Bogdanov's 'Science and the Working Class'

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MH
Marx on 'matter' and 'nature'

Let's remind ourselves that for Marx the starting point for his revolutionary critique of capitalism was the appearance of the commodity :

 “I do not proceed from “concepts,” hence neither from the “concept of value” … What I proceed from is the simplest social form in which the product of labour presents itself in contemporary society, and this is the “commodity.” This I analyse, initially in the form in which it appears.” (Notes on Adolph Wagner, Marx’s emphasis)

For LBird, who believes that ‘theory precedes practice’, this is of course anathema. What, no concepts? "The form in which it appears"? What ideology is he using? Marx, it seems, suffers from the same methodological shortcomings as that slipshod Marxist scientist Pannekoek. But there’s worse...

For Marx,

The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter.” (Capital vol 1, chapter 1, section 2, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S2)

In a footnote to this passage Marx approvingly quotes the Italian philosopher and economist Pietro Verri:

“‘All the phenomena of the universe, whether produced by the hand of man or through the universal laws of physics, are not actual new creations, but merely a modification of matter.”

So for Marx, "nature" can create use values, “without the help of man”, by “changing the form of matter”.

In contrast: “The value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter enters into its composition…” (Ibid, my emphasis).

“Nature” (with a capital ‘N’!) “matter”, "materiality", “without the help of man…” Hasn’t Marx heard of LBird’s lectures on ‘nature-for-us’ and 'matter' that can be voted in and out of existence? Marx, it seems, is nothing but an ‘Engels-ist’!

Our scientific understanding of 'nature' and of 'matter' has of course moved on since Marx, but before we consider the views of Bogdanov or Gramsci (Gramsci?!), let's have a debate that is at least based on Marx's own views on these questions rather than LBird's self-serving idealist distortions.

 

LBird
The old refrain: 'bourgeois physics is correct'

MH wrote:

...let's have a debate that is at least based on Marx's own views on these questions rather than LBird's self-serving idealist distortions.

We've been through 'Marx's own views' dozens of times, MH, and his words, which I provide, are always ignored.

As to me being 'self-serving', I'm the only poster defending proletarian self-development and workers' power, which is the key to Marx's ideas.

And 'idealist distortions'? Do us a favour, admit your Engelsian ideology of the separation of all philosophical ideas into a 'good versus evil' drama, and admit that you don't follow Marx on these issues, because he united 'idealism and materialism' into 'theory and practice'.

Why can't you tell us your ideology of physics?

Because you claim, just like the bourgeoisie, not to have one.

Now, where did you get that idea?

MH
Did Marx have an 'ideology of physics'?

LBird wrote:

Why can't you tell us your ideology of physics?

Did Marx have an 'ideology of physics'?

If so, what was it?

 

LBird
The various ideologies of physics

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

Why can't you tell us your ideology of physics?

Did Marx have an 'ideology of physics'?

If so, what was it?

Well, we're getting somewhere now, if there's some preparedness to discuss the ruling class' ideas about physics, and compare them with a Marxist socio-historical approach. Marx's ideology about 'social production' will soon come to the fore. Only ruling classes claim to have 'eternal knowledge' (whether of 'gods' or 'reality'), so that they can stymie any investigation into their socio-historically specific creation of their 'reality'.

Should we compare the Engels-Plekhanov-Lenin approach to 'matter' with a Marx-Bogdanov one? If this is acceptable, I'll prepare the various quotes required, since I can now paste again, thanks to Demo's helpful advice about Chrome over IE.

Here's hoping this thread makes some progress about physics!

MH
And the answer...?

Actually I was just hoping for a simple answer.

In fact it was more of a rhetorical question really; I'm still curious about your answer but my point is that Marx didn't have a 'philosophy of physics' that was separate from his working method for understanding the world, ie. historical materialism. Just as he didn't have a 'theory of cognition' (remember that one?) separate from the materialist conception of history. Your proposed 'debate' is only necessary for you because, lacking confidence in Marxism, you reject the materialist conception of history and are consequently forced to invent the need and the basis for a separate 'philosophy of science', physics or whatever. It's still valid to discuss the philosophy of science of course; just not on the basis of false or distorted versions of Marx's own position...  

LBird
It seems I'm being tricked, but this time not by lem_...

MH wrote:

Actually I was just hoping for a simple answer.

Yes, and the 'simple answer' is that Marx was a 'social productionist'. Very simple, really.

So, we can discuss, from Marx's philosophical starting point (and as Bogdanov does), how we humans create 'matter'.

MH wrote:

In fact it was more of a rhetorical question really; I'm still curious about your answer but my point is that Marx didn't have a 'philosophy of physics' that was separate from his working method for understanding the world, ie. historical materialism. Just as he didn't have a 'theory of cognition' (remember that one?) separate from the materialist conception of history. Your proposed 'debate' is only necessary for you because, lacking confidence in Marxism, you reject the materialist conception of history and are consequently forced to invent the need and the basis for a separate 'philosophy of science', physics or whatever. It's still valid to discuss the philosophy of science of course; just not on the basis of false or distorted versions of Marx's own position...  

Ahhh.... so you don't really wish to discuss the issue of Marx's ideology.

It seems that you want to continue to pretend to be a 'Marxist', but not discuss Marx's views about humanity, nature and social production, and so give a socio-historical account of the emergence of 'matter', who, why and when this happened, and the social interests involved in this.

The rest of your statements are merely based upon ignorance, mainly of Engels' distortion of Marx's central concern with humanity (and not with 'matter'), but also your lack of confidence in engaging with a discussion which you can only be proved to be mistaken, because it's easily shown about the difference between Marx and Engels, on these epistemological issues.

For example,  your easily disproven claim about 'the materialist conception of history'. This is not Marx's view at all, but Engels. I've show this many times. The same goes for the meaning of 'material' for Marx - it's nothing to do with 'material' stuff; and that Marx never wrote of 'false consciousness'. I've done all these issues to death, with quotes from Marx, and many later thinkers who I won't list once again.

To sum up, MH, you're an adherent of the Engelsist faith in 'matter' (as were Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky - I've given quotes to support this).

The problem concerning 'physics' is that Engels' 19th century 'materialism' has been long left behind by even the bourgeoisie, so you can't even start to grasp modern physics and its problems - to your ideology, they're all just 'idealists' (the nasty 'bogeyman' for materialists, which is why I'm labelled with the same tag).

But, most worryingly of all, is that the proletariat are still being exposed to this dead-end nonsense, and those, like me, who wish to help develop the working class to criticise our existing society (including its physics, which is in a mess), and who wish to argue for the 'social production' of Marx, are castigated as 'idealists', because we argue for workers' democracy and self-determination in all areas of production, including physics.

It's a shame we can't seem to have this discussion, but your faith is blocking your intellectual curiosity, which I find baffling.

Well, let's give any readers the answer now, according to 'materialists': LBird, Bogdanov, Rovelli are all 'idealists'. And we can all get back to our 'faith' in The Word according to Engels and Lenin...

... 'Matter' is your god.

Demogorgon
A brief comment

I don't have the capacity for another full debate, especially one that covers propositions that have already been systematically critiqued and rebutted elsewhere.

However, I want say that MH is right to point us back to the early chapters of Capital. Although Marx doesn't make a systematic exposition of humanity's relationship with nature and the material world, it is certainly implicit in much of the writing there. For example:

  • On Labour: "For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labour, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, &c."
  • On perception: "In the same way the light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But, in the act of seeing, there is at all events, an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things."

Marx, in examining the commodity (a social construct) distinguishes between the "material substratum" that serve as the base on which society is built. This is where Marx begins and any serious examination of his method should begin there, too, or at least on the basis of what Marx himself actually wrote.

Nonetheless, it seems absolutely obvious that Marx unambiguously accepts the reality of matter and that, although that matter has social uses (use values), these use values at least in part are derived from the basic physical properties of those objects.

LBird
The usual ignoring of Marx's belief in humanity and production

Demogorgon wrote:

I don't have the capacity for another full debate, especially one that covers propositions that have already been systematically critiqued and rebutted elsewhere.

Not by the posters here, they haven't.

In every discussion, I've shown the Engelsian ideology to be at odds with the views of Marx.

As a Leninist/Trotsky, you're compelled to argue for the constructed unity of the single 'Marx-Engels', but this political construction can easily be detailed, with its origin and development.

Demogorgon wrote:

Marx, in examining the commodity (a social construct) distinguishes between the "material substratum" that serve as the base on which society is built. This is where Marx begins and any serious examination of his method should begin there, too, or at least on the basis of what Marx himself actually wrote.

Everyone, even Archbishop Berkeley, thinks that there is a 'material substratum', by which Marx meant an ingredient into 'social labour' (and not 'matter', as Engels erroneously thought).

Demogorgon wrote:

Nonetheless, it seems absolutely obvious that Marx unambiguously accepts the reality of matter ...

[my bold]

This is a complete fiction.

'Matter' was Engels' concern (by which he meant 'touchable stuff').

Marx's concern was 'material' (by which he meant 'human/social', in contrast to to 'ideal', by which he meant 'divine').

It's been shown many times, by thinkers dating back to the 19th century, that Marx was concerned with 'social production'. That is the basis of Marx's method. Humans and their social labour.

For Engels, 'matter' simply replaces the 'god' of idealism, and so 'materialism' is a form of 'idealism', as has been shown before.

Demogorgon wrote:
...and that, although that matter has social uses (use values), these use values at least in part are derived from the basic physical properties of those objects.

Define 'physical', Demo.

The Marxist definition is 'a substance produced by social labour'. You'll notice that the Marxist definition refers to 'social production by humans'.

Your definition will be a bourgeois one, which will stress the non-social, non-historical basis of 'matter/physical'.

Leninists must have this definition, because they argue that workers cannot democratically define the 'physical'. They reserve that right, as to 'power' itself, to a minority who claim to have a 'special consciousness' above and beyond that available to mere 'workers'.

Your turn, Demo, Define 'physical' in socio-historic terms suitable for Marx's changing of it.

Bogdanov can do so.

LBird
The way forward?

Perhaps the best way forward for this particular thread, is, for the time being, to move forward on the assumption that Marx's epistemological basis was 'social production' (rather than Engels' concern with the bourgeoisie's 19th century focus on 'matter').

At least this will allow us to explore Bogdanov's views, and see how well (or not) they fit in with our assumed position regarding Marx's ideology of 'social production'.

Of course, once we've achieved this, and have something to work with, we can always return to then comparing the notion of the 'social production of matter' with Engels' conception of 'matter'.

But, youse should be forewarned - Engels, not being the most consistent thinker, can be shown to have both agreed and disagreed with Marx's notion of 'social production'.

Unfortunately, it's his disagreement that formed the basis of the views of Kautsky, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, et al, and thus it can be shown that Bogdanov, disagreeing with Lenin (and Engels), was the one who came closest to Marx's own position.

Further, it's this Marxist position that can form the basis of a proletarian understanding of physics, and allow us to discuss Rovelli's ideas.

lem_
tricky ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-O5IHVhWj0

:-p

LBird
A 'tricky' matter

lem_ wrote:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-O5IHVhWj0

:-p

It's certainly 'tricky' for those who claim to be 'Marxists' to the workers, but won't allow those workers to determine their own world, as Marx argued that they should.

'Party-determination' is not 'self-determination' for workers.

That's why Leninists must posit 'matter' as 'out there'.

Then, once this myth is accepted by workers, the Leninists can pretend that they, and they alone, have access to this 'matter', and that workers must accept what the party says, and that the workers have no right to vote the party as being wrong.

Only when workers can determine the existence, or otherwise, of 'matter', can they be said to be the 'self-determiners' of their own world.

This epistemological battle is a profoundly political battle, as Bogdanov and Lenin were aware.

lem_
it is

it is you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rb13ksYO0s

Demogorgon
Discussing Marx by avoiding Marx

Quote:
Not by the posters here, they haven't.

On the contrary, remember this thread? The one where it took me an entire page of the thread to get you to answer directly one simple question? And where I summarised your style of debate as "Let's look at what you do do: you misattribute positions to other thinkers; you refuse to clarify or recant when confronted with what those thinkers actually say; you refuse to answer questions to clarify your positions; you refuse to defend your positions with either evidence or argument; and you seem to think that saying "you're positivist" ad nauseum actually is an argument."

I systematically rebutted your arguments, showed why they were false, then showed how your quotes from certain scientists were fundamentally dishonest as they were taken completely out of context.

Your response was not to offer any new evidence but a whole series of tedious rants about how we're all Engelists. And, here you are, doing it all again.

This is why it is impossible to have any serious discussion with you.

Quote:
This is a complete fiction [that Marx accepts the reality of matter]

Quote:
Marx's concern was 'material' (by which he meant 'human/social', in contrast to to 'ideal', by which he meant 'divine').

You're right. Complete fiction. Absolutely no evidence whatsoever. As long as we ignore Marx's words.

Karl Marx: "The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour. As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother."

Marx is absolutely explicit. The material substratum is provided by nature with absolutely no input from humanity. We do not create that substratum. All we can do is change its form.

Now the labour process, of course, is absolutely social but that process still has its origins in the material world, conditions about which humanity has no choice. We will get hungry whether we like it or not. To assuage hunger, we have to eat. And to eat we have to perform labour to provide food. And that labour is a material process, a "function of the human organism".

See what I did there? How I actually engaged with Marx's words? I didn't just claim "Marx said this". I quoted Marx. You on the other hand, simply repeat your assertions about what Marx said with no supporting evidence whatsoever.

You seem unable to grasp a sophomoric principle of debate. If you claim a thinker says X, and someone disputes that claim with actual quotes from the thinker in question, you cannot simply repeat your claim and think you're winning the argument. You have to engage directly with the quotes provided.

In reality, though, for all your pretension to serious debate about Marx, you flee from what Marx actually wrote as sure as a vampire flees from sunlight. You'll quote (usually dishonestly, as I demonstrated in #189 here) just about anybody but Marx! Does your skin start to burn and blister when you pick up Capital? Or do you prefer to read exegesis from the bourgeois academics that you claim to despise and yet from which you seem to get all your ideas? (The whole "Engels isn't Marxist" is a favourite trope of university Marxicology, you know - you agree with the Leninist Terrell Carver!)

Of course, we know you struggle with Marx. After all, you confess as much here (#37): "However, for me, simply having Marx’s words repeated to me by well-meaning comrades doesn’t work, just like it doesn’t work when I read Capital itself. What’s more, I’m clearly not alone with my inability to make sense of his concepts by following his explanation, because many others (and I would guess it is the great majority) can’t fathom them out either."

And yet here we have the spectacle of the person with an "inability to make sense of his [Marx's] concepts" setting himself up as the ultimate authority on ... Marx's concepts!

Quote:
Your turn, Demo, Define 'physical' in socio-historic terms suitable for Marx's changing of it.

I don't need to. I'm already using Marx's definition, which I directly quoted from him. Humanity does not create matter ("which is furnished by Nature without the help of man") but he can and must use it and change it. But there are limits. The fact that I can change my hair colour doesn't mean that I can make the sun rise in the West. Similarly, not being able to make the sun rise in the West does not mean I cannot change my hair colour.

You, on the other hand, seem to be trapped in a false dilemma fallacy:

  • If humans can change matter they must be able to change everything (the boiling point of water, for example)
  • If changing everything is not possible, then it is not possible to change anything.

It goes without saying that this fallacy is directly falsified by Marx, science, and the whole history of human experience.

And while we're on Marx, LBird completely ignores MH's points about Marx's approach to examining reality. MH shows how Marx begins his analysis, not from concepts but from examining the appearance of the commodity. This is not simply an aberation, because Marx explicitly states elsewhere that "Sense-perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when it proceeds from sense-perception in the two-fold form of sensuous consciousness and sensuous need – is it true science." But to say that science proceeds from sense-perception is not to say it should be limited by it. After all, "science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided." Engels adds, "thinking is necessary: atoms and molecules, etc., cannot be observed under the microscope, but only by the process of thought". (This statement is no longer quite true factually, but it remains conceptually and historically valid.)

As for commodities, we see in Marx and his dialectical method at work. He begins by directly distinguishing between the natural and social qualities of the commodity: "The utility of a thing makes it a use value. But this utility is not a thing of air. Being limited by the physical properties of the commodity, it has no existence apart from that commodity. A commodity, such as iron, corn, or a diamond, is therefore, so far as it is a material thing, a use value, something useful."

The use of an object has nothing to do with "the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities." One may also extrapolate that exactly how the commodity was produced (or whether it was acqured directly from nature or produced by human hands) is wholly irrelevant to both its material properties and the use it can therefore be put to.

Exchange value, on the other hand, is nothing to do with a commodity's natural properties: "This common “something” [exchange value] cannot be either a geometrical, a chemical, or any other natural property of commodities. Such properties claim our attention only in so far as they affect the utility of those commodities, make them use values."

Instead, exchange value is a  "a non-natural property of both, something purely social".

This separation of the natural from the social is the starting point for Marx's analysis. But the analysis does not remain at this level of this metaphysical separation. As Capital progresses, we discover that exchange value (something "purely social") is derived from socially necessary labour. And yet, labour is also a material process, "functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles,".

And, as a material process, defined and limited by natural laws there are, therefore, limits to the social use that labour can be put to. Thus, the limits of necessary labour and its reproduction, and surplus labour (and therefore exploitation) come up against natural limits that have their ultimate origin in the physical constraints of labour:  "The value of a day's labour-power is, as will be remembered, estimated from its normal average duration, or from the normal duration of life among the labourers, and from corresponding normal transformations of organised bodily matter into motion, in conformity with the nature of man. Up to a certain point, the increased wear and tear of labour-power, inseparable from a lengthened working-day, may be compensated by higher wages. But beyond this point the wear and tear increases in geometrical progression, and every condition suitable for the normal reproduction and functioning of labour-power is suppressed." Marx even adds a footnote, emphasising that labour is essentially chemistry, by quoting Grove: "The amount of labour which a man had undergone in the course of 24 hours might be approximately arrived at by an examination of the chemical changes which had taken place in his body, changed forms in matter indicating the anterior exercise of dynamic force."

The "purely social" is thus also material and the material is also social. Similarly, use-values have a social aspect in that they are the foundation for the "purely social" aspect of exchange: "Whoever directly satisfies his wants with the produce of his own labour, creates, indeed, use values, but not commodities. In order to produce the latter, he must not only produce use values, but use values for others, social use values."

(One can also find use-values that have social aspects beyond the direct material properties of an object. Marx later uses the example of a Bible, the use of which is clearly social.)

The problem with your position is that you don't understand the dialectical point that Marx is making. The essential of the dialectic can be found in Marx's famous aphorism: "Thinking and being are thus certainly distinct, but at the same time they are in unity with each other."

In effect, you only focus on the second half (the social) of the dialectical equation Marx constructs (the material and the social) and, worse, in emphasising unity, you do so in a one-sided fashion. You have forgotten the material aspect of existence, relegating it to unimportance, and mistaking the social alone for the totality of the unity between being and consciousness, the material and the social.

But unity is not identity.

Material and social properties do indeed form a unity in human life, which is impossible without that unity. This does not mean, as you imply, that material properties do not exist, or are unimportant, or that they are a product of human life or consciousness. On the contrary, the social aspects (and consciousness itself, for that matter) have their origins in material processes. Consciousness and social forms are both distinct from matter and in unity with it. We can examine matter and consciousness separately, of course, but when we consider their unity we realise that it is matter that becomes conscious and conscious matter (i.e. humans) that organises itself socially.

That is what a half-way serious discussion of Marx's views looks like. Direct quotations in support of claims and argumentation. Of course, it may still be wrong but a rebuttal needs to take place in an equally serious manner with direct quotes from source texts and a deconstruction of the arguments that I've presented, not merely reasserting claims.

Instead, you want to discuss your interpretation of Bogdanov's interpretation of Marx. Or simply repeat ad nauseum an assertion about what Marx says when it is precisely that assertion that is being disputed. Or call us all Leninists. Or whatever. This is not a serious way of debating and it is not persuading anyone (which is, surely, your ultimate aim).

LBird
Still don't get Marx's concern - social production, not 'matter'

Demogorgon wrote:
Marx is absolutely explicit. The material substratum is provided by nature with absolutely no input from humanity. We do not create that substratum. All we can do is change its form.

I wonder when you'll ever read anything I write, Demo.

I've said probably hundreds of times that Marx argues that the 'material substratum' forms the ingredient into social labour.

The problem is, that Engels thought that 'material substratum' meant 'matter'.

The other term that Marx uses for this opposition to active consciousness is 'inorganic nature'.

Engels also seemed to think that this, too, meant 'matter'.

What we're trying to discuss is whether 'matter' can 'exist' outside of 'social production'. Bogdanov comes up with a way of showing the inescapable relationship between 'humans' and 'matter'. That is, 'matter' cannot 'exist' outside of a productive relationship with its producers.

Being charitable, I suppose you're suffering from the same problem that I identified with lem_. That is, you're 'translating' philosophical terms into terms that you're more familiar with, in your day-to-day life. In lem_'s case, it was translating 'labour' (meaning 'activity', contrasted with 'passivity') into 'individual work'. In your case, it's translating Marx's 'material' (meaning 'human', constrasted with 'divine', the 'ideal') into Engels' 'matter'.

While you keep on bangin' on about 'matter' (rather than 'material', in the sense that I've shown), you'll never understand either Marx or the possibilities for workers to build a revolutionary physics.

Long story short: 'material' is not 'matter'.

LBird
The party substitutes itself for the class

When it comes down to the politics of this issue, Demo, the difference between us, is that I attempt to defend the democratic right of the proletariat to decide for itself what 'matter' is, whereas you wish to defend the elite right of bourgeois physicists to tell the proletariat what 'matter' is.

This philosophical and scientific belief of yours is based upon your elitist politics, and lack of belief in the potential of the proletariat.

That's why you're a Leninist/Trotskyist, and I'm not.

That's why you look to a 'party', and I look to the 'class'.

At the core is the issue of 'proletarian democracy', and the opposed belief that the 'party' organises and carries out the revolution for the proletariat, rather than a class conscious proletariat carrying out this revolutionary task for itself.

This political belief is at the root of the argument about 'matter'.

Demogorgon
Marx allergy

Quote:
I wonder when you'll ever read anything I write, Demo.

I'm wondering the same about you and Marx.

Quote:
What we're trying to discuss is whether 'matter' can 'exist' outside of 'social production'. Bogdanov comes up with a way of showing the inescapable relationship between 'humans' and 'matter'. That is, 'matter' cannot 'exist' outside of a productive relationship with its producers.

Dick claims birds cannot fly. Look, says Tom, there's a bird flying. Birds can't fly, repeats Dick. What are you calling a bird? asks Tom suspiciously. Dick points at a penguin. That's a bird. A bird is something with wings that can't fly. Therefore birds can't fly.

If you are defining "material" as "stuff humans use", then by definition material can't exist outside of human usage. That does not disprove the proposition that "stuff exists independently of human usage".

Quote:
Being charitable, I suppose you're suffering from the same problem that I identified with lem_. That is, you're 'translating' philosophical terms into terms that you're more familiar with, in your day-to-day life. In lem_'s case, it was translating 'labour' (meaning 'activity', contrasted with 'passivity') into 'individual work'. In your case, it's translating Marx's 'material' (meaning 'human', constrasted with 'divine', the 'ideal') into Engels' 'matter'."

This genuinely made me laugh. Firstly, if there's a real problem with translation, I suggest you take it up with the people who translated Marx's German. Secondly, because I quoted exactly how the text used those terms in context, the meaning of them was quite clear. In order to disprove my interpretation, you need to do so in reference to the text. You won't do this, of course, because you've already admitted your "inability to make sense of his concepts by following his explanation". And you prove yourself right every time you avoid directly tackling the text.

Quote:
Long story short: 'material' is not 'matter'.

It is quite clear in this quote that Marx is using the term matter and material substratum in the same way, and counterposing matter to labour: "The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour. As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother."

"Matter", here, is a distinct element from labour. The "material substratum" is what is left when labour is taken out of the consideration. It's there in black and white.

How many times, I wonder will I have to quote Marx, before you start responding to him?

Quote:
That's why you're a Leninist/Trotskyist, and I'm not.

Having utterly failed to engage with Marx or me, you know retreat to your usual stock-in-trade insults. I no longer take offence at this because it's code for "I have no arguments and I know it".

Quote:
At the core is the issue of 'proletarian democracy', and the opposed belief that the 'party' organises and carries out the revolution for the proletariat, rather than a class conscious proletariat carrying out this revolutionary task for itself. This political belief is at the root of the argument about 'matter'.

Ah yes, that reminds me. I didn't include this in my last piece because it was already excruciatingly long. Please explain these chains of reasoning. If stuff* exists independently of human consciousness it is:

  • impossible for humans to change stuff; and
  • only a minority (the party, scientists, etc.) can interpret stuff.

You constantly imply that these are the logical outcomes of our insistence on materialism. Now's your chance to demonstrate it.

LBird
What is 'existence'? And 'for whom'?

Demogorgon wrote:
If you are defining "material" as "stuff humans use", then by definition material can't exist outside of human usage.

So far, so good. We agree with Marx, to use your words: 'material can't exist outside of human usage'.

D wrote:
That does not disprove the proposition that "stuff exists independently of human usage".

This is where you're going wrong.

It does 'disprove'.

It's the 'human usage' that brings 'stuff' into 'existence'.

That's the whole point, Demo.

Marx and Bogdanov always link 'existence' with 'social labour'. If it's 'outside of human usage', it's 'nothing for us'.

This 'stuff' that is 'nothing for us' doesn't 'exist', because 'existence' is defined by it being 'socially produced'. 'Existence' is thus 'existence-for' a creator.

That's why, for Marx, we humans are the creator of our world. We create our object, according to Marx. We create the laws of physics, according to Pannekoek.

This relational approach to "humanised nature / naturalised humanity" is precisely what Engels didn't understand, when he interpreted Marx to be talking about 'matter', a 'stuff' 'outside of human usage'.

This is why, for Marx, 'social production' and 'human labour' are so important: because the concepts link the creator and their creation.

This seems to be where modern physics is going, too, since Einstein and relativity.

That's why Rovelli's article about 'time', and his thoughts on our creation of it, is so interesting.

But... if you stick with Engels' concerns with 'matter', then you'll never get to grips with Marx and modern physics. To you, it'll all remain 'idealism'.

Demogorgon
This is actually starting to get embarrassing ...

Quote:
We agree with Marx, to use your words: 'material can't exist outside of human usage'.

We agree on nothing. I'm showing how you attempt to define your way out of a problem and why that is fallacious. You may get away with taking Dirac, Pannekoek, Einstein, etc. words out of context, but as I know what context my words were written and I'm here to defend them, it's not really going to work on me.

Quote:
This is where you're going wrong. It does 'disprove'. It's the 'human usage' that brings 'stuff' into 'existence'. That's the whole point, Dem.

This is getting farcical. I suppose you also think that defining birds as creatures that can't fly causes sparrows to plummet to the ground around the world. Go back and read my analogy which showed why this is a fallacious method of reasoning.

LBird: "That's why, for Marx, we humans are the creator of our world."
Marx: "[Man] can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter." He even footnotes the statement with a quote from Verri: "All the phenomena of the universe, whether produced by the hand of man or through the universal laws of physics, are not actual new creations, but merely a modification of matter."

Where does Marx talk about humans creating matter?

Quote:
We create the laws of physics, according to Pannekoek.

Both MH and myself quoted Pannekoek extensively on the other thread, showing how your claims on this are, at best, one sided. Still, I can always quote him again: "Hence Historical Materialism looks upon the works of science, the concepts, substances, natural Laws, and forces, although formed out of the stuff of nature, primarily as the creations of the mental Labour of man."

It is the concepts that human mental labour creates, not the "stuff of nature", that humans make the concepts out of. F=MA or E=MC2 are human inventions. The behaviour they attempt to describe is not. Similarly, the word "moon" is a human invention, but the rather large lump of rock orbiting the earth is not. Humans did not bring that rock into existence. On the contrary, if anything, the Moon brought humanity into existence: tidal forces have a key role to play in abiogenesis.

Quote:
This relational approach to "humanised nature / naturalised humanity" is precisely what Engels didn't understand, when he interpreted Marx to be talking about 'matter', a 'stuff' 'outside of human usage'.

Unsurprisingly, you don't quote Engels either, but then we don't really need to. It is quite obvious that Marx is talking about matter in the traditional sense. That's why he continually distinguishes material from social properties. I've already show this in relation to the text. If you have a problem, show how the text has been misinterpreted.

Quote:
This seems to be where modern physics is going, too, since Einstein and relativity.

I don't know what you mean by this exactly, but if you're attempting to use relativity to support your arguments, you're way off beam. All relativity shows is that the uniformity of the laws of physics only applies to objects that in the same inertial frame of reference and that no particular frame of reference is more valid than another. If you and I share that frame of reference, the laws of physics work the same for us, but not necessarily for MH if he occupies a different frame. However, from the point of view of the subject, there is no actual change. To MH it appears as we are experiencing differences in the operation of those laws, while to us it appears that MH is. Moreover, relativity posits that the speed of light is universal for all observers, no matter what their frame of reference. Note that "observer" does not mean human. Atomic clocks are subject to time dilation predicted by relativity.

So human observation is actually irrelevant to the operation of relativity. If Donald Trump pushes the button and wipes us all out, I suspect time dilation will carry on quite happily without us, although there won't be anyone around to talk about it.

Quote:
But... if you stick with Engels' concerns with 'matter', then you'll never get to grips with Marx and modern physics.

As should have been abundantly clear by now, I'm referring directly to Marx, with quotes, not Engels. The only person avoiding getting to grips with Marx is you.

Demogorgon
Bored already

One last thing. Unless you are actually going to directly engage with the arguments, quotes, and evidence I present, or at least come up with something new in your argumentation, I see little point in carrying on with this discussion. As I said earlier, we've been through the vast majority of this stuff on the other thread. You had no answers then and all the evidence suggests this hasn't changed. It seems abundantly clear you have no answers to Marx either. If you say something interesting, I'll come back.

LBird
Leaving 'matter' out of it

Right, now that Demo has thrown his dummy out of the pram, shall we discuss the creation of 'objective reality'?

'Social objectivity' is the method of Marx, and of Bogdanov.

If Demo comes back with his Engelsian 'matter', I'm going to ignore him, and take the discussion forward. 

LBird
For Marx, 'objectivity' was a social product

Marx, Capital, v1, p. 169, wrote:
Such forms as these constitute precisely the categories of bourgeois economy. They are the socially valid – thus objective – forms of thought, for relationships of production of this particular historically determined social mode of production.
[my bold]

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/commodity.htm

Here we have the key to Bogdanov's building upon Marx's work.

Any 'categories' (socially-produced concepts) are 'socially valid - thus objective', but these 'categories' are always the products of a socio-historically specific mode of production.

What makes something 'objective' is its 'social-validity', and for the democratic proletariat, this 'socially-objective' form can only be the result of an election. That is, if we Communists argue that only workers can create their world, and that world is by its nature a democratic product, then only workers can decide upon the 'validity' of 'concepts' for their 'social production'.

Thus, the category of 'matter' can be chosen or refused (and replaced with another category), depending upon the political will of the democratic proletariat.

The 'theory and practice' of the class conscious proletariat can only be self-determined.

It's a bourgeois myth that 'objectivity' resides outside the activity of humanity, in a 'matter' which precedes the building of 'categories' by human societies.

This claim is a political claim made by an elite, who wish to retain the power to determine 'categories' for themselves (and so deny democratic control of science). It's an elite claim which the Leninists make, to ensure workers cannot have power. It's the antithesis of workers' self-determination, which is what Marx was clearly arguing for.

Leninists and Trotskyists are not Marxists, because they deny power to workers. Ask them who determines 'matter', and they'll openly tell you 'not workers' (and they mean, 'but we Leninists will').

Next, we'll move on to Bogdanov's views on 'matter', where he explains where that category comes from, and his replacement of the term by a different 'category', which involves workers' activity.

Demogorgon
An actual response?

Spat the dummy, eh? Well, maybe, but I also offered a very thorough set of arguments that, as per usual, you've failed to engage with.

However, as you are now attempting to actually quote Marx, it's worth coming back.

The only problem is ... you're not quoting anything to do with what I've said!

The quote you supply deals directly with the formation of economic categories. As he rightly says, the fetishised categories of capital are not simply illusory, but also can be objectively real (and the same applies to its economic laws). See another example here:"“ ... as the form of profit hides its inner core, capital more and more acquires a material form, is transformed more and more from a relationship into a thing, but a thing which embodies, which has absorbed, the social relationship, a thing which has acquired a fictitious life and independent existence in relation to itself, a natural-supernatural entity; in this form of capital and profit it appears superficially as a ready-made pre-condition.  It is the form of its reality, or rather its real form of existence.  And it is the form in which it exists in the consciousness and is reflected in the imagination of its representatives, the capitalists"

So, all it establishes is that social forms can be objective and from this he deduces that the "laws" which govern social forms operate like natural laws and impose themselves on the various actors concerned independently of their will: "Because, in the midst of all the accidental and ever fluctuating exchange relations between the products, the labour time socially necessary for their production forcibly asserts itself like an over-riding law of Nature. The law of gravity thus asserts itself when a house falls about our ears."

So, yes, Marx is arguing that socially valid categories can be objective, but he is talking about economic categories. However, you are taking the quote out of context to assume he means all social categories are objective. This is clearly not the case. The belief of millions in the Christian God does not make that entity any more real, although it was clearly a socially valid concept in medieval Europe. The objectivity of the concept is not found in the "realness" of God, but in the fact that millions tried to live as if it was real.

(The same is true, incidentally, of bourgeois economic categories. They function as laws of nature only for so long as society submits to bourgeois economic categories, in other words to keep acting like capitalists and workers. However, the very operation of those categories gives workers an incentive to challenge and resist them.)

Moreover, the fact that socially-valid categories can be objective should not lead us to the conclusion that a category has to be socially valid to be objective. Unless we believe the phenomena we call the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which makes objects solid, didn't exist before the 20th century! Similarly, as I pointed out earlier, the Moon was causing tidal shifts long before we realised it, let alone that it was the Moon's gravity causing it.

What we call matter will still exist, regardless of what categories human thought might take. Indeed, those categories are formed from our interaction with the thing out there, "created out of the substance of natural phenomena" as Pannekoek might say.

But changing thought does not change the world in itself. Workers can vote on anything they like, but it is practice that changes the world. Voting to change the atmospheric boiling of water will not, ever, change the atmospheric boiling point of water! If we wish to do so, we will have to act and somehow alter the behaviour of this form of matter. Such action can only be based on an understanding of the behaviour of matter.

To conclude, your attempt to find support for your argument in this quote from Marx has failed. Your position is based on a fallacious reading of his works, combined with an equally fallacious equation of wholly different assertions: even if Marx was saying "all social categories are objective" (questionable) it does not equal "all objective categories are socially valid".

You are thus no further in justifying your assertions that the objectivity of natural phenomena is socially dependent.

Demogorgon
Very, very quickly, on the

Very, very quickly, on the control of science. It's certainly true that the bourgeoisie want to control science. Different factions have attempted to suppress research on smoking causing cancer, climate changes, etc. Stalinist Russia condemned relativity and genetics. If the whole scientific establishment rejected climate change on the instructions of their bourgeois paymasters ... will that stop the progress of global warming?

Controlling science can certainly be a lever of social control, but it doesn't control the rest of reality.

There's more to be said, but it'll have to wait.

LBird
A category from Bogdanov which is of use to workers

Bogdanov, TPOLE, p. 43, wrote:
Labour is effort – i.e. it necessarily entails overcoming some kind of resistance – otherwise it would not be labour. Nature, as the object of all the efforts of humanity, is the world of resistance or, what is the same thing, the kingdom of matter.

Countless philosophers of bourgeois society have argued about matter without keeping in mind the basic, elementary fact that ‘matter’ correlates with labour, and that these two concepts are inseparably related and are incomprehensible apart from one another. And this is not, by the way, at all difficult to understand.

….

…matter is socially valid opposition to human efforts, an object of collective labour.

In other words, there is no ‘matter’ without human effort, and the more suitable term for ‘matter’ is ‘resistance’.

There is a socio-historic link between societies’ varying efforts and the resistance that they encounter.

Social labour and resistance are inescapably linked.

The only world-for-humans, is the one that we create and thus experience, through our ever-changing social production, and thus differing modes of production live in different worlds.

And the bourgeois mode of production doesn’t have an access to an ‘Eternal Truth’ like ‘matter-out-there’, which we know because this belief would invalidate Marx’s theories about the social production of our world.

This dynamic category of ‘resistance’ is a concept far more useful to the proletariat, than a fixed ‘matter-out-there’.

‘Resistance’ is socio-historic in character, whereas ‘matter-out-there’ claims to be a Universal Truth, which 'exists outside of' human labour.

Demogorgon
I'm not sure if this is

I'm not sure if this is Bogdanov (I'm not that familiar with his work) or the way you're quoting him, but the result is an antidialectical, anti-Marxist argument.

The idea of matter as resistance as presented here is purely one-sided. Of course, it is true that the properties of matter limit human action , but they also enable it. You can't fly because of gravity - but a proper application of aerodynamics overcomes this. Against resistance, you also have utility (or use-value).

And matter is not inextricably linked with labour. Not even use-values are. Again, Marx: "A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c."

MH
Marx against LBird

It is completely pointless to discuss Bogdanov when we are still having to deal with LBird's basic distortions of Marx.

So far we have shown that, contrary to LBird’s claims, Marx does talk about the reality of ‘matter’ and of a ‘sensuous world’ that is external to human beings.

This goes a long way to demolishing LBird's pet theory of a complete split between Marx and Engels on materialism.

LBird has also claimed Marx in support of one of his more bizarre views; that ‘society produces humanity’ - a circular, non-answer if ever there was one.

LBird wrote:

Demogorgon wrote:

"For Marx, humanity was the 'producer', not 'matter'."

What produced humanity?

'Society' does, Demo. Humans are self-producers.

 

Could Marx possibly have argued such a thing?

LBird’s source for Marx’s views appears to be the 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (EPM).

Lo and behold in the EPM we read the following:

…man produces man…just as society itself produces man as man, so is society produced by him … Thus society is the complete unity of man with nature … the consistent naturalism of man and the consistent humanism of nature.”

The problem is, these statements appear in the section dealing with ‘Private Property and Communism’ and it is very clear that Marx is referring here to relationships between human beings, society and nature in a future communist society:  

“…on the assumption of positively annulled private property man produces man …just as society itself produces man as man, so is society produced by him. …" (My emphasis)

Perhaps LBird just didn’t spot the section heading?

Marx devotes whole sections of the EPM to exploring the complexities of man’s relationship with nature in class society. 

He calls nature man’s inorganic body: “Man lives on nature… nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die.”

The worker can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous external world. It is the material on which his labour is realized…” (Marx’s emphasis)

But man is also estranged from nature, espceially in capitalism , where alienated labour tears man from the object of his labour and thus from “his inorganic body, nature”. Only in communism will man be re-united with nature at a higher, conscious level.

(I’m really simplifying here; comrades will have to read the text for themselves to see if I am faithful to the spirit of Marx's arguments, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/preface.htm ).

In summary, nowhere does Marx argue that the origin of humanity is society. LBird also entirely ignores Marx’s references to “the sensuous external world” and his views on the estrangement of man from nature in capitalism (in fact afaic the Marxist concept of alienation is entirely missing from his worldview). But instead of engaging with Marx’s arguments in all their richness he simply lifts the bits he thinks will back his idealist arguments. Yet again, he's been found out.

 

 

LBird
MH against Marx

MH wrote:
But instead of engaging with Marx’s arguments in all their richness he simply lifts the bits he thinks will back his idealist arguments. Yet again, he's been found out.

If anyone's being 'found out' from your Leninist materialist perspective, MH, it's Marx himself.

Marx, EPM, in Fromm, pp. 148-9, wrote:
But nature too, taken abstractly, for itself, and rigidly separated from man, is nothing for man....Nature as nature...is nothing (a nullity demonstrating its nullity) is devoid of sense...

The focus on a non-social, non-historical, non-human-produced 'matter' is a concern of Engels, and Lenin followed this mistake for his own elite political purposes, as do you and Demo, in this debate.

But Bogdanov gives us a category that insists, like Marx, that humans and their social production is at the heart of their concerns with 'nature'.

The only people being 'found out' are the Leninist elitists, who openly state that "workers can't elect 'matter' ".

Put simply, 'matter' opposes workers' self-development and power - which is why Bogdanov rejected it, and Lenin fought tooth and claw to preserve it.

As do you.

Demogorgon
For those wondering, LBird's

For those wondering, LBird's quote is from here.

It is a greatly abbreviated quote from an extremely difficult and dense text that is critiquing Hegel. As best I can tell, these statements are not mean to read as positive affirmations but an exposition of the contradictions Hegel finds himself caught up in.

A fuller rendition follows:

Quote:
The absolute idea, the abstract idea, which

considered with regard to its unity with itself is intuiting  and which (loc. cit.) “in its own absolute truth resolves to let the moment of its particularity or of initial characterisation and other-being, the immediate idea, as its reflection, go forth freely from itself as nature” (loc. cit.),

this whole idea which behaves in such a strange and bizarre way, and which has given the Hegelians such terrible headaches, is from beginning to end nothing else but abstraction (i.e., the abstract thinker), which, made wise by experience and enlightened concerning its truth, resolves under various (false and themselves still abstract) conditions to abandon itself and to replace its self-absorption, nothingness, generality and indeterminateness by its other-being, the particular, and the determinate; resolves to let nature, which it held hidden in itself only as an abstraction, as a thought-entity, go forth freely from itself; that is to say, this idea resolves to forsake abstraction and to have a look at nature free of abstraction. The abstract idea, which without mediation becomes intuiting, is indeed nothing else but abstract thinking that gives itself up and resolves on intuition. This entire transition from logic to natural philosophy is nothing else but the transition – so difficult to effect for the abstract thinker, who therefore describes it in such an adventurous way – from abstracting to intuiting. The mystical feeling which drives the philosopher forward from abstract thinking to intuiting is boredom – the longing for content.

(The man estranged from himself is also the thinker estranged from his essence – that is, from the natural and human essence. His thoughts are therefore fixed mental forms dwelling outside nature and man. Hegel has locked up all these fixed mental forms together in his logic, interpreting each of them first as negation – that is, as an alienation of human thought – and then as negation of the negation – that is, as a superseding of this alienation, as a real expression of human thought. But as this still takes place within the confines of the estrangement, this negation of the negation is in part the restoring of these fixed forms in their estrangement; in part a stopping at the last act – the act of self-reference in alienation – as the true mode of being of these fixed mental forms; * –

[* (This means that what Hegel does is to put in place of these fixed abstractions the act of abstraction which revolves in its own circle. We must therefore give him the credit for having indicated the source of all these inappropriate concepts which originally appertained to particular philosophers; for having brought them together; and for having created the entire compass of abstraction as the object of criticism, instead of some specific abstraction.) (Why Hegel separates thought from the subject we shall see later; at this stage it is already clear, however, that when man is not, his characteristic expression cannot be human either, and so neither could thought be grasped as an expression of man as a human and natural subject endowed with eyes, ears, etc., and living in society, in the world, and in nature.) – Note by Marx]

– and in part, to the extent that this abstraction apprehends itself and experiences an infinite weariness with itself, there makes its appearance in Hegel, in the form of the resolution to recognise nature as the essential being and to go over to intuition, the abandonment of abstract thought – the abandonment of thought revolving solely within the orbit of thought, of thought sans eyes, sans teeth, sans ears, sans everything.)

But nature too, taken abstractly, for itself – nature fixed in isolation from man – is nothing for man. It goes without saying that the abstract thinker who has committed himself to intuiting, intuits nature abstractly. Just as nature lay enclosed in the thinker in the form of the absolute idea, in the form of a thought-entity – in a shape which was obscure and enigmatic even to him – so by letting it emerge from himself he has really let emerge only this abstract nature, only nature as a thought-entity – but now with the significance that it is the other-being of thought, that it is real, intuited nature – nature distinguished from abstract thought. Or, to talk in human language, the abstract thinker learns in his intuition of nature that the entities which he thought to create from nothing, from pure abstraction – the entities he believed he was producing in the divine dialectic as pure products of the labour of thought, for ever shuttling back and forth in itself and never looking outward into reality – are nothing else but abstractions from characteristics of nature. To him, therefore, the whole of nature merely repeats the logical abstractions in a sensuous, external form. He once more resolves nature into these abstractions. Thus, his intuition of nature is only the act of confirming his abstraction from the intuition of nature – is only the conscious repetition by him of the process of creating his abstraction. Thus, for example, time equals negativity referred to itself. To the superseded becoming as being there corresponds, in natural form, superseded movement as matter. Light is reflection-in-itself, the natural form. Body as moon and comet is the natural form of the antithesis which according to logic is on the one side the positive resting on itself and on the other side the negative resting on itself. The earth is the natural form of the logical ground, as the negative unity of the antithesis, etc.

Nature as nature – that is to say, insofar as it is still sensuously distinguished from that secret sense hidden within it – nature isolated, distinguished from these abstractions is nothing – a nothing proving itself to be nothing – is devoid of sense, or has only the sense of being an externality which has to be annulled.

“In the finite-teleological position is to be found the correct premise that nature does not contain within itself the absolute purpose.” [§245].

Its purpose is the confirmation of abstraction.

“Nature has shown itself to be the idea in the form of other-being. Since the idea is in this form the negative of itself or external to itself, nature is not just relatively external vis-à-vis this idea, but externality constitutes the form in which it exists as nature.” [§ 247].

Externality here is not to be understood as the world of sense which manifests itself and is accessible to the light, to the man endowed with senses. It is to be taken here in the sense of alienation, of a mistake, a defect, which ought not to be. For what is true is still the idea. Nature is only the form of the idea’s other-being. And since abstract thought is the essence, that which is external to it is by its essence something merely external. The abstract thinker recognises at the same time that sensuousness – externality in contrast to thought shuttling back and forth within itself – is the essence of nature. But he expresses this contrast in such a way as to make this externality of nature, its contrast to thought, its defect, so that inasmuch as it is distinguished from abstraction, nature is something defective.

An entity which is defective not merely for me or in my eyes but in itself – intrinsically – has something outside itself which it lacks. That is, its essence is different from it itself. Nature has therefore to supersede itself for the abstract thinker, for it is already posited by him as a potentially superseded being.

The argument that Marx seems to be developing here is that because Hegel begins with thought, not nature, he can only find abstraction. When he attempts to escape his abstractions, by examining nature, he sees only confirmation of his pre-existing abstractions, which Hegel mistakes for having their origin in thought, in spirit. Hegel thus mistakenly concludes that what he sees in nature is the product of his thought but his thought is a product of nature. By making thought his starting point, Hegel is caught in a trap that he can't escape.

I think, therefore, it is deeply problematic to quote in the way LBird does, as if Marx approves of these concepts.

In any case, by the time Marx and Engels wrote the German Ideology, they set their theory on rigorous materialist foundations, and expressed it (thank God!) much more clearly: "The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. Of course, we cannot here go either into the actual physical nature of man, or into the natural conditions in which man finds himself – geological, hydrographical, climatic and so on. The writing of history must always set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of men."

M&E make it quite clear that the starting point is humanity's physical nature and what this means for our relationship with nature, in a physical sense.They don't elaborate, because the focus of their work is on the social side, but it is quite clear that nature ontologically preceeds man.

They continue: "Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life.

The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production."

The way humans produce depends, in the first instance, on what they find in nature. Nature is the starting point, not an abstraction nature derived from thought but the real nature that humans find themselves living in.

Nature is thus where human beings (and thus human thought) starts, but it is not where it ends, because human beings alter nature. This alteration does not take place solely in thought, but in action. The unity of humanity with nature is the real, lived experience of human beings reproducing their subsistance: "the important question of the relation of man to nature (Bruno [Bauer] goes so far as to speak of “the antitheses in nature and history”, as though these were two separate “things” and man did not always have before him an historical nature and a natural history) out of which all the “unfathomably lofty works” on “substance” and “self-consciousness” were born, crumbles of itself when we understand that the celebrated “unity of man with nature” has always existed in industry and has existed in varying forms in every epoch according to the lesser or greater development of industry".

But ... "the priority of external nature remains unassailed; ... but this differentiation has meaning only insofar as man is considered to be distinct from nature. For that matter, nature, the nature that preceded human history ... no longer exists anywhere (except perhaps on a few Australian coral-islands of recent origin) ..."

We are thus back to the problem I identified with LBirds methodology in post #84: his inability to understand that although humanity and nature, being and consciousness, matter and society, etc. exist as a unity, they are also distinct. Nor does the unity of humanity and nature mean the negation of nature, any more than that unity means the negation of humanity.

[Extensively edited thanks to the ******ing formatting problems!]

LBird
'Matter' as 'discovered' by an elite method

The real issue here is one of politics, as I think that we're all aware.

Marx's works can be plundered by anyone who has a mind to, because, as Demo alluded, Marx was a particularly crap writer. That's why many don't even read him, but prefer Engels.

The present debate is about 'matter', so I have a question to the Leninists.

Can you tell me how you identify 'matter'? That is, what method do you use to tell yourself what 'matter' is?

This leads inexorably to another question - if you can identify 'matter', why can't all other workers employ the same method?

After all, if you can identify 'matter', and so can other workers, surely it's reasonable to suppose that 'matter' would be elected to 'exist', since all would agree with your method, and its findings, that 'matter does exist'?

Since you all keep saying that workers can't be allowed to elect 'matter' to 'existence', this leads to a worrying conclusion.

Either, workers are not able to identify 'matter' with your method, because it is a method useable only by an elite...

or, you're afraid that workers might choose another method, and thereby not 'elect' your 'matter'.

Either way, this leads to the conclusion that you don't trust workers' own abilities to choose or use your method.

This is a profoundly anti-democratic and, to Marxists, anti-proletarian, position to take.

Marx didn't take this political position, and neither did Bogdanov, and neither do I. We three all argue for proletarian self-development and self-determination.

Or, can you find a quote by Marx that argued that workers can't develop themselves, and that the Communist revolution was an act to be done by a small minority, and that the workers were to be passive in this process, and led by an elite, a special elite who 'know matter'?

MH
Marx against LBird ... again

[posted before I saw Demo's much more comprehensive response above!]

This is characteristic of LBird’s dishonest method of debate.

Without even trying to defend his (mis)use of Marx’s words or showing how I  have misinterpreted or misunderstood Marx’s arguments, he simply seizes on another two-line quote as supposedly proving his point.

LBird wrote:

Marx, EPM, in Fromm, pp. 148-9, wrote:
But nature too, taken abstractly, for itself, and rigidly separated from man, is nothing for man....Nature as nature...is nothing (a nullity demonstrating its nullity) is devoid of sense...

Unfortunately he has picked the wrong quote.

It is from a section devoted to a critique of Hegel’s philosophy. It is dense, quite difficult to digest, but in it Marx is engaged in a critique of Hegel’s idealism and in particular of his abstract thinking, ie. of “thinking that abstracts from nature and from real man”.

Hence the quote: “…nature too, taken abstractly, for itself, and rigidly separated from man, is nothing for man....Nature as nature...is nothing (a nullity demonstrating its nullity) is devoid of sense…”(my emphasis)

Against such abstract thinking, Marx emphasises man as “a living, natural being equipped and endowed with objective (i.e., material) essential powers”. To satisfy his real, natural needs, eg. hunger, man requires objects that exist outside of him. It is the existence of objects outside of him which define his relationship with nature, ie. it is a real, objective relationship rather than an abstract one.

That, I think, is what Marx is arguing here, and it clearly provides no support to LBird's arguments regarding Marx and nature. Unfortunately for him in fact it turns out that Marx is arguing against his own line of idealist thinking...

 

Demogorgon
Quote:Marx's works can be

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Marx's works can be plundered by anyone who has a mind to, because, as Demo alluded, Marx was a particularly crap writer.

Funny how Marx becomes a bad writer when he says things you don't want him to say. Worse, if he can be plundered (as you imply I am doing) and this plundering cannot be resolved by reference to Marx, then how the hell can anyone be sure of what he's actually saying? Why should anyone believe your interpretation of Marx? How do we know you're not plundering him? How do we know you've even understood him? How, for that matter, do you know whether you've understood him?

The logical conclusion is that Marx is actually useless. And yet you continually claim to speak for him (at least I let him speak for himself).

And, of course, your point is yet another strawman because I said nothing of the sort. I said "extremely difficult and dense text". Has it ever occured to you that maybe there are ideas and concepts that are just hard to understand? That these things take effort? Or, as Marx put it, in another example of terrible writing: "There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."

To you, it seems, anything that smacks of hard work (like science, maths, etc.) seems somehow "bourgeois". You critique scientists for daring to think a thought that's not immediately accessible and condemn them for being elitist. You're just like "the French public, always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connexion between general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions, may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once" except that, in a classic case of transference you blame the scientists (or Marx) for your inability to understand.

You're aping an ignorant peasant with contempt for "book learning". And, yet, you're happy to read reams of bourgeois philosophy, which you continually reference, and there's no hint you feel uncomfortable with them. Perhaps you ought to ask yourself why your so much more comfortable with them than with Marx?

I have no problem with people who struggle to understand all these things and get frustrated. So do I. But I do have a big problem with those who then set themselves up as the final authority on these things and refuse to respond to challenge and criticism. It's not scientists who refuse to  clarify their thoughts against criticism, defend your interpretations, even answer simple questions or, god forbid, admit they may be wrong sometimes, it's you!

As an ironic aside though, Engels sometimes critiqued Marx's style of writing. Guess you're an Engelsist, after all. And, in another irony, I find the opening chapters of Capital are actually the most straightforward in terms of writing.

Anyway, onward to your attempts at argument.

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Can you tell me how you identify 'matter'? That is, what method do you use to tell yourself what 'matter' is?

Sense perception, initially, followed by critical evalutation, which is then tested against sense perception, and so on.

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This leads inexorably to another question - if you can identify 'matter', why can't all other workers employ the same method?

They can. No-one here has argued that they can't.

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After all, if you can identify 'matter', and so can other workers, surely it's reasonable to suppose that 'matter' would be elected to 'exist', since all would agree with your method, and its findings, that 'matter does exist'?

Yes. That is, after all, the normal functioning of scientific method: comparison of data, testing of each other's theories and hypotheses against each other. It's called peer review. That's how science functions, even today, in spite of its many problems in its distorted practice in capitalist society.

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Since you all keep saying that workers can't be allowed to elect 'matter' to 'existence', this leads to a worrying conclusion.

Unfortunately, your conclusion is a non-sequitur. No-one has said that workers (or anyone else) cannot come up with any scientific theories they want. The point is that (like everyone else) they have to prove test those theories with evidence and prove the truth of those theories in practice. That is the test of validity of thought as Marx pointed out in the Theses on Fuerbach.

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Either, workers are not able to identify 'matter' with your method, because it is a method useable only by an elite...

Already refuted.

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or, you're afraid that workers might choose another method, and thereby not 'elect' your 'matter'.

How on earth does that follow? True, I might be a little wary of walking over a bridge built by someone who claims he can build one out of air, but if this strangely solidified "air" manages to hold my weight then intellectual honesty requires me to accept his claim. And, if we find these magic air bridges stand up to continued testing, then workers can build them everywhere.

I repeat: the test of the validity of thought and theory is found in practice.

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Either way, this leads to the conclusion that you don't trust workers' own abilities to choose or use your method.

Rubbish. I want a bridge to get me across the river. Build me a bridge, I'm happy. "Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes." Even steps across magic air bridges.

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This is a profoundly anti-democratic and, to Marxists, anti-proletarian, position to take.

Maybe so, but it's not a position anyone here has taken.

Marx didn't take this political position, and neither did Bogdanov, and neither do I.

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Marx didn't take this political position, and neither did Bogdanov, and neither do I. We three all argue for proletarian self-development and self-determination.

Neither has anyone else here. On the other hand, I seem to recall a little LBird arguing quite vociferously that only communists could be members of the workers councils. Proletarians can choose self-determination as long as they choose communism (and whose communism?).

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Or, can you find a quote by Marx that argued that workers can't develop themselves, and that the Communist revolution was an act to be done by a small minority, and that the workers were to be passive in this process, and led by an elite, a special elite who 'know matter'?

So now Marx, who's ideas can be plundered by anyone, is suddenly the yardstick for this debate again, because you think he agrees with you? I guess coherence is just something for those silly bourgeois scientists.

But seriously, no, I probably couldn't. Which is just as well, because I fundamentally reject all those propositions as well. The ICC was founded on a rejection of that conception and MH, baboon, and all the others who you tirelessly condemn as being "elitist" reject it as well.

Your continual refrain, insulting us as elitists, etc. when our political ancestors were killed for defending the independent struggle of the working class and some of us on these boards put our jobs at risk (not to mention, on some occasions, our physical safety) in order to defend that struggle is utterly disgusting.

Now, if you want to have a serious discussion, as a comrade, and work towards a mutual understanding of these questions for the benefit of the working class instead of this antagonism then I and everyone here will be your willing partners. We won't always agree, but agreement is not required. What is required is a will to clarify  and a willingness to critique other positions and defend our own in an intellectually honest fashion.

LBird
Lenin was an elitist, and a destroyer of the proletariat

Demogorgon wrote:
Your continual refrain, insulting us as elitists, etc. when our political ancestors were killed for defending the independent struggle of the working class ...

But Leninists are not the democratic proletariat's 'political ancestors', and Lenin was an 'elitist', and if these political activists 'were killed', they 'were killed' for 'defending' their own political interests, and not in 'defending the independent struggle of the working class'.

I'm not a Leninist or Trotskyist, Demo, so I have no problem saying these things.

I regard Lenin as an anti-Marxist, who had no time whatsoever for an 'independent' working class. He says so, throughout his works.

Furthermore, all the arguments that you make, regarding class, party, science, matter, Engels, etc., I'm well familiar with, because I used to make them myself, as a member of the SWP.

And the reason was, I was just an ignorant worker, who took what the Trotskyists told me at face value.

But, now I've actually read Marx, and made an attempt to decipher his complex works, and done a better job than most, I stand by my defence of the democratic proletariat.

Only workers themselves can determine issues such as 'matter', and if they wish to reject that concept, because they don't agree with it, they can.

And those who argue that 'matter' is an Eternal Truth, I'll continue to 'insult' as 'elitists'.

Now, can we get on with Bogdanov's enrichment of Marxism, and leave Engels' outdated, obsolete, mistaken concern with 'matter' for another thread?

LBird
'Resistance' alone, means omitting social production

Bogdanov, TPOLE p. 46, wrote:
To see only matter, only resistance in the world, would mean simply to throw out all the rest, and first of all labour itself - that living activity, both practical and cognitive, of which matter is the object.

Once again, Bogdanov reiterates the inescapable link between 'resistance to effort' (ie. 'matter') and 'labour' (ie. social activity). And he points out that to break this relationship, is to destroy both, so without effort there can be no resistance, and without resistance there can be no effort.

So, here we have an account that agrees with Marx's concerns with 'social production' (ie. human effort and resistance to it), but doesn't agree with Engels' concerns with a 'matter' which is outside of, or can predate, our production of it.

It seems to me that the category 'resistance' is a far better rendering of Marx's views, than the bourgeois category of 'matter', which supposedly represents something which 'exists' outside of the human labour relationship with the 'inorganic world'.

This leads me to think that Marx's notion of an 'inorganic world', which when worked upon by humans produces their 'organic world', is a synonym for Bogdanov's 'resistance'.

That is, 'inorganic' equals 'resistance' - without 'resistance' (which implies an active force which it resists), then the 'inorganic' doesn't 'exist'.

This leads us to the view that 'inorganic nature' only 'exists' as an ingredient into social labour.

This also fits with Marx's claim that 'nature rigidly separated from man is nothing for man', and that 'nature as nature is nothing, a nullity'.

Marx, unlike Engels, always retains the relationship between humans and their world, their nature.

LBird
The binding matter?

Bogdanov, TPOLE p. 55, wrote:
…we are told that ‘matter is matter’, that it is a thing-in-itself, and that it is not determined by anything else. Matter is taken by extreme materialists to be all that exists and by the moderate materialists to be the primary basis of all that exists. The presence of fetishism in these formulas is immediately evident;… The relationship of activity and matter is completely distorted. Activity appears as an inner quality of matter, when in reality we know that matter is external resistance which meets activity. The idea of labour is subordinated to the idea of matter, while in reality matter is subordinated to labour.

Bogdanov regards the focus on ‘matter’ (‘out there’, without human involvement) as a fetish. This ascribes qualities to a ‘thing’ which aren’t really there: like giving ‘god’ all the qualities of humanity. This follows Marx’s method, regarding ‘value’ and ‘commodities’.

He again reiterates the social relationship between human activity and resistance to its efforts.

And, as a warning to workers regarding an elite and their ‘matter’, he says the focus on matter subordinates labour, just as the ‘elite matter party’ of Lenin subordinates the proletariat.

‘Matter’ is the slaves’ chain binding the working class to its master-party. We must break out of this ideological bondage.

LBird
The nature of 'physics' and 'spacetime'?

Whilst we're on the subject of 'social production' of 'matter', human activity and resistance, I thought that I should mention what 'physics' means in Ancient Greek, the world of Aristotle, and a big influence upon Marx.

The noun 'phusis' means 'nature' or 'product', 'production' (ie. output).

The verb 'phuo' means 'to produce', 'to generate', 'to grow'.

So, we can justifiably use the term 'physics' to mean 'the study of social production'.

This would be far more useful to the revolutionary proletariat, in its ideological battle with the bourgeoisie, to stress that 'nature' is produced, and that humanity is the producer, and that 'science' is the study of 'how to produce better for humanity'. 

This is all a long (ideological) way from the bourgeois myth that 'science' is the 'passive, disinterested, discovery' of a 'world out there', which 'exists' apart from humanity.

This also provides yet more support for Marx's stated aim to unify the sciences, to provide a single method for science. The basis of a unified science would be 'social production', in a word, 'labour'.

A proper science for us, the producers, where the 'physical' is our collective product... and which would suit far better our discussion of Rovelli, 'spacetime' and where it comes from, which is still baffling the bourgeoisie's 'best' brains.

That is, we produce 'spacetime', and our physics is the study of that social production.