the previous lesson that production methods change over the course of history. Like all reality they undergo quantitative changes, an evolution, followed by qualitative changes which can take a revolutionary form when the declining and privileged classes oppose the necessary changes.

As with all reality, these changes are driven by an internal contradiction. What is the specific contradiction between modes of production in general? It is the contradiction between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces. It is the subject of this lesson.

Productive forces are the most mobile and revolutionary element of production

We said the production was always changing. But which aspect changes first? The productive forces or the relations of production? Tools or forms of ownership? It is obvious that while the economic base of a social formation lasts, there is progress in technique. It is therefore the forces of production which first and foremost change the instruments of production. This is the second peculiarity of the production. [The first peculiarity was studied in lesson 15: it is the change in the mode of production that modifies the physiognomy of the whole society.]

Here is a very simple example. Everyone knows the process which consists, when one wants to move a block of stone, to place it on a train of logs. The more one uses these logs, the better they are polished by their very use; they tend to become perfect cylinders, before any geometric idea of ​​the cylinder has entered the brain of men. [Mathematical ideas therefore arise from practice.] At the same time the displacement becomes faster and easier, giving man the idea of ​​carrying out this polishing himself by appropriate means. Helping need, man's imagination kicks in and he discovers that the work would be made even easier if the logs, while being able to turn on themselves, along their axis, were integral with the block of stone during the movement.It would then no longer be necessary to constantly bring back in front of the block the logs abandoned behind. Let ten, a hundred, a thousand years pass: you will have the axle, the wheel, the cart.

Thus the productive forces never remain in place, they improve themselves by anticipating, by training the will of man. At the same time, man's needs develop: as soon as he gets to know the cart, he will no longer be satisfied with logs, at least whenever the use of a dumpster is possible.

The relations of production in turn are modified according to the modifications which have taken place in the productive forces. They are not suspended in the air, but are linked to the character of the productive forces.

Let's take an example. In the period of decline of the slave society there are new productive forces which have experienced a long development in the previous period. Ceaseless improvement of the work of the cast iron and the treatment of iron, use of the hand loom; widespread use of the plow; progress in agriculture, gardening, the production of wine, oil, honey; discovery of the watermill (340 years after J.-C.) But these new techniques, (which the Romans often observe among the peoples they call Barbarians and that they try to introduce into their homes) enter into contradiction with the slave system: the slave has no interest in work; whatever he does, he is always treated the same. Also he shows neither initiative nor taste for work. It is froma very low yield. However, it is no longer just a matter of heavy work that can be accomplished by herds of slaves using a whip. The new productive forces require the worker to show some interest in work, otherwise they are wasted.

The master realizes this, especially since the slaves, often themselves barbarians taken prisoner, organize revolts or even desert the domain and become pirates, taking advantage of techniques, such as the manufacture of weapons and the navigation.

In short, the new productive forces imperatively demand new relations of production. This is why the owner of the means of production, renouncing a slave of very low productivity, prefers to deal with a serf. The serf, in fact, has his own exploitation, his instruments of production; he therefore has some personal interest in the work, although he is attached to the seigneurial land. This interest is essential for him to raise his productivity in all agricultural work and to pay a royalty in kind to the feudal lord on his harvest. Instead of feeding a slave who does next to nothing, even under the whip of the stewards, the lord will demand a royalty in kind from a serf free to work as he sees fit,subject to grinding his grain at the lord's mill and baking his bread in his oven.

Thus the very development of new productive forces within the slave production relations gave rise to the birth of new production relations: feudal relations.

Social relations are intimately linked to the productive forces. By acquiring new productive forces, men change their mode of production, and by changing the mode of production, the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand mill will give you society with the suzerain, [the feudal lord], the steam mill, society with the industrial capitalist ... (K. Marx: Misère de la Philosophie, p. 88. Editions Sociales.)

The correspondent action of relations of production on the productive forces

If we were to confine ourselves to noting that the productive forces are the most mobile and the most revolutionary element of production, we would fall into metaphysics and mechanism. The mode of production embodies the dialectical unity of the productive forces and the relations of production: in this internal contradiction each of the opposites acts on the other, even if one of the two changes the first. We must therefore study the return action of the relations of production on the productive forces.

If we take the example of the transition from slave society to feudal society, we see that the feudal relations of production, after their appearance, favored the development of the productive forces which were hampered by the old relations of production. The serf had, in fact, although exploited, more interest than the slave in producing. Thus was gradually liquidated the heavy legacy of misery and desolation bequeathed by the end of antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

Another example: we saw in the previous lesson (II, a) that the progress of metalworking and pottery had led to the division of labor between agriculture and the trades. Under the conditions of private ownership of the means of production, required both by artisanal work and by the employment of slaves in the countryside, this division of labor inevitably resulted in the sale and purchase of artisanal and agricultural products. on the market, that is, the appearance of the commodity. At the same time, a new class was born, that of merchants, specializing in the transport and distribution of goods. But as this class found an interest of its own in trade, it had to be led to promote commodity production, to extend this trade. This was theorigin of the Phoenician and Greek colonies, trading posts all around the Mediterranean. It is obvious that commodity production has favored the development of productive forces, techniques and the arts, as well as navigation; Athenian pottery was sold all over the Mediterranean, and there were armory workshops in Athens with more than a hundred slaves.

Another example: the wealth of the feudal lords was essentially the land and the royalties in kind of the serfs; on the other hand, the wealth of the bourgeoisie, based on commerce and nascent capitalist production, consisted mainly of money. The feudal lord who, out of a taste for luxury and a desire to compete with the wealthy bourgeoisie, wanted to provide himself with market products, was quickly ruined. He had no other protection than feudal privileges and the strengthening of feudal rights. The growth of commodity production threatened its economic power. So he tried to regulate it tightly through the corporate system. Thus the feudal system slowed down the development of new productive forces. But these imperatively demanded that the new (capitalist) production relations be generalized.Therefore, we must remember this: the productive forces, which change first, are not however independent of the relations of production. The relations of production, the development of which depends on that of the productive forces, in turn act on the development of these forces. They slow it down or they speed it up.

The relations of production play a role of hindering the development of the productive forces, when they no longer correspond to the development of the productive forces.

On the contrary, they play a stimulating role when they correspond, essentially, to the state of the productive forces.

And, by reason of the very priority which belongs to the productive forces in development, the new relations of production, when they correspond to them, are the main force which pushes them forward. It is because they correspond to them that they are their main driving force.

It is false ... that the role of the relations of production in the history of society is limited to that of hindering paralyzing the development of the productive forces. When marxists say that the relations of production play the role of hindrance, they do not envisage just any relations of production, but only the old relations of production, which no longer correspond to the rise of the productive forces, and , consequently hamper their development. But, in addition to the old relations of production, there are, as we know, new ones which replace the old ones. Can we say that the role of the new relations of production is reduced to that of hindering the productive forces? Obviously no. The new relations of production are, on the contrary, the main and decisive force which determines, strictly speaking,the subsequent and, moreover, vigorous development of the productive forces; and, without them, the productive forces are condemned to vegetate ... (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 150.)

The law of necessary correspondence

We now grasp the internal dialectic of the mode of production.

As a given economic base has a more or less long duration, the productive forces make progress during this time. The relations of production which were new at the beginning of the history of this mode of production thus become obsolete. In the beginning they were the main force determining the development of the productive forces. But as soon as they cease to correspond to their rise, they hinder it.

Of course, the new relations of production cannot and do not remain eternally new; they begin to age and enter into contradiction with the subsequent development of the productive forces; they gradually lose their role as the main motor of the productive forces for which they become a hindrance. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 151.)

How, for example, does capitalism behave vis-à-vis advanced technology? The capitalists pride themselves on being the champions of technical progress, revolutionaries in technical matters. And it is true that capitalism has given an impetuous rise to technology. This is because the new technique, by reducing the working time necessary for production, makes it possible to increase surplus value [During the first hours of the working day, the worker creates a value equal to that of the products that the salary allows him to procure; during the rest of the day it creates additional value, or surplus value, which goes to the capitalist.], and therefore profit, provided that the market outlook allows to foresee good conditions for depreciation of the market. new equipment.

But we also know that capitalism presents phenomena of technical stagnation; the capitalists then act as reactionaries in the technical field; they no longer want to hear about new enhancements and often even resort to hand-made or home-based work. In fact, the installation of new equipment results in the immediate immobilization of capital; this increase in immobilized capital would decrease the rate of profit and consequently would not allow obtaining the maximum profit which capitalism, in a period when the relative stability of capitalist markets has ceased to exist, can no longer do without.

It is therefore the fundamental economic law of current capitalism, the need to achieve maximum profits, in short the character of obsolete production relations, which explains the phenomenon of stagnation. Capitalism is no longer in its ascending period.

Capitalism is for the new technique when it gives it a glimpse of greater profits. He is against the new technique and for a return to manual work, when the new technique no longer gives him a glimpse of higher profits. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, pp. 129-130.)

However, the delay of the relations of production on the rise of the productive forces cannot last indefinitely. Whatever measures are taken by the classes which personify the obsolete production relations, condemned by history, to prolong their economic base at all costs, they cannot turn the wheel of history backwards. The development of productive forces, the development of production is a material requirement of humanity, against which "the mind" in the long run can do nothing. It is therefore necessary that obsolete production relations give way. The measures taken by the reactionary classes can only ultimately lead to the destruction of the productive forces, to a violent contradiction in thewhole production which only precipitates the ruin of the entire mode of production.

Therefore, whatever the delay in the relations of production, they must, sooner or later, end up corresponding to the new character of the productive forces. How is this harmonization done? By the upheaval of the forms of ownership of the means of production, forms of ownership which, as we have seen, are the essential element of the relations of production. The establishment of a new property regime is equivalent to the establishment of new relations of production.

It is clear that the peaceful use of atomic energy, in the national interest, cannot be achieved by private capitalists; the maximum profit, they cannot obtain, in the case of a technique as expensive, as the orders of war of the State. The same can be said of the large-scale use of hydroelectric power, as well as the electrification of agricultural work.

Only social ownership of the means of production, because it is not subject to the law of profit, can achieve them. Thus, we can say that the productive forces give rise to the relations of production which they need to achieve their subsequent development. In this sense, the productive forces are the determining element in the development of production. It is the law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces:

Such are the productive forces, such must be the relations of production. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.c, p. 23.)

In place of outdated production relations, new production relations appear, the role of which is to be the main engine of the subsequent development of the productive forces.

And Stalin adds:

This peculiarity of the development of the relations of production - passing from the role of hindrance of the productive forces to that of the main motor that pushes them forward, and from the role of the main motor to that of the hindrance of the productive forces - constitutes one of the main elements of the materialist marxist dialectic. This is what all novice marxists know today. (Stalin: “The economic problems of socialism in the USSR”, in Latest writings, p. 151.)

Let us add that this law is universal, that is to say valid for all modes of production, whatever their specific economic laws: it is the basis of all the development of human societies.

The role of human action

The necessary law of correspondence is an objective law. No one chooses the mode of production in which he lives. We did not choose to be born in the era of big industry, nor in the era of imperialist capitalism. Production as a whole imposes itself on men with the internal dialectic of its demands. The productive forces can only progress within the limits of certain relations of production and this necessary correspondence is the effect of the very nature of the productive forces, and not of the will of men. There is nothing we can do about it. No capitalist can erase the objective fact that present capitalism leads to the arrest of the development of the productive forces. And no one can do anything against the fact that only socialism is able to establish the necessary correspondence.

However, this does not at all mean that the action of men cannot and does not play any role in social development. This action appears with the feeling, or, depending on the case, the exact knowledge that they have of the objective necessities of production, of the necessary law of correspondence. To take an example cited above, the feudal lord, who prefers to deal with a serf rather than a slave because it favors production, has a certain feeling of the law of necessary correspondence and it is on it that he leans, in his own class interest, when he turns his slave into a serf. Does this human action mean that there is no objective law? Not at all. On the contrary, it presupposes the objectivity of the law. The proof is that, by its decision,the feudal one achieves the results which he envisaged. Quite simply, he uses the law for his own sake.

The capitalist who realizes that advanced technology compromises his maximum profit and who, therefore, takes measures against the development of the productive forces, against science, has a certain feeling of the necessary law of correspondence. He feels awe at the development of the productive forces which are driving private ownership of the means of production to the grave. To try to rule out this possibility, it can only try to destroy the productive forces which are revolutionizing production. In short, in its class interest, it relies on the law of correspondence necessary to try to curb its objective effects; it slows down the play of this law.

The point where the human will appears and can manifest itself is therefore the more or less exact and complete knowledge that men take from this law. Knowing it, they can try to slow down its action, to delay the moment when it will play inexorably; but they can also promote this action, hasten this moment, take measures in accordance with objective necessities, adapt the relations of production to the character of the productive forces.

We therefore understand that the objective character of the law of necessary correspondence in no way removes the responsibility of men. These can, by their conscious action, create conditions unfavorable or favorable to the play of the law. If, for example, the American magnates pursue a systematic policy of war, it is not innocently: they want to restore the capitalist relations of production wherever these have given way to socialist relations, and they want, by deliberate destruction productive forces, curb the growth of these forces which is detrimental to their interests.

But it is understood that the will of men can only be deployed within the objective limits of their time. They do not have the power to bring the productive forces back to the level of the time of the caves, despite the reactionary reasoning which consists in saying that "the people of the time were perhaps not worse off"! It is also understood that the effective power to change the relations of production does not always exist, but depends on the state and the nature of the productive forces. The capitalists would repeat that the construction of socialism would be impossible, that the experiment would end in famine, etc. This may have been true in 1848, but it was no longer so as soon as society could harness the colossal forces of 20th century energy and industry. TheExperience has shown this and the capitalists trembled for good when they saw that it was now possible to build socialism. Finally, this power of men also depends on the character of the relations of production: in a society divided into hostile classes, the action of the classes which have an interest in adapting the relations of production to the productive forces comes up against numerous obstacles. It is not the same when society does not have a declining class within it capable of organizing resistance. The will of men - the subjective factor - can therefore only be effective if it is specifically aimed at facilitating the application of the objective law. A will which refuses to rely on objective reality is the very reverse of the will. Wanting is onlya word if he ignores his power.

Stalin insists on the importance of this human action:

At the time of the bourgeois revolution, in France for example, the bourgeoisie used against feudalism the law of the necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces, it overturned the feudal relations of production, it created new, bourgeois relations of production, and made them agree with the character of the productive forces, which had developed within the feudal system. The bourgeoisie did so not by virtue of its particular faculties, but because it was keenly interested in it. The feudal lords opposed it, not out of stupidity, but because they were keenly interested in preventing the application of this law. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", work cited, pp. 137-138.)

Elsewhere he observes that if the power of the Soviets carried out with honor the task of socialist construction, a difficult and complex task, it is not

because he supposedly abolished the existing economic laws and "formed new ones", but only because he relied on the economic law of the necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the forces productive. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", cited work, p. 97.)

If the bourgeoisie resisted the application of this law by all means, it was because it was keenly interested in its non-application. Let us therefore underline, in conclusion, that the action of men using economic laws in the interest of social development takes place, to a greater or lesser extent and depending on the circumstances, in all social formations. But the results are obviously much faster when this use is scientific and when no class is opposed to it, which is precisely the case in a socialist regime.

Note, in the second place, that in a class society, the use of economic laws always and everywhere has class motives, and that it is always and everywhere the avant-garde class that is championing the use of economic laws in the interest of social development, while declining classes oppose it, whatever the consequences for the rest of society. They thus become the enemies of society and fall back on their class egoism. What differentiates the proletariat from other classes which in the past revolutionized the relations of production is that, by its nature, it cannot apply the necessary law of correspondence without at the same time eliminating private ownership of the means of production. 'that is to say any form ofoperation. Its class interests are therefore identified with those of working humanity, of all the exploited and oppressed.

We will draw from our study a great marxist idea, capital for our action: men make their own history, but under given conditions which determine them and which must be taken into account. It is an all-time truth. To make history is to overcome the resistance of the reactionary classes which oppose the necessary changes in the mode of production. Making history is therefore the task of the exploited and the oppressed. History is the history of the producers of material goods and it is the oppressed and exploited masses who make it: the people are the true creator of history. But this all-time truth takes on startling relief under capitalism. By expanding to the whole world, by exploiting the majority of a country's population,by enslaving the peoples of other countries, capitalism in its last phase sets in motion masses incomparably larger than previous regimes. The era of proletarian revolution and the liberation of colonial peoples is a time when the world masses burst onto the stage of history. Only the action of the masses can overcome the resistance of the capitalists. The masses triumphed in 1917 in Petrograd and Moscow, in 1949 in Nanjing and Shanghai. Unlike reactionaries who fear the masses, unlike the petty bourgeoisie who oppose "reason" and "reflection" to the action of masses, a marxist cannot dread the action of the masses. On the contrary, it works at their head because proletarian socialism does notis not simply a philosophical doctrine, but, in Stalin's words, the doctrine of the proletarian masses, their "banner". He has an unshakeable confidence in the masses and their action, because he knows that, when they set in motion, the history which marched begins to march at full steam, he knows that the class struggle is the engine of the story.

See: Control questions

The class struggle before capitalism

We have just explained the law of correspondence necessary between relations of production and productive forces. We know on the other hand that the relations of production, when they are based on private property, are characterized by class exploitation, and therefore by class struggle. It is in this form that the action of men in history manifests itself spontaneously.

Two errors must now be avoided: believing that, since there is a necessary law common to all societies, human action is useless and ineffective in history, in changing the economic base of societies; - or conversely believe that the class struggle can do anything, at any time.

The exploited classes want to suppress exploitation. But this is only possible at a certain level of development of the productive forces. Until the proletarian revolution, the struggle of the oppressed classes only resulted in the modification of the regime of private property, in the replacement of one form of exploitation by another.

The class struggle reflects the fundamental contradiction that exists in the relations of production between exploiters and exploited. But its results cannot go beyond what is authorized at a given moment by the law of correspondence necessary between these relations and the productive forces.

However, the class struggle is of great importance, when there is exploitation, as a method of applying this law of necessary correspondence. It is in this sense - and in this sense only - that it is the motor of history.

In this lesson we will study this dialectic at the major stages of the development of societies.

The origins of the society

For a detailed study of economics from its origins to capitalism, see J. Baby: Fundamental Principles of Political Economy, Part 1. Social Editions, Paris, 1949.]

Nothing is more confused and incoherent than the explanations of the idealists concerning the first social formations. Without speaking of the myth of Adam and Eve, one of the most widespread theses considers the family as the primitive cell of society. In reality, the family is a social institution, the type of which depends closely on the prevailing relations of production. As for bourgeois sociologists, they are only interested in techniques and primitive beliefs and oscillate between mechanistic materialism and idealism. In addition, they consider social development from the angle of the extension of the “volume” of society: they see it as a passage “from clans to empires”. Only marxism gives a scientific definition of primitive societies by showing that they have, like any society,an economic basis.

The productive forces of this period were very weakly developed. The stone tools, and even the bow and arrows which subsequently appeared and became the decisive weapon, were not powerful enough for man to be able to fight in isolation against the forces of nature and the beasts of prey. . The men therefore sought to face their precarious condition by joining forces.

To pick fruit in the forests, to catch fish, to build any habitation, men were obliged to work together if they did not want to starve or fall prey to ferocious beasts or neighboring tribes. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3c, p. 24.)

The consequence of this state of affairs is that the ownership of the means of production, of hunting grounds for example, as well as of products, is also common to all of society. Only a few instruments of production which are at the same time weapons of defense against beasts of prey are the individual property of those who made them.

Thus collective ownership of the means of production essentially corresponds to the character of the productive forces and forms the economic basis of this social formation, which is called the primitive commune.

In turn, this economic basis generates interesting ideological peculiarities: the feeling and the notion of private property do not yet exist. Since there are no classes, no class exploitation, there is no class hatred. So we see that, contrary to what idealists say, the feeling of "mine" and "yours", hatred and selfishness are not eternal feelings of human nature. These are historical products from private property. Primitive man is characterized by dedication to the interests of the clan, loyalty and trust in other members of the clan. Hence the legend of the “lost paradise”, but these “virtues” were not the effect of the “natural goodness” dear to Rousseau: they reflected the economic base,they were an imperative condition for victory over the hostile forces which surrounded the clan. At the same time, primitive man lived in terror and ignorance of these hostile forces and therefore in superstition.

Another peculiarity of primitive communism was the great role accorded to women; the inequality of man and woman consisted only in the division of labor between them, but descent by woman alone was recognized. The woman therefore directed education and the advice of the grandmother was law: it was matriarchy.

The emergence of classes

What brought about the decline of the primitive commune, the appearance of classes? It is not the wickedness of man as maintained by idealism, it is the development of productive forces as taught by marxism.

In fact, in order for man to be able to monopolize property privately, it was absolutely necessary for society to have more material goods than the precarious resources available to the original commune. These barely allowed the company to survive. To monopolize under these conditions is to condemn one's fellow human beings to death: there is no interest in it since only the common struggle makes it possible to face multiple dangers. For the possibility of monopolizing to exist, the other members of society must have something to survive on, and there must also be a surplus, and therefore the productive forces must have progressed.

This progress of the productive forces (see lesson 15, point II. A) took place within the primitive commune which then facilitated the struggle against nature as much as possible. The main stages were: the domestication of animals thanks to the bow and arrows and the division of labor between herders and primitive hunters; then the transition to agriculture thanks to metal tools (iron ax, ploughshare); and then the differentiation of trades and agriculture; let us add that the pottery made it possible to make reserves.

These advances have far-reaching consequences. First the breeding, then agriculture provide much more regular and abundant resources than the hazards of hunting.

The domestication of animals gave man a privileged economic position. He was thus able to reverse hereditary rights and establish paternal filiation.

The reversal of maternal rights was the great historical defeat of the female sex. Even at home, it was the man who took control of the rudder; the woman was degraded, enslaved, she became the slave of the pleasure of the man and simple instrument of reproduction. This degraded condition of woman as it appears in particular among the Greeks of the heroic period and even more so of the classical period, it is gradually painted, it is adorned with pretenses, it is sometimes dressed in softened forms; but it is not at all suppressed. (Engels: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, p. 57. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1954.)

The legend of the Amazons has transmitted to us the memory of the heroic struggles supported by matriarchal tribes who succeeded in taming the horse against the tribes where men now reigned.

With breeding, then with agriculture, work no longer simply has immediate need as its goal, it produces a surplus: exchange becomes necessary and possible at the same time, and with exchange, the possibility of accumulate wealth.

Instead of stone tools, men now have metal tools; instead of an economy reduced to a primitive and miserable hunting, which ignores breeding and agriculture, we see the appearance of breeding, agriculture, trades, the division of labor between these different branches of production ; we see the possibility of exchanging products between individuals and groups, the possibility of an accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small number ... (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism. 3.c, p. 24 .)

Human labor now supplying a surplus over minimum consumption, there was an interest in including new labor forces. In the previous period prisoners of war were useless mouths since the work hardly ensured the conservation of the one who carried it out; therefore there was no interest in taking prisoners, but in eliminating the rival tribe from the hunting ground. Now the work of the prisoner could leave a surplus, it was natural to use it, he became a slave.

The increase in production in all branches - cattle ranching, agriculture, domestic crafts - gave the human labor force the capacity to produce more than was needed for its subsistence. [Underlined by us. (GB and MC)] At the same time, it increased the daily amount of work that fell on each member of the people [Patriarchal family.], Of the domestic community or of the conjugal family. It became desirable to resort to new labor forces. War provides them: prisoners of war were turned into slaves. By increasing the productivity of labor, hence wealth, and by expanding the field of production, the first great social division of labor under the given historical conditions necessarily entailed slavery.From the first great social division of labor was born the first great division of society into two classes: masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited ... We have now reached the threshold of civilization ... At the lowest stage, men produced only directly for their personal needs; the exchanges which took place on occasion were isolated, only concerned the superfluous which one had by chance ... (Engels: op. cited p. 147. 148, 151.)dealt only with the superfluous that was available by chance ... (Engels: op. cited p. 147. 148, 151.)dealt only with the superfluous that was available by chance ... (Engels: op. cited p. 147. 148, 151.)

Henceforth the production of the surplus became, on the contrary, more and more systematic. Some slaves were the collective property of their conquerors, others individual property, but in any case the slaves had nothing: private ownership of the means of production was born, society was now divided into classes, primitive communism had gone, the economic base of the company had changed. All this had been done in accordance with the requirements of the new productive forces, with the improvement of techniques, and, without men wanting it, even within the primitive commune.

When some members of the primitive commune began little by little and as if groped, to switch from stone tools to iron tools, they were obviously unaware of the social results to which this innovation would lead; they didn't think about it; they were not aware, they did not understand that the adoption of metal tools meant a revolution in production, that it would ultimately lead to the regime of slavery. What they wanted was just to make their jobs easier and gain an immediate and tangible advantage; their conscious activity was confined within the narrow framework of this personal, daily advantage. (Stalin: Dialectical materialism and historical materialism, 3 dp 29.)

The end of the primitive era and the beginnings of slavery left deep traces in the memory of men. Not understanding its objective necessity, they saw in it a divine vengeance, the loss of primitive "innocence", the fruit of "wickedness", of "selfishness", of the devil. The "virtues" of old were idealized and provided many moral themes. The memory of the ancient precedence of women was preserved in the myth of Cybele, the goddess of fertility. The Bible deplored the "fall" of man and the poets of Antiquity: Hesiod, Ovid, celebrated "the golden age" whose tradition predicted the inevitable return.

In reality, if the primitive period did not know the class struggles which tore society apart in the later periods, it knew the miserable state of humanity in the grip of natural perils of all kinds. It would be ridiculous not to want to recognize that slavery, which appeared on the basis of the development of the productive forces, drew the most technically backward tribes out of the state in which they were vegetating and constituted a step forward.

It is therefore not appropriate to idealize the primitive era. The appearance of classes was inevitable since it made possible the increase in production. However, it should not be concealed that it inaugurates this era of humanity where, according to Engels' words, every step forward has as a condition a step back, since each increase in production, well-being and of the civilization of a fraction of the society has as a condition the increased exploitation, the misery and the brutalization of the greatest number.

Class society has profoundly transformed human psychology and, in this sense, Rousseau was not wrong to hold "society" responsible for the "corruption" of "human nature". The exploitation of man by man has the effect of brutally preventing the exploited from disposing of the fruit of his labor. Man is thus separated from his work. His work is "alienated" in the hands of the exploiter who "appropriates" it. Separated from his work, man is separate from himself, since the productive activity, the creative initiative are precisely the peculiarity of man, which makes him truly human and distinguishes him from animals. And while the exploited is dispossessed of what he has produced, the exploiter appropriates what he has not produced.Thus the consciousness of the exploited is separated from itself because it is mutilated, because it cannot freely achieve its ends, that of the exploiter is separated from itself because the lie is there. permanently installed, because it cannot freely confess its ends. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.exploited is separated from itself because it is mutilated, because it cannot freely achieve its ends, that of the exploiter is separated from itself because the lie is permanently installed there, because 'she cannot freely confess her ends. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.exploited is separated from itself because it is mutilated, because it cannot freely achieve its ends, that of the exploiter is separated from itself because the lie is permanently installed there, because 'she cannot freely confess her ends. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.it is mutilated, because it cannot freely achieve its ends, that of the exploiter is separated from itself because the lie is permanently installed there, because it cannot freely avow its ends to itself. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.it is mutilated, because it cannot freely achieve its ends, that of the exploiter is separated from itself because the lie is permanently installed there, because it cannot freely avow its ends to itself. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.the exploiter is separated from herself because the lie is permanently installed there, because she cannot freely confess her ends. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.the exploiter is separated from herself because the lie is permanently installed there, because she cannot freely confess her ends. Each reflects in its own way the fact of exploitation. This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.This division of consciousness against itself is in what consists either the loss of "primitive innocence", or what Hegel could call the "misfortune of consciousness". Thus the appearance of classes and of exploitation, the fundamental split of humanity into antagonistic groups, is reflected in this deep, fundamental split of human consciousness, spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.spontaneously torn into violently contradictory tendencies.

Instead of man himself being the end of his productive activity, we see on the contrary the end and the means separated from each other: the part of society which is the means of production (the majority) is not the end of it; the one who is the end (the minority) is not the means.

This contradiction explains the degeneration and moral decadence of the exploiting classes as soon as their system of exploitation no longer corresponds to the needs for the development of the productive forces. As exploitation becomes more intolerable, scandal and decay more and more take hold in the world of exploiters. It is then that the corrupting character of class society appears more clearly, as well as the need for regeneration.

For example, at the end of the Ancien Régime, the philosophers as a whole - and not Rousseau alone - opposed "virtue" to the vices of the decadent aristocracy. Robespierre declares that he is putting Terror at the service of Virtue. Condorcet and others await the regeneration of mankind from the Revolution. The Directory first of all, then the bourgeois regime in general soon created bitter disappointments which, in contrast, legitimized the utopianism of a Fourier.

Only Marx had to show that regeneration can come neither from moral or philosophical propaganda, nor from draconian and Spartan legislation, nor from a revolution in general, but from the abolition of class exploitation. Only the end of the class struggle, of the division of humanity against itself, will be able to reconcile man with himself, mark the advent of a happy conscience. But the abolition of the class struggle can only be achieved by carrying out the class struggle itself. It is the proletarian revolution and no other that will restore its unity to humanity, prefigured in the proletariat and the popular masses. Within their victorious fight against the inhumanity and the decadence of the exploiting classes,the proletarians and their allies are reconquering humanity for themselves and achieving precisely the end of man. The way is already the same at the end. It is in the action of the popular masses that the only hopes for regeneration lie, because it is precisely the struggle that transforms those who struggle.

The Socialist Revolution is therefore the dawn of true humanism, but it is precisely because it is the work of men that the revolutionary struggle has restored to the fullness of humanity. The metaphysical opposition that bourgeois ideologues try to establish between the end and the means of revolution is nothing but a fallacy. The process of revolutionary transformation of society is a unique process in which all moments are united. Under the conditions of the revolutionary struggle of the masses, the thousand-year-old features of the alienation of man, of divided consciousness, of perverted humanity have already been abolished; It is under the conditions of this struggle that the traits of the future man are affirmed, freed from the defects of class society. Theself-sacrifice of revolutionaries is living proof of this.

Slave and feudal societies

By studying the origin of the exploitation of man by man, we have shown its nature: the owner of the means of production appropriates the surplus that can be created, at a certain level of their development, by productive forces in relation to the minimum necessary for the life of the worker, deprived of ownership of the means of production.

History recognizes three forms of the exploitation of man by man: slavery, feudal, capitalist. We will quickly characterize the first two here. The next lesson will be devoted to the third.

The specific contradiction of slavery production relations is the contradiction between the class of masters, owners of slaves, and the class of slaves. The slavery regime, created by struggle and war to procure slaves, is nothing other than the forced labor of prisoners of war. From the beginning to the end it has been the scene of a bitter class struggle.

The ownership of the master of slaves over the means of production as well as over the worker forms the basis of the relations of production and corresponds, essentially, to the state of the productive forces. The slave, a former prisoner of war, can be bought, sold, killed like cattle. The means of production are accumulated in the hands of a minority, the majority of the members of society are subject to the minority. Common and free work has ended; the only thing that exists, on the one hand, is the forced labor of exploited slaves and, on the other, the idleness of the masters who take no interest in production and see no other way to increase it than to increase the number of slaves. . The master of slaves is the first and principal owner, the absolute owner.

The slave has no rights. Idleness is considered the perfection of the free man. Manual, servile labor is despised. With the antagonistic classes inevitably appear the special organs necessary to keep the slaves in obedience: this is the beginning of the state. Law, morality, religion, idealistic philosophy play their role in the service of the ruling class, and are themselves a product of the division of society into classes.

Exploitation is cruelly felt by the slave: he has the impression that all the fruit of his labor goes to the master; in fact, a part - reduced to the strict minimum, it is true - is returned to him in the form of food. But the forms of slave struggle are primitive and rudimentary: passivity in the face of forced labor, desertion from the master's domain, organization of pirate bands, finally collective revolts.

Within the slave society other classes develop. When the trades separate from agriculture, the class of craftsmen appears; then the development of trade gives rise to that of merchants.

Hence new contradictions. Intermediary between two producers, the merchant class quickly acquires enormous wealth and proportionate social influence. It competes with the landowners to orient political power in the direction of its class interests (struggle of the “democrats” against the “aristocrats” in Greece, of the “plebeians” against the “patricians” in Rome).

But these secondary contradictions should not mask the main contradiction: it is slavery which makes it possible to increase wealth, the production on which trade lives. This increase in production and with it in labor productivity increases the value of human labor power. We can no longer do without slavery, which is becoming an essential element of the social system.

The contradiction of interests between masters and slaves did not endanger the slave system as long as technological progress gave it a superiority over the backward tribes which it reduced to slavery. But, after having been the main force in the development of the productive forces, the slavery relations of production turned into obstacles. For example in the 2nd century AD, Heron of Alexandria discovered the principle of the steam engine. But this had no practical consequences: instead of introducing new techniques that servile labor rendered inoperative, people preferred to recruit new slaves. Technical superiority finally gave way to the stagnation of techniques and even to their decline.

On the other hand, the recruitment of slaves required permanent war, otherwise it would have been necessary to bring up the children of slaves, an expensive means of renewing them. At the end of a long agony, where objective contradictions and religious and political struggles are entangled, the ancient slave state, the Roman Empire collapsed under the blows of the Barbarians. It collapsed precisely at the moment when its technical inferiority and its internal contradictions - economic and political - no longer allowed it to prevail over the barbarians and thus recruit new slaves. For the struggle of the Barbarians against the Roman state was ultimately nothing other than the struggle against their enslavement. By the logic of its system, the Roman Empire was in a position of perpetual aggressor.

Thus the specific contradiction of the slave regime led it to its ruin when it itself entered into contradiction with the character of the productive forces. To get the economy back on its feet, new production relations were needed: they developed on the ruins of slavery: this was the feudal system.

The feudal regime marked an evolution of private property. Its economic basis is the feudal lord's ownership of the means of production and his limited ownership over the worker, the serf. The feudal can no longer kill it, but he can still sell and buy it. The serf, peasant or craftsman, has individually only his instruments and his private economy, based on personal labor. He can thus have a family and the recruitment of serfs is ensured mainly by heredity of serfdom. These relations of production correspond, for the most part, to the state of the productive forces.

The essence of exploitation, here again, consists in the fact that the feudal lord appropriates privately the surplus of the serf's production. The serf, for example, works three days for himself and three days for the lord. Exploitation is hardly softened compared to the days of slavery; the very word “serf” comes from the Latin word which means “slave” (servus). All rights belong to the lord. Under the pretext of "protecting" his serfs against robbery and looting by neighboring lords, he plundered them himself, demanding enormous royalties in kind. The forms of struggle of the serfs remain primitive: flight out of the seigniorial fiefdom, organization of bands in the forests, revolts finally, or jacqueries during which the serfsstrive to destroy the scrolls where the lord keeps records of their royalties.

A fierce repression fell on the Jacques. [Read Prosper Mérimée: La Jacquerie, preface from Aragon. The French Library; and Engels: "The Peasants' War", in The Bourgeois Democratic Revolution in Germany. Editions Sociales.] The class struggle between feudal landlords and serfs, a reflection of the specific contradiction in feudal production relations, lasts from the beginning to the end of the regime. In addition, this contradiction is developing in a new form, the germ of new conflicts: the fraction of serfs who devote themselves to crafts, then to commerce, creates a new class. The contradiction of interests will grow between these inhabitants of the towns, the “bourgeois”, and the feudal lords. The young bourgeoisie is called upon to develop the productive forces, to constitute a new economic power.The feudal relations of production, at the beginning conforming to the character of the productive forces, will become backward and will turn into obstacles for these forces. The contradiction between bourgeoisie and feudalism, at first secondary and itself engendered by the development of the productive forces within serfdom, gradually takes center stage and finally plays the main role. Indeed, the struggle of the rural serfs results in a certain improvement in their lot because the feudal lords fear that the bourgeoisie will find allies in them. But by itself it could not lead to the liquidation of feudal relations of production, because the new productive forces were not developing in the countryside, but in the city. It is the bourgeois democratic revolution which abolishes serfdom.The specific contradiction of feudal production relations could only disappear when these themselves came into violent contradiction with the new character of the productive forces. For a new development of the economy new relations of production were needed: on the ruins of the feudal system, capitalism arose.

The development of the bourgeoisie

We can notice that, in each case, the new productive forces which will lead to new relations of production do not appear outside the old regime, after its disappearance, but on the contrary within it. Each generation works to achieve specific technical improvements that are immediately profitable to it, and this because it must adapt to the existing production conditions, created by the work of previous generations. In addition, a given generation is not at all aware of the social results that this or that improvement in the productive forces can lead to in the long run: it only thinks of its daily interests. It is only afterfor a while for the ruling classes to realize the danger and consciously slow down the growth of the productive forces. Each generation is drawn into a chain of causes and effects that it does not control. The new relations of production are not the effect of a conscious and premeditated action of men; on the contrary, they arise spontaneously, independently of the conscience and the will of men. They are not arbitrary, but their necessity arises from the technical and economic conditions of the old regime. This is an important feature of the dialectic of modes of production. What defines a mode of production are the dominant relations of production which are not necessarily the only ones. Let us take a closer look at the development of the bourgeoisie,who lived for seven centuries in the feudal regime.

At the start, production is low and consumed locally; there are few exchanges and one notes a preponderance of the countryside on the city, subjected to the feudal, and very little developed. Then, around the 12th century, thanks to the progress of the trades, made possible by serfdom itself, new phenomena appeared in the towns: a surplus of production for the market. Hence the fairs, with a class specializing in the sale and purchase of goods: the merchants, the first embryo of the bourgeoisie.

This rise of the bourgeoisie is at the origin of the communal movement, the first form of the class struggle of the bourgeoisie against the feudal lords: in exchange for the franchises granted, the lord demands rights paid in cash; by the same means, the bourgeoisie bought various political rights: to enclose their city with walls, coin money, build a prison, have an armed militia, elected representatives, a town hall with a fortified tower (belfry). The king often gives them his support against the lords, his rivals, in exchange for loans of money which are necessary to him for the strengthening and the march of the feudal state.

The Crusades developed the merchant bourgeoisie by opening the way to the Mediterranean. At the same time, an obligatory auxiliary to exchanges, the bankers' class (Florence) grew.

The Hundred Years War punishes the military incapacity of the feudal lords [The day before the battle of Poitiers, King Jean had the communes disarmed!], And the rise of the bourgeoisie, English, Belgian with the clothier Artevelde, French with the clothier Etienne Marcel. The progress of military technique inferior the lords: firearms are so expensive that only the king, financed by the merchants, can buy them; he will thus dismantle the fortified castles.

At the end of the 15th century the great discoveries took place, which set out to conquer gold. The influx of gold on the European market had prodigious consequences: enormous fortunes were quickly formed, prices increased, the lords were ruined. The great bourgeois families like the Medici were the real kings of the time, a power to be reckoned with. In exchange for the financial support it receives from the bourgeoisie, the monarchy grants it monopolies.

It is then that manufacture can appear, both because the capital accumulated in the previous period exists and because the development of trade is such that artisanal production, characteristic of feudalism, is no longer sufficient. Thus we went from craftsmanship to commerce, and from commerce to manufacture, a new step forward for the productive forces. Shopping centers become manufacturing centers: for example the silk industry in Lyon. Manufacture is the decomposition of the manufacture of a product into fragmented tasks, carried out by separate workers: it is the possibility of increasing production with a view to trade, with a view to increasing capital. Commerce, from a means that it was, has become an end which is created by new means. Thus the industrial bourgeoisie,manufacturing, appears within feudal society and, with it, the first embryos of the proletariat. The "middle ages" gave way to "modern times". [These two expressions obviously have only a very weak scientific meaning, but they correspond to a real change.] It is the beginning of new relations of production, characterized by the capitalist exploitation of a salaried proletariat. This is recruited from among the ruined peasants, driven from the land, the artisans ruined by competition, the mercenaries of the feudal lords who have remained unemployed, and all those fleeing feudal oppression: free, they are all deprived of the means of production and , so as not to die of hunger, obliged to sell their labor power to the bourgeois; because for the latter, himself born of commodity production, everythingbuys and sells.

The new productive forces require workers to be more cultured and more intelligent than the ignorant and stupid serfs; that they are able to understand the machine and know how to handle it properly. So the capitalists prefer to deal with salaried workers freed from the shackles of serfdom, sufficiently cultivated to handle the machines properly. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.c, p. 26.)

The new relations of production in fact favor the development of the productive forces which increase profit: we pass from manufacture to mechanized industry, then, with the steam engine, to the system of machines and to the great modern mechanical industry. In the 18th century, it was the “industrial revolution”, powerfully described by Marx in the first part of the Manifesto of the Communist Party.

The consequence of the appearance of these new relations of production is a constant class struggle against the feudal lords. This struggle has evolved for a long time since the first battles for “franchises”.

The Renaissance expresses it. The bourgeoisie confronts the Church, an ideological ally of feudalism, and finds support in the ideologies of Antiquity. With Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus and Rabelais, she exalts nature, science, reason, the power of the human spirit; she criticizes medieval education with Rabelais and Montaigne. The wars of religion express this struggle in a more veiled, mystical form.

The struggle intensified in the eighteenth century: it was directed against the feudal state which, by its regulations, provincial fragmentation, privileges and taxes, hampered the development of productive forces and the extension of trade. This greater acuteness of the struggle has a great significance: the bourgeoisie begins to realize that it necessarily needs, in order to prosper, to liquidate the old relations of production and to assure the new ones an undivided reign. The struggle becomes political:

So here is what we have seen: the means of production and exchange, on the basis of which the bourgeoisie was built, were created within feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and traded, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing, in a word the feudal system of property, ceased. to correspond to the productive forces in full development. They hampered production instead of advancing it. They turned into so many chains. These chains had to be broken. We broke them.

Instead arose free competition, with an appropriate social and political constitution, with the economic and political supremacy of the bourgeois class. (K. Marx and F. Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 34.)

Obviously this awareness did not happen overnight:

When, under feudal rule, the young bourgeoisie of Europe began to build large factories alongside the small workshops of craftsmen, thus advancing the productive forces of society, it was obviously unaware of the social consequences to which this innovation would succeed, she did not think about it; she was not aware, she did not understand that this "small" innovation would lead to a regrouping of social forces, which was to end in a revolution against the royal power whose benevolence she valued so much, as well as against the nobility. which the best representatives of this bourgeoisie often dreamed of entering; what she wanted was simply to lower the cost of producing goods,to throw more goods into the markets of Asia and those of newly discovered America, and make greater profits; his conscious activity was confined to the narrow framework of his practical, daily interests. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.d, p. 29.)

So at the beginning the bourgeoisie had no other objective than to secure a place in feudal society. The class struggle is the social, political, ideological reflection of real, material, economic interests. This is an objective fact, because the bourgeoisie itself is inscribed in objective history as a product of the economic laws of commodity production, a product of private property, the first elements of which are granted to the exploited class by the very institution of serfdom.

A moment comes when feudal property and the whole feudal system become a direct obstacle to the development of the productive forces, when the contradiction between the old relations of production and the new productive forces becomes intolerable. The rising class is by definition the one capable of developing the new productive forces.

The contradiction develops into antagonism: the struggle becomes more and more conscious, methodical, spontaneous than it was at first; it makes the rising class revolutionary. It becomes the means without which one cannot achieve the application of the necessary law of correspondence. Its objective now is not to make room for the bourgeoisie in the feudal system, but to abolish this system. This is why it becomes more acute and more bitter on the part of the feudal lords too, who are no longer only threatened in their relative economic power, but in their existence as a class; so they are becoming more and more reactionary.

From then on, we can understand Marx's formula: the class struggle is the motor of history, that is to say the political means by which the contradictions of production are resolved, the means by which the productive forces and the whole of society will be able to move forward. But, if it resolves the contradiction, it is not this which opened it: it is not the conscience of men which creates contradictions with pleasure.

This engine does not work with nothing: there is production with its necessary law of correspondence. But it allows this law to fully manifest itself, just as an engine allows the energy of its fuel to produce its full effect. From the moment when production generates antagonistic classes and until their disappearance, the development of society takes place through class struggle: struggle between, on the one hand, the hostile classes out of interest in the necessary correspondence of relations of production with the productive forces and, on the other hand, the classes favorable by interest to this correspondence. Let us note on this subject, with the example of the bourgeoisie, that a revolutionary class can be at the same time exploiting, that a dominated class (it isis the case of the bourgeoisie under feudalism) is not at the same time an exploited class.

The rising class becomes aware of its historical mission with the help of economics, or at least of economic experience; the more this awareness becomes more precise, the more effective its revolutionary struggle becomes, since it is based on knowledge of the objective law of necessary correspondence.

So let's conclude that

economic production and the social structure which necessarily results from it form, in each historical epoch, the basis of the political and intellectual history of that epoch; ... as a result (since the dissolution of the common property of the soil of primitive times) , the whole of history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting classes, between dominated and dominant classes, at the different stages of their social development ... (Engels: Preface to the 1883 edition of the Communist Party Manifesto. See p. 19 of the 1954 edition of Editions Sociales.)

See: Control questions

The contradictions of capitalist society

Capitalist relations of production: their specific contradiction

Characterizing capitalist society, which succeeds feudal society, Stalin writes:

Under the capitalist regime, it is capitalist ownership of the means of production which forms the basis of the relations of production: ownership over the producers, the salaried workers, no longer exists; the capitalist can neither kill them nor sell them, because they are freed from all personal dependence; but they are deprived of the means of production and, in order not to starve, they are obliged to sell their labor power to the capitalist and to submit to the yoke of exploitation. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.c, p. 25-26.)

In other words, capitalist relations enclose a fundamental contradiction between the interest of the exploiting class (capitalist bourgeoisie) and the interest of the exploited class (proletariat). This contradiction is specific to capitalism. It constitutes it, since the existence and prosperity of the capitalist bourgeoisie can have no other source than the wage labor of the proletarians.

We can therefore understand that the class struggle is inseparable from capitalism. It expresses the internal contradiction of capitalist relations of production, the capitalist exploitation of man by man. As soon as the capitalist relations of production are formed - within feudal society itself - the objective class struggle between bourgeois and proletarians appears. [This is why it would be wrong to believe that in 1789, at the time of the bourgeois revolution, the third estate formed a united block without contradictions of interests. All the classes that made up the third estate had a common interest in the abolition of feudalism. But at the same time there was an opposition of interests within the third estate, between exploiters and exploited;to which should be added the oppositions between the big and the petty bourgeoisie, etc.] It continues throughout the history of capitalism.

The analysis of capitalist relations of production will allow us to precisely specify the nature of their specific contradiction, of which the class struggle is the necessary effect.

The craftsman sold his products to buy necessary material goods; the capitalist buys raw materials in order to sell manufactured products. The goal of artisanal production is consumption; the goal of capitalist production is profit. In this new form of circulation: investing money to produce more money - money is transformed into capital. The transition from the first form of circulation of money to the form of circulation of capital is possible whenever there is private ownership of the means of production, which is particularly the case under the feudal regime. This explains why capitalism can be born there.

But in order for a profit to be realized in the operation, the capitalist must find on the market a commodity which has a very special property: the property of producing more value than is necessary for its renewal; and the capitalist must appropriate the surplus value thus produced. What is this commodity so interesting for the capitalist? It is obviously the labor power of the worker, for there is only work that can produce value. [Of course, man's labor-power can only produce surplus value from a certain level of development of the productive forces, as we saw in lesson 17, II.]

... by force of work, ... it is necessary to understand all the physical and intellectual faculties which exist in the body of a man, in his living personality, and which he must set in motion to produce useful things . (K. Marx: Le Capital, L. 1 st, t. I., eh. 6, p. 170. Editions Sociales.)

What is needed so that the capitalist can appropriate the value thus produced? That he has all the means of production.

What does it take for human labor power to become a commodity? so that men come to sell it themselves in the market?

In the first place, it must belong to them entirely, that is to say, that they be freed from the bonds of serfdom; in the second place, there is the market: buying and selling, commodity production; thirdly, that men have nothing to sell other than their labor power, that is to say that they themselves have no means of production. Such men, the proletarians, exist, both as a result of the economic disintegration of the feudal system, and as a result of the competition which reigns in commodity production, competition which ruins the small artisans, the small traders and that from the beginning of its development. On the other hand, the capitalist who has an interest in using free workers, more developed than ignorant serfs, and knowing how to use new techniques,promotes by all means the struggle of the serfs for their liberation.

Here we grasp at the same time the origin and the nature of the "freedom" which capitalism has championed; it is, for the capitalist, the freedom of commerce and enterprise, and for the proletarian the freedom to be hired by the capitalist.

Hiring is therefore nothing other than the purchase of the proletarian labor power. But how is she going to be paid? As with any commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labor necessary for its production, by the value of the products necessary for its maintenance, for its renewal, necessary for the proletarian to live and for his children to grow up and replace him. This value being subtracted from the value produced by the worker during the working day, all the surplus, the surplus value, will increase capital: the first part is expressed in wages, the second gives rise to profit. ["The value of labor power is determined by the value of the basic necessities that are needed to produce, develop, conserve and perpetuate labor power". (K. Marx:Wage, price and profit, p. 18. Salaried labor and capital ... p. 95.)] This is why the capitalist has every interest in lengthening the working day, and the proletarian in shortening it. If it takes three hours to produce a value equivalent to what the maintenance of the worker's labor force requires, and the worker begins work at 6 a.m., from 9 a.m. and beyond therefore works for the capitalist. If, working without interruption, he finishes at 2 pm, he has worked 5 hours for the capitalist; but if he finishes at 7 p.m. (we still assume uninterrupted labor) he has worked 10 hours for the capitalist. So between an 8 hour day and a 13 hour day (common in the early days of capitalism), the capitalist's profit doubles!As for the wage, it is always the same: it is fixed by the value of the maintenance of the labor force, a value that is enough 3 hours to produce. Of course the capitalist conceals this fact by paying the wages at the end of the day, after the work he has demanded is finished. The proletarian is therefore obliged, in order not to die of hunger, to work for the entire time fixed if he wants to receive his salary.

In other words, the capitalist in exchange for a salary which represents strictly the equivalent of the minimum material needs of the proletarian, appropriates the products of the labor of this proletarian. The working day is divided into necessary working time and free working time.

Under capitalism there is therefore, as under feudalism and slavery, private appropriation of unpaid labor, but the proletarian does not immediately discover the secret of this exploitation, because he has the illusion that all his labor is paid to him. at the end of the day- The serf owned the products of his private economy and knew that he worked so many free days for the lord. The modern proletarian, like the slave, possesses nothing, apart from his "freedom", that is to say the faculty of selling his labor power. The slave was fed by his master; the capitalist gives the proletarian, in the form of a salary, the strict minimum to feed himself, and sometimes even takes from him in the canteen and in the form of rent almost all of his salary: capitalism is wage slavery.

This analysis allowed us to verify that we were right to say that the economic interests of the capitalist and the proletarian are fundamentally irreconcilable, and that there is a contradiction inherent in capitalism, a contradiction which is indeed the essence of capitalist relations of production. .

From this derives a consequence: the idea of ​​class collaboration, of capital-labor association (which presents itself as arbiter between the antagonistic classes), is a weapon in the service of the capitalist. It aims to divert the proletarian from the struggle for the defense of his interests. Capitalist exploitation is not the result of "abuse of bad bosses", as the Pope's Encyclicals claim; there is no such thing as "good" capitalism, because all capitalism is exploitative. To speak of suppressing the proletariat, capitalist exploitation while claiming to preserve capitalism, private ownership of the means of production, is therefore to make fun of the world. To suppress the proletariat, capitalism must be suppressed.

These remarks apply to Proudhon's bourgeois "socialism", concerned not with destroying capitalism through revolutionary class action, but "with improving the lot of the working class" within the framework of an amended and good-natured capitalism. . [“Bourgeois socialism attains its proper expression only when it becomes a mere figure of rhetoric. Free trade, in the interests of the working class! Protective rights [for industrialists], in the interest of the working class! ... This is the last word of bourgeois socialism, the only one it has said seriously. For bourgeois socialism is entirely in this assertion, that the bourgeois are bourgeois - in the interest of the working class. (Marx-Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 57.)]

Another consequence of our analysis: the class struggle is not a malignant invention of Karl Marx. It exists independently of the will of men, and that is why the proletarians can only ensure their existence by fighting against the exploiter. If the proletariat stopped fighting for wages, it would be forced by the capitalist bourgeoisie to a condition bordering on animality.

However, it should be noted that the contradiction between capital and labor is not the only one that has existed since the beginning of capitalism. There is also competition, the struggle between the capitalists. But the contradiction of interests between rival capitalists is not fundamental; it is subordinated to the specific contradiction of capitalism, a contradiction between exploiting capitalist and exploited worker: without this contradiction there would, in fact, be no capitalism. Thus, the law of the anarchy of production in a capitalist regime is subordinated to the law of surplus value, which is fundamental.

The law of necessary correspondence in capitalist society

We have just studied the capitalist relations of production: we have done so by analyzing their internal contradiction, the specific contradiction of capitalism.

This study will allow us to understand what happens, in a capitalist society, to the fundamental law of societies, the law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces.

We are going to see how, in a first period, the specific contradiction of capitalism created favorable conditions for the play of the necessary law of correspondence, therefore for the development of the productive forces. Then we will see that, in a second period, the specific contradiction of capitalism creates conditions unfavorable to the play of the necessary law of correspondence: there is henceforth a conflict between relations of production and productive forces; the development of the productive forces is thus hampered.

The correspondence between capitalist relations of production and the character of the productive forces

We saw in the previous lesson (point IV) that the bourgeois class was constituted within feudal society. But, as its interests were linked to the rise of new productive forces (factories, factories, etc.), the bourgeoisie could only develop in the struggle against the feudal relations of production, which were not in harmony with the new productive forces, and which consequently stood in the way of the play of the necessary law of correspondence.

The role of the bourgeois democratic revolution was precisely to ensure the liquidation of feudalism; the capitalist relations of production took the upper hand, thanks to the triumph of the bourgeoisie.

Thus began a historical period when the new mode of production fully corresponded to the requirements of the development of production. The necessary law of correspondence, which feudal society hampered, therefore regained all its force in capitalist society.

It should be observed that capitalist relations are incompatible with any other form of production relations. Why ? Based on profit (see point I of this lesson), capitalism has an interest in always producing more and more cheaply: it must therefore constantly embrace new productive forces which reduce production time and conquer by all means of new markets. But the profit thus achieved can in turn generate greater profit only by investing in new industrial, commercial and agricultural enterprises: and consequently capitalist property must necessarily extend to all means of production without exception. . Thus capitalism cannot allow any other form of property to exist alongside it. It must beextend to the entire nation, and out of the nation. From his beginnings he was promised a universal reign.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, which means the conditions of production, that is to say all social relations. The maintenance without change of the old mode of production was, on the contrary, for all the previous industrial classes [For example in the case of the slave industry.], The first condition of their existence. This continual upheaval of production, this constant upheaval of the whole social system, this perpetual agitation and insecurity distinguish the bourgeois era from all the preceding ones. All traditional and frozen social relations, with their train of ancient and venerable conceptions and ideas, are dissolved; those who replace them age before they can ossify.All that had solidity and permanence goes up in smoke, all that was sacred is profaned, and men are finally forced to consider their conditions of existence and their reciprocal relations with disillusioned eyes. (Marx-Engels: Manifesto ..., p. 32.)

The productive forces are therefore experiencing a prodigious rise. This is the time when capitalism thinks it can develop them in an unlimited way. This is the origin of the belief in indefinite "progress" within the bourgeois framework and in the eternity of capitalism, presented as the last and completed form of civilization. This is the time when bourgeois economists believe that capitalist production develops harmoniously and without contradictions: the time of "economic harmonies".

The capitalists are then aware of serving the interests of society, of increasing the volume of consumer goods, of providing work for all. Their "social" concerns consist, for some of them, in this, that they hope to remedy social ills by the very development of production and thus consolidate the capitalist regime and bourgeois society. Making all of them owners was the ideal of the bourgeois reformers of the time. They want the bourgeoisie, without the proletariat. It is this kind of conservative philanthropy that spawned the many charities.

This ideology reflects the fact that, in this period, capitalist private ownership of the means of production maximized production.

In the period following the bourgeois revolution, when the bourgeoisie destroyed feudal production relations and established bourgeois production relations, there were undoubtedly periods when bourgeois production relations were entirely in conformity with the character of the forces. productive. Otherwise, capitalism could not have developed as quickly as it did after the bourgeois revolution. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 139.)

The capitalist relations of production were then the main force which stimulated the impetuous development of the productive forces.

Now, as we have shown in point I of this lesson, capitalist relations are relations of exploitation. If therefore the productive forces have been able to increase under a capitalist regime, it is as a consequence of exploitation! The rise of production had as a condition the existence of surplus value, of the additional value that human labor can generate and that the bourgeoisie appropriates. So it is the exploitation of the proletariat that has allowed the development of capitalism. It is the modern proletarians who, at the cost of appalling misery devouring men, women and children, have created the wonders of modern civilization and allowed the prodigious development of the productive forces on which the capitalist bourgeoisie has based its opulence and its power. ["Capital is dead labor,who, like the vampire, only comes to life by sucking on living labor and his life is all the more cheerful the more he pumps it. »K. Marx: Capital, L. I, t. I, p. 229. Social Publishing.)]

In other words, in a capitalist society, production is subordinated to capitalist profit; it involves the exploitation of the working class.

It is therefore fair to say that the specific contradiction of capitalism - a contradiction between the exploiting class and the exploited class - has created conditions favorable to the play of the necessary law of correspondence, favorable, therefore, to the rise of the productive forces.

We will now see how the same contradiction, in a second period (which begins around 1840) had the opposite effect.

The conflict between capitalist relations of production and the character of the productive forces

The capitalists of the ascending period believed that it would be possible for them to develop the productive forces without limit and that industry would alleviate all evils, solve all problems. They did not suspect that its development would necessarily meet a limit: capitalism itself. In the same way that the magnification of the lenses of the microscope encounters a limit beyond which new optical phenomena occur which prevent vision and prevent any progress under the classical microscope, in the same way as the increase in the speed of airplanes generates absolutely new phenomena when it reaches the speed of sound, in the same way the increase of the productive forces - which capitalism had, as we have seen, made possible - had to, starting fromat a certain point, turning against capitalism itself, for such is the dialectic in nature and in society. Capitalism, too, ran into a "sound barrier": it was the economic crises. [See Baby: work cited, p. 253-254.] What is the basis?

By the unprecedented development of the productive forces, capitalism is able to throw on the market ever increasing quantities of goods at lower prices; it thus aggravates competition: it ruins the mass of small and medium private owners. Wealth accumulates in the hands of a small number of capitalists (monopolists), while the misery of the greatest number becomes general (impoverishment of the middle classes, the peasantry, etc.). All these layers, whose numerical importance does not cease increasing as capital accumulates in the hands of a minority of exploiters, all these layers have a considerably reduced purchasing power, the market is shrinking, the slump occurs because the majority of the population limits its consumption to the strict minimum.There is an increasing imbalance between production and consumption: this is what the capitalists call "overproduction"; it is the crisis.

The race for profit, the goal of capitalism, generates its opposite: the cessation of profit. And the majority of society is in misery for having produced means of subsistence which it cannot afford to buy: it is misery in abundance!

marxist economic analysis shows that the balance between production and consumption, the harmonious development of all social production can only be achieved if we take into account all the needs of society both in terms of consumption objects than in means of production. But how could the capitalist take these requirements into account since he has no other goal than his private interest, his profit, which is itself determined by the prospects of the market? In a capitalist regime, production is not subordinated to the needs of all, but to the profits of the capitalist minority. It is therefore not possible, under capitalism, to develop production harmoniously; this inevitably has an anarchic character.

We see that the basis of economic crises is, in the final analysis, the contradiction that has developed between private capitalist interests and the demands of social production. By developing the productive forces, capitalism has put an end to the partitioning of production specific to crafts. The ruthless competition between the capitalists led, at the beginning of the XXth century, to the absorption of the weakest by the strongest: thus monopolies are constituted, all-powerful economic feudalities which extend their networks beyond the borders of a country (example: the American Standard Oil trust, controlled by Rockefeller, king of oil). [The transition from liberal capitalism to monopoly capitalism is a remarkable expression of the struggle of opposites: it isis in fact free competition between capitalists which changes into its opposite (monopoly) by eliminating the weakest; then a new form of struggle appears, the struggle between monopolies, on a world scale.]

Capitalism, which has reached this stage, forms a single whole of all the various industries, from the extraction of raw materials to the finished product; gigantic trusts control the whole economy of a country or even of several countries: industry, commerce, agriculture. A financial oligarchy, which holds the immense capital necessary for the march of production, has the upper hand over the economy.

Thus the very development of capitalism has led it to penetrate all aspects of social life. Banks, trusts and cartels create a close dependence between the various branches of production. The whole production process takes on a social character.

But who benefits from this formidable concentration? The handful of capitalists who own the great means of production. Production is more and more social, but it is for the benefit of the private interest of a parasitic minority. The rival monopolies, which constitute this minority, seek maximum profit, both at the expense of the working masses and to the detriment of the weaker capitalists. Appropriating the maximum profit is for them an objective necessity, which conditions their expansion. This is the fundamental law of current capitalism.

The main features and requirements of the fundamental economic law of present-day capitalism could be formulated roughly as follows: ensuring maximum capitalist profit through the exploitation, ruin and impoverishment of the majority of the population of a given country, by the enslavement and systematic plundering of the peoples of other countries, especially backward countries, and finally by wars and the militarization of the national economy used to ensure the highest profits. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 128.)

The inevitable result of the race for capitalist profit is the increased misery of the masses, an unprecedented outburst of violence. The Korean War was thus started by the magnates of American capitalism: frightened by the prospect of the crisis, which would have dried up their profits, they did not hesitate to seek in the war, source of abundant orders, an advantageous outlet. "Our prosperity is war prosperity" cynically admitted President Eisenhower.

Capitalism at the current stage is therefore in a permanent position of aggressor towards the peoples: it is imperialism.

But it is not in the power of the capitalists to abolish the constitutive contradiction of capitalism, a contradiction between the interests of the exploiting class and those of society as a whole. Noting this contradiction, the bourgeoisie cannot consider sacrificing its class interests, giving up its profits. It therefore strives to limit the productive forces according to its interests. It thus protects the capitalist relations of production against the rise of the productive forces which calls them into question.

We could multiply the examples showing that capitalism, in the grip of the fear of the crisis, hinders the development of the productive forces: return to labor by hand, systematic production of poor quality articles, discarding of patents, reduction or elimination of necessary funds for laboratories, etc. This explains the stagnation of capitalist production in all areas. Characterizing the situation of capitalism, Stalin writes:

For having developed the productive forces in gigantic proportions, capitalism is entangled in insoluble contradictions for it. By producing larger and larger quantities of commodities and reducing their prices, capitalism worsens competition, ruins the mass of small and medium-sized private owners, reduces them to the status of proletarians and decreases their purchasing power; the result is that the disposal of manufactured goods becomes impossible. By expanding production and grouping millions of workers into huge factories and factories, capitalism gives the process of production a social character and thereby undermines its own base; for the social character of the production process requires social ownership of the means of production; gold,ownership of the means of production remains private, capitalist property, incompatible with the social character of the production process.

It is these irreconcilable contradictions between the character of the productive forces and the relations of production which manifest themselves in the periodic crises of overproduction; the capitalists for want of having solvent buyers, because of the ruin of the masses for which they are themselves responsible, are obliged to burn foodstuffs, to annihilate ready-made goods, to stop production, to destroy the forces productive, and this while millions of people suffer from unemployment and hunger, not because we lack goods, but because we have produced too much.

This means that the capitalist relations of production no longer correspond to the state of the productive forces of society and have entered into insoluble contradiction with them. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3.c, p. 26-27.)

The contradiction between the capitalist relations of production and the social character of the productive forces is therefore the basis of the crises from which capitalism is affected.

But this contradiction itself arose from the specific constitutive contradiction of capitalism (studied in point I of this lesson).

If indeed we want to summarize our whole point II, what do we see? The specific contradiction of capitalism (exploiting bourgeoisie against exploited proletariat) was first of all favorable to the play of the necessary law of correspondence: the law of surplus value, source of capitalist profit, gave rise to the rise of the productive forces; such was the interest of the bourgeois class.

Then the same contradiction led to the opposite result. The same class interest has become an obstacle to production. The law of surplus value, which today takes concrete form in the law of maximum profit, ended up defeating the law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces. Now, as we know, this necessary law of correspondence is the general law of human societies, the law common to all modes of production; societies can only progress if this law is respected. Thus the specific law of capitalism (law of surplus value, inseparable from bourgeois exploitation) holds in check the general law of human societies. This conflict is at the origin of the decline of capitalism. It means thatwithin the regime, productive forces have developed which it can no longer contain. It means that new relations of production, socialist relations, are objectively necessary because they are the only ones adapted, henceforth, to modern productive forces.

Capitalism is pregnant with a revolution, called to replace the current capitalist ownership of the means of production by socialist ownership. (Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, p. 27.)

It will be noted that the bourgeoisie, by developing the concentration of the means of production, has unwittingly worked against itself. At the stage of monopolies, in fact, the whole of production takes on a social character; the contradiction between this social character of production and private, capitalist appropriation thus becomes all the more acute, all the more unbearable as the monopolies are more powerful. By giving rise, out of class interest, to the productive forces, by concentrating them ever more so as to derive the maximum profit from them, the bourgeoisie has dug its own tomb. And the gravedigger is none other than the class whose work and misery made the heyday of capitalism: the proletariat.

The class struggle of the proletariat as a method for resolving the contradiction between the relations of production and the productive forces

The dialectical analysis of capitalism has shown us:

a) A contradiction within the relations of production, a contradiction which opposes the exploited proletariat and the exploiting bourgeoisie. Studying this contradiction in point I of this lesson, we have found that it lasts as long as capitalism itself; it is the specific contradiction of capitalism;

b) A contradiction between the capitalist relations of production and the character of the productive forces, a contradiction which appears only at a certain level of the productive forces developed by capitalism (around 1840) - we have studied this contradiction in point II of this lesson.

What is the basis of the change in the mode of production, the basis of the socialist revolution? We have seen it: this is the second contradiction. But it is the first which generates the second, since it is the capitalist exploitation, the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie which allowed the impetuous rise of the productive forces, rise profitable to the exploiting class, until the day. where the productive forces have become too powerful for capitalism.

We are now in a position to understand what is the historical role of the class struggle of the proletariat. We will see that this role is precisely to resolve the contradiction (b) which has arisen between the capitalist production relations and the productive forces.

At the same time as it developed new productive forces, the bourgeoisie - in accordance with the nature of the capitalist relations of production (see point I of this lesson) - developed the proletariat, the exploited class, and consequently the antagonistic class of the exploiting bourgeoisie. As the means of production were increasingly concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat increased in number and in strength. This is how the bourgeoisie gathered, for the needs of capitalist exploitation, tens of thousands, then millions of proletarians in the vast factories of the industrial cities. Likewise, it brought together tens of thousands of agricultural workers on huge farms.

Now, as we know, the proletarians can only ensure their existence through a constant struggle against the class which exploits them. Thus the bourgeoisie, generating its opposite (the exploited proletariat), has generated an army of enemies, which delivers a class struggle to the exploiters.

Karl Marx, in the first part of the Communist Party Manifesto, described the main stages of this formidable fight: we urge the reader to refer to them. [See also Marx: Misère de la Philosophie, p. 129-136.]

At the start of capitalism the workers, not understanding the exact nature of the regime they were undergoing, directed their blows against the machines, which made them presage unemployment. They do not distinguish between the machine and the use that the bourgeoisie makes of it for its class profit. In short, they fight against the productive forces instead of fighting against exploitation.

Little by little they discover that the real enemy is not the machine, but capitalism. Indeed this one, using the machines, decreases the cost of the production; the value of labor power therefore decreases: there is a fall in wages. The proletarians engage in the struggle to defend their wages. Noting that the capitalist seeks to pit the proletarians against each other (the most unhappy accepting very low wages to the detriment of the less unfortunate who, consequently reduced to unemployment, are in turn forced to accept even lower wages, and so always ...), the proletarians become aware of their common interests. They therefore unite to lead the struggle against the common enemy, the capitalist.

This first form of struggle is the strike, the aim of which is to maintain wages (and reduce the working day). As the first weapon of the proletariat, the strike signified the advent of the class consciousness of the proletariat, awareness that the individual interests of workers can only be defended by class solidarity, by common struggle.

Large-scale industry brings together in one place a crowd of people unknown to each other. Competition divides them of interests. But the maintenance of wages, this common interest that they have against their master, unites them in the same thought of resistance - coalition. Thus the coalition always has a double aim: that of putting an end to competition between them, in order to be able to compete with the capitalist in general. (Marx: Misery of Philosophy, p. 134.)

The temporary coalition, in view of the strike, leads to the permanent coalition, to the association to resist capitalist repression: it is the union.

Temporary coalition for the strike, then permanent coalition (union), these are the forms of spontaneous struggle and organization of the proletariat: it succeeds without the help of any scientific theory, through its own experience. This is how the working class snatched, step by step, from the constrained and forced capitalists, some great conquests such as, for example, the eight-hour day. But, pushed by the inexorable law of profit, the capitalist bourgeoisie seeks to take back by all means what it had to give up. When the capitalists and their statesmen speak warmly of "improvements in the lot of the working class", one should not be fooled; these improvements were won with a hard fight by the organized workers. VS'is precisely why the bourgeoisie is waging a bitter war against the trade unions. She accuses them of constituting "new feudalities" - this to set up against the organized proletariat the middle classes and the peasantry, which are attached to the memory of 1789. A pleasant accusation in the mouth of the "feudal" of finance capital, who drain all of them. the wealth of society (including the petty bourgeoisie and peasants).

When the science of societies, founded by Marx and Engels, enters the ranks of the proletariat, the class struggle is carried, thanks to the revolutionary party, to a higher level. [On the characteristics of the Revolutionary Party, the Communist Party, see Lesson 14 (point IV, b.)] Spontaneity is then overcome. Bringing together the advanced elements of the proletariat, the Party's role is in effect to introduce socialist consciousness into the working class, and to lead it, as well as all the working layers which are united with it, to the assault on capitalism. He fights for the immediate demands of the workers, but he does not stop there: explaining to them scientifically the source of the exploitation, he shows them that they can only free themselves from it by destroying capitalist society and 'Bourgeois State which protects it, and by establishing, by the dictatorship of the proletariat, a society without exploitation of man by man, a socialist society. Only such a struggle deserves the name of revolutionary.

The proletariat is fundamentally interested in leading this struggle to the end and in destroying the capitalist relations of production. We have seen that the proletariat, linked to the most advanced productive forces, is the necessary product of capitalist exploitation. It can therefore free itself from class exploitation only by wresting the means of production from the bourgeoisie, the exploiting class, to make them, in a society without exploiters or exploited, the property of all. While the middle classes, classes of small owners (small manufacturers, retailer, artisans, poor or middle peasants) seek to subsist as classes of small owners within capitalism, the proletariat, which strictly possesses nothing but its labor power, has for perspective only to suppress theexploitation of which it is the object, that is to say of suppressing itself as an exploited class, in order to found classless society.

But just as the old feudal lords felt solidarity ”, in all the countries of Europe, against their own threatening bourgeoisie, so today the bourgeoisie of the various capitalist countries puts into practice, against the revolutionary proletariat, its class solidarity. reactionary. This situation, which in no way eliminates the contradictions between rival capitalists, has taken on a singular power with the appearance of monopolies: large capitalism is cosmopolitan. But, opposite, the proletarians of all countries are testing and proclaiming their revolutionary class solidarity. “Workers of all countries, unite! ". This is the appeal that concludes the Manifesto of the Communist Party.

Proletarian internationalism thus stems from the objective situation of the proletarians, whatever their nationality: the exploited of all countries have a common enemy, the exploiting class, whatever their nationality.

This is the revolutionary struggle against exploitation.

However, this struggle cannot achieve victory as long as the capitalist relations of production objectively agree with the level of the productive forces, that is to say as long as capitalism develops in accordance with the great law of necessary correspondence. This does not mean that the struggle of the proletariat is then useless; for it is through her that he becomes aware of his forces, that he gathers and organizes them; it is through her that he is educated. The struggle of the proletariat at this stage cannot suppress capitalist exploitation, but it can limit its effects.

On the other hand, when, by the very fact of the rise of the productive forces, the capitalist relations of production cease to suit them - that is to say, in short when capitalism comes into conflict with the law of correspondence necessary between the productive forces and relations of production - then new objective conditions are created for the struggle of the proletariat. [We will see in lessons 20 and 21 that the revolutionary transformation of society by the proletariat also requires subjective conditions, which we will study.] Its struggle for the socialization of the means of production tends to create conditions favorable to the free play of this law of necessary correspondence that capitalism can no longer respect. The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat thus goes in the direction of history; thefuture is assured because it conforms to the fundamental law of companies.

But the capitalist bourgeoisie, which wants to keep its exploiting class profits, does everything in its power to obstruct the necessary law of correspondence; as we have seen, the greatest suffering for society results. Only a considerable social force can overcome the resistance which the bourgeoisie opposes to the necessary law of correspondence. What is this force? The Utopians thought they could transform society by the sheer force of ideas. Marx and Engels had the merit of discovering that the only method capable of resolving the contradiction between the social character of the productive forces and private appropriation (contradiction b), see above, p. 177), it is the revolutionary struggle of the working class, supported by the other victims of exploitation. The proletariat in factis not isolated in his struggle. The very development of capitalism - moving from competition to monopoly - results in the impoverishment of the various layers of society. The big bourgeoisie can only prosper by spreading misery around it. Thus rise ineluctably against it - in addition to its natural enemy, the revolutionary proletariat - the impoverished middle classes, the working peasants, artisans, shopkeepers, etc., all the layers it ruins. Guided by the marxist-Leninist Party, the proletariat brings together all these layers, which want to save themselves from decay, in a single front of struggle against the common enemy, the exploiting big bourgeoisie. In this way, a social force powerful enough to break up capitalist relations is set in motion, paving the way forconstruction of new relations of production, socialist relations, adapted to the level of modern productive forces.

The aptitude of the proletariat to bring together the broadest masses in order to fight against the exploiting minority fully reveals its national role. As Marx and Engels had indicated in the Manifesto, the working class in its revolutionary struggle takes the head of the nation, while, out of class interests, the oligarchy of big capital is detached from the nation. We know how today in France this oligarchy has turned to open betrayal of the national interest: determined to do anything to survive, it delivers our country body and goods to a foreign imperialism. A situation which is not without analogy with that of the feudal lords who, in 1789, to regain power, forged an alliance with the feudal lords of other countries against their own people.

On the contrary, the interests of the revolutionary proletariat are identified with those of the nation, against the exploiting and stateless big bourgeoisie. Proletarian patriotism and proletarian internationalism are thus the two inseparable aspects of the same struggle waged by the working class against the reactionary bourgeoisie, which sacrifices the lives of the peoples to the law of maximum profit.

Conclusion

The study of the contradictions of capitalist society and their development leads us to the threshold of a new society, without exploitation. But before going any further, perhaps it is useful to reflect on certain ideological consequences of capitalist exploitation.

There was a bourgeois humanism. Who says "humanism" says trust in man, love of man. The revolutionary bourgeoisie, in France especially, prided itself on believing in universal brotherhood. Why ? Because it objectively struggled to give the necessary law of correspondence its free play, hampered by feudalism; his action therefore went in the direction of history.

But today what is it? It is henceforth the bourgeoisie which, for the sake of class, hinders the free play of the law of necessary correspondence between productive forces and relations of production. This is the objective basis of bourgeois inhumanism (fascist contempt for man and the theme of decadence). The mentality of the international big bourgeoisie is that of a gang at odds with the human species. Its ideology, which claims to withdraw the most elementary rights from any "opponent", is an ideology of violence and death, capable of justifying the appalling crimes in which the failed class seeks its salvation (the Korean War, for example).

Conversely, the working class, which struggles to restore its rights to the necessary great law of correspondence, is the vanguard of humanity. Because it is the revolutionary class, the working class forges living links between the past of societies and their future. The past, since it takes back and makes its own all that could have contributed to the progress of societies (thus it revives bourgeois humanism - and this against the reactionary bourgeoisie who condemn it). The future, since it forges it in its class struggles. The working class fights thus for all men: this is why its first victory - the October Revolution of 1917 - is the greatest date in human history.

See: Control questions

The superstructure

What is the superstructure?

In lessons 12 and 13, we studied the origin and role of ideas in social life. We have seen that the spiritual life of society is a reflection of its material life.

Is it therefore appropriate to designate by the word superstructure all the ideas and institutions which exist without distinction in a given society? Now knowing the fundamentals of historical materialism, we can answer this question precisely.

At every moment of history and in all societies, different ideas coexist, opposing ideas, reflecting the objective contradictions of society. These ideas, however, do not have the same value: some tend to keep society in the old ruts, others to put it on a new path. In societies where there is an antagonistic class struggle, the movement of contrary ideas is a reflection of the class struggle: the struggle of ideas can take a violent, repressive form. Under socialism, there is no longer a class antagonism, but the struggle between the old and the new nonetheless exists and is reflected in a struggle of ideas.

Men become aware of the problems which arise in their time through the struggle of ideas, which paves the way for the discovery of the solutions which reality itself conceals. Also idealists, like Hegel, believe that it is the dialectic of the idea which generates historical movement.

Contrary to the metaphysical image of the past given by certain historians, it is false that there were blessed times, without struggles of ideas, when the harmony of thoughts and hearts reigned. In fact, there were opposition currents, brutally stifled by the ruling classes and ignored by official history. The vaunted Middle Ages cruelly attacked its clergy and feudal lords in its popular satirical works: fabliaux and songs.

The repression against new ideas, the organized ideological struggle of the ruling class is a feature of societies where there is the exploitation of man by man.

The bourgeoisie thought to make a name for itself by proclaiming the free struggle of ideas; in fact it was only a question of freedom of opinion within the framework of bourgeois ideology: a truth which is revealed more and more with the decline of this class.

Only a class capable of abolishing class antagonisms can champion the free struggle of ideas. In the most rapidly advancing society, socialism, it is quite impossible that the liveliest struggle of ideas should not develop.

To recognize oneself in the battle of ideas, not to put them all on the same level, to distinguish the class interests that they hide, only historical materialism allows the activist as well as the scientist to do it.

It is indisputable that the authorities of the capitalist regime bring one idea to the fore and not another, through the press for example. If we read in a newspaper that the too great number of small traders is the cause of the economic difficulties, it is necessary to know how to detect behind this "theory" the interest of the big capital: pushed by the law of the maximum profit, characteristic of current capitalism, it seeks to reduce as much as possible the share of surplus value left to small retailers. If we read that the best tax system is indirect taxes because everyone pays them, this argument still conceals capitalist interests: in fact, indirect taxes, on consumption, hit people much harder. wage earners, peasants, middle classes than the capitalist.

But these ideas are not limited to idealizing the existing regime. By the same token, they are means of struggle: by spreading them, capital seeks to retain the method of taxation which favors it. Better, it prepares the ground, the spirits, for new measures, laws or decrees: political measures which will have to contribute to consolidate capitalism.

So these ideas spread by the ruling class reflect its interests and therefore serve them: we begin to understand what is meant by superstructure.

What is true of this or that idea spread daily by the press, is also true of the most elaborate philosophical theories. On the Calvinist theory of predestination Engels writes:

Calvinist dogma met the needs of the most advanced bourgeoisie of the time. His doctrine of predestination was the religious expression of the fact that, in the commercial world of competition, success and failure depend not on the activity or skill of man, but on circumstances independent of its control. These circumstances do not depend on ... [his will nor his action]; they are at the mercy of higher and unknown economic powers; and this was especially true at a time of economic revolution when all the old trading centers and all the roads were replaced by others, as India and America were open to the world,and that the most respectable articles of economic faith by their antiquity - the respective values ​​of gold and silver - began to falter and crumble. (Engels: Philosophical Studies, p. 98.)

Thus a simple economic phenomenon becomes the work of the mysterious wisdom of God. The bourgeoisie experienced competition, but the religious spirit of the time masked its uniquely economic nature from them. The idea of ​​"fatality" is transposed onto the majestic plane of the conception of the world and penetrates into religion. Merchants deplore the effects of competition, but they live off it: it enriches them. They would like competition without its effects. They are consoled by the idea that men must undergo a fate fixed in advance. By making a class that lives off competition accept the effects of it, the doctrine of predestination therefore consolidates commodity production.

Naturally the feudal lords who were ruined by bourgeois commerce could not accept this doctrine: it was condemned by the Catholic Church, the spiritual sword of feudalism. But the commodity economy, developing the productive forces, was a progress over feudal economy: Calvinist theory therefore played a progressive role in relation to medieval faith. Nowadays, on the contrary, it is obsolete; its fatalism is opposed to the revolutionary idea that man is master of his destiny: the ideology of the big Protestant bankers, it only serves to make accept the "fatality" of the economic crises and the financial crashes of capitalism.

This example clearly shows that the same idea can be, depending on historical conditions, in two very different positions: sometimes it can serve the dominant form of economy, which was the case with the doctrine of predestination under feudalism; sometimes it can serve the dominant relations of production, which is the case with the same doctrine under capitalism. It is only in this second case that we will say that it is an element of the superstructure. Thus the term superstructure does not apply indifferently to any corresponding idea, theory or institution. It is defined in relation to the economic base of the company. The superstructure encompasses the ideas and institutions which reflect the dominant relations of production, and hence are also dominant.

The basis is the economic regime of the company at a given stage of its development. The superstructure is the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political, legal and other institutions that correspond to them.

Every base has its own corresponding superstructure. The basis of the feudal regime has its superstructure, its political, legal and other views, with the institutions which correspond to them; the capitalist base has its own superstructure, and the socialist base its own. When the base is modified or liquidated, its superstructure is, following it, modified or liquidated; and when a new base is born, after it a superstructure is born which corresponds to it. (Stalin: "On marxism in Linguistics", Latest Writings, p. 13-14.)

Note that political institutions, that is to say the state, are part of the superstructure.

Indeed, the state "corresponds", in Stalin's words, to political views, to the dominant political ideology. It is organized according to principles which reflect class interests. The state is the most powerful form of organization of power in the class, the one that personifies the dominant relations of production. The economic base is first, the state is second. Political organization stems from political ideology, an organizing force. In the final analysis, the strength of the state is nothing other than the strength of ideas, itself a reflection of the vitality of the economic base. Political power lies in the mass support which the reigning ideas benefit the state. This mass support may or may not be justified: masses may, up toat some point in historical development be deceived, and the strength of the power of the exploiting classes lies in lies. When this support of the masses wanes, the state weakens: the use of open violence by the class in power is the sign of its weakness and its imminent end. What is decisive are the ideas that take hold of the masses. [For an in-depth study of the state, see Lenin's classic book: The State and the Revolution, Editions Sociales, Paris. 1947.]these are the ideas which seize the masses. [For an in-depth study of the state, see Lenin's classic book: The State and the Revolution, Editions Sociales, Paris. 1947.]these are the ideas which seize the masses. [For an in-depth study of the state, see Lenin's classic book: The State and the Revolution, Editions Sociales, Paris. 1947.]

The superstructure is generated by the base

The superstructure is generated by the base, it disappears with it, it follows its fate. The dominant ideas in a society are, in fact, produced by the type of ownership of the means of production that dominates there. The superstructure is therefore not a simple juxtaposition of political, legal, philosophical, religious ideas, etc. These ideas have an internal connection: they reflect the same basis. Base and superstructure form an organic whole. For example the feudal superstructure is indissolubly linked, in all its parts, to the feudal base. The dialectical unity of the base and the superstructure forms the content of the marxist concept of social formation.

Thus the superstructure forms a whole, not of course immutable, but living, being born with its base, developing with it, disappearing in its wake.

In class societies, the existence of the state imprints a particular character on the whole life of the superstructure. He is the organizing element. For example, it is he who organizes a class teaching.

What dies following the disappearance of an economic regime is the superstructure as an organic whole. We must therefore not confuse the superstructure, a fundamental notion of historical materialism, with this or that idea or institution, considered in itself, in isolation, in the abstract, detached from such and such a given superstructure. Any idea or institution, by being integrated into a new superstructure, is profoundly transformed and receives a new meaning from the whole of which it is now a part. To forget that is to fall into formalism.

A particularly significant example is given by the denominational school. The school of the medieval, obscurantist type left the scene of history at the time of the liquidation of the feudal superstructure by the revolutionary bourgeoisie, following the liquidation of the feudal economic base.

Subsequently, during the 19th century, the French bourgeoisie, fearing the revolutionary rise of the proletariat and no longer fearing a return of feudalism, had to encourage the denominational school with the aim of using it for undemocratic ends. But it gave it new life as part of the bourgeois superstructure and for that it modified it accordingly, adapting it to the conditions of bourgeois society. [This is the people of the Guizot law in 1833, which followed the uprising of the Lyon canuts in 1831, then the Falloux law in 1850, which followed the crushing of the workers' insurrection in June 1848. ]

This in no way means that the feudal superstructure survived at its base, but quite simply that the bourgeois superstructure changed in a reactionary sense, at a time when the capitalist relations of production, from progressive as they were, became reactionary. . The secular school, heir to the bourgeois democratic tradition, is, in these conditions, one of the elements that can best enter into the struggle against the new orientation of this superstructure. The proletariat must support it. [This in no way means that he renounces criticizing the content of his teaching: he criticizes it in so far as it expresses bourgeois ideology of exploitation.]

Thus the correspondence between superstructure and base does not appear only at times of upheaval in the entire mode of production, but also at the time of the different phases or degrees of the development of one and the same social formation.

Under capitalism, to the phase of free competition correspond "liberal" ideas and, in politics, bourgeois parliamentary democracy; the monopoly phase corresponds to the reaction across the board: the monopoly bourgeoisie proclaims the need for a "strong state", violates its own legality, throws bourgeois democratic freedoms overboard.

In the cultural field, there is a double movement whose contradictory aspects correspond to the period of rise and the period of decline of capitalism. First period - from the Renaissance to the middle of the 19th century - bourgeois culture developed and was enriched, by a process of critical assimilation, by all the acquisitions of human thought, in particular of ancient culture. It tends to present itself as the universal, and therefore definitive, culture of humanity. Second period: bourgeois culture gradually rejects out of its sphere all the progressive, rationalist, humanist elements that it contained and quickly breaks down. She can't even respect her own past anymore. The process of critical assimilation is followed by a process of discrimination.The ambitions of universality were succeeded by the abandonment of his own heritage: Diderot was excluded from philosophy, Michelet from the ranks of historians, Victor Hugo from those of “pure” poets.

In conclusion on this point, in order to properly appreciate an idea or an institution, one should never examine it in itself, abstractly, detached from the superstructure of which it is part and which reflects a determined basis. This is essential in particular in the case of the State. It is a lie that the social-democratic and idealist theory of the "intermediary" state, "above the classes", allegedly embodying "the general interest". Likewise, the Christian Democrats present the State as the embodiment of the "common good". In reality, the state, a historically necessary phenomenon that appeared with the division of society into antagonistic classes, remains by origin and by nature the state of a class. We cannot speak of "democracy" in general and abstractly without falling into formalism,which is a scientific error. It is necessary to always ask the question: democracy for whom? for the capitalists or for the masses?

Note: Anarchism - which continues to exercise some influence in the French workers' movement - is an idealist doctrine, which ignores the nature and role of the superstructure. It therefore ignores the class origin of the state, its objective link with the economic base. He sees in it the product of who knows what "instinct" for domination and power which resides at the bottom of man and which is in fact only a by-product of the class struggle. Also on a practical level, anarchism denies the need for political and ideological mass action because it fails to see that the real strength of a state is its mass support. By exalting individual or minority action, anarchism leads to adventure and degenerates into an instrument of provocation.

The superstructure is an active force

The superstructure is born from the base, but that does not mean that it is limited to reflecting the base, that it is passive, neutral, that it shows itself indifferent to the fate of the base, the fate of classes, character of the scheme. On the contrary, once it has come into the world, it becomes an immense active force, it actively helps its base to crystallize and strengthen itself; it takes all measures to help the new regime to complete the destruction of the old base and the old classes, and to liquidate them.

It could not be otherwise. The superstructure is brought into being by the base to serve it, to actively help it crystallize and strengthen itself, to actively struggle to liquidate the old, expired base with its old superstructure. It is enough for the superstructure to refuse to play the role of a tool, it is enough for it to pass from the position of active defense of its base to an attitude of indifference towards it, to an identical attitude towards the classes, for it to loses its quality and ceases to be a superstructure. (Stalin: work cited, p. 14-15)

We already know that ideas are active forces. But the point on which Stalin insists here is that the superstructure is created precisely to serve and defend its base. In a way, this is its very definition, since it is enough for it to cease to serve its base for it to lose its quality of superstructure.

The superstructure is a tool, the fruit of a concerted plan, of a conscious activity of the ruling class. Of course, this does not create ideas out of thin air. Ideas are reflections. But it is consciously that a given class puts forward ideas that are useful to it.

We have described the superstructure as a cohesive whole. But what determines whether an idea or an institution belongs to this whole? Only its class utility, its role in the service of the base.

There is no chance in the life of the superstructure, in the struggle of ideas, in the evolution of institutions. The bourgeoisie organizes its superstructure according to a plan. Here is an example: the speech of the Comte de Montalembert at the podium of the Assembly, during the debate on the Falloux law, a few months after June 1848:

I'll add one word, like owner and speaking to owners, with full frankness, because we're here, I think, to tell each other the truth bluntly.

What is the problem today? It is to inspire respect for property in those who are not owners. However, I only know one recipe [Note the word which fully justifies the Stalinist text!] To inspire this respect, to make those who are not owners believe in property: it is to make them believe in God! And not to the vague God of eclecticism, of this or that other system, but to the God of catechism, to the God who dictated the Decalogue and who eternally punishes thieves. This is the only truly popular belief that can effectively protect property ... (Speech to the National Assembly, Jan. 1850.)

Here we see on the spot the conscious formation of the superstructure, the obligation of the bourgeoisie to include an old institution in its superstructure in the process of becoming more reactionary.

The Catholic Church has not condemned slavery; slaves existed in Europe in the Middle Ages, in the colonies until 1848, in the United States until 1865.

The Church taught the serfs obedience to the Lord. Certainly it forced the warlike lords to respect the "Truce of God" under penalty of eternal fire. But by this measure, it safeguarded above all the cultures necessary for the life of society, it protected production, it avoided famine and jacqueries. In short, it protected feudalism against the "excesses" of the feudal lords. But the Archbishop of Reims exclaimed:

Serfs, be submissive to your masters at all times. And do not come and take their harshness or their avarice as a pretext. Stay submissive, not only to those who are good and moderate, but even to those who are not. The canons of the Church declare anathema to those who urge the serfs not to obey, to use subterfuge, all the more so those who teach them open resistance. (Quoted by J. Bruhat: History of the French workers' movement p. 43, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1952.)

Then the Church, through the Encyclicals at the end of the 19th century, tried to protect capitalism against the “abuses” of the capitalists. His language has adapted. It once proclaimed the necessary existence in society of lords and serfs, it now proclaims the necessary existence of capitalists and proletarians.

Thus the existence of the Church under capitalism is not a survival: it means that the bourgeois regime, exploiting and oppressive, takes advantage of an ideology and an institution corresponding to an older social formation, but where there was already exploitation and oppression. This is why the bourgeoisie, as soon as it felt itself threatened, deliberately re-implanted religion by adapting it to its needs and restored it to vigor and support as an integral part of the capitalist superstructure. She therefore presented religious education and secular education as complementary. The official instructions of 1887 for the elementary school state:

Secular education is distinguished from religious education without contradicting it. The teacher does not replace (not) the priest ..., he joins his efforts to (his) to make of each child an honest man.

If the bourgeoisie does not put all its eggs in one basket, it does know how to tune its violins!

One remark of Stalin is particularly to underline: as soon as the superstructure refuses to play this role of tool, it loses its quality, it is no longer a superstructure. When, for example, the masters of public education refuse to defend the imperialist aims of the bourgeoisie, the latter hunts down the democratic teachers. When bourgeois legality no longer corresponds to the political demands of the monopolies, ceases to be in their hands a good instrument of their interests, the bourgeoisie seeks to throw bourgeois democratic freedoms overboard. It was then that the proletariat, which found in bourgeois democracy the best possible conditions under capitalism to spread its political views throughout the nation,is quite naturally designated to raise the flag of bourgeois freedoms and carry it forward.

Ideas and institutions should therefore not be appreciated in a metaphysical way. If it is true that their origin determines their characters, the change in historical conditions transforms their role: it is always necessary to dialectically seek to the service of which class they can be put at a given moment, because of the change in objective conditions.

The active force of the superstructure and especially of the state is manifested especially in the agonizing period of capitalism. In this period the relations of production no longer correspond to the character of the productive forces. It is the capitalist state which takes all useful measures to consolidate them, to hamper the application of the law of correspondence necessary between relations of production and productive forces, and to try to prolong the existence of capitalism indefinitely. The bourgeois state, supported by the corresponding ideology, then becomes the main obstacle to the progress of society.

An obstacle which can only be removed from the road by the conscious activity of new forces. We know from the previous lesson (18th lesson, point III.) That these forces, social and political, are constituted by the alliance of the proletariat and the working layers in the countryside and in the city. We now see that such a struggle aims to break down the obstacle that is the bourgeois state and to establish a new political power, the power of the proletariat, whose active role will make it possible to liquidate the old base and the old. superstructure, to create a new base and a new superstructure.

Thus, under certain historical conditions, ideas and institutions play a determining role. Vulgar materialism leads to the false "theory" of the automatic, "spontaneous" development of society: in practice, it justifies passivity in the face of action by the capitalist state to prolong the existence of its base. Marxism, on the contrary, never neglects the primordial role of the revolutionary initiative of the masses, of socialist consciousness. He never neglects the struggle to develop political activity and raise the ideological level of the masses.

The superstructure is not directly related to production

The superstructure is not directly linked to production, to the productive activity of man. It is linked to production only indirectly, through the base. So the superstructure does not reflect the changes that have occurred in the development of the productive forces in an immediate or direct way, but as a result of changes in the base, after refraction of changes in production into changes in the base . This means that the sphere of action of the superstructure is narrow and limited. (Stalin: work cited, p. 18.)

This important thesis of marxism warns against all those who ignore the relations of production and the class struggle and claim that the "evolution of techniques" directly leads to the progress of ideas and institutions. It is a commonplace of bourgeois thought, in fact, to say that the material progress of "modern civilization" must be followed by a corresponding progress in the cultural, intellectual, "moral" order. The denial that imperialism constantly gives to this bourgeois commonplace is the occasion for the lamentations of idealists who use it as a pretext to condemn the progress of techniques and science.

However, what determines the cultural, intellectual, “moral” level of a society is its economic base. The progress of technical and scientific knowledge cannot directly change this. It is only reflected in the superstructure through the base. Just as productive forces develop within the limits of existing production relations, so technical and scientific progress is evaluated according to the criteria of the ideology which reflects this basis, it is appreciated by each class according to its class interest.

There was a time when the industrial bourgeoisie proclaimed that the progress of science would lead to the material and cultural progress of mankind. It was only expressing the possibilities for the development of industrial capitalism at that time. But in itself this thesis, which was that of positivism, is false.

Under declining capitalism, not only are science and technical progress not at the service of social needs, for they are at the service of capitalist profit, but also scientific ideas cannot widely penetrate the masses and serve to raise their cultural level. The retrograde bourgeois ideology dominates the masses; the bourgeois superstructure determines their cultural level, and this inevitably lags behind the progress of scientific knowledge. The positivist conception of A. Comte, according to whom the progress of society and institutions depends solely on the dissemination of knowledge among the masses, is a utopia of the progressive bourgeoisie: the subsequent development of capitalism was to show its inconsistency.

Unlike positivism, marxism demonstrates that it is the class struggle and the change in the economic base that allow the - new - superstructure to reflect technical and scientific progress. The only way to raise the cultural and intellectual level of society, to advance ideas and institutions, is class struggle and socialist revolution. Machine and science, by themselves, have no more power to stupefy man than to elevate him. They are not sufficient to define "civilization". The technical development in the United States does not prevent the dominant ideology in this country, far from expressing a high degree of civilization, offering all the features of capitalist barbarism. As for socialism, it doesis not a "technical civilization", nor the triumph of scientism. Its moral superiority is the reflection of the socialist base which generates a superior humanism. The true humanist does not condemn the class struggle, he takes part in it: he knows that only it leads to an economic and social regime in which the most daring conquests of labor and human intelligence can be applied without hindrance.

Conclusion

A society torn apart by class antagonism cannot know a true moral and cultural unity. Of course, the ruling class can impose its ideology, succeed in stifling the voice of the oppressed: it is a "peace", but how the peace of the tombs would put an end to a war where one of the belligerents would have been exterminated! Only the society without class antagonism knows the true moral and spiritual unity which in no way excludes the struggle of ideas, essential to the progress of knowledge.

In a society like ours, there are two antagonistic ideologies and only two: that which serves the interests of the bourgeoisie and which is an integral part of the superstructure, and on the other hand the ideology of the proletariat which finds its scientific expression only in marxism.

In addition, there can be no "neutral ideologies". But there are bourgeois ideas which are withdrawn from the ideological demands of aggressive imperialism, enemy of the people, of nations, and of man. Such are the rationalist, anti-fascist, humanist bourgeois ideas. As soon as these ideas come into contradiction with the demands of imperialism, the bourgeoisie launches the attack against them. It is clear then that the working class and the progressive forces must seize them, give them back strength and vigor, and carry them forward by developing their democratic content.

Thus the two ideologies present are not static. One is in decline and becomes every day more reactionary, less universal. The other is enriched and strengthened in the struggle for a new humanism.

It is in accordance with its class interest, henceforth inseparable from that of the nation, that the proletariat draws from the national culture of the past the progressive elements, faithful reflections of life and at the same time lasting monuments of art. It is also according to its class interest, now opposed to that of the nation, that the bourgeoisie is turning away from the national heritage, from its own democratic and humanist heritage. There is not, there cannot be, a neutral ideology: there are only the ideas developed by the bourgeoisie during its long history, and the ideas which result from the scientific criticism of the former, which forward marxism and make the proletariat its own. That such or such an idea can change sides according to the historical ups and downs of the class struggle,this shows precisely that it is not neutral, that it has a determined content: this is why it is rejected by the bourgeoisie when the interest of this class changes.

The task facing the vanguard forces of society is to reassess the entire ideological and cultural heritage. Marxism is essentially critical and does not leave stone upon stone of the laborious ideological scaffolding of capitalism. Therefore cannot be a fully marxist who has not critically assimilated the culture of the past.

See: Control questions

Socialism

Distribution and production

Since the appearance of classes, men have never ceased to dream of an ideal social regime from which the exploitation of man by man and the class struggle would be banned. A true underground current of popular aspirations thus crosses the history of the oppressed masses since the ancient belief in the return of the golden age. The people have never despaired of the future of humanity. Throughout the ages, poets and thinkers have waited and celebrated the dawn of new times, like Thomas Campanella who, at the end of the 16th century, wrote the City of the Sun and spent 27 years in prison. The Christian religion has struggled for two thousand years to repeat to the oppressed that "this kingdom is not of this world", but nothing has been able to kill the hearts of the masses, hope of earthly happiness, and Beethoven made his wonderful Ninth Symphony a hymn of future times.

Nevertheless, before marxism, ideas about the "ideal city" did not and could not leave the realm of utopia. Deprived of the knowledge of economic laws, social philosophers of all ages have seen the essential evil in the unequal distribution of goods between individuals; they therefore advocated either equal sharing or community of goods. But, deprived of the science of societies, they do not know how to analyze production and dismantle the mechanism of class exploitation. This is why they have been treated as dreamers and a stubborn prejudice has taken root in the bourgeoisie - large and small - that socialism and communism are unachievable.

In the 19th century, the utopian socialists realized that the problem had to be approached from the other end: not through consumption, but through production - that you could not demand abundance of goods before having considerably increased production, which is precisely what modern mechanized industry allows. But, lacking a scientific analysis of the laws of production and the economy, they did not see clearly that the decisive question on which to pronounce, if we really want to increase production, is that of the suppression of capitalist private property of the means of production and no other, since it is this property and that alone which leads to the paradox of making "overproduction" an economic calamity. Ignoring the laws of capitalism,they thought that goodwill could be enough to put the enormous apparatus of capitalist industry at the service of the needs of society. We have seen that it cannot be so, since private ownership of the means of production is precisely an obstacle to the achievements that modern industry and science could allow.

However, utopian socialists have put forward this revolutionary idea that the immense productive forces liberated by modern science and industry must be used to satisfy the material needs of society, and not to provide profit to a thin layer of exploiters. "Replace the exploitation of man by man by the exploitation of the world by associated men, replace the government of men by the administration of things", such were the goals of socialism according to Saint-Simon.

Only marxism gave a scientific answer to the problems raised by the achievement of these goals by showing:

1. that the essential element of the relations of production is the property of the means of production;

2. that the change in the relations of production cannot be effected if we do not rely on the internal dialectic of the development of the mode of production;

3. that the force which alone can overcome the resistance of the classes harmed by this change is the political class struggle of the proletariat and its allies.

marxism thus makes it possible to scientifically define:

1. the basis of socialism;

2. the objective conditions required for its advent;

3. the subjective conditions of its construction.

The economic basis of socialism

By showing that the essential element of the relations of production, in any society, is the form of ownership of the means of production, marxism has shown at the same time that socialism cannot consist either in the community of " goods ”in general, neither in the division of“ goods ”, nor in the association of private capital, nor in the concentration and organization of capitalism. The basis of socialism is the social ownership of the means of production, which means the expropriation of the private owners, and above all of the owners of the great modern means of production which can and must be set in motion for the satisfaction of needs. social. Marxism has shown that this goal is perfectly achievable, it has indicated the ways, which are no longer utopian:it is the proletariat which is objectively capable of accomplishing this historical transformation of the mode of production, because it is the direct victim of private property; social ownership of the means of production fully coincides with its exploited class interests. The capitalists, who for centuries have appropriated the product of the labor of the poor masses, are the expropriators of the masses. Socialism is the expropriation of the expropriators.who for centuries have appropriated the product of the labor of the masses reduced to misery, are the expropriators of the masses. Socialism is the expropriation of the expropriators.who for centuries have appropriated the product of the labor of the masses reduced to misery, are the expropriators of the masses. Socialism is the expropriation of the expropriators.

Social ownership of the means of production has the effect of suppressing wage labor. In fact, the surplus of value that the modern productive forces allow to produce in a day compared to the value necessary for the maintenance of the labor force of the worker belongs, no longer to the private capitalist, but to the collectivity. whole and then is distributed among its members according to the work provided and also in the form of multiple social benefits. The notions of surplus value, of wages as the price of labor power, of profit, of capital, of necessary labor and of free labor lose their meaning.

The remarks on labor power as a commodity and on the “salaried” workers seem rather absurd in our regime; as if the working class, which owns the means of production, paid for itself and sold its labor power to itself. It is no less strange to speak today of "necessary" and "surplus" labor: as if, under our conditions, the labor of workers given to society with a view to expanding production, to developing education, protect public health, organize national defense, etc. was not as necessary to the working class, now in power, as the labor expended to provide for the personal needs of the worker and his family. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p.108-109)

Socialism, as it is defined scientifically by marxism, is therefore the suppression of the exploitation of man by man and at the same time the suppression of antagonistic classes in society. Consequently, the economic class antagonism between exploiters and exploited also ends.

Social ownership of the means of production also results in the elimination of any possibility of economic crisis. Indeed, competition between private producers guided by the prospect of profit disappears, and with it the anarchy of capitalist production. On the other hand, the law of capitalist accumulation, which requires that the development of gigantic productive forces be conditioned by the growing misery of the masses due to the private appropriation of the product of social labor, becomes obsolete. It follows that: 1. the development of the production of the means of production and the development of the production of the means of consumption can be harmonized according to the rules of reproduction established by marxist economics; theanarchy of production gives way to the law of harmonious (proportionate) development of the economy; in other words, it can be planned; 2. The continuous increase in production cannot lead to a "crisis of overproduction", because, each receiving according to the work provided, it is necessarily accompanied by the increase in the purchasing power of all workers who increase their consumption. The disagreement between production and consumption, and all the absurdities which result from it - unemployment, destruction of the productive forces - cannot occur. Socialism is therefore the absence of economic crises, the suppression of imperialism and the disappearance of the causes of war.Continued increase in production cannot lead to a "crisis of overproduction" because, each receiving according to the work provided, it is necessarily accompanied by the increase in the purchasing power of all workers who increase their consumption. The disagreement between production and consumption, and all the absurdities which result from it - unemployment, destruction of the productive forces - cannot occur. Socialism is therefore the absence of economic crises, the suppression of imperialism and the disappearance of the causes of war.Continued increase in production cannot lead to a "crisis of overproduction" because, each receiving according to the work provided, it is necessarily accompanied by the increase in the purchasing power of all workers who increase their consumption. The disagreement between production and consumption, and all the absurdities which result from it - unemployment, destruction of the productive forces - cannot occur. Socialism is therefore the absence of economic crises, the suppression of imperialism and the disappearance of the causes of war.The disagreement between production and consumption, and all the absurdities which result from it - unemployment, destruction of the productive forces - cannot occur. Socialism is therefore the absence of economic crises, the suppression of imperialism and the disappearance of the causes of war.The disagreement between production and consumption, and all the absurdities which result from it - unemployment, destruction of the productive forces - cannot occur. Socialism is therefore the absence of economic crises, the suppression of imperialism and the disappearance of the causes of war.

Summarizing the basic features of socialism, Stalin wrote:

Under the socialist regime which, for the moment, is only realized in the USSR, it is the social ownership of the means of production which forms the basis of the relations of production. Here, there are no longer any exploiters or exploited. The products are distributed according to the work provided and according to the principle: "Who does not work, does not eat". The relations between men in the process of production are relations of fraternal collaboration and socialist mutual aid of workers freed from exploitation. (Stalin: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, 3, c, p. 27.)

How can social ownership of the means of production be achieved? If we take the example of the USSR, we see that:

1. the means of production in industry have been expropriated and handed over to the whole people;

2 ° the small and medium-sized individual producers have been gradually grouped into production cooperatives, that is to say into large agricultural enterprises, the collective farms;

3 ° to ensure the economic alliance of the city and the countryside, industry and agriculture, commodity production (i.e. exchange by purchase and sale) was maintained for a time as the only acceptable form - for the peasants - of economic relations with the city: state trading and cooperative and collective farm trade have been fully developed, eliminating capitalists of all kinds from the trade circuit. [See Stalin: “Economic problems ...”, cited work, p. 106.]

As a result, there are two forms of social ownership of the means of production in the Soviet Union:

Socialist property in the USSR takes either the form of state property (property of the entire people) or the form of collective farm ownership (ownership of each collective farm, ownership of cooperative unions). (Article 5 of the Constitution of the USSR).

The earth, the subsoil, the waters, the forests; factories, factories, coal and ore mines, railways, water and air transport, banks, PTT, large agricultural enterprises organized by the State (sovkhoz, machine and tractors, etc.), as well as municipal enterprises and the basic mass of dwellings in cities and industrial agglomerations are the property of the State, that is, the good of the whole people. (Article 6).

Joint ventures in collective farms and in cooperative organizations with their live and dead livestock, the output provided by collective farms and cooperative organizations, as well as their common buildings, constitute the socialist common property of collective farms and cooperative organizations ... ( Article 7).

We see that, in the case of the USSR, agricultural cooperatives work land which is given to them free of charge in perpetuity, but which is the good of the entire people. In addition, they are abundantly supplied by the State with tractors and other first class machinery which are the property of the State. What the collective farm freely disposes of is therefore essentially, in addition to its enterprises and buildings, the fruit of collective farm production, the source of its income.

Each collective farm household, in addition to the basic income of the common collective farm economy, has the use of a small piece of land on which it owns an auxiliary economy: dwelling house, productive livestock, poultry, small agricultural equipment.

The law admits small private economies of individual peasants and artisans, excluding the exploitation of the labor of others.

With regard to the means of consumption, citizens have the right to personal ownership of income and savings from their work, to ownership of their dwelling house and auxiliary household economy, household items and household items. daily use, objects of personal use and convenience (eg automobile); they have the right to inherit personal property.

Socialist society therefore comprises two classes: the working class [The suppression of exploitation effectively makes the word “proletariat” inappropriate.], And the class of working peasants, collective farm workers, between which there is no antagonism since their interests are united.

There is also a social layer of intellectuals: technical executives and engineers, executives of the economic organization, scientific workers, members of education, artists and writers. It offers the particularity unknown in bourgeois society of recruiting from all categories of workers. In 1936, Stalin could see that the composition of the intellectuals had changed compared to the situation bequeathed by the old regime and that 80 to 90% of them came from the working class and the toiling peasantry. These intellectuals are no longer at the service of the privileged class, but of all the people.

The essential character of the social structure of the USSR is that, thanks to the suppression of exploitation, the differentiated social groups which still exist are allies and friends, partners in the building of a classless society, and are all made up of workers.

This alliance was cemented in the struggle: for example, the workers helped the peasants in their struggle against the class of peasant owner exploiters (kulaks); they sent them machines, while the working peasants ensured the supply of the workers' centers, which the kulaks wanted to starve.

Likewise, the relations between intellectuals and workers in production have changed.

Now manual workers and managerial staff are not enemies, but comrades and friends, members of a single producer community, keenly interested in the progress and improvement of production. Of the old animosity there is no trace left. (Stalin: "Economic problems ...", p. 117.)

With the exploitation of man by man, the opposition between the countryside and the city disappeared - the countryside ruined and expropriated by the bourgeois capitalists of the city - an opposition which was the basis of the hostility of the peasants. for the townspeople and contempt of the townspeople for the peasants. With the exploitation of man by man, the opposition between manual workers and intellectual workers, instruments of the exploiting bourgeoisie, also disappeared - an opposition which was the basis of the hostility of manual workers for intellectual workers. , and the contempt of intellectuals for textbooks.

Let us add that, in socialist society, production is constantly placed under the democratic control of workers and their organizations. In state enterprises, the work of the director (appointed by the state) is subject to the fire of criticism from all workers. In collective farms, which are managed by the assembly of collective farm members, the leadership is democratically elected.

Finally, with the exploitation of the man by the man, the enslavement of the woman disappeared and the bases of the equality of the man and the woman were established.

With the socialization of the means of production and the suppression of the exploitation of man by man, the conditions are created for a new fundamental economic law to appear, specific to socialist, non-antagonistic relations of production. This law reflects the development process of the socialist economy, the goal and the means of an economy without human exploitation and without crisis. Such an economy can have no other aim than to ensure the maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of the masses. But before studying this specific law of socialism, let us remember that the transition to socialism requires determined objective conditions, in accordance with the fundamental law of societies,law of correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces.

Objective conditions for the transition to socialism

marxism, by scientifically defining socialism, also defines the conditions for the advent and construction of socialist society. The change of the mode of ownership is only possible under given objective conditions. What is the basis for the transformation of the relations of production? It is the disagreement between these relations and the character of the productive forces, which disagreement occurs at a given moment.

The goal of the socialist revolution is therefore not a subjective goal. It is not determined by envy and greed, as the bourgeoisie would have it believe, which attributes its vices to the working class! It is not more determined by the ambition of a few leaders who would decide to unleash the disaster one big night!

The task of the socialist revolution is to create the conditions conducive to the unlimited development of the productive forces, by removing the only obstacle which opposes it, the capitalist relations of production, when this has become possible; it is in fact capitalism which, by developing the productive forces to the point where they enter into contradiction with capitalism itself, provides the objective basis of the socialist revolution.

The revolutionary suppression of private ownership of the means of production, of capitalist exploitation, allows a correspondence to be established between new relations of production and the character of the productive forces, at the moment when this is both possible and necessary.

Therefore, without objective conditions, linked to a given historical period, there is no socialism. In a country whose industry is still underdeveloped, for example China, the proletariat in power cannot dream of establishing socialism before having created the bases, that is to say a large national industry, and for a certain time the capitalist mode of production subsists in a sector of the economy.

In other words, it is not in the power of anyone to abolish the laws of economics; the will of men guided by their class interests is effective only when it is based on objective laws. "Voluntarism" is a false philosophy which believes that the will of man, exercised outside the knowledge of the laws of nature and the economy, is all-powerful.

Speaking of the building of socialism, Stalin recalls that this was a difficult and complex task for the power of the Soviets, but that he nevertheless carried it out with honor:

Not because he supposedly abolished existing economic laws and "formed" new ones, but only because he relied on the economic law of the necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the character. productive forces ... Without this law and without relying on it, the power of the Soviets would not have been able to fulfill its task. (Stalin: "Economic problems ...", pp. 97-98.)

And further, he specifies that it is the class interest which presided over the use of this law:

The working class has used the law of necessary correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces, it has overturned the bourgeois production relations, it has created new, socialist relations of production, and made them agree with the character. productive forces. She was able to do so, not by virtue of her particular faculties, but because she was keenly interested in it ... (Idem, p. 138.)

The fundamental law of socialism

However, the socialist revolution cannot be satisfied with making the best use of the productive forces bequeathed by capitalist society. It must in fact be taken into account that, whatever the productive forces developed by capitalism, they cannot be sufficient for the needs of a socialist society. First, because in its final phase capitalism, even the most technically advanced, destroys the productive forces; secondly, because the development of the productive forces under capitalism is completely anarchic; finally, because the consumption of the masses under capitalism is very low and only a thin layer of exploiters can afford to live well.The quantity of products consumed by the most technically advanced capitalist society is therefore incommensurate with the real needs of the masses that socialist society sets out to satisfy as much as possible, because socialism is not the generalization of misery, but the generalization of abundance.

Therefore, no socialism without an impetuous increase, unimaginable under capitalism, of production. This is an objective necessity. But in order to be able to produce consumer goods in large quantities and constantly increase their volume, it is first necessary to produce in sufficient quantity the means of production, and in particular the instruments of production, and to provide for. their replacement and increase. This is why the increase in production must necessarily begin with the increase in the production of the means of production. This means that one of the objective conditions of socialism is the creation and development of a powerful heavy industry, capable, for example, of supplying tractors in large quantities for agriculture. TheThe impetuous rise of the productive forces is not only a phenomenon that the disappearance of private capital has made possible; it is also, we see, an objective requirement of the new socialist relations of production.

This means that the new relations of production have become the main force which accelerates to the maximum the development of the productive forces. Before the socialist revolution, the productive forces demanded a change in the relations of production; after the socialist revolution, the new relations of production demand the development of the productive forces.

But the development of the productive forces cannot be confined to increasing the size of the working class or the quantity of the instruments of production. The growing needs of a growing population demand an increase in the productivity of labor. But this would be in manifest contradiction with the goals of socialism if it were acquired by a greater fatigue of the worker, by a "slave labor", as Leon Blum wanted to believe. Increase labor productivity while reducing working time and worker fatigue, this is only possible through qualitative progress in production instruments, through the use of avant-garde techniques, through mechanization heavy work, etc. Hence socialism,as a consequence of its objective laws, inevitably develops science, from mechanics to agronomy, in proportions unaware of the capitalist countries. At the same time, it requires the improvement of the worker's qualification, so that manual work becomes more and more intellectual in contact with a higher technique.

These are the elements necessary for the development of socialist society. It follows that there is a fundamental economic law of socialism, an objective law, independent of the will of men:

The essential features and requirements of the fundamental economic law of socialism could be formulated roughly as follows: to ensure the maximum satisfaction of the ever-increasing material and cultural needs of the whole society by constantly developing and perfecting socialist production on the basis of of superior technique.

Therefore: instead of ensuring maximum profits, maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of society is ensured; instead of developing production with downtime - from boom to crisis, from crisis to boom, - production is continuously increased; instead of periodic stoppages in technical progress accompanied by destruction of the productive forces of society, it is an uninterrupted improvement of production on the basis of superior technology. (Stalin: "Economic problems ...", p. 130.)

It is essential to understand clearly that the immense industrial and agricultural progress of which socialist society exemplifies the world is by no means an end in itself. Technical progress is the basis for the development of production; this development in turn is subordinated to a fundamental objective requirement of socialism: the maximum satisfaction of the ever-increasing needs of the whole of society. Objective requirement, because the suppression of the exploitation of man by man means that workers work for them. The aim of production is therefore necessarily the maximum satisfaction of the needs of society, and that under the best working conditions. What needs? Material needs, but also cultural needs. The goal of socialist production is therefore "theman with all his needs ”. [Mr. Thorez: Hail to the XIX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.] Socialism is not a "technical civilization", hungry for grandiose material achievements, but indifferent to man, as bourgeois ideologists claim. It is man in full bloom who is at the center of socialism, and all material achievements have no other goal than to better satisfy his needs of all kinds: the need for knowledge and culture as well as the need. of well-being: various elements of a happy life. Socialism is humanism realized.greedy for grandiose material achievements, but indifferent to man, as bourgeois ideologists claim. It is man in full bloom who is at the center of socialism, and all material achievements have no other goal than to better satisfy his needs of all kinds: the need for knowledge and culture as well as the need. of well-being: various elements of a happy life. Socialism is humanism realized.greedy for grandiose material achievements, but indifferent to man, as bourgeois ideologists claim. It is man in full bloom who is at the center of socialism, and all material achievements have no other goal than to better satisfy his needs of all kinds: the need for knowledge and culture as well as the need. of well-being: various elements of a happy life. Socialism is humanism realized.the need for knowledge and culture as well as the need for well-being: various elements of a happy life. Socialism is humanism realized.the need for knowledge and culture as well as the need for well-being: various elements of a happy life. Socialism is humanism realized.

Subjective conditions of the transition to socialism and its development

marxism makes it possible to know scientifically - not only the objective conditions required for the advent of socialism and for its development - but also the subjective conditions, those which depend on the conscious action of men in history. We know in fact that the capitalist class is opposed by all means to the action of the necessary law of correspondence, that it tries to save its mode of production thanks to the action of the State, and that this roadblock which it raises in the face of the progress of history can only be pushed out of the way by the conscious action of the proletariat and its allies, who constitute the social force necessary to overcome the resistance of the capitalists. (See lesson 19, point III.)

The first subjective condition for the establishment of socialism is therefore that the working class, whose interests are identified with those of the nation, has given itself a truly revolutionary Party.

What should this conscious mass action lead to? To break down the only rampart behind which the capitalists condemned by history are sheltering: the bourgeois state, and to organize a new state power capable of suppressing private ownership of the means of production. It is this new state power that is called the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is the instrument without which there can be no change in the relations of production: everyone understands in fact that it is not possible for the workers' unions, for example, to simply put themselves a fine day to expropriate the capitalists, to organize socialist production, production by workers freely associated by corporation and sharing the fruit of their labor! This anarcho-syndicalist platitude seriously underestimates the violent political action of the bourgeois state, protector of capitalism. [Moreover, at the point where the productive forces of capitalism have arrived, it is within the national framework that the social ownership of the means of production must be realized: it isis therefore a national political power of the working class which alone can establish it.]

The essential task of the dictatorship of the proletariat was clearly formulated by Marx:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to gradually wrest all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all the instruments of production in the hands of the state, that is to say of the proletariat organized as a ruling class, and to increase as quickly as possible the quantity of productive forces. (Marx and Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 48.)

The historical period when the dictatorship of the proletariat is established is a period when the class struggle enters its most acute phase. Long after socialism has removed economic antagonisms, the struggle continues against the remnants of the fallen classes and the attempts of the bourgeoisie to restore capitalism, until communism has triumphed over most of the globe.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not the end of the class struggle; it is a continuation of it in new forms. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the class struggle of the victorious proletariat which has taken political power in its hands, against the defeated bourgeoisie, but not annihilated, not disappeared, not having ceased to resist, but having increased resistance. (Lenin. Quoted by Stalin: Questions of leninism, t. I, p. 124.)

Lenin also wrote:

Whoever recognizes only the class struggle is not yet a marxist; it may happen that he does not yet depart from the framework of bourgeois thought and bourgeois politics. To limit marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle is to truncate it, deform it, reduce it to what is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. The only marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Lenin: The State and the Revolution, p. 35.)

And even:

The fundamental cause of the socialists' misunderstanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat is that they do not push the idea of ​​class struggle to the end. (Lenin: "On the dictatorship of the proletariat", in The State and the Revolution, p. 145.)

The dictatorship of the proletariat is class domination. Domination over whom? On the capitalists and the various layers of exploiters, traffickers and adventurers who live on capitalist rot and support its state power.

Hence the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state power of an entirely new type. All the political powers that history has known before represented the domination of the exploiting classes, the domination of the minority over the majority. The dictatorship of the proletariat, for the first time, represents the domination of the exploited over the exploiters. It therefore enjoys the sympathy and support of other working, exploited and oppressed social strata and classes: it is therefore the domination of the majority over the minority, the reign of the workers.

This domination can be established, maintained and consolidated only through the conscious and organized action of the working masses, their political activity and their creative initiative.

This domination cannot be bothered by bourgeois “legality” which is only the ideological alibi of the political regime and the economic system that it is precisely a question of breaking and suppressing. This is why the masses on the move create a new legality, corresponding to the interests of the nation and by which democratic freedoms are widely developed. This domination cannot use the bureaucratic state machine of the bourgeoisie, designed in all its details for the oppression of the majority. This is why the masses on the move are breaking down the bourgeois bureaucratism imposed from above and establishing a new type of administration controlled by themselves, and which operates openly under the eyes of the people.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not only an instrument of domination, it is also the instrument of the alliance between the proletariat, the working peasantry and the middle classes. It is essential for the proletariat to lead its allies along the path in accordance with the national interest. Domination of the majority over the minority, the dictatorship of the proletariat is democracy for the workers, for the masses, since it is the end of the political yoke that the bourgeoisie imposes on the masses; the advent of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a liberation, and this political liberation has as a condition the political repression of the actions of the bourgeoisie. For the first time, the masses are acceding to a democracy of their own. Think about it! For the first time millions ofmen are thus called to a life of men. It is thus, for example, in China, where in the most distant villages, the peasants, until then treated as beasts of burden, straighten the spine and feel themselves citizens, responsible for the public good. Such is the immense benefit of the dictatorship of the proletariat: it gives a conscious, active life to those deep masses of men to whom all horizons were refused. Being for the first time democracy for the masses, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the highest form of democracy. It is a turning point: the turning point from bourgeois democracy, dictatorship of capital, to proletarian or popular democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to the democracy of the oppressed classes. The State, which until then was the special force intended to oppress the great number,becomes the expression of the general strength of the majority of the people, of workers and peasants, of their allies, against the oppressors finally repressed.

It is only under the dictatorship of the proletariat that real "freedoms" for the exploited and the real participation of proletarians and peasants in the administration of the country are possible. (Stalin: On the Principles of leninism, p. 37.)

Because the state which fulfills the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not rely only on a special force of repression, but on the general strength of the majority of the people, it changes its character profoundly. It is a new type of State. Its continuous strengthening, which is indispensable as long as the bourgeoisie is not beaten and liquidated as a class all over the world, means above all the strengthening of the conscious political activity of the masses. In contrast, the “strengthening” of bourgeois states means only the increase of their police forces and the attempt to stifle the political activity of the masses. We see that the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat is just the opposite of the “strengthening” of the states of the exploiting classes; vs'This is why the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat is at the same time the real withering away of the "classic" features of the state: the behavior of a popular police force, its links with the masses, are in no way comparable with those of a police Bourgeois State - if we can speak in the latter case of links with the masses! The behavior of a people's army has nothing to do with that of an imperialist army: the whole world saw it during the liberation of China. The policy of the new state is not worked out in narrow and closed circles of "specialists", it is worked out in the masses and in their vanguard: a deputy collective farmer remains a worker in his collective farm.

The historical forms in which the dictatorship of the proletariat is exercised are varied. The first was the Paris Commune. Popular democracy is another. The classic form is the power of the Soviets.

Soviets (or Councils) of Workers' Deputies appeared in Russia during the Revolution of 1905. This form of political power was created by the masses on the move. The October Revolution of 1917 gave "all power to the Soviets". The Soviets are the largest mass organization of the proletariat and of all the exploited, the direct organ of the masses themselves. They decide, execute and control the execution of their decisions themselves. Unlike bourgeois parliamentary assemblies (national or local), they hold all power, executive as well as legislative. These are the organs, local or central, of state power. The most advanced form of democracy in the world, their members are revocable at any time by voters.

The Stalinist Constitution, a reflection of the new economic base, enshrined this fact:

All power in the USSR belongs to the workers of the city and the countryside in the person of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies. (Article 3.)

This is why - with all due respect to bourgeois ideologues - who fraudulently equate socialism with fascism - no one in the Soviet Union is exempt from obeying the law. Established by the most reactionary elements of big capital, the fascist dictatorship has no other weapons than arbitrariness and terror; it tramples on bourgeois legality itself. On the contrary, socialist democracy draws its strength from the support of workers: it can therefore only survive by guaranteeing the exercise of their private and public rights. The Soviet government is, like any citizen, bound to respect the Constitution and obey the laws. He could not act otherwise without losing all authority.

Rousseau's ideal - democracy as an expression of the general will - is therefore fully realized by the dictatorship of the proletariat and it can only be so effectively with the abolition of the economic antagonism of the classes.

The role of the Soviet state, supported by the conscious activity of the broad masses, is immense in the building of socialism. New power is an indispensable subjective condition for the appearance of new relations of production. In fact, the power of the proletariat has this particularity of historically preceding its economic base and of having to create its own base. Bourgeois power, on the contrary, at the time of the bourgeois revolution was mainly to bring the political domination of the bourgeoisie into line with the existing bourgeois economy. In addition, the revolutions prior to the proletarian revolution aimed to substitute one form of (bourgeois) exploitation for another (feudal);the proletarian revolution, on the contrary, suppresses all exploitation and this only increases the importance of the state.

From the moment the socialist economic base exists, the Soviet state must be regarded as a reflection of its economic base, and it is then that the reality of the facts can be expressed in a new form, which is precisely the Stalinist Constitution. from 1936.

The Soviet Constitution offers the peculiarity that instead of proclaiming abstract rights by postponing the creation of the material conditions allowing the exercise of these rights - which is what bourgeois constitutions do - it enshrines the existence of real rights whose the material bases are already created. Example:

The citizens of the USSR have the right to work, that is to say the right to receive guaranteed employment, with remuneration for their work, according to its quantity and quality.

The right to work is guaranteed by the socialist organization of the national economy, by the continuous growth of the productive forces of Soviet society, by the elimination of the possibility of economic crises and by the elimination of unemployment. (Article 118.)

Does this mean that the Soviet state is content to passively reflect its economic base? Not at all! At no time does it cease to be an active force which, based on knowledge of the objective laws of the economy, accelerates the development of the socialist economy and plans it consistently.

Two things are necessary for the Soviet state to fulfill this task: 1. knowledge of the laws of nature and of society, ie science; 2. the conscious support of the masses, penetrated by new ideas. The immense role played by scientific socialism at the time of the establishment of the political power of the proletariat therefore only increases thereafter. The conscious struggle against bourgeois ideology, the diffusion of marxism-leninism among the masses, the creation of a new culture, national in form, socialist in content, are thus subjective conditions indispensable to the construction of socialism.

As socialism is built, the educational and cultural role of the Soviet state, a new type of state, grows. This increase in the role of the state in no way means the increase in the “totalitarian constraint” of which the opponents of marxism speak. This new role of the state is almost unknown to the bourgeois capitalist states, which cannot raise, without danger for the ruling class, the cultural and intellectual level of the masses! The capitalist state is therefore mainly occupied with the work of repression. The workers' state, on the contrary, while knowing how to defend its existence, is increasingly becoming the leading center of the creative work of the masses, both in the economic and cultural fields: it is the organizer and the educator. masses,and not their enemy, and this is why the continuous increase in the role of the Soviet state means, here again, the withering away of the "classic" features of the state!

The cultural revolution, the dissemination among the masses of avant-garde ideas and science, the triumph of socialist ideology over bourgeois ideology are therefore the object of all the attention of the state itself. , in accordance with what dialectical materialism teaches about the role of ideas in social life. However, the transformation of the relations of production created the conditions for the advent of a new consciousness among the masses, by removing the objective bases of bourgeois ideology: private ownership of the means of production. Consequently, the new, socialist consciousness is not created out of nothing: the role of the state is to bring the consciousness of the masses into line as exactly as possible with the new objective, socialist conditions - ofaccelerate the process whereby sooner or later a new form of consciousness comes to correspond to the new content. At the same time, socialist consciousness must be brought forward, thanks to knowledge of the laws of society, so that knowledge of the prospects for development, acting in turn on objective conditions, accelerates economic development. We see that in socialist society the objective conditions and the subjective conditions, which are not in contradiction, exert a reciprocal action and lend each other mutual support. This is why socialist society can develop, materially and culturally, at rates unknown to bourgeois society. Socialist emulation is an example of theimportance of the new consciousness of the masses for the development of socialist production. In this transformation of consciousness, literature and art are called to play a big role: writers become, to use Stalin's expression, "engineers of souls". Finally, it is clear that all the tasks incumbent on the socialist state could not have been carried out - from the conquest of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the cultural revolution - if the working class and its allies had not had their responsibility. head a conscious and organized detachment, a political party linked to the masses and armed with the marxist-Leninist theory of societies, the Communist Party. The role of this avant-garde which illuminates the progress of socialist society, which unites theory and practice,only increases as new material and cultural demands arise and the role of the Soviet state grows.

Conclusion

The basic economic law of socialism is an objective law. Ensuring the maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of the masses is not and can never be the result of the “free choice” of a government. This is the necessary consequence of the socialization of the means of production, and only the power of the working class can give the masses what it promises, because it has socialized the means of production and relies on it. the objective law which characterizes the new relations of production. What distinguishes the marxist conception of socialism from utopian conceptions is that it makes the millennial subjective claim of the masses coincide with the demands of the fundamental economic law of a scientifically defined mode of production. VS'is this which explains the success of the building of socialism in the USSR, under the leadership of the Communist Party, not because of a "free choice" and a happy luck, but because it was armed with science companies.

The opponents of socialism, the capitalist bourgeoisie, will repeat that the successes of socialist construction can only be obtained through the enslavement of the individual. They claim that socialism crushes and annihilates the human person, personal energy and initiative, capacities and talents, individual rights and freedoms; that it levels needs and tastes. But it is capitalism which, by exploiting and mutilating workers, physically and intellectually, stifles a whole world of spiritual interests, aspirations and human capacities, makes the worker an appendage of the machine and the cripples in his physical and moral individuality, reduces him to servile labor, under a regime of oppression, famine, unemployment,which dedicates its existence to insecurity and transforms men into robots. Before capitalism the individual is alone and helpless; to free it, it is only the union of the exploited and oppressed, the revolutionary struggle. The mass is, said Stalin in 1906, "the cornerstone of marxism", because without the liberation of the mass one would not be able to liberate the individual. The emancipation of the masses is the main condition for the emancipation of the individual.emancipation of the mass one cannot emancipate the individual. The emancipation of the masses is the main condition for the emancipation of the individual.emancipation of the mass one cannot emancipate the individual. The emancipation of the masses is the main condition for the emancipation of the individual.

The defenders of capitalism assert that under capitalism any energetic man, provided with initiative and capacities, even without fortune, can "make his way" and occupy a position in accordance with his capacities. And they cite the “happy cases” of boot-shiners who became millionaires. But they hide the fact that the "success" of a few comes at the expense of thousands of exploited workers. The need to "find its way" under capitalism proves precisely that the situation of men in bourgeois society is determined by the extent of private property. It is the representatives of the "upper" classes or their clerks who are promoted to managerial positions. The situation of men is determined by their situation of fortune, class, caste, national origin, sex, religion,alliances, protections, etc. Such is the "order" considered by "thinkers." and the “moralists” of capitalism as “eternal”, “logical”, only reasonable and conceivable. The “creative capacities” of the Krapp, Stinnes, Morgan, Rothschild, Rockefeller, Ford, Boussac are extolled, to prove that they are in a right position. But everyone knows that the “creative capacities” of capitalists boil down to the art of extorting surplus value from employees and that it is only the proportion of their capital that determines their dominant position. This is what fixes the "value" of a man under capitalism.The “creative capacities” of the Krapp, Stinnes, Morgan, Rothschild, Rockefeller, Ford, Boussac are extolled, to prove that they are in a right position. But everyone knows that the “creative capacities” of capitalists boil down to the art of extorting surplus value from employees and that it is only the proportion of their capital that determines their dominant position. This is what fixes the "value" of a man under capitalism.The “creative capacities” of the Krapp, Stinnes, Morgan, Rothschild, Rockefeller, Ford, Boussac are extolled, to prove that they are in a right position. But everyone knows that the “creative capacities” of capitalists boil down to the art of extorting surplus value from employees and that it is only the proportion of their capital that determines their dominant position. This is what fixes the "value" of a man under capitalism.it is only the proportion of their capital that determines their dominant position. This is what fixes the "value" of a man under capitalism.it is only the proportion of their capital that determines their dominant position. This is what fixes the "value" of a man under capitalism.

Under socialism, on the contrary, the elevation of the individual, the development of his capacities, of his talents, of his creative gifts, has as a condition the elevation of the creative capacities of the masses themselves. The fundamental economic law of socialism has shown us the role of avant-garde technology; the study of the subjective conditions of socialism has underlined the importance of socialist consciousness, the immense active force of the new society.

It should be remembered in particular from this double study that socialism develops in all aspects the personality of the worker: as a technician, educated and intellectually developed; as a social man who possesses a broad and in-depth knowledge of the problems of society, a conscious builder of a new life. The multilateral development of human individuality, of personal capacities, far from remaining an isolated phenomenon as under capitalism, has become under socialism a mass phenomenon. Socialist emulation is a living illustration of the possibilities now offered to personal initiative, to the creative intelligence of all.

In the USSR there are millions of Stakhanovists, innovators, rationalizers, inventors of all kinds, highly qualified workers and specialists, agricultural experimenters, organizers of production and the economy, intellectuals. advanced from the people, the men and women exercising a social and political activity, the workers able to take part in a scientific discussion, in a literary or artistic competition, and, marching among them, the numerous legion of the Heroes of socialist labor , and winners of the Stalin Prizes.

It is only in socialist society that man really occupies a place corresponding to his capacities, regardless of origin, sex, fortune, etc.

Socialism is indeed the reign of the masses, the reign of millions of people who were once victims of secular oppression and deprived, by exploitation, of any human development. It is these masses that make history, for they alone can throw down the power of Capital. Freed from the yoke, they impetuously build a new life for themselves. By suppressing the exploitation of man by man, they have reconciled the individual and the society and given each one the means to develop fully.

See: Control questions

From socialism to communism

The aim of the socialist economy, as it results from the fundamental economic law of socialism, is, as we have seen, the maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of society. And it cannot be otherwise as soon as private property has disappeared. However this does not mean that each member of the society can immediately receive according to his needs in an unlimited way. In socialist society everyone receives according to the work done. We must therefore distinguish two phases in the development of a society based on social property: a first phase, called "socialism", and a higher phase, called "communism". This distinction was scientifically established by Marx.

The first phase of communist society

Considered in relation to fully developed communist society, the socialism we have just studied is still only a first phase. Its principle is: "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work". But the principle of communism is "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". It is quite true that the main obstacle to what everyone receives according to their needs in the modern world is capitalist exploitation which wastes the wealth of human industry. The first result of the suppression of the exploitation of man by man is that the worker can receive according to the work provided, without part of the wealth he has produced being stolen from him. As for receiving each according to his wishes and needs,this requires that society comes to produce sufficient means of consumption. The goal, communism, is therefore sought from the first measures of the new power which tend to increase production; but it is not yet the unlimited needs of each that can, at this stage, provide the principle of distribution. In fact, any increase in production, if we want it not to happen in spurts and not go without a future, must begin with an increase in the production of the means of production. Before satisfying the needs of individual consumption, one must satisfy the material needs of society for the means of production. However, more often than not, as we have seen (see lesson 20, point IV), capitalist society bequeaths a very bad situation to socialism,where the production of the means of production and that of the means of consumption are not proportional to each other. For example, in Czechoslovakia, capitalism had developed a light industry which assured the bourgeoisie of this so-called "industrialized" country a high standard of living, but which depended for the most part on the heavy industry of the large capitalist countries.

The formula of socialism: "from each according to his capacities, to each according to his work", therefore corresponds to the fact that in the first phase of communist society there must be a measure of consumption.

Where can I find this measurement? In work, of course. It is in fact the quantity and the quality of the work provided by each individual which determines the part he takes in social production; this is the only fair way to measure the consumption to which he is entitled. - In addition, work is the very condition for the development of the productive forces, therefore the condition for the subsequent advent of communism. Thus the remuneration of the work provided prepares the passage to a stage where it will no longer be necessary to measure individual consumption!

Moreover, the principle of socialism - "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work" - constitutes a huge step forward compared to exploitative capitalism, where the worker never receives according to his work.

In socialist society, therefore, there necessarily remains the obligation for individuals to procure by purchase the goods necessary for life, and this obligation is the only possible form of distribution of current consumer goods. In addition to this distribution, the material and cultural needs of the masses are maximally met by social benefits - for example free medical care - and cultural institutions ignored by capitalism.

It should also be considered that the increase in production, which will make it possible to distribute consumer goods according to individual needs, is impossible without a considerable development of technology. Such a technical development demands that the qualification of workers and their culture reach a level much higher than that maintained by capitalism, which deprives the masses of education and science. However, as long as work has not become for the individual a need as natural as the need to breathe or to walk, one of the means of encouraging the progress and the qualification of workers is that each receives according to the quality of the work provided.

The illusory promises of capitalism, which wants to persuade workers that it can improve their standard of living if they improve their skills, become a reality under socialism, because exploitation has disappeared.

Thus, to understand the first phase of communist society, we must not forget its obligation to liquidate in all areas the heavy legacy of capitalism:

What we are dealing with here is a communist society, not as it developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, as it has just emerged from capitalist society; a society, therefore, which, in all respects, economic, moral, intellectual, still bears the stigmata of the old society, from whose flanks it emerged. (Marx-Engels: Critique of the Gotha and Erfurt Programs, p. 23. Social Editions, Paris, 1950.)

When we say that socialist society gives to each according to his work, we do not mean that each receives individually and directly the full product of his labor. This is a petty-bourgeois utopia. Indeed, if we consider all the product of social work, it is clear that we must first deduct a reserve fund, a fund intended to increase production, another intended to replace used machines. , etc. If we consider the means of consumption, a fund must be deducted for administrative costs, another for schools, hospitals, old people's homes, etc.

All of the above helps us understand the importance of Article 12 of the Soviet Constitution

Work is a duty and a question of honor for each able-bodied citizen, according to the principle: "Who does not work, does not eat".

This is precisely why, in a socialist society, equality consists in giving each person according to his work, that is to say unequally, once each has of course been assured of his means of existence (thanks to the abolition of the 'operation). We must therefore not equate socialism with utopian egalitarianism.

As for egalitarianism, which would consist in bringing all men under the same height, writes Maurice Thorez, it is a social impossibility: there are inequalities of nature between men, due to their biological and psychological aptitudes. The inequality that the Communists want to suppress is the inequality that results from the existence of classes. In capitalist society, individuals do not have an equal chance for the development of their personality. The millionaire and the unemployed are declared equal before the law and both free, but this freedom leads one to the palaces of the Riviera and the other under the bridges. The man of the future will not be a standardized and mechanized “robot”,it will be a free and strong individuality whose capacities and talents will flourish widely. (Maurice Thorez: Son of the People, p. 243.)

“Inequality” in socialist society consists in the fact that individuals whose needs are comparable, but whose capacities are unequal, each receive according to his work, according to his contribution to the community, that is to say unequally. The Stakhanovist receives more than the non-Stakhanovist - not by privilege (there are no longer the privileged in a society without an exploiting class), - but because, as an elite worker and innovator, he brings more to the whole. of society, therefore to each of its members. [Far from being a privilege, the remuneration of the Stakhanovist is an effect of socialist law; Lenin observed: “All law consists in the application of a single rule to different people, to people who, in fact, are neither the same nor equal. (The State and the Revolution, p. 84.)]

On the other hand, “inequality” in communist society will consist of this: individuals with unequal capacities and consequently providing society with different work (in quantity and quality) will nevertheless receive in an equivalent way, each according to his maximum needs. Why ? Because production will be high enough that it will be so now.

In socialist society therefore necessarily reigns a rigorous control of the measurement of work and, by this very fact, of the measurement of consumption. Work is an obligation, but it has the counterpart that everyone receives, in strict justice, according to the work provided. There are no longer any privileged or profiteers; work is sovereign.

In socialist society, there is still a certain inequality of goods. But in socialist society, there is already no unemployment, no exploitation, no oppression of nationalities. In socialist society, everyone is obliged to work, although he does not yet receive for his work according to his needs, but according to the quantity and quality of the work provided. For this there is still a salary, and even unequal and differentiated. It is only when we succeed in creating a system under which people will receive from society, for their work, not according to the quantity and the quality of the work, but according to their needs, that we can say that we have built the communist society. (Stalin: "Declaration to Roy Howard", Cahiers du communisme, n ° 11 (1948), p. 1315.)

The upper phase of communist society

In a higher phase of communist society, when the enslaving subordination of individuals to the division of labor, and with it the opposition between intellectual labor and manual labor, will have disappeared; when work will not only be a means of living, but will itself become the first vital need; when, with the multiple development of individuals, the productive forces will also have increased, and all the sources of collective wealth will flow in abundance, then only the limited horizon of bourgeois law can be definitively exceeded and society will be able to write about its flags: "From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs". (Marx-Engels; Critique of the Gotha and Erfurt Programs, p. 25.)

The main “argument” of the bourgeoisie concerning the allegedly “impracticable” character of communism is that society cannot give to everyone “according to their needs”, that is to say free of charge, without everyone immediately trying to "To do as little as possible" and so that the famine sets in quickly! For the bourgeoisie, man, in the grip of "original sin", is - eternally and by nature - a lazy person who works only when constrained and forced, trying to make the most of the work of others. The bourgeoisie thus only reflects its own conception of "work"! As for the mentality which is limited to "the narrow horizon of bourgeois law", to the calculation with the harshness of a Shylock [Shakespeare's character: usurer]:"I must not work half an hour more than another, nor receive a lower salary" [Lenin: The State and the Revolution.], It is only the product of the conditions of the capitalist exploitation and moreover perfectly understandable in this case!

The millennial conditions of the exploitation of man by man have created hostility to generally excessive and grueling work. The weak development of the productive forces until quite recently, and, under capitalism, the total absence of the concern to lighten the work of the workers by an appropriate technique, made work a painful activity. Finally, the division of labor, which was originally a condition for the progress of the productive forces, has riveted every man for life to the same work - in particular in modern industry where every man is a prisoner of a fragmented activity. ; let us add that the division between intellectual and manual labor, by depriving the manual worker of all creative activity, has stripped manual labor of all attraction.It is for these reasons that work has become a chore.

But such a situation is by no means eternal. Generated by given material conditions, other conditions will make it disappear. Helvétius already thought that a moderate and healthy productive activity is vitally necessary for man, for his happiness; evils, according to him, can only come from idleness or grueling work. Fourier celebrated the "attractive job" which, corresponding to the tastes, aptitudes and talents of the worker, would be the lot of future society. In societies divided into classes, artistic or scientific activity gives an image of what can be the work of any man in a communist society, a work that is no longer drudgery, but fulfillment. It should also be noted that the comparison is quite imperfect,for in a capitalist society, artists and scientists are not always immune to want and see their creative effort limited by the regime of exploitation.

In communist society, avant-garde technique combines manual work and intellectual work, at the same time as it allows working hours to be reduced, leaving the worker free to raise his qualifications and thus giving him the possibility of not being stuck on the same task all his life. Work will no longer mutilate the personality of man, but it will be its highest expression. It is through him that each one will develop his talents; work freed from exploitation will have become the basic need of every individual.

Everyone will give according to their abilities. Here again the bourgeois mentality is powerless to understand, because for it the motor of all human activity is private interest, opposed to the common interest. But the more the communist society progresses, the more the socialist conscience asserts itself, for which the personal interest and the common interest are identified. Awareness of the interests of society as a whole becomes as "natural" a habit as the harsh calculation of a Shylock is "natural" under capitalism. As private property is the way of life today, socialism and communism will become part of the way. Men will have become so accustomed to observing the fundamental rules of life in society that they will work voluntarily and conscientiously according to their abilities,and will draw freely from the means of consumption, according to their needs.

The socialist revolution is thus, we see, only the beginning of a long transformation of society and of men.

What matters is to see how false is the current bourgeois idea that socialism is something dead, fixed, given once and for all, when in reality it is only with socialism. that there will begin in all areas of social and private life a movement of rapid, genuine progress, a real mass movement in which the majority will participate first, and then the entire population. (Lenin: The State and the Revolution, p. 90.)

But obviously communism supposes the disappearance of the "petty bourgeois of today, capable ... of wasting" unnecessarily "public wealth and of demanding the impossible". [Idem, p. 92. For the critique of the petty-bourgeois mentality, we recommend reading Gorki: Les Petits Bourgeois. (Editions de la Nouvelle Critique) and poetic works by Mayakovsky.] Of course, this petty bourgeois believes himself to be immortal. He is foolishly convinced that his selfishness and his narrowness sculpt the face of the Eternal Man. When marxists say that man transforms and will transform with societies, he shrugs his shoulders and speaks of "utopia". Utopia is rather to believe that the ideology of the petty bourgeois will subsist indefinitely when its social conditionsexistence will be gone.

However, the "workshop discipline" which the victorious proletariat will extend to the whole of society is not an ideal, nor a final goal, but only a

necessary step to be able to radically rid society of the villainies and ignominy of capitalist exploitation and to ensure the subsequent march forward. (Lenin: The State and the Revolution, p. 92.)

Stalin, drawing lessons from the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin listed the features of communist society as follows:

a) there will be no private ownership of the instruments and means of production which will be social, collective property;

b) there will be no classes and no state power [When the bourgeoisie as a class is defeated all over the world.], but there will be workers in industry and agriculture, administering themselves economically themselves, as a free association of workers;

c) the national economy, organized according to a plan, will be supported by superior technology both in the field of industry and in that of agriculture;

d) there will be no contrast between town and country, between industry and agriculture;

e) the products will be distributed according to the principle of the old French Communists: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs";

(f) science and the arts will enjoy conditions favorable enough to reach their full potential;

g) the individual, free from concern for daily bread and from the need to seek to please the "powerful of this world", will become truly free ... (Stalin: "Interview with the first delegation of American workers", in Les questions of leninism, t. II., p. 38-39.)

And Stalin added: "And so on". Starting from the historical experience of the building of socialism in the USSR, Stalin, in the last year of his life, masterfully embodied the ideas elaborated by Marx, Engels and Lenin and defined the conditions for the transition from socialism to communism.

Productive forces and production relations under socialism

Socialism and communism have a deep kinship between them: social, collective ownership of the means of production. The fundamental economic law of socialism perfectly illustrates this continuity between the two phases of communism, since already in the first phase the aim of production is the maximum satisfaction of needs. There is therefore no "Chinese wall" between the two phases. However, social property takes various forms; we have seen that under socialism as it is realized in the USSR, there are two forms of social property. Communist society is characterized not only by the fact that there is no longer any class antagonism, but also by the fact that there are no longer any classes at all. It is therefore that there is onlya form of social property, the collective property of the whole people. We see that there is a difference between the two phases of communism: in the principle which governs the distribution of the products first; but also in the relations of production, which must allow such a development of the productive forces that it is possible to make abundance reign for all. Now, for the relations of production to change, the productive forces must first have changed, as we know.it is possible to make abundance reign for all. Now, for the relations of production to change, the productive forces must first have changed, as we know.it is possible to make abundance reign for all. Now, for the relations of production to change, the productive forces must first have changed, as we know.

Is this the way things are for socialism? Inevitably! The law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces is a universal law valid for all modes of production without exception. It is the reciprocal action of the relations of production and of the productive forces which is the objective basis of the passage from socialism to communism. No marxist can reason otherwise and believe that socialist society switches to communism at any time!

We know that the new, socialist relations of production are the main engine of the development of the productive forces. But the relations of production, in the case of the USSR, are characterized by the fact that alongside state property, good of the whole people, there is socialist group property, collective farm: the collective farm is the owner of its businesses, its buildings, its production.

The first form of property is entirely in conformity with the character of the productive forces; the socialist state, as the news shows, is perfectly able to undertake gigantic works, such as irrigating the deserts and transforming the climate of the steppes! But the second is not entirely: suppose a collective farm wants to electrify agricultural work, for example tractors, shearing sheep, milking cows, etc. There is obviously an interest in building a large power station which will serve 4 or 5 collective farms, rather than a small one which will only serve the considered collective farm and will cost it large costs. If the collective farm does not want to join forces with neighboring collective farms, the power plant may never be built. This means that the highly developed technique,both agrobiology and agricultural equipment, and developed thanks to socialist production relations, risks not being able to be implemented in small collective farms. [See the novel by G. Nicolaieva: La Moisson.] Marx taught that the productive forces develop only within the limits of the relations of production. Marxism cannot be reduced to a science of the organization of productive forces. It demands that we study the relations of production, the economy. However, in this case, the socialist ownership of the collective farm, which allowed a prodigious development of socialist agriculture, appears to be a brake on the further development of the productive forces in the countryside. This boom in agriculture and stockbreeding is necessary for the growth of consumer goods, and therefore forbuilding of communism. Socialist group ownership must therefore be widened, the collective farms should be regrouped to form larger collective farms. Otherwise the relations of production - the collective farm - which have hitherto favored the productive forces would slow down their development, would come into conflict with them. Thus they remain in conformity with the character of the productive forces.

But that's not all. As long as there is still the circulation of goods - by purchase and sale - between the countryside and the city, the collective farms have the possibility of selling their production and of disposing of the income thus acquired as they see fit; it is therefore not easy to predict their operations. Therefore it is not possible, at the very moment when the production of the means of consumption increases, to establish a rigorous proportion between the production of the means of production and that of the means of consumption, nor consequently to plan production entirely in line with identifying all the needs. However, this census is essential if we want to be able to move on to the abundance of products. Consequently, the circulation of goods (sale, purchase) risks becoming a brake on the planned development of the productive forces.On the contrary, a system of exchange of products by contracts between the State and the collective farms allows this planning, while being fully advantageous for the collective farmers who will receive from the State the products they need in much greater quantity and at cheaper.

It is indeed the reciprocal action of the relations of production and the productive forces, the internal dialectic of the mode of production which form the basis of the changes which take place. Only in socialist society, the necessary law of correspondence can make its way without reactionary classes seeking to oppose its action out of interest. There is no such thing as class antagonism. Both workers and collective farm workers have a class interest in the development of the productive forces, in the increase of production, in the transition to communism and abundance. This is why the - relative - disagreement between the relations of production and the productive forces may not end in a conflict; contradictions may not degenerate into antagonism,provided that a just policy based precisely on the science of contradictions is carried out.

In a socialist regime, things do not usually go as far as a conflict between the relations of production and the productive forces; society has the possibility of reconciling in due time the backward relations of production and the character of the productive forces. Socialist society has the possibility of doing this because it does not have within it declining classes capable of organizing resistance. Of course, in the socialist regime as well, there will be backward forces of inertia that do not understand the need to modify the relations of production, but it will obviously be easy to come to the end of it, without pushing things so far. a conflict. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 140.)

As for the Soviet state, far from being an obstacle to changing the relations of production like the capitalist state, it reflects the interests of the allied workers and peasants: far from opposing the action of the law necessary correspondence, it takes all necessary measures to clear its way and accelerate the modification of production relations. It is here that its immense role in the passage from socialism to communism appears. As Lenin put it: “Communism is the power of the Soviets, plus the electrification of the whole country”. So if the State is not an obstacle to the necessary changes, but promotes them, the passage from socialism to communism, unlike the passage from capitalism to socialism, does not happen by explosion. It doesIt is nonetheless a qualitative change in the relations of production, since we will pass from two forms of property to one, from two classes to classless society. But it will be a gradual qualitative passage, by accumulation of the new and the gradual disappearance of the old.

It must be said in general, for the benefit of comrades who have a passion for explosions, that the law which governs the passage from the old quality to a new quality by means of explosions is not only inapplicable to the history of development of the language, but that neither can it always be applied to other social phenomena which concern the base ... It is obligatory for a society divided into hostile classes. But it is not at all for a society which does not include hostile classes. (Stalin: "On marxism in Linguistics", Latest Writings, p. 35.)

The transition from socialism to communism does not have as a condition the overthrow of the power of one class by an antagonist class, the passage from an opposite to the opposite pole, but simply the gradual disappearance of the differences between two classes; there is therefore no reason for it to be done by explosion. Where there is no longer any class antagonism, the class struggle is no longer the motor of history.

So is there no more engine at all? To believe that would be a mistake.

The interest of the workers is to pass to communism by relying on the laws of the economy. There is therefore a conscious part of the society which represents the new vanguard forces, while the late elements, by routine or for any other reason, do not understand the need to modify the relations of production, slow down the changes and represent old forces. The engine of history is therefore here also the struggle: the struggle between these forces of progress and these conservative forces, between the new and the old.

The transition from socialism to communism is not an idyll. [The beautiful Soviet film: The Knight with the Gold Star describes this struggle for the transition to communism within a collective farm.] This is why criticism and self-criticism are the real driving forces of Soviet society: critical in order to achieve real, objective, immediate changes; self-criticism because the struggle between the old and the new also takes place in the individual himself, and it is necessary to root out the survivals of capitalism in the consciousness of men.

In our Soviet society, where the antagonistic classes have been suppressed, the struggle between the old and the new and, consequently, the development of the lower to the higher, takes place not in the form of a struggle between the antagonistic classes and in the form of cataclysms, as is the case in a capitalist regime, but in the form of criticism and self-criticism, a real driving force in our development, a powerful weapon in the hands of the Party. This is certainly a new form of movement, a new type of development, a new dialectical law. (A. Jdanov: "Speech delivered during the discussion on the book by G. Alexandrov", On literature, philosophy and music, p. 62-63, Editions de la Nouvelle Critique, Paris, 1950.)

We see that the subjective conditions in the transition to communism are no less important than for the building of socialism, and that here again the feedback of ideas, of socialist consciousness on material conditions, is considerable.

Our writers and painters must stigmatize the vices, faults, unhealthy phenomena that exist in society and show in the positive characters men of a new type, in all the splendor of their human dignity, thus helping to form in men of our society of characters and habits free from the wounds and vices engendered by capitalism ... We need Soviet Gogols and Shchedrin who, by the fire of their satire, would burn everything that there is in the life of negative, rotten, death, anything that slows down the forward movement. (Malenkov: Report to the XIXth Congress of the CPSU, pp. 63-64.)

Given the role of the Soviet state and the role of ideas in the transition from socialism to communism, it is understandable that this transition cannot be carried out successfully without the political and ideological leadership of the Soviet Workers' Party, armed with theory. scientist. Communists must be able to cope with increased responsibilities: it is this historic requirement reflected in the new statutes adopted in October 1952 by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The conditions of the transition from socialism to communism

We can now understand the three major conditions which it is essential to fulfill in order to prepare the passage to communism, a real passage, and not "purely declarative", and which Stalin clearly defined in his last work. In accordance with the teachings of marxism, the first concerns production, the second the economic base, the third the cultural transformation of society.

1. The first condition concerns production. We know indeed that, unlike petty-bourgeois theories, such as "distributive economy", "consumer communism" or "the economy of abundance", marxism never separates consumption from production. If we want to be able to provide “to each according to his needs”, it is not enough to be enthusiastic about the objective, it is necessary to take the means to achieve it. It is therefore essential

to ensure solidly not a mythical "rational organization" of the productive forces, but a continuous growth of all social production with primacy for the growth of the production of the means of production. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 155)

We note that as far as production is concerned, it would be quite wrong to regard the organization, the planning, for an end in itself. The goal is the increase of production, and this goal is itself subordinate to another, the maximum satisfaction of needs, ie man. The law of harmonious development of the economy, which allows planning, is not the fundamental law of the socialist economy; the fundamental law of socialism is the law of the maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of the whole society.

The increase in production, as we know, takes place under socialism on the basis of a superior technique which makes it possible to raise the productivity of labor in such a way that it is not only possible to increase production in the same working time, but still reducing it. In addition, this superior, scientific technique gradually erases the differences between manual labor and intellectual labor, which is a feature of communism: the means here again is also an end; the man of communism who is, with all his needs, the final goal, is already present in the man who prepares communism and who develops all his talents. Nowhere is the dialectical truth of the identity of the goal and the means better illustrated, nowhere does one see better than theman is the beginning and the end of communism, its "most precious capital".

The increase in production also signifies that after the suppression of class antagonisms, the struggle which takes the foreground - although it is only deployed within the limits of the relations of production, within the limits of the struggle between the old and the new - it's the fight against nature: to prepare for communism, it is necessary to transform nature, the relief, the climate, develop the hydrographic network and the forests, drain the swamps, eliminate the deserts, regenerate soils, create new animal and plant species, extend the means of communication, fully mechanize arduous work, etc. The great construction sites of communism are an illustration of this grandiose struggle against nature.

But in order to be able to continue the development of the productive forces, it is necessary to modify the relations of production. Therefore:

2. The second condition concerns the economic basis, the property regime. It matters from what we've seen,

in gradual stages, with profit for the collective farms and, consequently for the whole society, to bring collective farm ownership to the level of national ownership and to substitute for the circulation of goods, also in gradual stages, a system of exchange of products , so that the central power or some other economic social center can dispose of all the products of social production in the interest of society. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 156.)

By these means is best achieved, at each stage of social development, the entire correspondence between the relations of production and the productive forces; Thus, from July 1, 1950 to October 1952, the number went from 240,000 to 97,000 collective farms. The regrouping of collective farm ownership by the merger of collective farms, that is to say without expropriation, thus prepares for the disappearance of the essential difference between industry and agriculture - a difference which concerns the mode of social ownership, - and therefore announces a classless society where only the socialist property of the whole people will reign, and where the sphere of the circulation of goods, progressively limited, will have given way to a system of exchange of products. But to get to this stage it is necessary thata new consciousness triumphs over the old. Therefore:

3. The third condition is cultural, since, as we know, there can be no communism if work does not become a vital need and if the fundamental rules of life in society do not become habits.

It is therefore important:

to achieve a cultural development of society ensuring to all its members the development in all areas of their physical and intellectual gifts, so that members of society can receive sufficient instruction to become active artisans of social development, so that 'they are able to choose a profession freely and are not bound, by virtue of the existing division of labor, to a single profession for their entire life. (Idem, p. 157.)

Transforming each citizen into an active craftsman of social development, this corresponds entirely to the high conception that marxism has of the role of ideas which act in return on the material life of society, to the high conception that it has of the action of men in history, of the freedom of man as creator, it is clear that - if man does not become an active craftsman, aware of social development, and if he is not free to to choose one's work - social property will never become a habit nor work a need.

What does it take to achieve this result? We need "serious changes in the labor situation" (Stalin):

a) reduce the working day to at least 6 hours, then to 5 hours, which will allow everyone to have enough time available to receive a universal education; but for that you need:

b) instituting compulsory polytechnic education, provided for by Fourier and Marx; it is a matter of each member of society knowing, not superficially, but scientifically (theory and practice never being disjoint) the principles of work in the great branches of avant-garde industrial technique, and that he assimilates the social sciences and the best of universal culture. This is how everyone can freely choose a profession and not remain attached to one and the same activity all their life. However, to achieve the best study conditions, it is still necessary:

c) radically improve living conditions, and finally:

d) to double to the minimum and perhaps to increase still more the real wages of the workers, by the direct increase of the wages in cash, and especially by the systematic and continuous decrease of the articles of great consumption, which precedes the abundance of communism.

Note that the institution of polytechnic education, already initiated by the Fifth Five-Year Plan, concretely prepares for the disappearance of the essential difference between intellectual work and manual work, between industrial work and agricultural work. The age-old process of division of labor, which mutilates the human person, has been stopped and the steam reversed.

Concluding the statement of the three essential conditions, Stalin writes:

It is only when all these preconditions, taken as a whole, have been fulfilled, that we can hope that in the eyes of the members of society, work will cease to be a chore, and become "the first need." of existence ”(Marx); that "work, instead of being a burden, will be a joy" (Engels); that social property will be seen by all members of society as the immutable and intangible basis of the existence of society.

It is only when all these preconditions, taken as a whole, have been fulfilled, that we can move from the socialist formula: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work”, to the communist formula: “ from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs ”.

It will be the complete transition from one economy, that of socialism, to another, superior economy, that of communism. (Stalin: "The economic problems of socialism in the USSR", Latest writings, p. 158.)

Conclusion

Communism is not the reign of a technique that even its enemies now recognize as effectively superior, but that they present as indifferent or hostile to man. Communism is by no means a "rational organization of the productive forces". It is the reign of man finally master of his destinies thanks to the knowledge of the objective laws of nature and of society.

Production is subordinate to man and his needs. The aim of the Communists is not the equal distribution of misery, but the satisfaction of the needs of all.

The technique is there to alleviate and eliminate the pain of men: in three years in the USSR 1,600 new models of machines have been put into operation, reducing human effort.

Communism is man freed from the stigmata of private property and the spiritual constraints of the past. Convinced by experience that he no longer works for a minority of exploiters, but for the good of society, he gives substance to the most grandiose plans:

Communism is born as the result of the conscious and creative action of millions of workers; the theory of carelessness and spontaneity is profoundly foreign to the whole economic structure of socialism. (Malenkov: Report to the XIXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, p. 92.)

Through communism, each man conquers concrete freedom, which is "a positive force to assert his true individuality" (Marx-Engels). Associated with his peers in the exercise of complete democracy, he consciously participates in shaping his future.

At the same time that he becomes, through the enslaved machine, "master and possessor of nature" - as Descartes wanted -, he transforms his own life and becomes master and possessor of himself. Each individual reflects the most beautiful features of humanity, infinitely perfectible.

The enemies of socialism and their sub-orders of all kinds make socialism look like a system of crushing the individual. There is nothing more primitive and vulgar than this kind of conception. It is demonstrated that the socialist system has ensured the emancipation of the human person, the blossoming of individual and collective creation, that it has created the conditions for the development in all fields of the talents and gifts that the popular masses conceal. . (Idem, p. 58.)

It was this idea that inspired Eluard, writing:

We throw the bundles of darkness into the fire

We are breaking the rusty locks of injustice.

Men will come who are no longer afraid of themselves

Because they are sure of all men

Because the enemy with the face of a man disappears.

According to Engels' expression, recalled by Maurice Thorez at the XIth Congress of the French Communist Party, by socialism and communism,

the struggle for individual existence ends. Only then does man in a certain sense come out of the animal kingdom, leave animal conditions of existence for truly human conditions.

See: Control questions

The materialist theory of state and nation

The state

The state and the "public interest"

The constant doctrine of bourgeois politicians concerning the state lies entirely in the affirmation that the republican state is the servant of the general interest.

1. In lessons 12 and 13, the question of the State was not specially dealt with. We have reserved it for this lesson. However, we will profitably refer to the 12th and 13th lessons, as well as to the 19th, 20th and 21st in particular on the dictatorship of the proletariat (pages 391 to 399) and on the decline of the state (pages 395. , 398 and 411).

Historical experience, however, gives this "theory" a stinging denial. It is enough that citizens propose to remind the government of the requirements of the general interest, for example to protest against the rearmament of the Nazis, or simply to celebrate the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, for them to come up against the Republican state police cordon. And if the workers want to defend their bread, whether in private industry or public services, they encounter police repression, and the use of arms by representatives of the republican state.

The "general interest" that is invoked therefore excludes in practice the interest of the proletariat and the broad popular layers. This "general interest" has class limits!

Let us go further: the State is no longer even the defender of "legality". Suppose that workers go on strike against an infringement of the Labor Code, workers or young workers to enforce the legal principle: "for equal work, equal pay", and that they require the support of the public force. to protect this constitutional means of action which is the strike against the illegality of the employers, one lets think the reception that the police would give them, although the public force is, in principle, at the service of the law!

Likewise, the non-application of the Civil Servants Statute shows that the State places itself above a law, voted unanimously!

Under certain historical conditions, however, it is quite true that the state is the servant of the general interest. This is the case, typically, in the Soviet Union. Thus, sometimes the State is the servant of the general interest, sometimes it is not. We must therefore necessarily conclude that the criterion of the general interest is not scientific; in fact some have an undoubted interest in giving the state an anti-scientific definition.

Also there was a time and countries where the State was presented as something supernatural: a kind of power without which humanity could not live, which brought to men something which did not emanate from the man, superior wisdom in short ... The State was regarded as of divine origin. It was the divine rule of law. This was still the case in the Japan of the absolute Mikado. Hitler, meanwhile, proclaimed "God with us". We also know, since Truman and Eisenhower, that the White House represents Providence directly on earth, which moreover is more likely to discredit Providence in the eyes of believers!

The state has long been, and still is for many people, the object of "superstitious respect." Hence the embarrassment when it comes to defining it. Most often the question of the State is mixed with the religious question. Even the positivist Auguste Comte, who flattered himself that he was done with the supernatural, in society subordinated “temporal power” to “spiritual power”. In reality, when a Church teaches that authority is of divine right, this is usually the sign of consummate servility before the State, as Francoist Spain gives the example. It is the Churches which have instilled in their faithful a religious respect for the State. And the difficulties that we encounter in understanding the question ofState have their roots in the stubborn holdovers of religious idealism.

For example in France, for a long time, the theory of divine right failed. There is no shortage of lay people to believe that they are immune from any ideological contamination on that side. For them, as for officials, the State is the emanation of the general interest. Mysterious emanation! The State is above classes, particular interests, parties, we are told; but if it is above the class struggle, that is to say an organism of class conciliation, it is clear that it cannot come from society itself; he will therefore come from above her; and if it is not from God, it will be of the spirit! The reformists' thesis is only a secularization of the medieval theory of divine right; it is vulgar idealism, a subtle form of religion. Socialists, MRP,reactionaries of all kinds, find there common ground: the supremacy of "the spirit", the sickening idealism of the State, in whose name are committed the bloodiest crimes against the masses, and the most violent violations. crying out for justice, like the liberation of war criminals. In truth if the State is the incarnation of "the spirit", it is the bourgeois spirit, of bourgeois ideology!of bourgeois ideology!of bourgeois ideology!

Speaking of the United States' atomic plan, US Secretary of State Foster Dulles said he wanted "the destructive power inherent in matter to be controlled by idealism". But in the United States the signatories of the Stockholm Appeal are in prison!

In the course of the history of philosophy, the question of the state has been, along with that of class exploitation, one of the most confused. It is because, as Lenin noted, it affects the interests of the ruling classes more than any other. Only marxism-leninism can afford objectivity on this issue.

It is of particular importance for the proletariat at the time when monopoly capitalism is being transformed into state monopoly capitalism. The masses of workers are then directly oppressed as producers (and no longer just as citizens) by the state, increasingly subordinated to all-powerful capitalist groups. In the war economy - from peacetime - the imperialist countries become military prisons for the workers. In its - economic - struggle for bread, the proletariat faces head-on the question of the State, the political question. Conversely, the bourgeoisie uses the pretext of war, the political pretext, to destroy the organizations of economic struggle of the proletariat: the unions, as was the case in 1939-1940.

Lenin wrote:

At the time of the victory of the Revolution in certain countries, when the struggle against world capital takes on a particular acuteness, the question of the State acquires the greatest importance, and has become, we can say, the most important question. burning, the hotbed of all contemporary political questions and discussions. (Lenin: "On the State", in The State and the Revolution, p. 121. Social Editions, Paris 1947.)

The state, a product of irreconcilable class antagonisms

The study of materialism, especially in lesson 12, already shows us that the State cannot come from outside society, from "the spirit", from "God". The dialectical method on the other hand tells us that the state must be studied in its development, historically.

But it remains too general. The positivist bourgeois "sociologists" also claim to treat the question of the State scientifically: for them, it is the growing complication of social life, the passage from small isolated human groups to much more numerous societies, the "differentiation of social functions ”which make the state necessary. The State would be the nervous system of society: the more the organism becomes complicated, the more the role of the brain increases. The state fulfills the "organizational function" in society. We will see what to think about it.

Origin of the state

The first thing to consider is that the state has not always existed.

At the time of the primitive commune, when men lived in clans, tribes, patriarchal or matriarchal families [See the 17th lesson, points I and II.], There was no special apparatus to systematically exercise the constraint. Now it is precisely such an apparatus that we call the state.

Certainly there were customs, the authority of the leader, respect for his person and for his power, respect for the authority of women, but there were no men specially and exclusively occupied with governing others and permanently having armed force for this.

Should we conclude from this that there was neither discipline nor organization in the work? Not at all, because the force of habit and traditions, the authority of elders or women, natural respect were sufficient.

And yet the weapons existed. As soon as there were tools, that is to say as soon as the man appeared, there was obviously the possibility of using them as weapons. Work is "violence" against nature which includes the possibility of violence against man. These weapons, however, posed no danger to society. The armed men of a given tribe did not turn their guns against each other. The ideology of the primitive commune, about which we said a few words in the 17th lesson, point I, sufficed to regulate social life, and individuals who thought of deviating from the rule were brought back to respect for order. by the collective action of armed men. No one was specialized in this task: there was no state.

Why then can the "organizational function" dear to our sociologists not be assured today as then by the spontaneous organization of the population, ensuring the discipline of work and social life? , and by a planning center of economic activity, controlled by it?

Could it be as a result of original sin that the golden age of ancient legend disappeared?

We note that at a certain point in history the ancient respect was no longer sufficient to maintain the discipline of work. It was necessary to substitute for the force of habit, of tradition, for authority based on experience, a special force, physical, exercising restraint, inspiring fear. It was necessary to establish a monopoly on arms and their use for the benefit of a group of men raised to a special rank and distinguished from others. Why were these changes necessary?

This is the real question that our "sociologists" avoid. Because, if the old respect for natural authority has disappeared, if the spontaneous organization of the armed population has been considered a threat and prohibited, it can only be because collaboration and mutual aid in the work had ended, that the relations of production based on common property had given way to new relations of production based on private property and the exploitation of man by man. Only historical materialism can therefore give a scientific answer to the question of the origin of the state.

It is quite understandable that, from the day the exploitation of man by man began, the old authority based on natural respect crumbled, giving way to authority based on fear. From that day on, the spontaneous organization of the entire armed population ceased, since the prisoners of war, transformed into slaves, were disarmed. Only the masters, holders of the means of production, were henceforth also owners of the weapons. So nowadays, in countries subject to imperialism, in Madagascar, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, etc., we see the settlers arming themselves against the colonial slaves. [We are talking here about the issue of weapons, but it should be noted that theColonialist oppression is characterized more fundamentally by the fact that all the police, army, justice, administration, education, are at the service of the colonist against the colonized.]

The free patriarchal or matriarchal tribes never spontaneously accepted slavery. The slaves never let themselves be obediently led to the market.

In order to obtain from slaves the work expected of them, coercion was necessary. In addition, if the masters wanted to guarantee the social system thus created the stability essential for any production, it was necessary to persuade the slaves that such a system was just, represented order; it was necessary to fix inviolable rules determining the behavior of men in social relations, perpetuating, so to speak, the new relations of production. Thus arose the metaphysical notion of the absolute right of masters over their slaves, deriving from the old right of the victor over the vanquished. To represent the interest of the class of masters, as a class, independently of the will of the individuals who compose it, it became necessary to establish laws,prescribing the obligations of the exploited and the rights of the exploiters, serving as an intangible basis for repression and thus guaranteeing it an unconditional realization, independent of the "hazards" of the class struggle, of the temporary fluctuations of force. Thus, the momentary failures of the material strength of the ruling class could be compensated for by fear of the laws.

It was still necessary that these were respected for themselves. An ancient thinker, Critias, indicates that

to bring about justice, men established laws which could only partially achieve their purpose: they could prevent violence from being committed in public, but not from doing so in secret. It was then that a wise man with a shrewd mind had the idea of ​​inspiring in men the fear of omniscient gods. When he had convinced them that even bad plans formed in silence could not escape them, anomie [that is, chronic law breaking] ceased. (Cited by Sextus Empiricus, “Sisyphus”. IX, 54.)

Critias' apologue reflects a profound truth: with the appearance of classes, the gods, through whom the human imagination hitherto explained the forces of nature and the fluctuations of fate, acquire a new function: they become the guarantors social order, the mysterious guarantee of class inequality, the judges of the oppressed in the Hereafter and these judges are linked with the oppressors. These instill in the masses the fear of the gods and give credence to the legend that they are in mysterious communication with them.

Thus law completes and consecrates force, and religion completes and sanctifies law. Also when the slave mode of production had developed and the slave society was built, when superstition kept the slaves in obedience and they had taken, with the habit of servitude, as Rousseau indicated, a mentality of slaves, special detachments of armed men, a police force responsible for punishing escaped slaves, were sufficient and advantageously replaced the permanent armament of the owners. However, the owner never lost the right to have his own armed guards on his estate. So nowadays the big American capitalists have their own police force on their oil and agricultural exploitations.

From the examination of historical facts it follows, therefore, that in all antagonistic class societies, the State comes down to this: an apparatus for governing the exploited which has emerged from human society and has gradually distinguished itself from she. It presupposes the existence of a special group of men, the politicians, occupied solely in governing, and for that using an apparatus designed for "the subjugation of the will of others to violence" [Lenin: "From the State ”, in The State and the Revolution, p. 113.]; this apparatus includes the police, the standing army, the prisons, the courts; to this must be added the organs of ideological pressure: education, the press, broadcasting, etc.

In summary:

1. The state has not always existed.

2. The state apparatus arises only at the place and at the moment when the division into antagonistic classes, class exploitation arises in society.

Engels wrote:

The State is therefore not a power imposed from outside on society; nor is it the "reality of the moral idea," "the image and reality of reason," as Hegel claims. Rather, it is a product of society at a determined stage of its development; it is the admission that this society gets entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, having split into irreconcilable oppositions that it is powerless to ward off. But so that the antagonists, the classes with opposed economic interests, do not consume themselves, they and society, in a sterile struggle [In fact, the law of correspondence necessary between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces shows that The exploitation of man by man fulfills, at certain times, a historical mission.],there is a need for a power which, apparently placed above society, must blur the conflict, keep it within the limits of "order"; and this power, born of society, but which places itself above it and becomes more and more foreign to it, is the State. (Engels: The Origin of the Family, Property and the State, pp. 155 and 156. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1954.)

Lenin summed up the scientific conception of the origin of the state in a decisive phrase:

The State is the product and the manifestation of irreconcilable class antagonisms. (Lenin; The State and the Revolution, p. 12.)

To understand the origin of the state, we must therefore consider the objective laws of production which, at a certain stage of development of the productive forces, engender private property, the exploitation of man by man and by therefore the obligation to consolidate this private property. The State is therefore a historically necessary product of the economic development of society; it is in no way explained by "original sin", the divine will, "the moral idea", or the "function of organization".

This is what the anarchists do not understand, prisoners they are, on the theoretical level, of idealism. Just as the defenders of the bourgeois state explain that the state is essential to contain within limits the original wickedness and malignancy of man, so the anarchists see in the state the product of an evil power, of an “instinct for domination”. They detach the state from its class base, they regard it as an autonomous force which is exercised in the interest of those who manage to dominate it, to seize it. They deny the historical origin of the state and the objective necessity of its appearance at some point.

Important consequence on the practical level: the anarchists separate the struggle against the bourgeois state from the class struggle, from the mass struggle. In front of the State-in-itself, they train the individual and recommend, as a method of struggle, individual acts. The political consequence is that anarchism quickly became a most convenient alibi for the bourgeoisie's provocateurs in the workers' movement. On the other hand, the anarchist opposition to the State-in-itself, the opposition of the individual and the mass, leads straight to hostility towards socialist power, the power of workers and peasants. The political consequence is that anarchism serves as an alibi for anti-Soviet terrorism. Thus come together, despite appearances,the “theories” of bourgeois historians who see for example in the war of 1914 an effect of “the will to power of the State” (!), and the praise of the revolt for the revolt in the Antisovietic Book of Camus: The rebellious man.

Let us note however that the mystification which makes of the State an autonomous force, an incarnation of the “idea”, in short the idealistic prejudice, rests on a particularity which Engels underlines in the text above. Let us remember that the physical strength of the state alone is not enough. All the great revolutions have shown this: they have put on the agenda the problem of the relationship between "special detachments of armed men" and "the spontaneous organization of the armed population". They have shown that when this is the case, the outcome of the struggle was swift and in no way favorable to the exploiting class. If, on the contrary, the strength of the State is supported by a part of the population, history shows us long civil wars of dubious outcome. Which means that,if the exploited saw the state as what it is, an instrument of their enslavement, the domination of the exploiters would be seriously compromised. They therefore need not only the power of the state apparatus, but also to make it appear as higher in essence, to inspire superstitious fear. The state must apparently place itself above society, above social struggles. He must move further and further away from society, surround himself with mystery, secrets, appear as a celestial power perched on a Sinai of clouds and lightning, before which every knee must bow . Whenever possible, the ruling classes have deified the head of state. When this is no longer possible,they invoke the mysterious "general interest", inaccessible to the intelligence of ordinary people! This is what the idealistic theories of the state are based on. And this insistence of the ruling classes on presenting the State as the embodiment of a superior force proves that they are well aware that the real strength of a State lies in the support that public opinion grants it, the credit it receives. has with the masses, the confidence which it enjoys, in short on ideas. Let us listen to Laniel, capitalist and head of government, addressing the strikers in August 1953:a superior force proves that they know very well that the real strength of a State lies in the support that public opinion grants it, the credit it has with the masses, the confidence it enjoys, in short, on ideas. Let us listen to Laniel, capitalist and head of government, addressing the strikers in August 1953:a superior force proves that they know very well that the real strength of a State lies in the support that public opinion grants it, the credit it has with the masses, the confidence it enjoys, in short, on ideas. Let us listen to Laniel, capitalist and head of government, addressing the strikers in August 1953:

I must now speak to you the language of the State ..., because it is the State and the State alone which, in a democracy, must arbitrate the quarrels between particular interests.

Thus the private interests of the capitalist Laniel are those defended by the state. By advocating the “arbitration” of the State, he admits it! But do the legitimate demands of millions of workers express only specific interests? As if the interests of those who work were not the most authentic expression of the general interest!

By thus reversing the terms of the problem, Laniel seeks the support of the masses, or of a part of them, without whom the power of the ruling class could not be maintained. This is why it is necessary for the capitalist state to defend private capitalist interests in the name of the general interest. For the masses to stop supporting the bourgeois state, two things are needed:

1. that they realize that the so-called "general interest" defended by the state is only the interest of the capitalists;

2. that they understand that the interests of the capitalists have long since fallen out of line with that of the nation.

The historical role of the state

Dealing with the origin of the state, we inevitably spoke of its role. The dialectic wants it so since the State was born precisely to face up to a problem that arose in society, to consolidate the social supremacy of the exploiters, the property regime which guarantees their privileges. The state is a reflection of the economic base, but it is not a passive reflection, it is an active reflection. This is why, without separating its role from its origin, it is useful, as well as for the study of ideas in social life, not to confuse the role and the origin. Because from the point of view of origin, the State is derived from the economy, but from the point of view of the role, there are cases where the importance of the State is primordial, decisive, determining. To say that the state is a reflection ofeconomy should therefore not lead to underestimating its feedback on the economy.

The task of the state, says Engels, is to "moderate the class conflict", to keep it within the limits of "order". As Lenin showed, this does not mean at all that the state is a class conciliation body. It just means the opposite!

If class "reconciliation" was possible, there would never have been a need for a state, a repressive body.

"To moderate the class conflict" means to remove its acuteness, in other words to deprive the exploited classes of the means of struggle allowing them to get rid of their exploiters. It is therefore a question of limiting, of curbing, of stifling the struggle of the exploited classes. How? 'Or' What ? by leaving the field open to the action of the exploiters, by widening, by developing, by reinforcing oppression, in particular when the relations of production have ceased to correspond to the state of the productive forces.

Such is in fact the dead end of the reactionary classes: filling the prisons to "be quiet"; and, to kill the fear that full prisons cause them, fill them even more! Here is for them “order” and “peace”, an order which legalizes oppression, which is made to strengthen it and at the same time which shakes it. Moderate the conflict by making it worse. [We then understand the meaning of Stalin's famous warning concerning fascism, an indisputable sign of the relative weakness of the workers' movement, but also a sign of its strength and of the general weakness of capitalism.]

The conclusion is that

According to Marx, the state is an organism of class domination, of oppression of one class by another. (Lenin: The State and the Revolution, p. 13.)

The state represents violence, established and organized, legal violence. It is an instrument, not of conciliation, but of class struggle.

A question then arises: what is, at each stage of historical development, the class that is able to create, maintain and use this instrument? Every exploiting class needs the state, but it cannot always support it.

Engels responds:

As the state was born out of the need to curb class oppositions, but as it was born, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful class, of that which dominates from the economic point of view and which, thanks to it, also becomes a politically dominant class and thus acquires new means to subdue and exploit the oppressed class. (Engels: The Origin of the Family ..., p. 157.)

In each era, historical science must therefore give a concrete answer.

For example, the maintenance of the modern state (army, police, civil servants) requires expenditure.

The ruling class can therefore only keep this instrument in its hands and use it insofar as the relations of production that it personifies and that it wants to safeguard allow it to maintain it. This is why, as a rule, the politically dominant class is the one which is economically dominant.

From there, some consequences:

1. When two struggling classes achieve a certain economic equilibrium, the State can acquire for a certain time a semblance of independence with regard to these classes. The absolute monarchy of Louis XIV seemed able to be the arbiter between the feudal, exploiters of the serfs, and the bourgeois; the king could say: "I am the state!" "

In fact, it meant that the bourgeois had acquired some influence in the feudal state because they maintained it, because they lent money to the king; but reciprocally, they could not without the protection of the feudal state develop trade and manufactures. In exchange for the financial support they gave to the feudal system, the bourgeoisie obtained the commercial privileges which germinated the end of the feudal system! The struggle between the two exploiting classes at that time presented itself in such a form that each of the two classes needed the other. A century later, in 1789, it turned out quite differently: the bourgeoisie, which had become economically dominant, cut off food for the feudal state and caused it to fall. NOT'Let us not forget, however, that provisional agreements between nobles and bourgeois have always been forged on the backs of the peasants, the exploited class.

2. In the hands of an exploiting class, the state is an additional means of exploitation of the oppressed classes. Taxes, fines, court costs, etc., are all means of making the oppressed pay the costs of their oppression, under the guise of contribution to the general costs of society. It appears even better nowadays when France's huge war budget means the nation is paying the costs of a war (the war in Vietnam) and rearmament (as part of the Atlantic Pact of aggression) undertaken in the exclusive interest of the imperialist bourgeoisie. Likewise, it is the broad masses who pay the maintenance costs of the police who bludgeon them in the name of the general interest. Thus the state bludgeons workers "in their interests" and ...at their expense! However, this additional exploitation can only be done by the State of the exploiting classes and derives in its essence from the exploitation itself. Exploitation, contrary to what Blanqui believed, is not the tax, but the private appropriation of unpaid labor.

3. The class in power necessarily begins to tremble for its political supremacy as soon as the relations of production which it personifies, and by which it is economically dominant, begin to age, that is to say as soon as the disagreement between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces. It is when this disagreement worsens that the question of the State becomes acute. And it is at this moment that the material possibility arises that state power escapes the hands of the ruling class.

Also, when we talk about the economically most powerful class, we should not understand this expression in a schematic way. In a sense, the most "powerful" class is that which is capable of pushing forward the development of the productive forces, that which personifies the new relations of production. When the bourgeoisie is no longer able to develop the productive forces, it can no longer be said to be economically "powerful", nor that the capitalist economy, which still dominates society, is healthy. On the contrary, it is a declining economy, and this means that the domination, both political and economic, of the bourgeoisie is coming to an end.

But it is then that the action in return of the State on the economy appears in full light, because the State is not passive in front of the fate of its base, it is active, it defends it energetically.

When the relations of production are in accord with the character of the productive forces, the economic policy of the class in power which personifies these relations of production tends to the development of production, to the extension of industry: let us quote for example the struggle of the bourgeoisie for free trade. But when the relations of production no longer correspond to the character of the productive forces, the economic policy of the exploiting classes tends to stop the play of the necessary law of correspondence, for example by taking measures to slow down the development of the productive forces.

At the time of the decline of capitalism in particular, finance capital, tightly controlling the State which is only its instrument, tries to give to the economic problems of capitalism a solution in accordance with its interests, to the detriment of those of the nation. The state, subordinate to monopolies, strives to dominate economic life, not that it is possible to "plan" capitalism, but only to protect the interests of the financial oligarchy. This secures enormous advantages: the state it controls assures it a monopoly on the issuance of state funds, places it orders for armaments and military supplies, exempt from taxes. , fixes the wholesale and retail prices to his advantage, sells him the products of thenationalized industry (electricity, coal), takes measures to eliminate its competitors, grants it subsidies, manipulates the currency, negotiates on its own behalf with other countries, finally fixes wages at its convenience, so that any proletarian inevitably meets the 'State on its way, in its struggle for bread.

In the era of imperialism, the action of the state is guided by the need to save capitalism and in particular to delay the hour of economic crisis. The state is the main instrument of the ruin and impoverishment of the majority of the population of the country, of the enslavement and systematic plundering of the colonized peoples, of the struggle of the monopoly capitalists against the non-monopoly capitalists and of the struggle of the monopoly capitalist groups among themselves, the instrument finally of the struggle between rival imperialisms, of wars and of the militarization of the national economy. In order to be able to fulfill all these tasks, it remains more than ever, and on the front line, the instrument of oppression of the proletariat and the broad working masses.

Thus the State is the bulwark of the exploiting class and its role is decisive in the defense of the mode of production which has had its day. The state, which was the instrument of domination of the economically most powerful class, becomes the instrument of conservation of this economic power even though it is undermined at the base by the contradictions of the mode of production. The objective conditions for changing the mode of production exist. But the action of the exploiting class which opposes the application of the necessary law of correspondence, the action of the bourgeois state, becomes the main obstacle to the necessary changes. This obstacle must be broken, but for this there must be subjective conditions, namely the whole political struggle of the working class toorganize politically into a class party, organize the popular masses, defend and expand democratic freedoms, and finally create its own state power.

This one does not yet have, in its beginnings, any economic base of its own, socialist: it will have to create its own base. Moreover, it can only be established with the conscious support of the working masses. It is therefore necessary that the new political ideas, put forward by the working class, have won the majority among the masses, that is to say that the majority of the nation has ceased to give its support, its confidence to the bourgeois politics. This is why marxism rightly places the question of the state among the subjective conditions for changing the mode of production.

Here is what the dialectic teaches us: although a given State is always the reflection of a given economic basis, the solution of the problem of the State, of the political problem, must, in specific cases, historically precede the building of the economic base which will be specific to the new State.

This is precisely what vulgar materialism cannot understand: starting from the idea that the State is a product of the economic development of society, it concludes that economic contradictions must automatically, inevitably, lead to transformations in the mode of production, that socialism will arise spontaneously from the "decomposition of capitalism". He forgets that the action of men can hamper the application of economic laws, which the bourgeoisie can extend through its political action and the immense means given to it by the modern state, the agony of the economic base. In this way, he plays into the hands of the bourgeoisie. The current economist in the workers' movement achieves the same result by denying the necessity of the political struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeois state, and thus it feeds theopportunism, it puts the working class behind the bourgeoisie. At the same time, it protests against the political power of the working class and sinks into anti-Sovietism. It is therefore cultivated by the agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers' movement, the reformist Social Democratic leaders.

The conclusion is therefore the pressing need for political struggle. But let us not forget on the other hand what we have seen above: the State can only play its role if the masses (and also the servants of the State) accept the idea that it is at- above the classes, if they have the superstition. The physical strength of the state ultimately rests on an ideological element, the underestimation by the masses of their own power. Napoleon recognized that you can do anything with bayonets, provided you have public opinion on your side. Whatever means of pressure at the disposal of the bourgeois state, for example corruption, historical experience has shown that they could do nothing against the firmness of the ideologically armed masses.Only one thing matters in the end, is that the masses see clearly in the game of their enemies, believed they do not manage to deceive them. This is why marxism ranks political institutions among the phenomena of the spiritual life of society: their power is indeed none other than the force of ideas, a force which can become material on condition that ideas seize hold of them. masses.

Consequently, the political struggle necessarily includes the ideological struggle, the struggle against the ideas which support the politics of the class adversary, the struggle to remove the ideological obstacles which prevent the masses from uniting in the political struggle against the bourgeois state. .

This analysis only demonstrates once again the need for the class struggle of the proletariat to be guided by a conscious vanguard organized as an independent political force, a political party based on a class ideology, of struggle. revolutionary, which scientifically reflects the vital, immediate and long-term interests of the working class and of all of society.

The content and form of the state

One of the main means employed by the ideologues of the ruling and exploiting classes to confuse the question of the state is to confuse the form and the content of the state. When they define the various types of state, they always start from the number of men who exercise the prerogatives of power: they distinguish the monarchical, aristocratic, democratic state. They limit the debate to questions of form, to the nature of the bodies which exercise power: for example the existence of a Parliament, the “separation of powers”, the “independence of the judiciary”, etc., thus showing that for them the content is untouchable. For marxism, the question that takes precedence over all others is the following: in the interests of whom and against whom this power isdoes he exercise? marxism distinguishes the social content of the state from its form.

The social content of the state

The character of a state is given to it by its real social content, its class content. A state is slavery or feudal, bourgeois and capitalist or proletarian and socialist. Any state is a class dictatorship: this results from its origin and its role. The content represents the essence of the State, it precedes the form and determines it. Each ruling class chooses the form that best suits its class dictatorship.

Consider a few historical examples:

Is the ancient state a slave state? Yes, whatever its form, because the slave has never been a citizen there. Is the state in the Middle Ages a feudal state? Yes, whatever its form, because never a serf had the slightest political right to it; as for the bourgeoisie, they conquered their franknesses there by hard struggle. The contemporary French state, since 1789, is it the state of the capitalist bourgeoisie? Yes, whatever its form, because the proletariat has never had any other political rights there than those which it wrested from the bourgeoisie by the struggle and whose respect it imposes by a constant struggle.

Is the Soviet state the state of workers and peasants? Yes because

... the political base of the USSR is the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, which have grown and consolidated as a result of the overthrow of power of the big landowners and capitalists, and thanks to the conquest of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Article 2 of the Constitution of the USSR)

All power in the USSR belongs to the workers of the city and the countryside in the person of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies. (Article 3 of the Constitution of the USSR)

The first question to ask in order to appreciate the character of a state today is therefore this: is it a bourgeois capitalist state, or a socialist state of workers and peasants?

The question cannot be asked otherwise. The State cannot be the State of a man, or of a party; it is always the state of a class. A state cannot be maintained, as we have seen, without an economic base, and the economic base, as we know, is characterized by the ownership of the means of production. The social force which incarnates property, which disposes of it and uses it, is nowhere a man or a party, it is always and everywhere a class, here that of the bourgeois capitalists, there that of the workers allied to that working peasants.

The social content of a State is therefore given by the answer to the following question: at the service of what relations of production, of what form of property (private or social), of what class is it?

You have to ask this question about all political notions.

For example, on freedom, Lenin hastily threw down the following notes on paper:

"Freedom" = freedom of the owner of goods. Real freedom of wage workers - peasants. Freedom of the exploiters. Freedom for whom? »In relation to whom? to what? " in what ? (Lenin: "On the dictatorship of the proletariat," in The State and the Revolution, p. 149.)

And about equality:

"Equality". Engels in the Anti-Dühring (prejudice if by that we mean more than the suppression of classes). Equality of owners of goods. Equality of the exploited and the exploiter. Equality of the hungry and the well-fed. Equality of the worker and the peasant. Equality of whom? with whom ? in what ? (Idem, p. 150.)

The means of government of a state are those of the class of which it is the instrument and, as such, they are significant, they bear witness to its content. For the capitalist state, these are capitalist means, and in the first place money.

Engels writes about this:

The Democratic Republic no longer officially recognizes differences in fortune. Wealth exercises its power there in an indirect way, but all the more certain. On the one hand, in the form of direct corruption of officials, which America offers a classic model, on the other hand, in the form of an alliance between the government and the Stock Exchange; this alliance is all the more easily realized as the state debts increase more and that the joint-stock companies concentrate more and more in their hands not only the transport, but also the production itself, and in their turn find their central point in the Stock Exchange. (Engels: The Origin of the Family ..., p. 158.)

Nowadays, the domination of wealth in the bourgeois republic is no less evident. Although there is no legal or legal provision reserving for members of the financial oligarchy the positions of command of the State, the "subordination of the state apparatus to monopolies". [Stalin: Economic Problems ..., p. 37.] is nonetheless a fact. On the one hand, the 200 families have the means to place some of their members in the state apparatus as senior officials: whatever the rules for recruiting them, we know that ultimately it is the "Love rating" which regulates admission to "large bodies of the State", such as the Inspectorate of Finances and others. On the other hand, thefinancial oligarchy organizes a regular migration of senior officials to the private sector, a real poaching which allows it to ensure a continuous recruitment of its executives and which tends, through ambition, thirst for gain, corruption, to control the entire hierarchy administrative. This corruption breaks out in the inevitable and periodic scandals of the capitalist state. It also takes the form of direct distribution of places on the boards of trusts to deputies, diplomats, generals, etc.This corruption breaks out in the inevitable and periodic scandals of the capitalist state. It also takes the form of direct distribution of places on the boards of trusts to deputies, diplomats, generals, etc.This corruption breaks out in the inevitable and periodic scandals of the capitalist state. It also takes the form of direct distribution of places on the boards of trusts to deputies, diplomats, generals, etc.

We saw above (p. 222) the historical role of the State in the service of finance capital. Through the credits of the Marshall Plan, the French state found itself subordinated to the Yankee monopolies and some of its cogs, for example the Quai d'Orsay, closely controlled by their agents. The big bourgeoisie also has the "financial crisis" as a means of blackmailing Parliament: the increase in state debts is good political business for it: financial blackmail which was for it a means of pressure on kings , remains a practice that can be used with its own State and foreign States in difficulty.

The political role of wealth in the bourgeois state appears again in a series of questions: what is the content of freedom of the press, if not that the capitalists, who alone have the material possibility of founding a newspaper and of financing it, have any latitude to create it? - what is the content of everyone's right to education, if not that the real possibility of learning exists only for the classes and social layers which can pay the costs of education? - what is the content of freedom of opinion and political rights, if not that the real possibility of presenting candidates exists only for capitalist groups which can finance an electoral campaign? Let us not forget that the existence of an independent working class partyis not an effect of bourgeois liberalism, but of the active solidarity of the masses.

The features of the class state appear clearly in the question of justice. Let us note first of all that justice is not done, it is sold by the bourgeoisie: theoretically free, it is however only given to those who can incur the costs of a procedure; how can a worker obtain damages for an industrial accident? How can he obtain an appeal before the Council of State against an administrative illegality? Justice is done in a jargon inaccessible to the popular masses, which dates back to the early days of the bourgeoisie. Finally, above all, the principles which guide it are those of bourgeois law founded on the defense of property, the defense of Capital; the repression of thieves of personal property serves as aalibi for the repression of workers in struggle against their exploiters; in political affairs, the means of pressure of the bourgeois state on magistrates are manifold, from blackmail to advancement to the threat, barely disguised, by agents provocateurs; even with regard to crimes, we know that bourgeois ideology appreciates them very differently depending on whether they are committed by a downgraded wretch or by an “honorable” son of a family; finally, the corruption of the decadent bourgeoisie renders justice practically powerless in the face of high-level traffickers and gangsters who scour the "upper" spheres of society.advancement to the threat, barely disguised, by agent provocateurs; even with regard to crimes, we know that bourgeois ideology appreciates them very differently depending on whether they are committed by a downgraded wretch or by an “honorable” son of a family; finally, the corruption of the decadent bourgeoisie renders justice practically powerless in the face of high-level traffickers and gangsters who scour the "upper" spheres of society.advancement to the threat, barely disguised, by agent provocateurs; even with regard to crimes, we know that bourgeois ideology appreciates them very differently depending on whether they are committed by a downgraded wretch or by an “honorable” son of a family; finally, the corruption of the decadent bourgeoisie renders justice practically powerless in the face of high-level traffickers and gangsters who scour the "upper" spheres of society.finally, the corruption of the decadent bourgeoisie renders justice practically powerless in the face of high-level traffickers and gangsters who scour the "upper" spheres of society.finally, the corruption of the decadent bourgeoisie renders justice practically powerless in the face of high-level traffickers and gangsters who scour the "upper" spheres of society.

The content of the law derives from the fact that its function is to sanction the existing regime of property. Far from being the embodiment of eternal principles, of "natural laws", or of the wills of the "collective conscience", the law is a constitutive element of the superstructure, the reflection of the form of dominant property, which it attempts. to eternalize, by bringing it to the absolute, by justifying it by an alleged immutable "principle": bourgeois legal thought is one of the best examples of the application of the metaphysical method.

A simple example will illustrate the class content of law. The Code obliges children to provide for their parents, if necessary, and parents to bring up their children. Is it not clear that this rule only generalizes to the whole of society an obligation which has meaning only within the framework of the bourgeois family, and that this abusive generalization exempts the exploiters, the bourgeoisie, from obligations towards those elements of the proletariat incapable of working: old workers, infirm, sick, children of proletarians?

The “democratic” bourgeois state is still characterized by the following features:

- bureaucracy: the administration is conducted exclusively from above according to the hidden directives of the big bourgeoisie; the senior administration is practically irresponsible and directly controlled by the financial oligarchy; senior officials form specialized and closed “bodies”, depositaries of the “skills”, that is to say of the secular class experience of the bourgeoisie; this administration is exempt from the control of parliamentary committees by “professional secrecy”; the prefectural administration supervises the local assemblies and subordinates their decisions to the class interests of the big bourgeoisie. [In his report to the IXth Congress of the French Communist Party (Arles, 1937),Maurice Thorez illustrated this omnipotence of offices in the field of foreign policy. He said, quoting a democratic weekly: “Mr. Léger, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, entered the Quai d'Orsay in 1914. In 1916, he was in Shanghai. In 1921, in Paris. And, from 1921 to 1937, Mr. Alexis Léger remained in Paris. In 1929 he was Director of Political and Commercial Affairs. Since this appointment, Mr. Briand has succeeded Mr. Briand, Mr. Laval to Mr. Briand, Mr. Tardieu to Mr. Laval, Mr. Herriot to Mr. Tardieu, Mr. Paul-Boncour to Mr. Herriot, Mr. Daladier to M. Paul-Boncour, M. Barthou to M. Daladier, M. Laval to M. Barthou, M. Flandin to M. Laval, and M. Yvon Delbos to M. Flandin. But Mr. Léger is still Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.“Who is the real Minister of Foreign Affairs? Who represents, in the eyes of its representatives, France? Mr. Delbos? Come on! Mr. Alexis Léger, permanent minister. »M. Thorez: Works, t. XIV, p. 269. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1954.]

- militarism: the excessive length of military service, a consequence of imperialism, for which peace is only a truce between two attacks, has, among other goals, that of training the youth in the blind service of the State bourgeois; discipline is conceived of as passive obedience without discussion, imposed from above; the bourgeoisie cannot clearly confess its class goals to its soldiers;

- parliamentarism: the elections are conceived in such a way that they only have to decide every 4 or 5 years which man of confidence of the bourgeoisie will represent and oppress the people in Parliament; the representatives of the people are not revocable by their electors and do not hold executive and administrative power, by virtue of the bourgeois fallacy of the “separation of powers”; the definition of parliamentarism is that the elected assemblies themselves do not control the execution, the application of their decisions: they are not active.

Finally, a more recent phenomenon in France, the political personnel themselves are directly recruited from among the capitalists who, with a Pinay, a Mayer, a Laniel, are no longer content to have the political personnel under their control, but ensure in person. government leadership. In the United States, the phenomenon is older and more extensive: generals, diplomats, judges are capitalists who carry out these functions themselves.

We now see in what sense any state is a class dictatorship; this means that the reality of power belongs to a class which exercises it in its interests and with its own methods. The bourgeois state can be a democracy for the capitalists, it is always a dictatorship over the working class; the socialist state, on the contrary, is democracy for the workers and a dictatorship over the overthrown former exploiting classes. Lenin said: “Dictatorship, negation of democracy. For who ? ". [Open. cited., p. 149.]

It is therefore wrong to define fascism as a "party dictatorship". Fascism is the "open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialist elements of finance capital" (Dimitrov). The single party is only the instrument of this class dictatorship.

Finally, the social-democratic gossip on the "penetration of proletarian elements" into the modern state, which supposedly ensures it an "intermediate" character since, "not completely proletarian", it would no longer be "fully bourgeois", could hide this: if the proletariat has had to bring down, with great difficulty, some of the »advanced bastilles of the capitalist state, does this prevent the latter from remaining the capitalist state or, on the contrary, does it prove? is it not precisely that it is?

The form of the state

The form of the state is the expression of its real social content, it is determined by the development of the class struggle.

Lenin distinguishes various forms of the State, which appeared in antiquity:

- the monarchy, as the power of one;

- the republic, as a state where unelected power does not exist;

- the aristocracy, as the power of a relatively small minority;

- democracy, as the power of the people.

These various forms were combined with one another; for example, the Republic can be aristocratic or democratic, and at the same time include vestiges of the monarchy.

The form of the state is often changeable: often lagging behind in content, it expresses in its own way the internal contradictions of society. In antiquity, all forms of state had a slavery content. However, the transition from one to the other, from the aristocratic republic to the democratic republic, in Rome for example, necessarily reflected a new phase of the class struggle between landowners (patricians) and merchants (plebeians).

Under feudalism, the forms of the state were just as varied: there were aristocratic republics where the feudal lords elected the head of state, the emperor; some turned into hereditary monarchies. Charlemagne assembled each year a Parliament of the Carolingian nobility, a survival of the "republican" customs of the Franks. The first Capetians were elected, and at a certain period, in the Holy Roman Empire, the emperor was elected by the great feudal lords. But in all cases the content of the state was feudal. The Estates General of the Ancien Régime were an institution of a “republican” character, since it was made up of elected delegates, and at the same time aristocratic, since the feudal lords automatically had a two-thirds majority there [The nobility,the clergy and the third estate each having one voice, and the clergy usually adding its voice to that of the nobility.]: at the same time it was a feudal institution, serving the interests of the feudal lords!

When the bourgeoisie was able to acquire influence in the feudal monarchical state, by financial means, it held in check this feudal institution which were the States General and in which it was in the minority. This is why under the "absolute" monarchy of Louis XIV, and of Colbert - a bourgeois, - the States General were never united.

But in the 18th century, because of the progress of the bourgeoisie which called into question the very existence of the feudal system, the point of monarchical absolutism which, after the Fronde, was directed against the feudal lords, was turned against the bourgeoisie.

She then thought of using the States General. The situation had changed: with some reforms, they could now serve the bourgeoisie! The nobility was isolated in the country; the clergy was divided, by the class struggle, into the upper feudal clergy and the lower clergy from the people; the bourgeoisie was the class on which rested the wealth of the national economy: it campaigned among the masses for the doubling of the number of deputies of the third estate, (which traditionally was equal to that of each of the other two orders) and for a vote within the States, no longer by order, but by head; in this way, with the support of the deputies of the lower clergy, the bourgeoisie certainly had the absolute majority in the States General! When they were assembled, the deputies of the third estate,sitting on their own authority, called on the deputies of the clergy to join them and proclaimed themselves the National Assembly.

We see that, according to the ups and downs of the class struggle, the bourgeoisie was able to use sometimes the monarchical institutions of the feudal state (the king), sometimes its "republican" institutions (the States General).

It was the development of the class struggle which made it possible to give this feudal institution a new, bourgeois content; the new content assumed for a time an old form and determined its modifications. Finally, let us note that a quantitative evolution, the increase in the power of the bourgeoisie in the country, leads dialectically to a qualitative change in the form of institutions, the transformation of the States General into a National Assembly, and at the same time a complete overthrow from the general political situation, to the political revolution. All this had been done on the basis of the development of the class struggle.

In turn, the bourgeoisie, which had become the dominant class, used various forms of state:

- the constitutional monarchy, that is to say narrowly limited by a republic, not democratic, "censitaire", where only "active citizens", rich enough to pay a given tax, were voters;

- the censal republic;

- the democratic republic, with “universal” suffrage.

But the first form represented a compromise with the old regime in times when it was necessary.

The second had the preference of the bourgeoisie, as corresponding exactly to the economic base of the regime: it was the republic of the owners.

The third became necessary when the class struggle of the proletariat developed and the class dictatorship had to be disguised in order to "moderate the class conflict", to dampen and channel the revolutionary impetus of the proletariat.

The bourgeoisie would have liked to accredit the idea that the democratic republic was the ideal and definitive form of State, the last word of "progress of conscience", of civilization, of humanism, the incarnation of "natural law" , the end of the story in a way. Thus she hoped to be able to perpetuate the reign of Capital.

The contradictions of capitalism, the aggravation of the class struggle and economic crises, the preparation of imperialist aggressions, the opening of the general crisis of capitalism did not allow it. The bourgeoisie had to throw away the democratic mask, violate its own legality, to perpetuate its class domination, tottering on its rotten economic base and prepare for war. She then showed the hideous face of fascism, the dictatorship of Capital in its bloodthirsty brutality. In this way, it proved that the class content of the state came before the form, that the democratic republic was a historical, transitory state form, subordinated to its class interests, neither sacred nor eternal. She herself proved thehypocrisy of his statements about his selfless and unconditional love for freedom and civilization

Class struggle and freedom

The bourgeoisie and "freedom"

The historic struggle of the bourgeoisie for "freedom" had a class content.

If the bourgeoisie, at the time of the bourgeois revolution, championed freedom, it was:

a) because it needs to find on the market a free labor force, freed from feudal ties, not dependent on a lord, labor that it can include in the industrial cycle or in the on the contrary, reject unemployment according to the needs of capitalist production;

b) because the development of new productive forces requires freedom of commerce, freedom of enterprise, the removal of the restrictions of the feudal economy;

c) because “individual freedom” is the legal and political form which best expresses the form of private property which is the basis of the bourgeoisie, the wealth represented by money which removes all personal ties between members of society ; the basis of the idea of ​​individual freedom is bourgeois private property, although the bourgeoisie wants to make people believe, on the contrary, that it is the absolute notion of individual, the supreme value, which justifies private property!

d) because by making itself the champion of freedom, the bourgeoisie creates an ideological basis for the political alliance with the other classes of the population in struggle against feudalism: peasants and various layers of the petty bourgeoisie. The bourgeois democratic revolution is the proper method to lead to success in the struggle against feudalism.

Note that this bourgeoisie which proclaims itself "liberal" is the same which denies the right to vote to "passive citizens", the right of association to workers in 1791! The limits of its "liberalism" are exactly those of its class interest.

The bourgeoisie, which is divided by reason of the peculiarities of capitalism and competition, into fractions whose interests may be divergent, creates appropriate forms of political organization: the diversity of bourgeois parties, parliamentarism.

However, as the particular interests of such a fraction of the bourgeoisie must be subordinated to the general and permanent interests of the class, the bourgeoisie limits the rights of Parliament, separates the executive from the legislature, and removes the administration of the state from control. of Parliament.

If the bourgeoisie then turned towards universal suffrage (in the middle of the 19th century), towards democratic parliamentarism, this is also due to very clear reasons:

the class struggle, in fact, is developing, the proletariat claims political rights; the importance of public opinion is growing, because it is spreading to new and active layers, developed by big industry; the democratic republic then conceals class domination just as the salary, paid at the end of the day, conceals class exploitation; moreover, the democratic republic does not yet offer any dangers for the bourgeoisie, for the proletariat was not at that time ideologically independent from it. It is therefore easy to gain votes by means of demagogues held in check by the bourgeoisie and to cancel the effect of universal suffrage by an appropriate voting system. Besides, don't you need a minimum of education to become a deputy,and the "democratic" bourgeoisie is careful not to do anything to politically educate the masses in a democratic sense! Later, the compulsory primary school will have the task of educating them with respect for the bourgeoisie.

Finally, it is a rule of bourgeois politicians that the contradiction between their promises to the voters and their actions in Parliament, a contradiction which reflects the opposition of interests between the masses and the bourgeoisie.

In short, at this time, universal suffrage offered the bourgeoisie more advantages than disadvantages. By granting it, it strengthens its links with the masses, it makes itself popular with them and thus strengthens itself politically.

Cavour, a liberal big bourgeois, was he not in the habit of saying:

"The worst of the Chambers is better than the best of the antechambers", wanting thereby to indicate the interest for the bourgeoisie of a parliamentary facade of a support of the opinion. So he still said:

“I have never felt so weak as when the Chambers were on vacation. "

Lenin wrote:

The omnipotence of "wealth" is all the more certain in a democratic republic because it does not depend on a bad political envelope of capitalism; also Capital, after having seized this envelope, the best, asserts its power so solidly, so surely, that there is no change of people, or institutions, or parties, in the democratic republic bourgeois who can shake this power. (The State and the Revolution, p. 18.)

This means that universal suffrage, in the bourgeois state, is incapable of fully translating the will of the majority of workers and of ensuring its realization. This is so true that, when it risks becoming capable of it, the bourgeoisie hastens to destroy its effect, for example by abolishing proportional representation: majority ballot, "related parties", even more shameless rigging, including de Gasperi in Italy. and Adenauer in Germany set the example, everything is good for him to prevent universal suffrage from translating the will of the people.

Maurice Thorez characterized as follows the contradiction which exists in the bourgeois democratic republic between the content and the form of the state:

In the most democratic capitalist States, the contradiction between the equality recognized by the laws and suppressed by the facts, between the Constitutions, which grant democratic freedoms to the people, and poverty, which prevents them from making one, constantly breaks out in the most democratic capitalist States. full use, between formal freedom and effective subjection. (Maurice Thorez: Cahiers du bolchévisme, Nov. 1, 1936. “Declaration to a journalist of Time”. Works. L. III, t. XIII, p. 101.)

This does not mean, however, as we shall see, that the proletariat should be indifferent to the democratic character of the bourgeois state, as the opportunist Social-Democratic leaders, the fenders of fascism have argued.

The proletariat and freedoms

At the time of the general crisis of capitalism, when the contradictions of imperialism deepen still further, the preparation of wars of aggression is more than ever on the agenda for the bourgeoisie. To the preparation for war between imperialist states must be added the preparation for war against the Soviet Union, against the country where the power of the working class has been established. The imperialists cannot help but want war, at the least risk for capitalism of course, as a means of saving capitalism, as a solution to the crisis, to the contradictions of the regime. But, if it is true that imperialism is the objective cause of wars, the outbreak of aggression presupposes subjective conditions: the bourgeoisie must prepare foraggression against future soldiers, he must win the majority of the nation to the cause of imperialism. For this, it is necessary to silence the conscious part of the working class which struggles for peace, stands against imperialism, defends the country from socialism. No bourgeoisie can at this time launch into war without having secured its rear, subdued its working class and the colonial peoples it oppresses and who serve as its reserve. To this need responds fascism.No bourgeoisie can at this time launch into war without having secured its rear, subdued its working class and the colonial peoples it oppresses and who serve as its reserve. To this need responds fascism.No bourgeoisie can at this time launch into war without having secured its rear, subdued its working class and the colonial peoples it oppresses and who serve as its reserve. To this need responds fascism.

This, moreover, provides the means of an economic policy which consists in an attempt to save capitalism by accelerating capitalist concentration, by making fall on the middle bourgeoisie the effects of the economic crisis and by brutally forbidding it any means. political expression. This ruin of the middle bourgeoisie fuels a social demagoguery: addressed to the working class, fascism proclaims itself revolutionary, anti-capitalist; but to the ruined middle classes, it offers compensation through war, imperialist expansion, "living space", and offers national demagoguery, chauvinism.

This is why, uniting the two demagogues, he proclaims himself a National Socialist. Anti-Semitism is just the quintessence of the two, since it combines anti-capitalist demagoguery with national and racial hatred.

Fascism represents the undivided reign of the financial oligarchy, "the open terrorist dictatorship of its most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialist elements". These impose their diktats not only on the working class, but on the entire capitalist economy. The bourgeoisie, by inaugurating this form of state, puts itself in a position to prolong the agony of capitalism, thanks to the return action of the state on the economy, action whose essential form here is war, brutal. , destroyer of productive forces. Fascism is preparation for war, and war itself. [From 1914, in order to conduct the imperialist war more freely, the bourgeoisie proclaimed the suspension of normal parliamentary activity.] Fascism, it isis the liquidation of bourgeois democracy from the period of preparation for war. The fascist state is the "insurmountable" barrier that the bourgeoisie would like to raise before the rising forces of society, in order to impose on them, - in the now inevitable alternative of the last stage of capitalism: to go to socialism or to experience the periodic imperialist wars, - the choice of war.

Fascism, said Maurice Thorez, is bloody terror against the working class, it is the destruction of workers' organizations, the dissolution of class unions, the prohibition of Communist Parties, the mass arrest of militant workers and revolutionaries, torture and murder of the best sons of the working class. Fascism is the unleashing of bestiality, the return to the pogroms of the Middle Ages, the annihilation of all culture, the reign of ignorance and cruelty, it is hideous war ... (M. Thorez: “Speech to the VIIth Congress of the Communist International”, August 3, 1935. Œuvres, L. II, t. IX, p. 121.)

Resorting to fascism is a sign that the bourgeoisie feels that it is going to lose the majority among the masses, a condition without which it cannot start war. This is why resorting to fascism is a sign of the weakness of the bourgeoisie, the sign that instead of relying on usurped credit among the masses, it now only has terror left. But the triumph of fascism signifies that the bourgeoisie has succeeded in isolating the working class, that it has succeeded in its political maneuver, that it has organized its class terror, that it will be able to start war, delay in order to long years the hour of its inevitable downfall.

The bourgeois democratic state and the fascist state have the same class content, but they correspond to different stages in the development of the contradictions of capitalism and of the class struggle. This is why fascism, in order to gain accreditation among the masses, tries to camouflage itself as a national and social revolution: "proletarian socialism is an old myth, said Mussolini, fascism is a new myth". If the bourgeoisie resorts to fascism, it is obviously because it is, in the state of weakness in which it finds itself, the best means of saving its regime: it is therefore that the role of the fascist state takes on a of utmost importance to her. It is therefore appropriate that the working class does not leave it the possibility of forging this instrument of its own enslavement.This is why the working class cannot be indifferent to the form of the bourgeois state. Relying on vulgar materialism, the Social Democratic leaders try to spread the idea that the form of class domination does not matter to the working class since, "anyway", it is dominated. But the working class, for its part, is concerned with ending this domination as quickly as possible! By their specious reasoning, the Social Democratic leaders try to disarm the working class in the face of the threatening fascism: they work on behalf of the bourgeoisie.idea that the form of class domination matters little to the working class since, "anyway", it is dominated. But the working class, for its part, is concerned with ending this domination as quickly as possible! By their specious reasoning, the Social Democratic leaders try to disarm the working class in the face of the threatening fascism: they work on behalf of the bourgeoisie.idea that the form of class domination matters little to the working class since, "anyway", it is dominated. But the working class, for its part, is concerned with ending this domination as quickly as possible! By their specious reasoning, the Social Democratic leaders try to disarm the working class in the face of the threatening fascism: they work on behalf of the bourgeoisie.

It was Maurice Thorez who in France put a stop to the underestimation of the importance of the forms that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie takes. In the speech already quoted to the VIIth Congress of the Communist International, he showed the importance of bourgeois democracy, despite its narrow nature, for the working class:

Bourgeois democracy is a minimum of precarious, uncertain freedoms, ceaselessly reduced by the bourgeoisie in power, but which nevertheless offer the working class, the toiling masses possibilities of mobilization and organization against capitalism. (M. Thorez: Oeuvres, L. II, t. IX, p. 121.)

It would be radically wrong to think that the struggle for democracy can divert the proletariat from its historic mission. The democratic republic, Lenin emphasized:

although it in no way suppresses the domination of Capital nor consequently the oppression of the masses and the class struggle, inevitably leads to an extension, to an impetus, to a development, to an aggravation of the struggle such as, the possibility since the essential interests of the oppressed masses have arisen, this possibility is inevitably realized and only in the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Lenin: Selected Works, t. II. P. 218.)

This is, moreover, a remarkable example of dialectics:

... a case of "transformation of quantity into quality": carried out as fully and as methodically as it is possible to conceive, democracy, from the bourgeoisie, becomes proletarian. (Lenin: Selected Works, t. II, p. 194. - See also p. 244.)

Also the “Thesis on the political situation and the tasks of the French Communist Party”, adopted by its XIIIth Congress, recalls in point 15 the teaching of Lenin:

The proletariat cannot prepare to defeat the bourgeoisie without leading a struggle in all areas, a consistent and revolutionary struggle, for democracy. (Lenin: Complete Works, 4th Russian ed., T. XXII, p. 133-134. Quoted by Dimitrov: Selected Works, p. 138-139. Soc. Ed.)

We must be attentive nowadays to all the underhand forms which the liquidation of its own legality takes by the bourgeoisie. Forced by the masses to maintain the democratic form, the bourgeoisie is concerned with reversing its effects. This is the fascization of the state, the point of which is directed against the working class. Desirous of evading the verdict of public opinion, the bourgeoisie plots. And in the event of elections, it organizes a whole mechanism of repression of the working class, of which the historical forms are varied: guarantees, two-round ballot, majority-list ballot, first-past-the-post majority ballot, ballots and withdrawals, kinship, reshuffle of electoral districts, rigging of electoral lists, artificial contribution of votes, interventions of the prefect,ban on democratic newspapers, indictment of candidates, etc.

We also remember the series of artifices and sophisms by which the immediate convocation of the National Assembly demanded by the workers in struggle and constitutionally obligatory when a third of the deputies demanded it was postponed in August 1953:

a) as soon as he received the request from the Communist group, the President of the Assembly declared it to be of no value, and demanded individual requests;

b) on August 21, seized of 229 requests, the majority of the Bureau of the Assembly declared null and void the requests sent by telegram (the prefects did not do the same with the repression orders sent by telegram and emanating from the ministry);

c) on August 24, 211 written requests were received: the majority of the Bureau arbitrarily refused to consider four signatures, thus reducing their number to less than the 209 required;

d) on September 5, 214 new requests were gathered: the Bureau then suddenly discovered that the masonry work in progress at the Assembly "forced" it to postpone the convocation to one month, that is to say on the eve of the regular start of the school year.

Do we want other examples: candidates for the National School of Administration are prohibited from competing because of their opinion or their Algerian origin, while the preamble to the Constitution stipulates that "no one may be injured in his work or employment because of his origins, opinions or beliefs ”. This illustrates the famous “permeability” of the bourgeois state dear to the socialist leaders, who claim that the working class can “penetrate” into the bourgeois state!

The workers are on strike, using a constitutional right: the government sends them illegal requisition orders in peacetime under a wartime law. But case law is quite different when it comes to requisitioning apartments!

Do laws harm the interests of the bourgeoisie? His government refrains from applying them, supports the employers who do not apply them: this is the case for wages and salaries, the Civil Service Statute, the laws on Social Security.

In the process of fascization, the bourgeoisie uses all means: it organizes electoral rigging, it postpones parliamentary debates sine die, it tries to place all the officials under the control of its prefects, it organizes corruption and blackmail. as a police officer, it demands the reactionary revision of the Constitution, it protects the activities of adventurers in favor of military coups, it inaugurates the system of decree-laws.

Finally, it turns to a plot against the working class and its organizations; it tries to hinder its legal functioning, starting from the "principle" that legal guarantees do not apply to the working class; it suppresses the security of the person of the citizens, carries out preventive arrests, arrests without charge, without file, to searches without the presence of the interested parties, to the theft of the papers of the arrested persons, to the invention from charges after arrest, to detentions without investigation, without questioning, to changing charges during investigation! At the same time, it raises the threat of the lifting of parliamentary immunity over elected representatives of the working class,it claims to drag civilians before military tribunals, it exercises blackmail on the judiciary, it protects the perpetrators of attacks against the magistrates. As Barbusse already said: "The Charter of Human Rights has long since fallen out of its hands." [H. Barbusse: Words of a fighter, p. 24.]

We can therefore see that under these conditions, the struggle of the working class against the bourgeois state, against its fascist enterprises, is one with the struggle for the defense of bourgeois democratic freedoms, trampled underfoot by the bourgeoisie, but that the working class is strong enough to enforce if it is united. For example, on August 21, 1953, it would have been impossible for the Bureau of the Assembly to oppose the convening of Parliament if a few hours earlier the Social-Democratic leaders of the split-off unions had not dealt a blow to the strike by ordering the return to work. United, the working class is henceforth strong enough to develop its action in all fields with the aid of bourgeois democratic legality.

The working class has class reasons, of principle to defend, against the bourgeois State, bourgeois democratic freedoms, the freedom of trade union association that it has won and which is of capital importance in its economic struggle, freedom to organize itself into an independent political force capable of pursuing a policy in accordance with the historic mission of the proletariat.

Today, the problem for the millions of workers who live in the conditions of capitalism is to determine their attitude towards the forms that the domination of the bourgeoisie assumes in the different countries. We are not anarchists, and we are not in the least indifferent to the question of knowing what political regime exists in a given country: the bourgeois dictatorship in the form of bourgeois democracy, albeit with rights and rights. democratic freedoms, or the bourgeois dictatorship in its declared fascist form. Supporters of Soviet democracy [Or any form of democracy which supposes the victory of the proletariat and the passage of the overwhelming majority of the people on the road to socialism.],we defend every inch of the democratic conquests which have been wrested by the working class during long years of stubborn struggle, and we will resolutely fight for their extension.

What sacrifices the working class of England must have made before conquering the right to strike, the legal existence of trade unions, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, extension of the right to vote, etc.! How many tens of thousands of workers gave their lives in the revolutionary battles fought in France in the 19th century to conquer elementary rights and the possibilities of organizing their forces for the fight against the exploiters! The proletariat of all countries has shed a lot of blood to conquer bourgeois democratic freedoms, and it is understandable that it wants to fight with all its might to preserve them. (Dimitrov: “The VIIth Congress of the Communist International (August 13, 1935).” Selected Works, p. 136-137. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1952.)

By conquering bourgeois democratic freedoms for itself, when the bourgeoisie had designed them for its own use, the proletariat ensured its own political development. Lenin wrote:

The democratic republic and universal suffrage have marked an enormous progress in comparison with serfdom: they have given the proletariat the possibility of arriving at this union, at this cohesion, which it now enjoys, of forming its ordered and well-disciplined ranks which lead a systematic struggle against Capital ... Without parliamentarism, without electivity, this development of the working class would have been impossible. (Lenin: "Of the State", in The State and the Revolution, p. 123.)

It is therefore slander to say, as the Social Democratic leaders do, that the marxist-Leninists practice the politics of the worst and prefer fascism to the republic. We have seen on several occasions how much importance marxism attaches to the role of ideas which, penetrating the masses, become a material force, and are the decisive factor of the political changes necessary for social transformation when the objective conditions are realized. Now, how to best disseminate the ideas of marxism among the masses, if not through the open propaganda of these ideas which makes it possible to mobilize and organize the masses for political action? The best conditions for revolutionary proletarians are therefore, in capitalist society,those of the democratic republic in which their Party can openly explain its policy to the broad masses. Only vulgar materialists, ignoring the dialectic, the role and the importance of ideas, can be, with the anarchists, indifferent to the form of the bourgeois state.

Commenting on a remark by Engels in his critique of the 1891 Social Democratic Draft Program, Lenin writes:

Engels repeats here, with particular emphasis on it, this fundamental idea which marks all the works of Marx as with a red line: that the democratic republic is the shortest road leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Lenin: The State and the Revolution, p. 66.)

In the rest of the text cited above, Dimitrov observes that the attitude of the working class towards bourgeois democracy is entirely dictated by class reasons, that it is determined by the attitude of the counter-revolutionary forces. with regard to bourgeois democracy. He notices:

Today, it is the fascist counter-revolution that attacks bourgeois democracy, in its effort to subject workers to the most barbaric regime of exploitation and crushing. Today, in a series of capitalist countries, the working masses have to make a concrete choice for the moment, not between the dictatorship of the proletariat and bourgeois democracy, but between bourgeois democracy and fascism. (Dimitrov: work cited, p. 137.)

Maurice Thorez summarized the teachings of the marxist dialectic on this point in 1934 at the National Conference of the French Communist Party, in the following terms:

The Communists fight against all forms of bourgeois dictatorship, even when this dictatorship takes the form of bourgeois democracy. But the Communists never lose interest in the form of the political regime of the bourgeoisie. They unmask in a concrete way the process of the reactionary degeneration of bourgeois democracy, paving the way for fascism. But they have defended, defend and will defend all the democratic freedoms won by the masses themselves, and first and foremost all the rights of the working class. (M. Thorez: Œuvres, L. II, t. VI, p. 170-171.)

By fighting against fascism for the defense of bourgeois democratic freedoms, the working class creates a basis for alliance with the middle classes and the working peasantry, attached to democratic freedoms and victims of the dictatorship of big capital. It helps to detach them from the big bourgeoisie, to isolate the latter, to make it lose its support in the petty bourgeoisie. The fight against fascism therefore strengthens the alliance of the proletariat, the peasantry and the middle classes, this social force without which we cannot put an end to the barrier that the reactionary forces oppose to social progress.

In fighting for the defense of bourgeois democratic freedoms, the working class does not forget that it is thereby fighting for a freedom of a superior type, the freedom of workers, freed from the exploitation of man by the man, to exercise themselves a state power of a new type, expression of the will of the immense majority of the nation, and to make it serve the conscious application of the laws of nature and of society for the benefit of society. This is why the working class fights for the defense and also for the expansion of bourgeois democratic freedoms. This struggle therefore has a qualitatively different social content from the struggle of the bourgeoisie for “freedom”.

The creation of new, socialist relations of production, which signify the passage of humanity to effective freedom, is only possible through the blossoming of the broadest democracy.

We now understand what link unites the political question of the struggle of the working class for democratic freedoms with the theoretical question of the application of the law of correspondence necessary between relations of production and productive forces, what link unites the last theoretical work of Stalin (Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR) to this passage from his speech at the XIXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union:

Formerly, the bourgeoisie allowed itself to play at liberalism, it defended bourgeois democratic freedoms and thus created popularity. Now there is no trace of liberalism. The so-called “individual freedoms” no longer exist, the rights of the individual are now recognized only to those who have capital, and all other citizens are seen as raw human material, good only to be exploited. The principle of equality in rights of men and nations is trampled underfoot, it is replaced by the principle which gives all rights to the exploiting minority and deprives the exploited majority of citizens of rights. The flag of bourgeois democratic freedoms is thrown overboard. I think this flag is yours,representatives of the Communist and Democratic Parties, to take it up and carry it forward if you want to gather around you the majority of the people. None other than you can meet it. (Stalin: Latest Writings, p. 187 and 188. Editions Sociales, Paris, 1953)

See: Control questions

The nation (i)

Nation and social class

There is no question more current than the national question. Whether it is the struggle of the French people for its independence, and for its very existence, whether it is the glorious struggle of the peoples of Vietnam, Morocco, the Middle East, etc. for their national liberation, we can say that the national question arises with increasing force. This is a very difficult question; it can only be approached and resolved on the basis of historical materialism.

Walking in the streets of London in 1902, a city which owes its power to the capitalists, Lenin said: "Two nations". Thus he underlined the contrast between the luxurious streets of the bourgeois districts and the miserable alleys where the working population is crowded. The bourgeoisie would like to make people believe that history is only made up of struggles between nations; it thus seeks to conceal its class oppression, to convince the workers that its interests are those of the whole nation. But historical materialism, by discovering that history is driven by class struggle, has shown that the division of men into antagonistic classes is deeper than the division of men into nations; the struggles between nations are thus explained by the class struggle, by the class content of nations.

The primacy given by the marxists to the social class in no way means that they ignore the nation. The nation is a historical reality, it arose and is developing on a class basis, as we will see; it will disappear in the classless society. But during the long period in which it exists, it plays a considerable role, which explains the importance given by marxists to national movements. The thesis of national "nihilism" - negation of national reality - is anti-materialist. It is supported by the enemies of the workers' movement, first and foremost the right-wing socialist leaders, who preach to the workers the abandonment of national sovereignty on behalf of American imperialism. Conversely, the true marxists, faithful to historical materialism,vigorously support the national liberation movements of oppressed and dependent peoples. But they do not consider the national question in itself: they subordinate it to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, to the question of the liberation of the proletariat from the class yoke.

The scientific conception of the nation

What is a nation?

The Nation is an Objective Reality The Hitlerites who believed they could wipe out the nations of the face of the globe learned the hard way that this reality exists and that it has a considerable force of resistance.

What are its characters?

1) The language community.

Members of the same nation communicate using the same language, the national language. This is why the conquerors who wanted, in history, to destroy a nationality tried to impose on it the language of the victorious state. Linguistic assimilation is thus a form of national oppression. The czars of ancient Russia practiced it with regard to small colonized peoples. The French colonialists in North Africa do the same. But you cannot impose a language on a people: the only one it recognizes is its mother tongue.

And drink and drink the words Where the fatherland flames and trembles. (Aragon: "Le Conscrit des cent villages", in La Diane française.)

The struggle of the oppressed nations for their independence is therefore also a struggle for their language: this is the case of the Arab-speaking peoples colonized by the French imperialists.

Language is a powerful instrument of national culture: thus the full freedom given to the various national languages ​​in the USSR since 1917 has fostered the cultural development of peoples formerly stifled by the imperialism of Tsarist Russia. Language is the good of the nation as a whole, not of a class. How else could the members of the classes present communicate? In his remarkable work On marxism in Linguistics [Stalin: “About marxism in Linguistics”, in Latest Writings.], Stalin combats the anti-marxist thesis of those who, starting from the diversity of classes, conclude, for a given nation , to the diversity of languages. Of course, there may be jargons used by this or that fraction of the privileged class,who wants to distinguish themselves at all costs (thus the "golden youth", at the time of the Thermidorian reaction, affected not to speak like the people). But a few strange expressions, a few unusual expressions are not enough to constitute a language. Language (grammatical system and vocabulary) is the product of the history of a people; it changes only very slowly and its structure remains the same through different social systems, although its vocabulary is gradually enriched (thanks to technical progress in particular). All members of a nation, whatever their class, therefore use the same language, each class, of course, trying to use the language to its advantage. Example: by creating compulsory school at the start of the Third Republic,the bourgeoisie ensured a wide dissemination of the French language, especially among the peasants. This was in his class interest, since the taxpayer had to know how to read the tax forms drawn up by the bourgeois state; the peasant called up for the service must be able to understand the NCO's orders. But the proletariat, which also spoke French, the language of the whole nation, also knew how to take advantage of this wide dissemination of the language: not only because the study of French reinforced its own class struggle; but because the massive diffusion of French facilitated the revolutionary alliance with the working peasantry: such a young peasant who learned in class to read French would be able to read to family and friends the revolutionary newspaper printed in town. [On the importance ofstudy of the national language in the training of the revolutionary militant, see the beautiful pages of M. Thorez: Fils du peuple, p. 23 and 27.]

The importance of language, as a constituent element of the nation as a whole, does not mean that language is sufficient to constitute the nation. Different nations can speak the same language: thus the English and the North Americans speak the same language, but make two distinct nations; these two nations developed on the basis of different territories. [As for Switzerland, it brings together, on the same territory, various nationalities, each speaking their own language; the historical development of this country (the peasant democratic traditions and, as Stalin says in Le marxisme et la question nationale et coloniale (p. 49, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1950), the "high democratism, although bourgeois" reached by the Switzerland) has allowed the nationalities that form it to coexist freely.]

2) The community of territory.

Linguistic community, the nation is indeed also a community of territory. Every nation is a product of history; it is therefore not possible without a long life in common. This is why the peoples consider any annexation of a fraction of the national territory as an attack on the nation.

It should be observed that the Korean War can only be properly appreciated if one understands the importance of the territory as one of the constituent elements of the nation. South Korea, North Korea, that makes two states, but it is only one and the same nation. The thesis defended by Soviet diplomats at the UN: “No intervention! The Korean War is an internal affair, a civil war ”was right. This war was a war within one nation. The sending of American troops, on the other hand, was an act of aggression against the Korean nation as a whole.

We can also notice that the community of territory makes the national question particularly sensitive to the peasantry: in certain cases, the peasant question is at the forefront of the national question, because the peasants are deprived of ancestral land (example of colonial peoples ).

But the community of territory, whatever its importance, is not enough to constitute the nation. In the Middle Ages, the geographical conditions existed for a national territory to be formed in one piece; but to bind the various parts together was lacking that glue which is the unity of economic life. In order for the nation to be constituted, there must indeed be an internal economic link between the various parts of the territory.

3) The community of economic life.

A nation is a market.

Feudal France was an aggregate of provinces, with their separate economic life, their currency, their measuring and weighing instruments; customs cords isolated them, hampering trade. The unification of the French nation in 1789 could only be accomplished by the removal of these obstacles to unity (in particular internal customs).

Likewise, in the 19th century, the economic unification of Germany, the Zollverein, prepared for its political unification.

The market ensures the exchange between the products coming from the various parts of the territory. The common economic life thus created (with a single currency) is reinforced by the development of the means and means of communication.

These are the material bases without which no nation can exist. This is why, in 1940, the Hitlerites and the French anti-national big bourgeoisie set out to enslave our country, to break up its community of economic life: they divided the territory into two "zones", and above all they fought against our national industry, trying to transform France into a purely agricultural country, dependent on industrial Germany.

Nowadays, the initiators of the Schuman pool (for coal and steel) pursue a similar goal: they want to liquidate French national industry, the basis of our country's independence, for the benefit of American imperialism and of the Ruhr magnates.

Let us observe that conversely the national rise of popular democracies like Romania and Bulgaria is conditioned by the considerable progress of their national industry.

Note: The struggle between classes within a nation is in no way contradictory with the community of economic life since the existence of classes is itself based on an economic fact par excellence, production.

As long as capitalism exists, bourgeois and proletarians will be tied together by all the ties of economic life, as constituent parts of a single capitalist society. The bourgeois cannot live and enrich themselves if they do not have salaried workers at their disposal; the proletarians cannot subsist if they do not hire themselves with the capitalists. The rupture of all economic links between them means the cessation of all production; however, the cessation of all production leads to the death of society, to the death of the classes themselves. It is understandable that no class wants to devote itself to destruction. This is why the class struggle, however acute it may be, cannot lead to the disintegration of society. (Stalin: marxism and the National and Colonial Question, p. 13.Social Editions)

4) The community of psychic training and culture.

Dialectical materialism allows us to understand that the lasting community of living conditions results in psychological peculiarities common to the members of a nation.

The nation is a psychic training community. There is a national character which distinguishes each nation from the others, and this difference stems from the fact that each people has lived, for a long time, in specific conditions. It should also be noted that the language community necessarily generates common psychological characteristics over time.

Do not confuse ideology and psychology: the warring classes have opposing ideologies, but there are nonetheless character traits specific to the French (for example) as a whole: such as liveliness of mind, taste for ideas clear. Likewise, the love of freedom is very much alive among the mass of the French: this is explained by their old revolutionary traditions.

The community of psychic formation finds its highest expression in the community of culture. Each nation has a cultural heritage which reflects its physiognomy. This cultural community creates a powerful bond between the members of the nation.

The peoples recognize the value of cultural heritage as part of the national community. England is Shakespeare, Newton, the great landscape painters - France is Voltaire, Pasteur, and the cathedrals, and the castles of the Loire. Germany is Goethe and Beethoven's symphonies. Russia is Pushkin, Tolstoy, Mussorgsky, Pavlov, Gorky.

By watching over its culture, each nation indirectly defends its material nation existence! Thus the prestigious cultural brilliance of Paris and Rome constitutes a serious obstacle to the "war in Europe" of which the potentates of Washington dream. Because they know and love only the dollar; but millions of men of all convictions agree, all over the world, to condemn a war which would destroy the wonders of Rome and Paris.

It is thus understood that the reactionary big bourgeoisie, by creating material conditions contrary to the development of French culture, struggles, objectively, against the very existence of the nation. This shows us that we cannot speak of a cultural community in the absolute, and apart from class relations. When the class struggle reaches such a high degree that the exploiting class comes to betray the national interest, then this class excludes itself from the cultural community. This is the case in France; betraying national interests, the reactionary bourgeoisie fell out with the best cultural traditions of our country. We saw it in particular for the birthday of the great national poet Victor Hugo: it made every effort to restrict thescale of the commemorative ceremonies, because the immense and popular work of Victor Hugo, in the service of freedom, fraternity and peace, highlights his depravities. Symbol: we live in Paris, place Victor Hugo, a Ford star replacing the statue of the poet. It is the revolutionary class, the working class, which collects and preserves the cultural heritage.

5) A stable, historically constituted community.

These various elements (language community, community of territory, community of economic life, community of psychic training and culture) have not always existed. They have been formed through history. The national community is a historic product. This is why, wanting to weaken the national consciousness of our people, Hitler's accomplices, from 1940 to 1944, distorted his history: for example, they preached hatred for the Revolution of 1789, without which national history is unintelligible and whose memory constitutes a powerful link between the French.

We will come back to the last part of this lesson on the historical formation of the nation.

For there to be a nation, however, the historically constituted community must be stable. The empire of Napoleon I was not a nation: it was "a conglomerate of accidental groups which are not closely linked" (Stalin). It extended beyond the borders of France to Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. This empire, made by the sword, was defeated by the sword. But the military disasters which liquidated it did not and could not destroy the French nation. The same goes for the German nation; Hitler's collapse did not mean the end of this nation, and his claim for unity is legitimate.

We are now able to understand Stalin's famous definition of the nation:

The nation is a stable community, historically constituted, of language, territory, economic life and psychic formation, which is reflected in the community of culture. (Stalin: marxism and the National and Colonial Question, p. 15.)

Some mistakes to avoid

a) The constituent elements of the nation interact. None, taken separately, is sufficient to constitute the nation. To reduce the nation to one of its aspects is a metaphysical attitude. That of Ernest Renan, for example, who said: "The nation is a soul" [Renan: "What is a nation? ". Speeches and Conferences.] And ignored the material bases without which the nation would have no spiritual life. It is above all the position of the social democratic theorists Otto Bauer and Springer, opposed by Stalin. To hear them, the nation would be reduced to the cultural community. Thus the communities of territory and language are denied. This idealistic conception, if it were to prevail, would have the consequence of diverting nations from the struggle for the material bases of their existence.

b) Certain elements are excluded from the materialist definition of nation: race, state.

Race is not a constituent element of the national community. A race is indeed a large group of men with common hereditary physical characteristics (color of the skin, eyes, shape of the face, etc.). It is therefore a biological factor; however, no biological factor can play a determining role in the historical evolution of societies. (Historical materialism has shown us that the history of societies is intelligible only through social facts: production, class struggle, etc.). So we see that biologically differentiated peoples (Russians, Chinese) nonetheless have a similar historical development, from the primitive commune to capitalism and socialism.

The Jews are an ethnic group, but not a nation. French Jews, German Jews, American Jews, etc., live in different territories, speak different languages, participate in different economic and cultural communities, - therefore are members of different nations. As for the State of Israel, it is not a "Jewish State" since it has very many Arabs.

The French nation is a mixture of multiple races, and the feast of the Federation, July 14, 1790, symbolized this fusion: the most diverse ethnic elements (Normans, Basques, Bretons, Provençaux, etc.) recognized themselves as members of a same national community, product of history. They were the enemies of the nation, the feudal lords who, in order to preserve their privileges, invoked blood against the nation. Their privileges had no other justification than heredity. We can say that in France, the Revolution of 1789 was a victory of national reality over the racial principle.

Racism is the enemy of nations. The Hitlerites, who proclaimed themselves the "chosen race" and trampled on the independence of the peoples, gave bloody proof of this. The Americans in Korea have followed their example. The big imperialist bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries develops the themes of racism in an attempt to justify its policy of aggression and to pit the peoples against each other. This is the case with colonialist propaganda: to justify the exploitation of oppressed peoples, they want French workers to believe that North Africans, Malagasy, Vietnamese, etc. are of an inferior species. But the French workers note that those who refuse to Moroccans, to Algerians [On the Algerian nation as a fusion of different ethnic elements, see Fils du peuple,p. 153-154.], To the Vietnamese, etc., their national independence are the same which sacrifice the independence of the French nation to the American imperialists.

The state is not a constituent element of the nation either. We said earlier that the Napoleonic Empire (that is to say in fact the Napoleonic State) was an unstable, ephemeral aggregate. But even a stable state community is not constitutive of national reality. The Tsarist state was strong and stable for centuries, but the nations over which it ruled were no less diverse; and they were even more stable than he, since, the Tsarist State having disappeared, they nonetheless subsisted within a new, multinational State, the Soviet State. There can therefore be the same State for several nations.

There can also be two states for the same nation: in 1871, there were in France, face to face, two state powers: the Commune, workers' power; the Assembly of Versailles, bourgeois power (We refer to lesson 22, on the class content of the state). In a society divided into antagonistic classes, the state defends the interests of the dominant class, even when it claims to speak in the name of "the general interest".

To include the state in the definition of the nation is to refuse the title of national oppressed nations (and consequently deprived of an independent state). This leads to justifying the oppression of which the dependent and colonized countries are victims. To include the State in the definition of the nation would also be to deny the title of nation to the various nations which constitute the Soviet Union: these nations h