Dear Comrade Dr. Pravat Ranjan Sethi,
Thank you for your most knowledgeable reflections on revolutionary theory and practice. I enjoyed them and benefited from them, as I am sure many others did as well. I would like to respond by putting a slightly different perspective on the subject.
First, revolutionary thought is always “dialectical” because the dialectic is inherently revolutionary, and this because the nature of Being itself is becoming and as such struggle, change, evolution and revolution in every conceivable dimension are its essence. If they had not grasped the dialectical essence of Being, Hegel would have been just another Protestant minister, Marx just another Utopian Socialist, and Stalin would probably have become the priest his mother wanted him to be. Nor did Hegel “discover” the dialectic, he simply Baptized it in that name. He tells us in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, where he discusses the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, that “there is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my Logic.” I would argue that in turn, the Logic of Heraclitus has its origins in the Theogony of Hesiod, who in turn, built his foundation on primitive prehistoric myths. Thus, just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so too the “dialectic” by any other name or without any name at all, is still the code that structures Being. Employing more philosophical terminology one could say that it is the logic that shapes the ontological and thus is the truth of our epistemology.
Hegel would dedicate his life to explaining and expanding the very basic dialectical logic of Heraclitus. In turn he would make both spectacular contributions to its development such as the transformation of quantity into quality, the demonstration of various levels of Being, and a sound theory of social (but not biological) human evolution. In turn, he would make at least two monumental mistakes. The first was his absolute refusal to allow human evolution to be a physical evolution in, through and as nature. Marx would of course, completely accept Darwin’s theory of evolution even going so far as to dedicate Capital to Darwin. The second mistake, or perhaps not a mistake, that Hegel committed was to make evolution a process by which the Creator came to be. The Creator, in evolving through time, was moving towards a definition of Itself and Humans, his ultimate creation, as free, creative, self-realizing and self-actualizing beings. Hegel called this plan the Idea. Marx would criticize this Idea, but still, everywhere in his work and in the minds of all Marxists who have followed him is the near religious belief that human beings, moving from one level and one age of class struggle to another, are moving towards the absolute realization of the species nature as free, equal, unified, creative and constructive beings. Hegel’s Idea did not fall far from its Idealist tree when Marx picked it up and took his first bite.
What Marx and all good/bad revolutionaries who made revolution in his name, did understand was, first, the dialectic, it’s laws and its principles. Marx understood it as the code underlying all reality. Secondly, they understood the evils of capitalism, the way it twisted the human heart and soul. They knew that where capital was the great universal that subsumed all within it, humanity was reduced to wage labor and profit, and greed rather than need shaped the alienated relations of capitalist Man. They understood Capitalism and they understood that it would pass out of existence because everything passes out of existence. He expected it to do so through class struggle; but what form that class struggle would take, whether it would be conscious or unconscious, revolutionary or democratic, the degree to which it would be driven by the development of the capitalist forces of production was not and could not be explained by the laws of the dialectic.
Besides the lack of a crystal ball to direct it, Marxism splintered and failed for at least two other reasons. The first of these was that Capital was the abortionist who scraped it from the insides of nations in which it had been implanted. How long did it take the Western world to invade Russia and seek to destroy the new born Soviet Union? Not long at all. On 3 August 1918 an allied force under British command invade Archangel, Russia. The United States would shortly thereafter send a regiment to join the British Few Americans know about the American Invasion, but Russians, who eventually defeated the invaders, remember it well. Viewed from this context, Stalin’s “paranoia” was no paranoia at all, and many of the horrors he inflicted in his own people were at least partially the result of his singular dedication to defending and preserving Communism in the Soviet Union.
Of course, America’s foreign policy was shaped by its fight against the “Great Evil of Communism,” which went on year after year as it tried to, and finally did, destroy the Soviet Union, and then, overthrow and invade any nation which dared embrace Communism anywhere in the world. As I like to say, the Soviet Union did not collapse, it was infected with capitalist termites from within and without and so crumbled and fell.
The second reason that Communism failed around the world, as it today has failed in Brazil, is because of the rise of Fascism. Hitler rose to power and was supported by many capitalists both as individuals and as a class, because he hated and promised to destroy Communismand the Jews. In Italy, Mussolini’s Fascism was not anti-Semitic. In fact, many Jews were members of the Fascist Party. What all Fascists share and shared was the desire to wipe Communism from the face of the earth, because in their eyes it was just another internationalist movement that negated their blood and nation identities.’
As for Liberal Democracy, the Fascists viewed it as a weak and poor excuse for a form of governance. The idea that people must first be regarded as individuals with rights was and is laughable to any Fascist. Thus, when liberal democracy as the political ideology of Capitalism, failed as it had in Germany before Hitler, in Italy before Stalin, in Spain before Franco, and in Brazil today, the people unable or unwilling to turn to the left, which the U.S. has always tried to destroy and/or overthrow in South America, had no choice but to seek their solace in the embrace of dictators who take care of them at the expense of all others.
If American foreign and domestic policies (think the Red Scare) were by and large quite successful in destroying Communism wherever it took hold, this did not bring an end to the people’s dissatisfaction with the failed policies and promises of liberal democracy itself. In this case, as I have noted above, the turning away from “democracy” has in the past as it is doing all over the world today, turned the people to right wing nationalism and various iterations of Fascism. Where this is not the case, it is so because both through American manipulation of Islamic nations, and their own poor foreign policy decision in the Middle East and East in order to ensure their support of their anti-Communist policies (Afghanistan), it has brought into being an opposition to itself which is religious rather than political. This religious opposition, and not Communism which in its truth has all but been eliminated from the consciousness of the Western World, stands today as the major and direct military threat to Capitalism. Terrorism as guerilla warfare is something Ho Chi Min, Che, Fidel, would all have understood; it’s using to establish atheocratic state would have been beyond their comprehensions. Yet all these things coalesce, mingle as if they were chips of glass in a great kaleidoscope which perpetually obscures any real vision of secular human liberation. Unable to establish their species nature in a Communist state, human being embraces their specific, national identities (which are themselves “pure” illusions), or spiritual religious identities as they seek succor from the poverty, pain, and pandemonium of their day to day lives in a world dominated by Western values, economic impulses and military madness.
One must not simply look at the contradictions within revolutionary movements or thinkers to find the source of the “failures” of Communism. The external contradictions between classes, between the call of Nationalism and Religion in hearts of the dispossessed, also have played a significant role in the destruction of Communism. It is in fact the external contradictions which give rise to the internal contradictions within revolutionary movements.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.