Part I

Hegel’s Preface to the First Edition of The Science of Logic

Let us begin by looking at the Preface to The Science of Logic. (This is henceforth referred to as the larger Logic; some years later Hegel wrote what we call the smaller Logic, a brief summary which forms part of Hegel’s Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.) What is Hegel trying to do? He is talking about new ideas. His dialectic is new, a new way of organizing thought. Not of thinking. But of knowing what you do when you think.

Imperceptibly the new ideas became familiar even to their opposers, who appropriated them and—though persistently slighting and gainsaying the sources and principles of those ideas—yet had to accept their results, and were unable to evade their influence. The only way opposers could give content and positive value to their negative attitude (which was getting to be of even less importance) was by giving in their adherence to the new ways of thinking. 1

We can see this is our whole development. The chief, or one of the most striking examples is our application of the law of value to the Russian economy. Today these God-damned scoundrels all turn up and say “of course”! But you could look through the literature of the Fourth International for pages and pages. I do not remember any statements to that effect.

But in politics that is not enough, if it is enough anywhere. Our opponents are stuck in their own roots. They adopt ideas, but they remain stuck in their own “sources and principles” and they use the new ideas solely for argument’s sake and to preserve their own position. Over and over again I see them doing it. It is testimony, however, to the strength of our new ideas. We never had to take anything from them—never. This should be observed.

Hegel is very wise. See again how he distinguished between different stages of development of a new system of ideas:

On the other hand, the period of fermentation with which a new creation begins seems to be past. 2

(I think it is the same in our case. The period was 1940-46.)

At its first appearance such a period generally wears an aspect of fanatical hostility towards the prevalent systemization of the older principle.

Look at the above quote. When the idea that Russia was state capitalist began in the old days, the group was fanatical and eaten up with itself. Why?

It (the group) is also, partly, fearful of losing itself in the wilderness of particulars details, let us say while it shuns the labour required for scientific development, and in its need of such a development grasps, at first, at an empty formalism.

Yes, the old state capitalists shunned the labour, and were formalistic. It is good to see that these events follow a course of development. The need for digestion and development of the new knowledge becomes urgent as against this formalism. Hegel then says that this period in a development demands that we require and maintain the principle in its undeveloped intensity. “But,” he concludes, “the higher requirement is that the principle should be elaborated into systematized knowledge.”

We have done just that and now, almost automatically, we have arrived at a stage where we feel the necessity of systematizing the knowledge. That is exactly what these notes are going to try to do. Later we shall see that is itself a dialectical development. The abstract statement of a principle, the filling it out with an objective content; the logical systematization; being, essence, notion.

Now read the whole paragraph and grasp it:

On the other hand, the period of fermentation with which a new creation begins seems to be past. At its first appearance such a period generally wears an aspect of fanatical hostility toward the prevalent systematization of the older principle; it is also, partly, fearful of losing itself in the wilderness of particulars while it shuns the labour required for scientific development, and in its need of such a development grasps, at first, at an empty formalism. The demand for the digestion and development of the material now becomes so much the more pressing. This is a period in the development of an age, as in the development of an individual, when the chief business is to acquire and maintain the principle in its undeveloped intensity. But the higher requirement is that the principle should be elaborated into systematized knowledge.

We recognize ourselves, I hope. Let us learn to observe objective process in our own development. That is a sure cure for narcissism and subjectivity in regard to ourselves and to others.

Let us now jump a little. Still prefacing, Hegel says:

But it is the nature of the content and that alone which lives and stirs in philosophic cognition, while it is the very reflection of the content, which itself originates and determines the nature of philosophy.

This is the key to the Hegelian dialectic and therefore to marxist thinking. We shall meet it again and again, and shall take it from every point of view until we get it. Thought is not an instrument you apply to a content. The content moves, develops, changes and creates new categories of thought, and gives them direction. It is easy enough to see this, on the surface, when we say bourgeois society, capitalistic civilization, produced Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Bentham, etc. But philosophic cognition is not the study of philosophy. It is, for Hegel, cognition of any object. Here, and all through this, I am chiefly going to be concerned with the labour movement. This will be our object. Philosophic cognition of it means. not philosophy about it, but a correct cognition, a correct grasp of it, in its movement. The labour movement takes certain forms, Commune, the Second International, the Third, unions, CIO, IWW, etc. These are (1) international above all. But (2) they express this essential internationalism in national form. It is an international movement that takes national form, each form being peculiar to the nation; but the basic laws are international because labour is an international “object”. But it is the nature of labour, its development, changes and decisive forms in various countries that enable us to think, clarify, and develop a philosophic cognition about the object: international labour. Labour acts empirically and then its innumerable acts crystallize in a formed movement, an organization, a category. One such category is a revolutionary international. Once that takes place, a new development has been added to thought. The CIO cannot be seen by anybody (the AFL too) except in relation to a revolutionary international. You can, of course, like labour bureaucrats, refuse to recognize this. But their thoughts and actions are governed by it never the less.

Now one of the chief errors of thought is to continue to think in one set of forms, categories, ideas, etc., when the object, the content, has moved on, has created or laid the premises for an extension, a development of thought. A philosophic cognition means a cognition in which the categories of thought are adequate to the object it is thinking about. It has nothing to do with Kant or Hegel. When a worker says, “I’ll be damned. In 1914 we had a labour international that said it was against private property and said it would not support national defence. Yet when the time came it did all these things and persecuted and cheated the workers and kept them down. In 1939 we had another international. This one said it was against private property and it said that it was against national defence. It actually showed too that it meant these things. But still it persecutes and cheats the workers and keeps them down,” that is a philosophic cognition. He recognizes that the persecuting, cheating, suppressing internationals can act very differently on fundamental things and yet be in essence the same. But when a philosopher says: “We are not Kantians. We are dialecticians of the school of Hegel developed by Marx. And this dialectic teaches us that because the new international persecutes the workers and cheats and suppresses them then you will see that it will protect private property and join the bourgeoisie just as the old one did, because that is the way persecuting, cheating internationals behave”, that, my friends, is a very unphilosophical cognition.

That is our theme; we know the facts already. But to think about them, how the mistake of the philosopher was made, we shall go at it again and again. In the smaller Logic, Hegel says very calmly: “Usually no suspicion attaches to the finite forms of thought; they are allowed to pass unquestioned.”3

We say: revolutionary international, reformist international. These are “finite”, fixed, concrete, clear. We know what they mean. Do we? “But it is from conforming to finite categories in thought and action that all deception originates”4 You are going to hear this often before we are done. You will be sick of it, and then it will jerk your attention up once again.


There is a philosophical term in Hegel for thinking in finite categories. He calls it Understanding. When you recognize that the categories of thought are not finite but move, and when you know how and why they move, then your method is the method of Reason. Don’t think you know that categories move. You don’t. You just don’t until you know how and why. You must be patient and humble. Hegel says it a thousand times. All error, in thought and action, comes from this. All error. All. He is right, so we will, if you please, look and stop and look again and in and out and in and out and round and about, constantly setting off in different directions from the same spot.

“Understanding makes determinations and maintains them,”5 says Hegel, still in the Preface. A determination is a category. Reformist international is one determination. Revolutionary international is another, etc.

Kant believed that the ego, the human intellect, the thought-organization, possessed, consisted of a certain number of categories of thought. It perceived events and objects by sensation, feeling, intuition, and filled these into the different categories, and made order and sense. This Hegel calls the stage of Understanding for to Kant the categories did not move.

Let us transfer this to the labour movement. (These transfers are rough but Hegel intended them to be made. That is precisely what logic is, an algebra, but an algebra in constant movement.) “Categories” of the labour movement are, I repeat, union, reformist party, reformist international; revolutionary party, revolutionary international, etc.

Now Kant, says Hegel, did not look to see where his categories came from, he just took them over from the old logic. He did not see that the categories developed out of one another, in a consistent movement, of opposition and resolution of opposition, and were all connected. He did not see, that at critical moments, a new category appeared because the old categories could no longer contain the new content. What Kant did in philosophy, others do in other spheres of intellectual life. So this type of thinking needs examination. Why does it arise? If it is persisted in, what happens? Hegel says we can see it, know it and know in advance the errors it will make, wherever it appears.

“Understanding makes determinations and maintains them.”6 There is a reformist international, Mensheviks, a revolutionary international, Bolsheviks, there are general strikes, soviets (1917 model), a Bolshevik party, etc. We fit what we perceive into these categories. At every plenum we study them, we clarify them, and we change them a little. In reality, the old categories hold us by the throat, especially thinkers. The Russian revolution of February caused violent changes in Lenin’s categories. World War I set him revising the categories of the Second International. You can for years at plenums and conventions develop and clarify and objectivize the subjective and subjectivize the objective and make a truly grand display of movement and opposition and so on, only to show by 1938, and to have exposed in 1941 that all our conceptions of revolutionary and reformist internationals of 1940 were the same old ones we had in 1917. We. But even this category, we, can be a finite, fixed determination or a dialectical category of Reason (caught you that time with everything down. I warned you to be careful). Yes. Let us examine “we”. For one thing many of us splitters had at the back of our minds that the stalinists were going to support Stalin. Nobody said so. But it played a part in our calculations. So the “we” who still supported Leon Trotsky’s views in 1940 were not the “we” who did so in 1938. But nothing was said. It took us six years after the fact to clarify this matter and show what was the importance of this in Trotsky’s calculations. No, the error of errors is to begin by believing you know that categories change. To say that, to think that, implies that you know that categories change and Trotsky didn’t. He would have been able to lecture you on changing categories most profoundly. He talked about it all the time. But fixed and finite determinations held him by the throat to the end.

What we have to do therefore is to make one great experience of thinking in terms of Understanding and thinking about the same object in terms of Reason. We have the Logic, we have our experience with trotskyism. Let us master them, testing one by the other. I can go so far as to say that in the marxist movement, if you and some other person or group, consistently clash in your estimate of some object, some problem, then one is right, he is using Reason, and the other, probably, Understanding. There are various degrees of Understanding and Reason but the dividing line is clear. In fact Hegel says there are three broad divisions of cognition.

  1. Simple, everyday, common sense, vulgar empiricism, ordinary perception.
  2. Understanding.
  3. Dialectic.

And, holy heaven preserve us, if you do not get out to Dialectic and stay in Understanding too long, you tumble right back into empiricism and common sense. Again the Logic tells you how and why.


Let us have a closer took, a general look at Reason, or the dialectical method as opposed to Understanding.

It follows that the categories are no fit terms to express the absolute—the absolute not being given in perception. 7

You cannot see the absolute, perceive it by common sense and observation. It is not there to be examined and apprehended by any category. It is the creation of Reason, “and Understanding or Knowledge by means of the categories, is consequently incapable of knowing the Things-in-Themselves.”8 Let us call the Things-in-Themselves, for the time being, absolute reality, things as they really and comprehensively are. (By the way, I am doing injustice to Kant, I am sure, and committing crimes against philosophical terminology.)

Hegel has another name for Reason. He calls it “speculative truth”, a marvellous phrase. You speculate, you create truth. Notice how he constantly finds opposition in the very phrases. For ordinary man, truth is the reverse of speculation.

In the smaller Logic, he says, as bold as brass, but without heat, “Speculative truth, it may also be noted, means very much the same as what, in special connection with religious experiences and doctrines, used to be called Mysticism”9 Isn’t that something? Shachtman and his friends regularly called me “a mystic”. The fool hath uttered wiser than he knew.

It says, “there is mystery in the mystical, only however for the Understanding which is ruled by the principle of abstract identity; whereas the mystical, as synonymous with speculative, is the concrete unity of those propositions which understanding only accepts in their separation and opposition.”

We, the great revolutionaries, have been accused of “mysticism”. It is no accident. Hegel says that men of Understanding do not understand that when they take the determinations as they are, they renounce “thought”; the determinations become “fixed elements and swing around into its opposite. . . . Reasonableness, on the contrary, just consists in embracing within itself these opposites as unsubstantial elements.” Assume that they will pass away. You must. That is Reason. His combination of Reason as mysticism and then as “reasonableness” is calm and superbly ironic.

The full quote is as follows: the maestro at his best and most understandable:

Speculative truth, it may also be noted, means very much the same as what, in special connection with religious experience and doctrines, used to be called Mysticism. The term Mysticism is at present used, as a rule, to designate what is mysterious and incomprehensible: and in proportion as their general culture and way of thinking vary, the epithet is applied by one class to denote the real and the true, by another to name everything connected with superstition and deception. On which we first of all remark that there is mystery in the mystical, only however for the understanding which is ruled by the principle of abstract identity; whereas the mystical, as synonymous with the speculative, is the concrete unity of those propositions, which understanding only accepts in their separation and opposition. And if those who recognize Mysticism as the highest truth are content to leave it in its original utter mystery, their conduct only proves that for them too, as well as for their antagonists, thinking means abstract identification, and that in their opinion, therefore, truth can only be won by renouncing thought, or as it is frequently expressed, by leaving the reason captive. But, as we have seen, the abstract thinking of understanding is so far from being either ultimate or stable, that it shows a perpetual tendency to work its own dissolution and swing round into its opposite. Reasonableness, on the contrary, just consists in embracing within itself these opposites as unsubstantial elements. Thus the reason-world may be equally styled mystical, not however because thought cannot both reach and comprehend it, but merely because it lies beyond the compass of understanding.

But, being humble and patient and inquiring, we ask, why should some use common sense or empirical perception, and some Understanding and some Dialectic? It is a question we shall touch upon as far as necessary, more in the later sections than here. But here again these categories as categories of thought will surprise us. They are not separate. They are connected. No man can think at all without this simple “perception”, the data of the senses, called sometimes intuition. But if you stay there, you get lost. You must break out of these fixed, limited finite categories of sense, and you analyse, you so to speak classify. You get a fine new set of thoughts and you fix sense data in those thoughts. A genuine empiricist sees the CIO as something that happened. It came, that’s all. A labour party? “I don’t think American workers will ever have one,” he says. Understanding, however, thinks in terms of First International, Second International, Third International, in embryo. Hegel says that you need Understanding! You can’t go a step without it. You must have things fixed, in their categories, finite, limited. exact. All scientific thought must do this. Until you fix things in thought, in their precise limited finite form, Second International, Third (Lenin and his 21 points), you cannot move a step. You can’t begin to discuss. Strange, isn’t it, from a man who has been belabouring Understanding. This cognition is called Synthetic. It is associated. with Kant. Understanding, therefore, is very important. Watch it again. It is a form of negation. It does not take objects as common sense or label them, just as they are. It categorizes them, puts them in order, divides them into precise and limited, finite parts and groups. It negates their immediate common sense aspect. It is a great step forward. So that Understanding is dialectic to the extent that it negates. But precisely because it does not at once begin negating the determinations it has made it leads its user into trouble. He must move on to “mysticism”, reason, speculative truth. It is because Understanding is a necessary. stage that it is so dangerous. And note that it gets into trouble because the great sin of analytic cognition is repeated by Synthetic Understanding when it makes logical determinations, thinks them out and keeps them permanent! It creates universals, a great stage in thought, but the universals it creates assume permanence. They therefore remain abstract. Now listen to the maestro in the smaller Logic, a long passage but characteristic of the late Hegel:

In our ordinary usage of the term thought and even notion, we often have before our eyes nothing more than the operation of Understanding. And no doubt thought is primarily an exercise of Understanding: only it goes further, and the notion is not a function of Understanding merely. The action of Understanding may be in general described as investing its subject-matter with the form of universality. But this universal is an abstract universal: that is to say, its opposition to the particular is so rigorously maintained, that it is at the same time also reduced to the character of a particular again. In this separating and abstracting attitude towards its objects, Understanding is the reverse of immediate perception and sensation, which, as such, keep completely to their native sphere of action in the concrete.

It is by referring to this opposition of Understanding to sensation or feeling that we must explain the frequent attacks made upon thought for being hard and narrow, and for leading, if consistently developed, to ruinous and pernicious results. The answer to these charges, in so far as they are warranted by their facts is that they do not touch thinking in general, certainly not the thinking of Reason, but only the exercise of Understanding. It must be added however, that the merit and rights of the mere Understanding should unhesitatingly be admitted. And that merit lies in the fact that apart from Understanding there is no fixity or accuracy in the region either of theory or of practice.

Thus, in theory, knowledge begins by apprehending existing objects in their specific differences. In the study of nature, for example, we distinguish matters, forces, genera and the like, and stereotype each in its isolation. Thought is here acting in its analytic capacity, where its canon is identity, a simple reference of each attribute to itself. It is under the guidance of the same identity that the process in knowledge is effected from one scientific truth to another. Thus, for example, in mathematics magnitude is the feature which, to the neglect of any other, determines our advance. Hence in geometry we compare one figure with another, so as to bring out their identity. Similarly in other fields of knowledge, such as jurisprudence, the advance is primarily regulated by identity. In it we argue from one specific law or precedent to another: and what is this but to proceed on the principle of identity?

But Understanding is as indispensable in practice as it is in theory. Character is an essential in conduct, and a man of character is an understanding man, who in that capacity has definite ends in view and undeviatingly pursues them. The man who will do something great must learn, as Goethe says, to limit himself. The man who, on the contrary, would do everything, really would do nothing, and fails. There is a host of interesting things in the world: Spanish poetry, chemistry, politics, and music are all very interesting, and if anyone takes an interest in them we need not find fault. But for a person in a given situation to accomplish anything, he must stick to one definite point, and not dissipate his forces in many directions. In every calling, too, the great thing is to pursue it with understanding. Thus the judge must stick to the law, and give his verdict in accordance with it, undeterred by one motive or another, allowing no excuses, and looking neither left nor right. Understanding, too, is always an element in thorough training. The trained intellect is not satisfied with cloudy and indefinite impressions, but grasps the objects in their fixed character: whereas the uncultivated man wavers unsettled, and it often costs a deal of trouble to come to an understanding with him on the matter under discussion, and to bring him to fix his eye on the definite point in question.

It has been already explained that the Logical principle in general, far from being merely a subjective action in our minds, is rather the very universal, which as such is also objective. This doctrine is illustrated in the case of understanding, the first form of logical truths. Understanding in this larger sense corresponds to what we call the goodness of God, so far as that means that finite things are and subsist. In nature, for example, we recognize the goodness of God in the fact that the various classes or species of animals and plants are provided with whatever they need for their preservation and welfare. Nor is man excepted, who, both as an individual and as a nation, possesses partly in the given circumstances of climate, of quality and products of soil, and partly in his natural parts or talents, all that is required for his maintenance and development. Under this shape Understanding is visible in every department of the objective world; and no object in that world can ever be wholly perfect which does not give full satisfaction to the canons of understanding. A state, for example, is imperfect, so long as it has not reached a clear differentiation of orders and callings, and so long as those functions of politics and government, which are different in principle, have not evolved for themselves special organs, in the same way as we see, for example, the developed animal organism provided with separate organs for the functions of sensation, motion, digestion, etc. 10

Then we skip a bit, and get to:

It is usually added that Understanding must not go too far. Which is so far correct, that Understanding is not an ultimate, but on the contrary finite, and so constituted that when carried to extremes it veers round to its opposite. It is the fashion of youth to dash about in abstractions: but the man who has learnt to know life steers clear of the abstract “either—or”, and keeps to the concrete.

On the Dialectical stage these finite characterizations or formulae supersede themselves, and pass into their opposites. 11

Good? Good. I hope so. Because we shall now go back to the Preface of the larger Logic. Here is Hegel in a concentrated mood, as he too often is. Take the passage clause by clause: “Understanding makes determinations and maintains them.”12 That we know. “Reason is negative and dialectical because it dissolves into nothing the determinations of Understanding.” That we know too. “Reason is positive because it is the source of the Universal in which the Particular is comprehended.”

There you get the distinction in Reason which on the one hand negates the determinations of Understanding and at the same time creates a higher truth by speculation. So that Reason is both negative and positive. As Understanding negates the ordinary data of sense, “analytical thought”, and creates the determinations of Understanding, so Reason is both negative and creative, both of them creating Universals. But we may say that Understanding creates a Universal and sticks to it so that it becomes abstract while with Reason, no sooner is a universal created than it breaks up. Ah! yes, but how? It breaks it up and creates a new, a more adequate universal. The universal of Reason today is by tomorrow the Universal of Understanding.

Just as Understanding is commonly held to be something separate from Reason regarded generally, so dialectical reason is held to be something separate from positive Reason.

Hegel is hammering away at the interconnectedness of things and each new one comes from the old, bad, discarded one, which was necessary. Furthermore, each category has two sides, positive and negative. Because Reason negates, it must create. Or its negation would then be nothing.

But in its real truth Reason is Mind—Mind which is higher than either Reason which Understands, or Understanding which reasons.

Mind is the term for Reason both in its negative and positive aspects. Mind is the great force for negation and creation continuous.

Mind is the negative, it is that which constitutes the quality alike of dialectical Reason and of Understanding.

You remember that Understanding negated simple common sense perception and to that degree was dialectical.

It negates the simple and thus posits that determinate distinction which is the work of Understanding, and just as truly it resolves this distinction, and is thus dialectical.

Now read the whole passage again:

Understanding makes determinations and maintains them; Reason is negative and dialectical because it dissolves into nothing the determinations of Understanding; Reason is positive because it is the source of the Universal in which the Particular is comprehended. Just as Understanding is commonly held to be something separate from Reason regarded generally, so dialectical Reason is held to be something separate from positive Reason. But in its real truth Reason is Mind—Mind which is higher than either Reason which understands, or Understanding which reasons. Mind is the negative, it is that which constitutes the quality alike of dialectical Reason and of Understanding; it negates the simple and thus posits that determinate distinction which is the work of Understanding, and just as truly it resolves this distinction, and is thus dialectical.

This is page 36, the fourth page of the Preface. You see how much you needed of the smaller Logic to get there, if you are there yet. I am pretty positive that Hegel realized this and therefore wrote the long introduction to the briefer Logic which came out four years after the large one and from which I quoted so extensively.


First of all a word about Kant and Understanding. Kant did not think about everything in finite categories and was therefore not wrong all the time. We are dealing with the history of thought. And in elaborating ideas about thought Kant made a tremendous discovery when he clarified the process of Understanding. Hegel, however, went further. When he discovered the final method, he could say: Correct Thinking is always dialectical and incorrect thinking is usually “Understanding”. But though we are, on the one hand, dealing with the history of thought, we are checking on the history of an object.

It must be said again that men do not reason, think, according to Reason or Understanding by caprice. Individuals do. But the question in essence is a class question. The thought of a class is of the type of Understanding because: a) it is satisfied with the old social categories, i.e. the old society, or b) though dissatisfied with them, cannot envisage the new. Temperamental individualities express their personalities in one of these categories and classes or sections of classes recognize the voice of the leader. It is very important to note that the man of Understanding is not an empiricist. But he is stuck with his fixed determinations, “abstract identity”, reformist international equals reformist international; revolutionary international equals revolutionary international. Trotsky always inveighed against this type of thinking. Yet the most devastating example of it in serious modern thought is his own thinking. He believed, he taught that the members of the reformist Third International would each join their own bourgeoisie and support the war: you see the Second International had done that and the Second International was reformist and reformist was reformist; how better exemplify what Hegel means by the abstract identity of the categories of Understanding. Trotsky believed also that the Stalinist bureaucracy would try to restore private property because only the socialist proletariat would support state property and labour bureaucracies always support private property in the end. It is an awful thing to contemplate but the large majority of politically literate workers knew better; the bourgeoisie knew better. An awful warning emerges from this. Empiricism is better than Understanding gone astray.


Let us add another dimension to our times. Consciousness is a word always on the tip of Hegel’s pen. We are still in the Preface. Here is a rough and very elementary definition of consciousness. Consciousness is to know the concrete but to know it dialectically, to know it by the light of Reason and not of Understanding. “Consciousness is Spirit as knowing which is concrete and engrossed in externality.” A curious phrase for the great Idealist. And here we run up against the dialectic in life. Kant, it is known, and Lenin gives a vigorous statement of it in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, could not decide between idealism and materialism. Half of Kantianism was idealist, the categories of the mind; half was materialist: the objective world. He could not relate them properly and butchered both. That was Understanding. He could not bridge the gap. His determinations were too fixed. Hegel bridged the gap. He joined the two. I cannot here and now go into Mind and Spirit. Sufficient to say as Hegel says earlier (we shall come back to it) Mind is the negative, the something which continually makes everything change, seeking some higher destiny in general. But at every stage, philosophers who grasped the essence of the stage, represented the Spirit, the concrete stage in thought, of eternal Mind, which was always driving to a more and more concrete embodiment of itself in Spirit (philosophic) and in Nature (life and society). A few philosophers (here the genuine idealist in Hegel speaks) represent consciousness, but it is “concrete” and “engrossed in externality”. We shall see later where the true consciousness, the true Mind lies and Hegel’s reactionary conception of a few philosophers can be ignored. He goes on to say: “…but the schema of movement of this concrete knowing (like the development of all physical and intellectual life) depends entirely on the nature of the essentialities which make up the content of Logic.”13 The “schema of movement” of dialectical thought is the schema of movement of all physical and all intellectual life.

It is a bold claim—it could not be bolder. He says that the way in which philosophers stage by stage worked out philosophy gives a scheme, which is the way all physical and intellectual things develop. This is the problem. The only proof I know is to try it. Hegel talks about world-spirit, etc. For our purposes it does not matter a damn.

Whether you say with Marx that schema reflects the material basis or with Hegel that the material basis reflects the schema which is only Mind working itself out, the point is the connection between the two. Hegel, we remember, said most emphatically and will say it again that as the object moves, and it must move, spirit, philosophical knowing, moves too. The categories move and at a certain stage they have to change into new categories. Logic is the analysis of this movement of philosophical cognition, but movement of the different stages of philosophical, i.e. correct cognition, gives us the movement of the object. Which comes first, who gets the credit, is not important for us now. And one can learn plenty from Hegel about the Method and ignore his eternal mind. The study of philosophy is the study of the method of correct thinking. You must know categorization in general, movement in general, changes in categories in general, and then you can examine an object, e.g. the labour movement, or French drama, and work out its categories, its form of movement, its method of change, etc., conscious always of the general laws as exemplified in the particular concrete. Thus there is a Universal logic of say drama, which is expressed in Greek, Elizabethan, classical or Shavian drama, i.e. in a particular form or classification; a concrete, an individual example of it at a particular time is Aeschylus, or Racine or Shaw. Alas! Aristotle studied Sophocles & Co. and laid down certain categories which he drew from them. These he called the “Unities”. And, oh! the rivers of sweat and the conflicts of centuries in which men said that drama was to be fitted into those. A clear case of Understanding. Clear? Not clear to a good dialectician. What objective impulses in society maintained them as valid? And there a serious philosophical cognition can begin.

Has anyone asked himself yet? What objective basis, from what came the impulses which maintained Trotsky in these outmoded categories, nourished them in his mind? If you haven’t, the Preface to the Second Edition of the larger Logic is necessary for you.

Preface to The Second Edition

Again here, on the first page of the Preface, Hegel makes it clear; he is presenting “Thought in its philosophical aspect—that is, in its own immanent activity”, i.e. the activity inherent in it, which sounds mystical enough, but he soon says, “or, which comes to the same thing, in its necessary development.”

And so. Philosophy of thought, i.e. Logic, is to see thought as expressing what is immanent in it, which means to say how it develops. Hegel enjoys himself proving that what is immanent comes from the World-Spirit. He needed a basis and he couldn’t find socialism so he took World-Spirit. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

He seems to separate himself from marxism by saying that what distinguishes man from beasts is the “faculty of thought”. Marx says that what separates man from beast is that man labours. But Marx would say that his thought is the result, consequence, of his labour. This distinction is sharp. But Hegel goes on to say what we can accept. He says (let us ignore where it comes from) that man transforms his thought into language and “what man transforms to language contains—conceded or mixed up with other things, or worked out to clearness—a Category; so natural to man is Logic”, and to make a big jump:

These categories function only instinctively and as impulses—they are at first introduced into consciousness piecemeal, and therefore are mutable and mutually confusing, and thus yield to mind only a piecemeal and insecure actuality. To purify these categories and to raise the mind through them to Freedom and Truth, this it is which is the loftier task of Logic. 14

Here again is the empirical, material basis of all Logic. He says the categories express the world spirit. We say they express man’s material practice. But he says what we can say. That piecemeal, by instinct, impulse, changing, etc., they come into the mind and we must organize them, once we recognize that they express some order. But it is puzzling. How can the schema of development of the thoughts of philosophers represent all physical and intellectual life!

Let us watch Hegel at work. He notes familiar categories as Whole and Parts, a Thing and its Properties, etc. And then, in his Preface, mind you, he says quite clearly that “the reality which appertains to natural objects” is such that while we have to establish natural Categories, they sometimes clash with others whose validity we have to admit; and all this “does not permit here (i.e. in this field) that passage from opposites to abstracts and universals, which more easily takes place in the case of ideational objects.” In other words, he disclaims that you can work out laws of dialectic in the case of natural objects, i.e. nature, as you can in ideas and, I would add, social objects. All the yelling about dialectic and nature! Each object has its own particular dialectic, which is a part of the general dialectic. The dialectical movement of an inanimate natural object is law, that’s all. And yet an object as simple as a house has dialectical movements of its own. It is architecture, i.e. it has a certain type of structure, in which there is a conflict between use and beauty (except for the functional maniacs); it will represent the ideas of our type of family, i.e. one social system, clashing with other ideas; even its very existence as a house is sharply contradictory. It exemplifies the conflict between man and nature. The house must be painted, strengthened, repaired, etc. or nature will recapture it, i.e. destroy it. To each his own. The dialectic, i.e. philosophical cognition, correct thinking, about society, a social order, is not the same as the dialectic of a house, and that is not the same as the dialectic of a mountain.

Furthermore we remember Hegel, in the smaller Logic, and he will show in the larger Logic later, was very insistent that the dialectic included in itself all grades of thinking. There are; grades of inanimate objects and grades of everyday activity whose nature requires analytical thinking. To expect to examine it and find the categories and movement in a social system or a political party, that is monstrously absurd. Why does Hegel put it in his preface? The same bunch of chatterers existed then as exist today I suppose. At any rate, let us clear that out of our way.

In fact, the second preface, the more I look at it, the more I can see why Hegel puts all these things down in it. He was answering arguments which had been raised, and they are things for amateurs like us to bear in mind.

Hegel is going to make a tremendous organization and analysis of thoughts, categories, etc. But he takes time out to say, and we will forget this at our peril, that categories, the forms of logic, are in Desire, Will, etc., human feelings and actions. We abstract them to think about them. But they come from there. He says again that categories are used in everyday life—Battle, War, Nation, are categories, for they sum up, generalize, an endless multitude of particular things, actions, etc. They help us to determine objective relations. Such categories have been called Natural Logic. This warns us that the whole magnificent structure is rooted in the concrete. We are going to think about it and analyse it and speculate, but every serious movement has come from below. Consciousness, logic as the science of thought, thought itself therefore is the link between us and things. But we had better here get hold of something else which this emphasis on the concrete means. Trotsky spent years, and we with him, pointing out how the workers were mistaken and deceived by stalinism. Some of us still say that. Hegelianism is merciless on the talk of such deception. This support for stalinism by the workers is an objective fact, one of the most potent objective facts. To say that the workers are fooled is to condemn the workers to being playthings of chance. No. The phenomenon of stalinism requires that you take it as an impulse from below and incorporate it into your categories and drive them forward. This emphasis on the concrete is the most difficult thing to grasp about the dialectic. I’ll tell you why at once, in simple terms, which will become more and more complex. It involves the mental apparatus (and this is Kant’s immortal contribution) with which you look at things. Here is a crude example. Having been trained to see reptiles as a crawling snake or lizard you cannot possibly look at a bird and recognize that its structure is so to speak reptilian. You have to strip the bird of its feathers, open it, examine it, and then this is the thing, organize in your mind a new conception of reptilian structure which includes birds. Until this is done, you will continue to exclude birds. They, you will say, are different. You reject them. It is an elementary static example. What Hegel is saying is this, stalinism is concrete truth, you watch it, accept it, respect it. That is the truth. But we are not empiricists. So our ideas, our speculative reason, our mental spectacles, our theory must be strenuously and systematically expanded so as to include stalinism as a necessary, an inevitable, form of development of the labour movement. The workers are not mistaken. They are not deceived. Not in any serious sense of these words. They are making an experience that is necessary to their own development. Stop saying that they are deceived. You are deceived. Set down and reorganize your categories to fit this phenomenon. Let go that tight grip of your old categories which puts you in the position where all you do is to shout at stalinism and predict it will do things which it does not do.

I reread this passage. I know where I am going. The question is: do you know? As a matter of fact I am attempting the impossible. In the exposition of any scientific development only the whole is the proof. At any rate, scientific thought moves on, offers scope for speculation, only on impulses from outside, from the object. What exists is the motive force. He has made a very controversial statement that whatever is real, it is reasonable. I think I am going to use it here. I am going to say that stalinism is a terrible reality and because it is real it is reasonable. I say this with even more confidence that without the reality of stalinism, you cannot reason about it at all. Good enough for the time being, let us stay there. At any rate this much is certain, as we wind our way deeper into Hegel’s strenuous theorizing, no one will forget the solid material bases that the maestro gave to all moves forward in this mass of theorizing.

But having established the basis in reality of Logic, Hegel then goes on, still prefacing to show the function of mind: “When the content of that which stirs the mind is drawn out of its immediate unity with the Subject, and made an Object for it, then there begins freedom for the mind.”15 That is it.

The object stirs the mind. Then you take what is subjective and you make that stir, that disturbance, an object. I, James, am the Subject, and something which is stirring within my mind is in immediate unity with me. I remove it from this unity. I so to speak take it out of mind and put it on the table before me and examine it, watch how it is moving, changing, and so this that was merely a subjective impulse now becomes objective for me. I made it so. The conclusion of the passage is crucial.

… for the mind while caught up in the workings of instinctive mental activity is broken up within the meshes of its categories into an infinitely various material. In this web [I emphasize] strong knots are formed now and then which are foci of arrest and direction in mental life and consciousness.

We, our consciousness, use categories. But things happen that stir our minds and what with our old categories and the multiplicity of events there is a variety, a great confusion. But out of all this there take place certain knots, crystallizations, coagulations, separating themselves and standing out of the multiplicity. They make us stop, think and show us the way out. But Hegel shows here that even the formation of the knots is an automatic objective process. When they are formed, they arrest you, make you stop, and give you direction how to speculate. This is carrying the influence of the objective or reality to an extreme.

Now here comes a sharp turn. Hegel says of these knots, these foci, that “they owe their firmness and strength to the fact that, brought before consciousness, they are found to be independent concepts of the latter’s essentiality.” The mind now takes its turn. Consciousness looks at these knots, these signposts, that have so to speak taken shape out of the variety, and shows them to be concepts that have an independent life of their own and belong essentially to consciousness, to its own life, are a developing part of the old stock of categories which it has and still uses. Consciousness now sees that these which came by accident so to speak from outside really belong to it. (Hegel has a complicated process by which the World-Spirit embodied these in Nature and Society whence they are reflected into Spirit, which is the concrete stage of Mind in general. To hell with it.) The reason for this recognition by consciousness is clear enough. It is perfectly simple to see that precisely because the earlier categories in consciousness came from Nature and Society, pushing themselves into the minds of men in the same way, it is not surprising that with changes in nature and society the important new categories seem to consciousness to belong to its essentiality. Consciousness therefore having recognized them gets to work on a little speculation, a little mysticism, projecting things into the future. Then comes a striking passage which will link the objectivity and the subjective.

The most important for the nature of mind is not merely the relation of that which is in itself, but furthermore of that as which it knows itself, to that which it is in actuality; this self-knowledge is the fundamental determination of mind’s actuality. 16

Don’t be afraid of it. There are two relations. 1) is the relation between mind as it is in itself and it is in actuality. 2) is the relation between mind as it knows itself and what it is in actuality. Of these two determinations Hegel says that the second is more important for the determination of mind’s actuality.

Remember we have just spent a lot of time with Hegel learning how object pushes itself into the mind and how the mind takes over. He gave a tremendous place to the objective. But Hegel says it is not enough for us to know what mind is in itself, that it has the categories that Kant organized. The relation of that to actuality is not what we want. The mind must be in action on its own account. It must say yesterday my categories were A, B, C. Today they are A1, B2, C3. That is a new stage on the road to my ultimate aim. Later we shall see how this movement takes place. The thing to do is to know the role of mind. So that the actuality can only be determined when the mind has acted on the stimuli provided by the object and sets to work to see what the object is. So the truth is the concrete. But the concrete sets mind going. Mind works at the problems that the concrete has posed before it, reorganizes its whole apparatus, and then when it looks with this new apparatus it sees the concrete truth at last.

But Hegel having grandly given both objectivity* and mind their full value now sums up:

These categories function only instinctively and as impulses—they are at first introduced into consciousness piecemeal, and therefore are mutable and mutually confusing, and thus yield to mind only a piecemeal and insecure actuality. To purify these categories and to raise the mind through them to Freedom and Truth, this it is which is the loftier task of Logic.

So that the whole passage should now be read.

Instinctive action is distinguished from intelligent and free action broadly by this, that the latter is accompanied by clear consciousness; when the content of that which stirs the mind is drawn out of its immediate unity with the Subject, and made an Object for it, then there begins Freedom for the mind, which while caught in the workings of instinctive mental activity is broken up within the meshes of its Categories into an infinitely various material. In this web strong knots are formed now and then, which are foci of arrest and direction in mental life and consciousness: they owe their firmness and strength to the fact that, brought before consciousness, they are found to be independent concepts of the latter’s essentiality. The most important point for the nature of mind is not merely the relation of that which it is in itself, but furthermore of that as which it knows itself, to that which it is in actuality; this self-knowledge, because it is essentially consciousness, is the fundamental determination of mind’s actuality. These Categories function only instinctively and as impulses—they are at first introduced into consciousness piecemeal, and therefore are mutable and mutually confusing, and thus yield to mind only a piecemeal and insecure actuality. To purify these Categories and to raise the mind through them to Freedom and Truth, this it is which is the loftier task of Logic.

So much for the prefaces. Getting ready to plunge into the Doctrine of Being? You are a long, long way from that—a long way. The thing is too important for any rapid grasp. You think you understand but you go on thinking as before. First of all an observation.

Dialectical Thought in Practical Life

We must not forget that when Cromwell, for example, thought in the seventeenth century, he thought dialectically. Hegel knows that very well. In the smaller Logic, he says:

However reluctant Understanding may be to admit the action of Dialectic, we must not suppose that the recognition of its existence is peculiarly confined to the philosopher. It would be truer to say that Dialectic gives expression to a law which is felt in all other grades of consciousness and in general experience. 17

Men thought correctly and can think correctly without knowing dialectic, but if you wish to have some understanding of the science of thought, which is what we are dealing with, then you have to understand dialectic.

For the moment we leave practical instinctive dialectic and come to theoretical dialectic, marxism today. Marxism today, the whole picture changes. An unreasoning obstinacy seems to take hold of them. They grasp their categories. They will not leave them. They will not let them go. They will die for them. Not only Mensheviks, but all, every member of the old Bolshevik Central Committee stuck to the categories of the bourgeois revolution. And miracle of miracles, the Petrograd workers in the party had thrown it over. No, we are not going to run away from this. Not when we see Trotsky say “A workers’ state equals nationalized property”, and park there for good. Twenty million workers in concentration camps. He does not budge. Budge? No, sir. He will prefer to say that if within a reasonable time after the war the bureaucracy remains, then all of marxism is wrong. Let the whole work of a hundred years perish rather than change my categories. I shall not say: perhaps my concept of the workers’ state is wrong. No. Never. Hegel knew very well what he was doing when with an inexhaustible energy and diversity he went over and over again and round and round this point, always adding a new light.

No one among us needs telling that before 1917 the Mensheviks were men of Understanding to the highest degree. They had a group of categories, bourgeois society, proletariat, bourgeois revolution. They had them from Marx. They were not empiricists, they were not Aristotelians. They applied those categories to Russia and could not move. Naturally that was not all. I have dealt with that, and we shall again. Now I say that the same relation between Menshevism and Bolshevism, Understanding and Dialectic, which existed before 1917 today exists between official trotskyism and the ideas we are putting forward. There we must begin. Trotskyism, as far as thought is concerned, is the use of the categories, etc., of Lenin’s practice, 1903-23, preserved in their essential purity, and transferred to a period for which they became day by day more unsuited. Between 1933 and 1936 they became absolutely unsuited.

The new categories, the impulses, the instinctive actions, the strong knots formed, were observed, talked about, but always incorporated into the old shell; state capitalism or reformist international that would destroy private property and refuse to support the bourgeoisie in imperialist war, an anti-proletarian bureaucracy that throve on state property and would defend it to the last against private property, all the knots, impulses, etc. which drove these into the mind, were allowed in only in so far as they filled into the formed and finished categories which Lenin left. That is why what were the results of Reason in one generation become Understanding in another, and the negating, the transcending of the determinations into a higher unity cannot be done.

What is the basis for this? We can answer this question by a brutal, uninhibited examination of the origin and development of trotskyism. It began on the basis of a dispute about the permanent revolution and the possibility of building socialism in one country. That is our ideological foundation. The whole debate on that issue was ruinous. Stalin, in choosing that, chose the surest way to derail the opposition. From that day to 1940, Trotsky was always defending himself and his record against attacks: (1) showing how close he was to leninism in the past, (2) showing how the stalinists were not leninists. (Years and years ago I used to be worried by this. What is the sense of it? I used to ask myself.) Stalinism, however, profited immensely by this. Russian stalinism did not “think” in any serious sense of the word. It began seriously to handle general theoretical ideas of its own in 1933-36, when it became fully conscious of itself and its determination to rule the state-owned economy as a class. Previous to that it acted empirically, grabbed on to the power, held it at all costs, manipulated the power to divide and crush its enemies. But it took care to drape all this in leninist garments, representing them as the basic, eternal, fixed once and for all categories. Trotsky’s position was that Stalin was a usurper distorting the categories. Thus the debate, beginning with socialism in a single country, remained forever and ever within the categories of leninism. Stalin said: whatever I do is leninism. Trotsky said no: it is not leninism. I am the genuine leninist. That was the setting. Stalin was not very serious about it. His actions were pure empiricism. Trotsky was serious about this leninism and was caught in it and strangled in it. He was entirely wrong in every theoretical and practical conclusion that was drawn from the debate.

(1) The debate was that socialism could not be built in a single country. Does anyone believe that Stalin or any of his people believe that what is in Russia is socialism? Only an utter fool can think so. What the debate was about was whether the state-property system would be maintained without a revolution sooner or later in the West. Trotsky was certain it would collapse. He was always predicting its collapse: if the party was destroyed it would collapse; the kulaks would overthrow it; war would overthrow it; the bureaucracy itself would overthrow it. That was the debate. Both sides were much closer than appears on the surface. And Stalin said that he could maintain it and defend it and who said he wanted to overthrow or could not defend it was a traitor and an enemy. Shachtman told me once that he knew many serious stalinists who hated stalinism but they said they could never take Trotsky seriously because Trotsky was always predicting that Stalin would lose the state property or restore private property and it never happened. In Russia the leading trotskyites capitulated one after the other.

(2) Trotsky predicted that the theory of socialism in a single country would lead to the converting of the communist parties into national parties. His theory of 1936 was clearly stated years ago, for one thing in the criticism of the draft programme. Stalin thought otherwise and Stalin has again proved right. Trotsky was constantly saying that Browder, Thorez & Co. would act in one way and they proved him fundamentally wrong every time. Thus on the question of the emergence of new categories, new reflections in the mind of reality, and policies to correspond, stalinism is the force which has kept pace with the times (on the side of the counter-revolution, be it well understood) while trotskyism fought with outmoded weapons against a series of abstractions on the most fundamental questions of the day, the character and perspectives of the revolutionary state and of the existing revolutionary party.

These patently false conclusions (I would like to see someone up and debate me on them. Myself when young would have provoked that argument. Now I know better), the very opposite of the truth, came from his totally false premises. The whole “socialism in a single country” conception belongs to pre-1917. It was a continuation of the pre-1917 factional struggle in Russia, taking the new form of how to defend the state property in Russia, and how the Third international should defend this state property. The future of the Third International was predicted by its attitude to the defence of the Russian state property. The objective basis of Trotsky’s Understanding type of thinking was there—the Russian state power, which he identified with the revolution. Lenin’s state power in 1917 equals Russian revolution. A purely abstract identity, finite, fixed, limited. Stalin, empirical, doing whatever came naturally altered his categories ruthlessly, whatever leninist names he called them. He changed the policies in perfect harmony with his needs, the policy of the bureaucracy and the policy of his Third International. Trotsky lost himself in greater and greater abstractions until ultimately he did not expose, he justified the bureaucracy. It made no attempt to restore private property. The Third International defended the state property with flexibility and an unquenchable faith. If Trotsky’s heroic struggles, his energy, his sacrifices ended in this fiasco, what is this but the justification of the bureaucracy against his predictions and incessant warnings.

That is the positive side. The negative side complements it. I believe that Ruth Fischer’s book mentions that Zinoviev in 1921 at a conference of the Russian Communist Party made a speech denouncing Russia as state capitalist, using some of the arguments we use, and (from her account) quoting Lenin. Bukharin, we should note, not only tackled this subject in the early years, but around 1928 wrote a series of articles on it. This was four to five years before Hitler came into power. But Trotsky? Not a line. Not one single line. From 1933 on at least the first consideration of a theoretician who was aware of the times should have been to establish a new economic basis. It must be stated again and again that the idea of a new revolutionary international without a fundamental, qualitative change in the economic development is a fantasy. Trotsky never did anything. He did not see that the revolutionary Second International had succumbed to monopoly capitalism and aided by American imperialism, reached its greatest strength after World War I. He equally did not see that the revolutionary Third International had succumbed to state capitalism aided by Russian imperialism. He never wrote about the economic changes, what he thought about it, if he did, he never thought of sufficient importance to set down. Yet this is the economic problem of the day. Astonishing, isn’t it? It is not only a problem of thought. But we are concerned with that here. He just couldn’t see it. His mind ran on other wheels. Lenin’s monopoly capitalism, private property, revolutionary international against private property, reactionary international for private property, all the categories of 1917: these he lived in.

When the stalinists in France in 1935 switched from Third Period to Popular Front, Trotsky, faced with the fact that here they showed their complete dependence upon Stalin, which was completely destructive of his theory, jumped into psychology. “Ultra-leftists always become opportunists in the moment of danger.” I tackled him on it in 1939. He maintained his position. His psychology is for his biographer and the more advanced theoreticians of the Workers’ Party. But his method of thought, that I think is clear.

Back again to the negative, or a combination now of positive and negative. What is our past, our theoretical heritage? Imperialism and State and Revolution were the theoretical foundations of the Third International. They were theoretical studies of a permanent character, they summed up the past, took off from there, and incorporated the new, in economic phenomena, qualitative changes, labour organizations, and the stages of creative power of the masses.

Since then we have lived through an age in which the economic changes, the changes in the labour organizations, and in the character of mass movements have been such that it makes one dizzy to keep pace with them. Look at our heritage. If I want to take up any of the problems of today (I have enumerated them enough), I have nothing to begin with. I know. (This also is a knot which has come from impulses pushed into my own mind.) If I wish to trace a development on state capitalism, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Trotsky has left us nothing. I have to read Marx and Engels and Lenin. Lenin’s work on it slight as it is, is a perfect but absolutely perfect example of dialectical materialism. For the actions of the proletariat, soviets, etc., I have to read Lenin.

Everything stops dead in 1923. For the fundamental forces that shape a labour organization I have to read Lenin on the Second International. “Tools of the Kremlin” is not an analysis. For the analysis of capital and the problems of today I have to read Lenin, Bukharin, and Rosa Luxemburg. I have discovered this by experience. Much of our past quoting of Trotsky is for tactical purposes.

Instead we have the Permanent Revolution, The History of the Russian Revolution, Life of Stalin, My Life, and innumerable abstract adjurations of policy on various revolutionary situations. The best are on Germany. But these are vitiated by two fundamental blunders, one of which I knew since I wrote World Revolution, and the other which I suspected a long time, in fact was quite sure of, but could not speak of. The first is that Trotsky believed that the stalinist bureaucracy wanted a revolution in Germany but did not know true leninism. Utterly false. Workers’ state equals support of revolution abroad: therefore false policy due to ignorance or stupidity. The second is the complete control of the stalinist party by the apparatus. Ruth Fischer shows that in detail. I shall make no fuss about it now. But the policy in Germany as far back as 1930 should have been governed by the idea that the workers at all costs should act over the heads of their organizations. And we should welcome a debate with anyone who said: “No. They should have tried to urge their organizations to act.” Lenin said, “I shall go to the sailors.” He gave that ultimatum not to a union or a reformist party but to the Bolshevik Party. Lenin told the soviets to go to hell at one stage. “All power to the factory committees!”

In France in 1934, the workers, forming a United Front from below, saved France from a fascist government. We have seen it now too often. A full statement we have made elsewhere, good as a start but not good enough.

The Transitional Programme says: “the masses come out regularly but the leaders betray.” It was very useful against Shachtman and to ménager the Socialist Workers’ Party. But it is clear that this is not summation of the concrete stage of development. The sections on the Communist Party are pathetic. Yet they are revolutionary at times even, in the Conversations chiefly, and I think this is symptomatic, they are full of revolutionary fervour and insight, the revolutionary leader of men. But the theory is abstract. All the concrete problems of the day are covered over with generalizations, and where the policy has to be concrete it is not only wrong, but, in the hands of his followers, ridiculous or simply non-existent. Ridiculous because who in the name of God can carry out a defeatist policy in Dimitrov’s Bulgaria or Anna Pauker’s Rumania, or Gottwald’s Czechoslovakia. Russian commanders and officers rule the armies. The GPU, the Secret Police, rules the bureaux. Economic and military plans are made in Moscow and carried out by Russian agents. The divisions of the satellites will be sandwiched between Russian divisions. To talk about defencism in Russia but defeatism elsewhere is ridiculous. And if the Red Army marches on France, no one can know what the policy is. The theoretical disintegration is complete. In the United States, precisely because of the backward state of political organization the old categories have some application. Hence the Socialist Workers’ Party has developed. The organizational politicalization of the proletariat will at once face the Socialist Workers’ Party with the problems we have seen elsewhere. These problems will come to us. we shall not have to go to them. But here in trotskyite thought is such a wreck that we have an opportunity of making a systematic investigation of precisely, how and why categories should be changed and what happens if they do not.


Let us move over to the Hegelian Logic again. But first some observations. The categories Hegel uses, Understanding, Reflection, Force, Actuality, etc., are permeated with movement. But Hegel has himself told us that you cannot expect this dialectical movement in its most advanced stages in nature. Each series of objects, sciences, have their own dialectic. Thus in the Phenomenology of Mind there is a long (and to use Lenin’s word) headache of a passage on Force as the objective counterpart of Understanding. But here Hegel is dealing with nature. The category of Understanding as applied to Nature is one thing, as applied to a society is something else. You look into each object and find its own dialectic, at its grade of development.

But we can go further. Engels says that in the Doctrine of Essence, it is not important whether you agree with Hegel’s transitions from one stage to another. It is the flexibility and penetration of thought exemplified there which is important. Hegel, it is said, did not hesitate to cheat to get a transition which he felt was instinctively right, but which he couldn’t see the way to make. And he himself says about objects and developments that Nature is “weak and fails to exhibit the logical forms in their purity.” Which is obvious. Furthermore he and Marx are always saying: the proof is the whole. The proof is where we get when we are done. If after a thorough, a many-sided investigation of Trotsky’s ideas by means of the Logic, we see it, its origins, its processes, its results, before us in some order that makes us understand it better, then that is the proof, the demonstration. So far we have used the two Prefaces, and the Introduction. Some years later, Hegel wrote what we call the smaller Logic, a brief summary. The two should always be read together. The full doctrine is in The Science of Logic, the larger one. But the smaller is more mellow, simpler, easier to grasp as our outline. But the smaller Logic has a special virtue of its own. The first 150 pages consist of the most masterly summary of what is meant by philosophy that I have ever read anywhere. For that matter it is the finest general view of any subject that you can imagine and it is worth reading for what it reaches and as a mode of exposition. Here he takes up all the terms, modes of thought, how philosophy arises, etc. Let us see what we can get from this general exposition.

First of all the movement of philosophy itself:

For, firstly, the empirical sciences do not stop short at the mere observation of the individual features of a phenomenon. By the aid of thought, they are able to meet philosophy with materials prepared for it, in the shape of general uniformities, i.e. laws, and classifications of the phenomena. When this is done, the particular facts which they contain are ready to be received into philosophy. 18

This is really lovely. Look at it and see the general Hegelian method which your humble servant has worked out. First we see that the objective events pushed themselves into the mind. That is true, in general abstractly. But now we become more concrete. Science observes stones, gases, stars, etc. Then it makes, laws. Then these laws go into philosophy.

You know that? You are ready to go on? You will never learn to be a dialectician. Stop and look at it. I am positive that you do not see. Science observing phenomena is analytical cognition. Science negating these and making laws is synthetic cognition. Philosophy incorporating these laws is Dialectic, the absolute Idea, philosophic cognition. All three are necessary. Watch this. These are not my jokes. At the end of the Logic, Hegel is going to start moving through these so rapidly that if you do not know about them you will be lost. Let us continue:

This, secondly, implies a certain compulsion on thought itself to proceed to these concrete specific truths.

Watch it. Watch it. We have had this before. But watch it.

The reception into philosophy of these scientific materials now that thought has removed their immediacy and made them cease to be mere data forms at the same time a development of thought out of itself.

Do you see the important words? They are the last three: “out of itself”. Thought gets the stuff from outside, but then thought itself must show that what it gets is a logical development out of itself. We have discussed this before. “Philosophy then owes its development to the empirical sciences.”

Back to the objective:

In return it gives their contents what is so vital to them, the freedom of thought—gives them, in short, an a priori character.

Back again to the subjective thought. This lovely movement.

These contents are now warranted necessary, and no longer depend on the evidence of facts merely, that they were so found and so experienced.

Thought shows that from thought we can see that the new objects, the new developments, were necessary. That is the meaning of freedom. Freedom is the recognition of necessity.

Both objective and subjective are together. And they are still together.

The fact as experienced thus becomes an illustration and a copy of the original and completely self-supporting activity of thought.

If I say stalinism is Menshevism in a new stage, fear of the revolution, based on a new type of labour bureaucracy, holding on to one imperialism, Russia, as Menshevism held on and holds on to the Anglo-American imperialism, if I say that Menshevism reflected the bourgeois democratic character of state capitalism, then although the objective movement of society gave me stalinism, I have incorporated it into my previous thought, I have made it a necessity, and I am free. I understand it, I know how to fight it, I am not overwhelmed by it.

But if I say “tools of the Kremlin” then what the hell necessity is that?

Again Hegel (I hope you get what I get from these extracts—almost a sensuous pleasure. Nowhere else does Hegel write so well—among the things I know, that is): “The thought, which is genuine and self-supporting, must be intrinsically concrete…” Quite so. Stalinism is concrete enough. “It must be an Idea.” Good. We make of it part of the whole great Idea, the concept of the development of the proletariat in capitalist society; more, plenty more of this later. “… and when it is viewed in the whole of its universality, it is the Idea, or the Absolute.”19

Yes sir. Stalinism is the Idea, where it has reached today. You doubt that? Then listen. Menshevism, the reformist Second International defended private property. Stalinism does not, except for its own main purpose, to help its patron Russia; Menshevism made a fetish of parliamentarianism, stalinism does not; Menshevism worshipped national defence, stalinism does not; Menshevism acted nationally, stalinism does not. It acts across national boundaries. The workers following stalinism therefore have repudiated vast areas of bourgeois ideology, they have left it behind. The stalinists use this high stage of advancement in the service of imperialism. But it is a high stage. It is the present concrete stage of the proletariat on the way to socialism. It is where the Absolute has reached its concrete form. The bureaucratic character of stalinism is not the Absolute. But that is not socialism. The workers have to overthrow that. But they are not where they were in 1914.

As we told that neo-Shachtmanite, Germain,* when he says that the workers were politically and organizationally worse off than in 1914, he completely misunderstands marxism. How can he formulate policy when he makes these blunders? But no. He wants them to be as in 1914. Those are his categories. We touched on this in The Invading Socialist Society (1947). But we could not elaborate it. The truth is we did not see it so clearly.

Thought must demonstrate necessity. If it does not you get panic and disintegration. Subjective. But Hegel does not ask thought to demonstrate necessity in order to maintain morale. Hell no. There is something much bigger at stake. That objective which pushes itself into the mind, to see it properly, you need the spectacles, the amended spectacles of thought as necessity. That is the importance of correct thought; to be able to see reality. Reality says, “Thought. Here are some new bits of me. They make a whole but I don’t know what I am and you don’t know. But take these scraps that I give you, organize your lenses, and you can tell me what I am, for without you I shall never know.”

See now Hegel getting at it again:

To ask if a category is true or not, must sound strange to the ordinary mind: for a category apparently becomes true only when it is applied to a given object, and apart from this application it would seem meaningless to inquire into its truth. 20

Then comes a sentence and whenever you hear him say something like this stop and meditate for three months. This is the sentence:

But this is the very question on which everything turns.

The category must agree with the object? It is far truer to say that the object must make the category agree with it. Listen:

We must however in the first place understand clearly what we mean by Truth. In common life truth means the agreement of an object with our conception of it. We thus pre-suppose an object to which our conception must conform. In the philosophical sense of the word, on the other hand, truth may be described, in general abstract terms, as the agreement of a thought content with itself.

He adds: “This meaning is quite different from the one given above.” It is.

The everyday conception of truth is what Hegel calls correct representation. I have an idea in my head of what the CIO is. I examine the CIO. I find it has so many members, they have such and such leaders, such and such is their policy. The idea that I had was more or less correct. That is correct representation. An analytical cognition obviously.

But you and I are dialecticians. We know that stalinism today is the true state of the labour movement. It is revolutionary, repudiating parliamentarianism, private property, national defence, and national boundaries. It is however attached to an imperialism as patron and is bureaucratic and aims at totalitarian control of labour and then of capital. Now to the extent that the CIO corresponds to this, we have truth, and to the extent that the CIO does not correspond to this we have untruth. And a philosophical cognition consists of an exact analysis of how and why the CIO departs from this truth. Is it attached to one imperialism as patron, etc.? Does it aim at bureaucratic totalitarian control of workers, etc.?

All other truth is, for Hegel, good enough for commonsense everyday life. But not for serious cognition. Thus in everyday truth the object simply fits into any ideas you have of it, in philosophical truth the object fits or does not fit “into the Idea, the Absolute, the concrete stage at which it has reached”.

As usual with Hegel there is a double sense. The Absolute Idea has another truth, the inner truth of the idea itself, a truly democratic non-bourgeois revolutionary socialist international. But that does not exist, though it also is a part of the complete notion, the complete truth.

Now take the complete extract, a good long one, and note in passing how Hegel loves to show that language in everyday life often has a deep philosophical import:

It will now be understood that Logic is the all-animating spirit of all the sciences, and its categories the spiritual hierarchy. They are the heart and centre of things: and yet at the same time they are always on our lips, and, apparently at least, perfectly familiar objects. But things thus familiar are usually the greatest strangers. Being, for example, is a category of pure thought: but to make “Is” an object of investigation never occurs to us. Common fancy puts the Absolute far away in a world beyond. The Absolute is rather directly before us, so present that so long as we think, we must, though without express consciousness of it, always carry it with us and always use it. Language is the main depository of these types of thought; and one use of the grammatical instruction which children receive is unconsciously to turn their attention to distinctions of thought. 21

Watch that question of the Absolute which is always with us. Reflect on it for a moment. Everyone has some conception of an Absolute at all times, a vague criterion. He makes a “correct representation” of the CIO and he stays there, but at the back of his mind he has an Absolute, a conception of what a labour movement ought to be today. Hegel may be absolutely fantastic, that labour should not go too far, etc., but it is an absolute, his absolute, though it may be absolutely nonsense.

Again. Let us go on:

Logic is usually said to be concerned with forms only and to derive the material for them from elsewhere. But this “only”, which assumes that the logical thoughts are nothing in comparison with the rest of the contents, is not the word to use about forms which are the absolutely real ground of everything. Everything else rather is an “only” compared with these thoughts. To make such abstract forms a problem presupposes in the inquirer a higher level of culture than ordinary; and to study them in themselves and for their own sake signifies in addition that these thought-types must be deduced out of thought itself, and their truth or reality examined by the light of their own laws. We do not assume them as data from without, and then define them or exhibit their value and authority by comparing them with the shape they take in our minds. If we thus acted, we should proceed from observation and experience, and should, for instance, say we habitually employ the term “force” in such a case, and such a meaning. A definition like that would be called correct, if it agreed with the conception of its object present in our ordinary state of mind. The defect of this empirical method is that a notion is not defined as it is in and for itself, but in terms of something assumed, which is then used as a criterion and standard of correctness. No such test need be applied: we have merely to let the thought-forms follow the impulse of their own organic life. 22

I cannot refrain from pointing out. The organic life of the thought-forms, the categories, is that they develop from their own contradictions. Stalinism must come out of leninism, as leninism came out of the Second International; and the revolutionary Fourth International will come out of stalinism so to speak, out of its contradictions. If not, your thought is no good.

To ask if a category is true or not, must sound strange to the ordinary mind: for a category apparently becomes true only when it is applied to a given object, and apart from this application it would seem meaningless to inquire into its truth. But this is the very question on which everything turns. We must however in the first place understand clearly what we mean by Truth. In common life truth means the agreement of an object with our conception of it. We thus pre-suppose an object to which our conception must conform. In the philosophical sense of the word, on the other hand, truth may be described, in general abstract terms, as the agreement of a thought-content with itself. This meaning is quite different from the one given above. At the same time the deeper and philosophical meaning of truth can be partially traced even in the ordinary usage of language. Thus we speak of a true friend; by which we mean a friend whose manner of conduct accords with the notion of friendship. In the same way we speak of a true work of Art. Untrue in this sense means the same as bad, or self-discordant. In this sense a bad state is an untrue state and, evil and untruth may be said to consist in the contradiction subsisting between the function or notion and the existence of the object. Of these correctnesses, which are at the same time untruths, we may have many in our heads. God alone is the thorough harmony of notion and reality. All finite things involve an untruth: they have a notion and an existence, but their existence does not meet the requirements of the notion. For this reason they must perish, and then the incompatibility between their notion and their existence becomes manifest. It is in the kind that the individual animal has its notion: and the kind liberates itself from this individuality by death. 23

A good passage. Enjoy them. For when we come to the actual Logic, and take up the larger one, God help us if we are not well prepared. Again:

The study of truth, or, as it is here explained to mean, consistency, constitutes the proper problem of logic. In our everyday mind we are never troubled with questions about the truth of the forms of thought. We may also express the problem of logic by saying that it examines the forms of thought touching their capability to hold truth. And the question comes to this: What are the forms of the infinite, and what are the forms of the finite? Usually no suspicion attaches to the finite forms of thought; they are allowed to pass unquestioned. But it is from conforming to finite categories in thought and action that all deception originates.

Correct categories. Correct categories. Categories that move and do not stay put.

Now let us go on. He now takes up the different methods of obtained truth. We know them. Listen to him again:

Truth may be ascertained by several methods, each of which however is no more than a form. Experience is the first of these methods. But the method is only a form: it has no intrinsic value of its own. For in experience everything depends upon the mind we bring to bear upon actuality. A great mind is great in its experience; and in the motley play of phenomena at once perceives the point of real significance. The idea is present, in actual shape, not something, as it were, over the hill and far away. The genius of a Goethe, for example, looking into nature or history, has great experiences, catches sight of the living principle, and gives expression to it. A second method of apprehending the truth is Reflection, which defines it by intellectual relations of condition and conditioned. But in these two modes the absolute truth has not yet found its appropriate form. The most perfect method of knowledge proceeds in the pure form of thought: and here the attitude of man is one of entire freedom. 24

Reflection is merely another name for Understanding.

And on the final pages of this sketch of what philosophy is about, before he takes up actual philosophical schools, he warns us finally:

If the thought-forms are vitiated by a fixed antithesis, i.e. if they are only of a finite character, they are unsuitable for the self-centred universe of truth, and truth can find no adequate receptacle in thought. Such thought, which can produce only limited and partial categories and proceed by their means, is what in the stricter sense of the word is termed Understanding. The finitude, further, of these categories lies in two points. Firstly, they are only subjective, and the antithesis of an objective permanently clings to them. 25

This is priceless. There is always truth, the revolutionary truth, and some objective workers who are permanently unable to understand this truth until of course one day they break out.

Secondly they are always of restricted content, and so persist in antithesis to one another and still more to the Absolute.

You see stalinism and leninism remain permanently opposed to each other. These dopes do not see that repudiation of parliamentarianism, national defence, private property, and national isolation, which distinguish the stalinist parties today, is precisely what leninism was in its day. It has not been lost, but it has been corrupted, turned into its opposite. But our men of no understanding, i.e. our men of Understanding, have leninism and stalinism in a fixed antithesis and that is why they have to start all over again with immediate demands.


You understand so far? Ho! Ho! You do, and yet you don’t. (Perfect dialectic, by the way.) All the time you are reading about finite categories, fixed, limited. Good. But in true dialectical fashion, we establish a category only to break it up. That is the point. You no sooner have it fixed than you must at once crack it wide open. In fact the chief point about a finite category is that it is not finite. You can make it so, you can torture reality to keep it finite, but we must now see how it is not only thought that moves the categories, creates the truth of the Idea, but that it is natural to man to do so. Get ready for the Preface to The Phenomenology of Mind.

The Natural Moments of Thought

Now that we have some general ideas, and some concrete material worked into them, we can dig a little deeper into consciousness. Always a general statement, then a little more concrete, and so on. I hope that we will see the essence of the matter once and for all. Only after this is well done shall we be able to go into the details of the Logic and emerge (1) with a vision of our own ideas as opposed to others, such as we have not had before, (2) with a method which will enable us to clarify and develop these ideas as we could not do in the past, (3) with a method that will enable us to tackle other fields of thought in a systematic manner, hitherto impossible for most of us. We are going to lay a thorough basis of the general. It is going to be thorough, my friends, very thorough.

Before he wrote the two Logics, Hegel wrote The Phenomenology of Mind, a study of the development of consciousness through its various states. The Phenomenology of Mind he introduced with a Preface and an Introduction. As usual he states the principles of what he is going to do in the book, what in fact he will do with all his life.

Only two or three terms are needed to understand him. We know by now that the Absolute Idea is the complete notion (stand and salute at that word!) of a thing in its totality, origin, movement, realization of all potentialities, etc. The subject is the active agent, the doer, the mover; in thought, the thinker in the world at large and the incessant negativist.

Thought is the subject constantly negating. The substance of a thing is—its substance. Hegel loved to take ordinary expressions and show the deep philosophical content hidden in them. We can do the same. Later, we shall perhaps go into the logical significance of substance. That is not necessary now. Same with actuality. Actuality is the concrete living stage of a thing. The actuality of the labour movement in Europe is concrete stalinism. But we as philosophers know that you cannot understand stalinism unless you know that actuality expresses an Idea. In other words, naturally everything depends on the eye or rather the consciousness that looks on actuality. We have done all that, in general.

Hegel begins by saying that the world of that day, the epoch, is a birth time, the old world is tottering to its fall. We see “frivolity” and “ennui”, also the “indefined foreboding of something unknown”. We of 1948 know all of these today. It was, in 1807, after the French revolution had failed to bring the millennium and men were asking: what? The new world, says Hegel, was making its first appearance in general outline. But precisely because of this fact consciousness fails to get the detailed expanse of content. At the first appearance of the new, only the essential (the broad) principles and outlines can be grasped, and that only by a few individuals. The content is not elaborated in detail, and for this reason its existence, the existence of the general content, is turned into something particular, not universal. Note how the things we emphasize, alienation, creativity, etc., are looked upon by other people not as the basis but as mere features, particulars. Hegel says that only what is perfectly determinate in form, concrete, external, is comprehensible by everybody. We should take these lessons to heart. I have hammered away at them in my notes. Thinking according to ordinary intelligence requires that it deals with familiar things. And when you deal with the future of a world, it is difficult for ordinary thought. We can’t change that.

Now, says Hegel, one side parades the wealth of its material and the intelligibility of its Ideas. (A note says that he is referring to Schelling and his school. It does not matter. I am referring to Trotsky and his school. There can be other references, in other contexts. Kant and Hegel are the criteria of all modern thought, as we use the French revolution or the Russian as our criteria, fundamental references for all succeeding and even past revolutions.) One side parades the wealth of its material and the intelligibility of its ideas, the other can only parade the “intuitive rationality” and “divine quality” of its content. (You feel no doubt the application to ourselves.) We cannot be too concrete about the future. The material isn’t there yet. Yet the other side, the group of Schelling, is silenced, and not only by the power of those who can only lean so to speak on the divine. They feel weariness and indifference; the demands for greater development are “just but unfulfilled”. As Stalin says, “clear, I should think.” The other side, Hegel’s opponents, of course, “They haul on to their territory a lot of material, that, namely, which is already familiar and arranged in order; and since they are concerned more especially about what is exceptional, strange and curious, they seem all the more to be in possession of the rest … as well as to have control over what was unregulated and disorderly.”26

This is Germain to the life. In fact, if they did not have to make predictions, being (in our reference) politicians, they could make quite a show until the predictions come home to roost. Everything, says Hegel, seems to be brought by them within the compass of the Absolute Idea. But, he says, when you look more closely at what they are doing, you will see that it is “the same principle taking shape in diverse ways; it is the shapeless repetition of one and the same idea, which is applied in an external fashion to different material, the wearisome reiteration of it keeping up the semblance of diversity.”27

The idea is an abstract universal. But it does not develop, it merely repeats and repeats the same formula. Then comes the hammer blow: “If the knowing subject carries around everywhere the one inert abstract form, this means the same God-damned abstract category day after day” (can you name one so persistent abstraction?), “taking up in external fashion whatever material comes his way and dipping it into this element,” i.e. fitting all the material into this permanent category, “then this comes about as near to fulfilling what is wanted, viz. a self-origination of the wealth of detail, and a self-determining distinction of shapes and forms …”

The things themselves have to originate from themselves, not by being fitted into a fixed category; the shapes and forms have to take their different contours from their own logic. This kind of business, says Hegel, though as we said it may begin from an Absolute which is true, by its abstractness, gives us so little real knowledge that it comes as near to fulfilling what is wanted as any chance fancies about the content in question.

Note that Schelling and Co. began right, but can end in giving as little grasp of the object as any caprice of imagination. This is a hell of a thing to say. But he is right. Trotsky simply didn’t know anything serious about the Russian bureaucracy, though he wrote so much. He died in the belief that they would restore private property.

And how Hegel abuses this one category of thinking, calls it “monochrome formalism”, “monotonous and abstract universality” and such-like ill names. These monotonists, and this is really juicy, claim that to be dissatisfied with their wearisome category “argues an incapacity to grasp the standpoint of the Absolute, and keep a firm hold on it.” How often we have heard that the nationalized property is the Absolute, etc. etc., and many cannot hold on to it “firmly”. He then says that true scientific method will never be able to defeat these people until it grasps its own nature and method, and then he says what for him everything depends on.

In my view—a view which the developed exposition of the system can alone justify—everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well.

That is to say, scientific method cannot examine the object alone but must at the same time and equally examine the categories with which it examines the object. Did you guess it? It’s too bad we know so much. Everything depends on that. 28

Are you slightly disappointed? Is that. all, you say? Yes. And if you feel that way, then Part I prepared you well. Let us congratulate ourselves, but, having been rash before, decide to be modest this time.

The truth is what you examine and what you examine it with; both are in process of constant change. What marxists considered a workers’ state, a revolutionary international, a reformist international, in 1871, cannot be the same in 1905, in 1923, and in 1948.

This at first sight may seem to you a simple repetition of complaints against Trotsky. You should examine them a little more closely. Every time I repeat it, it is in a new context. This time l want to make clear what Trotsky did. He said, this is a workers’ state. And then he said, all these and these are degenerations, but no more, because the category with which we began is still valid. It never struck him that it was perfectly legitimate to say, “After twenty-five years of Russia, we must now say that our previous conception of a workers’ state was inadequate.” He never even tried. He didn’t write about it to reject it. That never crossed his mind even as theory, though the idea of marxism being proved wrong could cross his mind, and the second, it seems to me, was a far more serious thing.

At any rate there it is. In the most crucial revolution of thought in history, the discoverer of dialectic says what he thinks everything depends on. And it seems to me to explain, as thought, the procedure by which Trotsky’s theories ended in failure.

l shall not go any further into quotes from the Preface. We shall take that matter up in more detail in the Logic itself. But I summarize certain portions of it.

The subject is a constant negativity. It assumes a constant change. When it looks at something it sees it and sees the negative in it which will be positive tomorrow, thus constantly developing new categories, which correspond to the changing object; the object gave the first impulses to changes in consciousness, for without this you cannot trace the changes in the object.

Consciousness and the Object: The Introduction

Now we are not going to be less Hegelian then Hegel in method. In the Introduction Hegel goes back to the point. It is his main point, the point from which everything flows. He takes it up in detailed fashion. We must go through it in the particular form the maestro chooses. Sentence by sentence. And all the time we are becoming more familiar with the method in general, practising it, learning the terms, becoming familiar with the atmosphere.

Suppose we call knowledge the notion, and the essence of truth “being” of the object, then the examination consists in seeing whether the notion corresponds with the object. 29

That is simple enough enough in appearance. It isn’t really. You remember, I hope, all we said before about this. The problem is the relation between the term “notion” and the peculiar term “truth”. Let us repeat it by saying that the truth is the concrete stage that the notion, the absolute, has reached, actuality, but actuality in terms of the Idea.

But if we call the inner nature of the object, or what it is in itself, the notion, and, on the other side, understand by object the notion qua object i.e. the way the notion is for an other, then the examination consists in our seeing whether the object corresponds to its own notion. 30

You remember that? How we took up what stalinism was and how a truly philosophical cognition would look at it and look at the CIO. To repeat it once more. Stalin represents where the labour movement is today, corrupted of course by capital; To see this we must have a clear notion of the labour movement. When we look at the CIO we compare it to stalinism—not in detail, but what it really represents, not Menshevism, but a perverted leninism. And we shall find that the CIO is far more leninist than it is Menshevik, though because it is corrupted by American imperialism and for various historical reasons you cannot at once seethe leninist core in it.

It is clear, of course, that both of these processes are the same. The essential fact, however, to be borne in mind throughout the whole enquiry is that both these moments, notion and object, “being for another”, and “being in itself”, themselves fall within the knowledge which we are examining. 31

The thing to remember is that both Marx’s Capital and capital in 1948 are parts of the knowledge. Never forget it.

Consequently we do not require to bring standards with us, nor to apply our fancies and thoughts in the inquiry; and just by our leaving these aside we are enabled to treat and discuss the subject as it is in itself and for itself, as it is in its complete reality. 32

That needs no explanation? You flatter yourself. What does “We do not require to bring standards with us” mean? It seems to say that you should have nothing to judge by except your notion, carefully worked out, with its past, and its future flowing from its past. When the bourgeois object, society, presents bourgeois democracy with insoluble problems,‘ then that notion, bourgeois democracy, is dead and gone for the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie breaks it up. You do not require new standards. You require a correct notion—and so, by this means, a new object.

But not only in this respect, that notion and object, the criterion and what is to be tested, are ready to hand in consciousness itself, is any addition of ours superfluous, but we are also spared the trouble of comparing these two and of making an examination in the strict sense of the term; so that in this respect, too, since consciousness tests and examines itself, all we are left to do is simply and solely to look on.

Hegel is a bit naive about this solely looking on, and watching the process at work. What he is saying, however, is that this is “the natural process of all thought”. And if you work at these two movements, then “you” have nothing to add.

Consciousness does not seem able to get, so to say, behind it as it is, not for consciousness, but in itself, and consequently seems also unable to test knowledge by it. But just because consciousness has, in general, knowledge of an object, there is already present the distinction that the inherent nature, what the object is in itself, is one thing to consciousness, while knowledge, or the being of the object for consciousness, is another moment. 33

The realistic contrast comes sharply to the fore. At all times consciousness has these two moments in it, what its notion of a thing is, and what the thing is in itself. Hegel did not make them up. He says everybody thinks like that. You can think in no other way. You may not know this and you may not think about it. Your notion of capital may not be Marx’s notion, i.e. Capital plus Lenin’s Imperialism, etc., it may be the notion of Adam Smith, or Henry Ford or Norman Thomas. It may be a bad notion or a good notion. That is precisely the point. You must know that this distinction exists, and examine them.

Upon this distinction, which is present as a fact, the examination turns. 34

This process, says Hegel, is present as a fact. That is why you don’t have to bring standards, you have nothing to do so far as the basic moments are concerned. They are always there, your knowledge of your wife as she is (or of husband: no offence intended) is always governed by the fact of what you think a wife is, Hegel or no Hegel. Every man has a notion of what a wife is. By this he judges his own wife.

But this being established, Hegel then says: the whole thing turns upon the relation between these two, and the way they develop.

Should both, when thus compared, not correspond, consciousness seems bound to alter its knowledge, in order to make it fit the object.

That seems obvious enough. If capital in 1948 does not correspond to our notion of it, what it is, its contradictions, where it came from, where it is going, if it does not correspond to the laws we have worked out, then we have to alter its knowledge to make it fit the object. Simple, but!

But in the alteration of the knowledge, the object itself also, in point of fact, is altered.

The notion, capital of 1948, is altered. You do not change your notion and then see the same object that you saw before you altered your notion. When you correct your notion, you change the object. You see, you experience capital in 1948 as AAaaBBbbCCcc. This does not correspond to your notion. Good. You change your notion. But, my good friend, when you change your notion, and look again, capital is no longer AAaaBBbbCCcc. It cannot be. For this AA etc. (what an ass I was to take such a long symbol) this AA etc. that you saw in the first place was seen with the eyes of the original notion:

For the knowledge which existed was essentially a knowledge of the object; with change in the knowledge, the object also becomes different, since it belonged essentially to this knowledge. 35

Quite so. The object AA that you saw was only AA because the notion in mind was Notion X. That was the vision with which you examined and found what you examined to be unsatisfactory; you cannot now change glasses or eyes to Notion Y and go back and find AA. For AA was the result of Notion X.

Hence consciousness comes to find that what formerly to it was the essence is not what is per se, or what was per se was only per se for consciousness. 36

Hegel seems perilously near saying that except in so far as we know an object it does not exist. But he means nothing of the kind. What he is saying is that consciousness discovers that what formerly it thought to be truth per se, in itself was not truth, in itself, was truth only for the particular vision, criterion, standards with which it looked on the world. And we who know something about what thinking in terms of Understanding does to the vision, blinds it to the obvious, that the Communist Party was going to stick to Russia, we can understand the lifework of Hegel. He drives the point home:

Since, then, in the case of its object consciousness finds its knowledge not corresponding with this object, the object likewise fails to hold out.

The object fails to hold out. They think they will continue to see socialism arising from capitalism, after they have abandoned dialectic. They don’t. They change their notion, and the object fails to hold out. With remarkable speed, Messrs Burnham and Co. see a new object, a new capitalism.

Hegel concludes where he began, but now the original abstract statement is concretized and full of meaning:

The standard for examining is altered when that, whose criterion this standard was to be, does not hold its ground in the course of the examination; and the examination is not only an examination of knowledge but also of the criterion used in the process. 37

Sidney Hook has made a translation of this passage which I think is better, or at least it reads better.

The standards of testing change when that whose criterion the standard was supposed to be, no longer remains in the course of testing what it was. The test is not only a test of knowledge but of its standards as well. 38

The Fourth International tests neither knowledge nor criterion. It cannot change criterion because it absolutely refuses to test knowledge. To this day you cannot find one line which says Trotsky proved and taught the Communist Party would join the bourgeoisie, and it did not. How come? They refuse even to look at it.

To conclude rapidly this exposition of Hegel’s exposition. He says that the great means of changing these two moments is Experience. People go through experiences and change their ideas of objects and so change their notion. They do not know that they are thereby carrying out the great Hegelian principle of negativity, constantly negating, changing objects and their notions to them. Thus there is a constant development of notions because there is a constant development of objects. Dialectical logic is the science of tracing by what laws, in what way, notions, our concepts of things, change, to know that they change, to know how they change, constantly to examine these changes. Scientific method is the examination of an object in its changes and the examination of our concepts of that object, watching how both change, doing it consciously, clearly, with knowledge and understanding. Now God help you if your concept, your notion of a workers’ state in 1917, remains static, while everything else around you changes. A truly dialectical method would have: (1) brought the theory of capital into harmony with this apparent monstrosity and made our ideas of it consistent with our past. Trotsky has left us not a single line on this, not a line. We have tried to do just this; (2) elaborated some concept of what a workers’ state is, more concrete than in the past.

From the Commune Marx leapt forward. Trotsky has had nothing to say on this. He half-heartedly tackled one idea, the idea of more than one party. The Fourth International has gone further than he here, in my opinion, chiefly to avoid the charge of totalitarianism. No serious study exists. In all other respects Trotsky remains where he was in 1918. Revive the soviets, revive the plan, etc. etc. See the Transitional Programme.

What he has done is this. He has selected one definition (and Hegel does a job on definitions—later), nationalized property. From there he proceeds to point out everything the stalinists do wrong. His definition is eternal, changeless. But nothing is that way. It not only leads him to his catastrophic misconceptions of what the stalinist bureaucracy was aiming at. It not only led him to misconceive entirely the directions and actions of the Third International. It led him ultimately, as Hegel says it is bound to do, to do the very opposite of his intention—to throw doubt, or to raise the question of, the validity of marxism itself. True he put it off some distance. But as I see it now, this is what is eating at the European comrades. Whether Trotsky had written it or not, trotskyist thinking, persisted in, led the posing of the question of the disintegration of marxist theory, questioning whether we might not have to ask ourselves if it were valid.

Before we close this section let us spend a few minutes on Hegel’s World-Spirit. The old boy spent years on it, all his life, but I cannot help thinking of it as one of the funniest things in philosophy. See if you do not find it funny.

Hegel was determined to have Nature and Society the source of impulse, etc., for thinking. No nonsense there. He never budged from that. But he wanted a system, an enclosed system, with no loose ends. So this is what he does. He says there is a World-Spirit that was, is, and will ever be, etc. But, he says, the concrete form of this World-Spirit is Nature. The World-Spirit moves and therefore Nature moves in harmony. But philosophers get the impulses, etc., from the movement of Nature (and Society). They develop these impulses in philosophy. So that Nature and Society represent the World-Spirit objectively, and Philosophy represents it in theory. So that World-Spirit or no World-Spirit, Hegel put his philosophy on a very firm materialist basis—but always argued that this materialist basis was really World-Spirit assuming an objective form.

Out of fairness to Hegel it must be said that he recognized the need for an organizing principle which would tie the different stages together. He knew that logically speaking the developing forms of Nature, the developing forms of philosophy, had to be analysed within terms of some system. He could not find it in the development of labour. Where else to find one? He simply made up this one, and ever after preached it with utmost vigour. I think it funny. Am I alone? OK. Forget it.

But though many things Hegel says come from this World-Spirit business and at any time you will get phrases, passages, ideas which make sense only in terms of this, when he is dealing with scientific method or the science of thought, he is the most rigid of materialists, and in one sense he can be said to have practised and taught a very materialist form of dialectic. That is why we can go on with his actual words and not be embarrassed by the World-Spirit business.

Object of the Investigation

Now we have established Hegel’s great contribution, in his own mind, at least to be this: that you examine, and see that you do it, both the things that you test and the instruments by which you test them.

Let us attempt a modern grade of examining the party. The party is the proletarian consciousness. I do not mean the Communist Party in the United States, or the Workers’ Party or the Socialist Workers’ Party or such; least of all do I mean the Johnson-Forest Tendency. God preserve us from such methodological follies. When we think of the party of the proletariat we mean for example the Second International in 1914. It represented the most decisive layers of the workers. It didn’t? OK, OK. It thought it did. The workers thought it did. It spoke, it expounded, it organized, it gave orders, they were obeyed. Conceive of the proletariat as a personality, one vast I, and the party is its consciousness. Now every consciousness we know has two movements, its notion of the thing, and its ordinary knowledge of the thing. The Second International had its notions and categories, they were Marxian at the start and it had its day-to-day work a day knowledge of the objects it dealt with. It began with Marxian categories, Hegelian dialectic, inevitability of capitalist collapse, etc. But its theoreticians were some of the most serious people. Bernstein under the blows, impulses, etc. of capitalist prosperity, changed the categories, for revolution he substituted peaceful democratic means, for the Hegelian dialectic he substituted the critical philosophy of Kant. He changed categories and the way to think about categories.

Now what were the impulses, the mutable shocks which finally crystallized in the web of Bernstein’s mind as knots of arrest and direction? It is obvious that they were partly capitalistic. The revolutionary proletariat did not send impulses into his mind to strengthen and develop the categories and direction of marxism. We know that Kautsky and the others who opposed Bernstein did so half-heartedly and at the critical moment, and by their subsequent conduct showed that they had also done subconsciously what he had done consciously.

Proletarian impulses then, Bernstein got none, or none to speak of. So he changed his notions, and then his objects, his capitalism and his proletariat changed also. It seemed also that the consciousness of the proletariat changed, in so far as the party represented proletarian consciousness. (We are not dealing with isolated individuals like Liebknecht.)

But the objective proletariat had not changed its categories at all. It did not. It does not work by categories. In 1917 and in 1918-20 it burst all over Europe. It wiped away the old ones and created, all by itself, a new one, the soviet, all by itself. Not a god-damned soul had told it anything about soviets.

The thought, the categorizing process of the proletariat expressed itself in revolutionary mass action. While Bernstein and the whole organized consciousness of the proletariat made its way to the exact opposite of the categories with which they began, the proletariat extended the concrete dimensions of the labour movement, gave the theoreticians a new category and created a new consciousness, the Third International.

That is the first, a very general statement, of what took place and how it took place. Now the Hegelian logic would begin by saying: when you looked at the categories in 1889, at the time that the Second International propounded them did you know in advance that its categories had within them the inherent power of moving forward in the direction of something new, a new organization of consciousness, a new party, and held at the same time in them the tendency to become their opposite? If you didn’t know that, he would say, you don’t know the beginning of dialectic. The object was proletarian, and furthermore, revolutionary and socialistic. We are talking about the proletariat, that is our object, not geology, or seafood. So that the proletarian categories would be fundamentally of the proletariat. But they could swing to their opposite, i.e. become permeated through and through with a capitalist content, as far as that was possible without smashing the initial concept of the proletariat as proletariat. Or the consciousness would move further along the road of finding truer, more rich, more clear, i.e. more concrete, categories of its own truly proletarian nature, its unending fight against capital. It would develop its notion of itself, and therefore see the initial stage it had reached more clearly. The Second International was one strong knot. After a conflict, a new strong knot would be the Third International. But: a Hegelian would say as soon as the Third International was formed, I would know that the same conflict of tendencies existed inside it, and would go on until the proletariat found its true self, i.e. got rid of capitalism, whereupon it would not be proletariat at all, but a new organism. Every new stage marked a wider, deeper, more concrete notion and therefore a clearer grasp of the actual stage of existence of the proletariat. He would know all this in 1889, though he would not be certain when the new organism, i.e. socialism, would come. But until it came this process would go on.

How to grasp the contradictions within the proletariat itself, you would ask, the contradiction between its consciousness and its being, the fact that at one and the same time in its consciousness, Bernsteinism and leninism would be in such conflict, a conflict which the proletariat would solve in consciousness, in its party, only to start again? A Hegelian dialectician would reply: “The proletariat is not an independent organism. It is a part of capital. Therefore any contradiction in it will be a special form of the general contradiction between capital and labour; you shouldn’t ask stupid questions—you should know that to begin with. The contradiction between the proletariat and its consciousness is the contradiction within the proletariat of capital and labour. When I say capital, I imply labour. When I say labour, I imply capital. There can be no labour, i.e., wage-labour, without capital. There can be no capital without wage-labour. When I say father, I have in mind son. If I didn’t mean son, I would say man. Same with capital and labour. If the opposition, the contradiction between the proletariat and its consciousness were not a part, a form, of the contradiction between capital and labour they would not be serious.

We agree. But yet we face this. These categories of 1889 have been knocked to hell, year after year, they were even formally changed. What capitalistic impulses could wreak such damage in the consciousness of the proletariat? Enter Lenin who asked himself precisely this question in 1914. And he found an objective answer. The proletariat as object had changed. Imperialism had created a layer of bourgeoisified workers. Bernstein’s mind was not receiving capitalistic impulses in general. The knots that had formed in his mind and which he clarified were the result of impulses from a very special section of the proletariat, the labour aristocracy. Old Stuff. Ho! The conflict in the consciousness of the proletariat was the result of an objective conflict in the object. Any profound, pronounced, long-maintained change in categorization must be the result of changes in the object. The greatest violence done to that mode of thought was done by Trotsky. He was attacked by Lenin in 1915 for saying that “gradualism” had overtaken the Second International. In 1923 he was still saying the same thing in the New Course. He then transformed this method to The Third International. Never once did he ask himself: what objective basis is there for the Third International, this extraordinarily powerful and concrete force? It is an amazing thing. Until 1938 there is not a line in his writing which asks that question. He began by saying that the theory of socialism in a single country would end in their joining the bourgeoisie. He had analysed them in terms of tools of the Kremlin, and of a theory, Stalin’s false theory. When he thought his theory had been justified, he gave them Lenin ’s old basis. To this day, not a soul in the Fourth International has asked that question. Not one. And yet these people would sneer at Hegel as an idealist. So that all the changes in thought we shall deal with, for us have an objective basis. I can’t keep on saying it.

So far we have:

  1. The changes in the categories of the Second International.
  2. The changes are from a proletarian ideology of 1889 to a capitalistic ideology of say, 1900, without however losing its proletarian identity.
  3. The proletariat violently changes this and creates a new concretization.
  4. We seek and find an objective basis for Bernsteinism.
  5. We now have a concept broader, deeper, and richer than in 1889. We put it in order, organize it in thought.
  6. We find that the objective has changed. The, proletariat now is itself at divided object. Categories of the proletariat assume an importance they never had.

Thus by 1919, the foundation of the Third International has a new armoury of weapons and a new set of objects. We also have new “directions”, i.e., new perspectives. Let us organize them backwards and forwards.

There are contradictions in the First International, Proudhonists, Bakuninists and then the Marxists. The Proudhonists and Bakuninists represented the petty-bourgeois capitalistic influences in the proletariat. The conflict was not too sharp. It was solved in the Commune. Marxism triumphed because of the decline of the petty-bourgeois individualism in capitalism as a whole.

The Second International was marxist through and through. But bourgeoisified workers triumphed in it and the conflict was solved by the revolutionary wave of 1917-20. The objective division in the proletariat has now become deeper, clearer than it was in 1864-71. It expresses itself in two organizations. It is ridiculous not to know in advance that all the old categories will have changed completely.

By 1948 the objective division of the proletariat is much more clearly marked. The old labour aristocracy is on the decline. A new caste of labour administrators of capital, politicians and union men combined are the completest expression within the labour movement of capital so far. We say:

  1. They have an objective basis in that they and their supporters perform a function. They are a development from Proudhonists and Bakuninists, through Bernstein to Thorez and Togliatti.
  2. They reflect the present stage of capital, state capital, as Proudhon and Bakunin reflected the petty-bourgeois capital, and Bernstein reflected liberal capitalism. They reflect the totalitarian, managerial, bureaucratic, planned necessities of capital.
  3. They will be completely overthrown, defeated as the mass upheaval of the Commune defeated the Proudhonists, 1917-20, the mass upheaval of revolutionary Europe defeated the Second International.
  4. Each successive stage is more and more counter-revolutionary because capital is more and more counter-revolutionary.

The development of the antagonistic elements in the labour movement is clear: constantly higher stages, sharper conflicts of development between it as object and it as consciousness, increasingly violent and profound attempts by the masses to break through this.

Much of this is in The Invading Socialist Society39—in highly concentrated form. There are innumerable other aspects. A book would be needed to trace them all, but what I was aiming at here is to outline the materials we shall use and outline a “schema of development”. We have one, and now we can show a grand conclusion, to use a word Hegel was fond of. It is obvious that the conflict of the proletariat is between itself as object and itself as consciousness, its party. The party has a dialectical development of its own. The solution of the conflict is the fundamental abolition of this division. The million in the Communist Party in France, the two and a half millions in Italy, their domination of the union movement, all this shows that the proletariat wants to abolish this distinction which is another form of the capitalist division between intellectual and manual labour. The revolutionary party of this epoch will be organized labour itself and the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie. The abolition of capital and the abolition of the distinction between the proletariat as object and proletariat as consciousness will be one and the same process. That is our new notion and it is with those eyes that we examine what the proletariat is in actuality. Compare this with “tools of the Kremlin”.

Note that the Transitional-Program stopped at the seizure of power. Lenin did not have a socialist programme up to February 1917. He did not know what to say. Nobody knew. But February showed him the way and he feverishly got to work on State and Revolution and The Threatening Catastrophe, and Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?

Today we are still where we were before February 1917. We do not see that today socialist construction is an integral part of the preparation for the revolution. We are waiting for February before we begin. In The Invading Socialist Society we asked Germain: Have you nothing to say about this? He is still so stuck in his old categories that I doubt he understood us. He, like Shachtman, believes that the workers are more backward, politically and organizationally, than in 1914. We could only say that he did not understand the marxist method. This is a more detailed exposition in the highly important sphere of thought.

But we did not do this for Germain, someone will say. What has the Logic to do with all this? Dope! You have just had a concrete exposition of the Logic. Very much in general. That is the Hegelian method. You take it in general and then penetrate deeper and deeper.

Method of the Investigation

There must be no impatience. For decades everybody has been content to read Plekhanov and a few scraps. And I know the difficulties of this study. Go slowly. Lay a solid foundation. Watch his prefaces and his introductions. There he gives the important principles. I propose to take one from the Logic and one from the Phenomenology.

The one and only thing for securing scientific progress (and for quite simple insight into which, it is essential to strive)—is knowledge of the logical precept that Negation is just as much Affirmation as Negation, or that what is self-contradictory resolves itself not into nullity, into abstract Nothingness, but essentially only into the negation of its particular content, that such negation is not an all-embracing Negation, but is the negation of a definite somewhat which abolishes itself, and thus is a definite negation; and that thus the result contains in essence that from which it results—which is indeed a tautology, for otherwise it would be something immediate and not a result. Since what results, the negation, is a definite negation, it has a content. It is a new concept, but a higher, richer concept than that which preceded; for it has been enriched by the negation or opposite of that preceding concept, and thus contains it, but contains also more than it, and is the unity of it and its opposite. 40

It is a very solemn passage. Know this, says Hegel. And then a very difficult statement. Strive, he says, for “quite simple insight” into it. Read the passage again, clause by clause; higher, richer, definite negation, negation of a somewhat, including the preceding.

That is what stalinism is. It has negated leninism. But it has not gone back to Menshevism. I shall repeat this and repeat it. Stalinism leads workers who have absorbed leninism. These workers repudiate parliamentarianism. They repudiate private property. They repudiate national defence. They act with each other across national boundaries. Leninism has been taken over into stalinism. As a conception of reaction stalinism is infinitely further advanced than Menshevism. The importance of this for the revolution is only equalled by the blindness to it. Germain and, I believe, many of his friends, believe stalinism is a retrogression from Menshevism. Trotsky is terribly confused on this point. At any rate he left a terrible confusion behind him. All his ideas prevented him from saying this. Now read Hegel slowly, and see why he says that this was “the one and only thing”.

Now for a final exposition of the method to clinch it. You remember everything depended on grasping the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well. On that page he writes a difficult but pregnant and characteristically Hegelian paragraph. This thing isn’t easy. To hold it in your head, to look at all things that way, not to read and say yes, but to read and re-read until it sinks in and though you step back often, you know the way back and struggle to get it. No, my friends, it isn’t easy. So bear with me if I go over one more paragraph with you. You take up the Logic and the Phenomenology. You’ll be glad enough to run back for help to the repetitions. Plekhanov is just a popularization and pretty vulgar at that. And Engels’s essay on dialectic in The Dialectic of Nature is too elementary. It is here that we have something. So here goes.

The living substance, further, is that being which is truly subject, or, what is the same thing; is truly realized and actual [wirklich] solely in the process of positing itself, or in mediating with its own self its transitions from one state or position to the opposite. 41

Read it again, slowly. Practice. The living substance, the genuine proletarian movement, is that which is truly subject, i.e. active, becoming increasingly conscious of itself. This is the same as saying that it becomes truly realized and actual, takes concrete form in some international proletarian organization but in doing so always posits itself, i.e. has within it an opposition which must develop and which it will overcome. In this way it moves from one state to another, a transition. Thus in its own particular form it finds in its contradiction the means whereby it will move on. So the Second International found Bernsteinism and by its conflict with it was able to arrive at leninism. So leninism found in it stalinism, and in conflict with it will arrive at a moment which will have conquered all obstacles and arrived at a full understanding and realization of itself. This is called mediating with its own self.

As subject it is pure and simple negativity, and just on that account a process of splitting up what is simple and undifferentiated, a process of duplicating and setting factors in opposition, which (process) in turn is the negation of this indifferent diversity and of the opposition of factors it entails. 42

Read it again. Get yourself familiar with the idea of and with reading him. It is from lack of this preliminary work that so many attempts failed. Now to interpret.

As subject, i.e. as active agent, in life, as consciousness in thought, the labour movement is simply a constant negation of unsatisfactory forms. Just because it is this negativity it must do it in a certain way. A thing like the doctrine of 1889 or leninism looks simple and undifferentiated, but negativity is going to negate them; but not by just wiping them away but by splitting them into two factors, Bernsteinism and leninism, stalinism and the Fourth International, setting the factors in opposition. This process in its turn negates the splitting up and the opposition. Leninism conquered Bernsteinism and gave subject and substance a new unity on a higher plane. The Fourth International will conquer stalinism, and with parliamentarism, defence of private property, national defence and now bureaucratization completely, organically conquered, and all learnt in bitter experience by the masses, they will have arrived in action at a realization of themselves. It a shameful crime to fasten national defence and support of the totalitarian state on Russian workers today. The Russian workers do not hear us, but other workers do and that cuts us and them off from understanding the world today.

True reality is merely this process of re-instating self-identity, of reflecting into its own self in and from its other, and is not an original and primal unity as such, not an immediate unity as such. 43

To know true reality, to understand the labour movement, is to know that at each stage it degenerates but splits to re-instate its self-identity, its unity, but that this unity comes from divisions within its own self. It is not a unity which is there from the beginning nor is it a unity which you can see as soon as you look at the thing.

It is the process of its own becoming, the circle which pre-supposes its end as its purpose, and has its end for its beginning; it becomes concrete and actual only by being carried out, and by the end it involves. 44

The labour movement is these various stages, splits, reunifications, etc. After we have looked at it for a little time we can work out where it is going and we can see that this ultimate end is the purpose which animates it in all its movement, degeneration, opposition, splits, unifications, etc. But although this ultimate purpose guides us and seems to guide it, the ultimate will be reached only by becoming concrete stage after concrete stage. There is no other way.

Then comes a phrase which Grace loves. I have underlined it. You can talk a lot of high-falutin’ nonsense about socialism (or, if you like, God) and love and revolutionary masses, etc. etc., but this bitter process is the way—it is not worth a damn “if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience and the labour of the negative.’’ (Emphasis added.)

And skipping a bit:

The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. 45

Stalinism is a bitter obstacle. But see it as part of a process. Through the process of its own development, the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labour of the negative, the labour movement goes through all its experiences and reaches its completely realized self only by conquering them one after the other. And only at the end, when the labour movement finds itself fully realized will we see what it is in very truth. The notion will be completed when the form it takes is final and its individuality, its concreteness, is the adequate expression of both the content of the universal and the particular form which has now become a Universal.

And now having sweated up to here, a rest is needed before plunging into the logic itself.

Here lies

G. W. F. Hegel


He deserves it