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Thread: Dialectical and Historical Materialism - Joseph Stalin

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    Veteran Member Petros Agapetos's Avatar
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    Marxist Philosophical Materialism

    a) Materialist

    Contrary to Idealism, which regards the word as the embodiment of an "absolute idea", a "universal spirit", "consciousness", Marx's philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multi-fold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a "universal spirit".

    "The materialistic outlook on nature", says Engels, "means no more than simply conceiving nature just as it exists, without any foreign admixture (Marx and Engels, Vol. XIV, p.651.)

    b) Objective Reality

    Contrary to Idealism, which asserts at only our consciousness really exists, and that the material world, being nature, exists only in our consciousness in our sensations, ideas and perceptions, the Marxist philosophical materialism holds that matter, nature, being is an objective reality existing outside and independent of our consciousness that matter is primary since it is the source of sensations, ideas, consciousness, and that consciousness is secondary, derivative, since it is a reflection of matter , a reflection of being; that thought is a product of matter which in its development has reached a high degree of perfection, namely, of the brain, and the brain is the organ of thought, and that therefore one cannot separate thought from matter without committing a grave error. Engels says:

    "The question of the relation of thinking to being, the relation of spirit to nature is the paramount question of the whole of philosophy. The answers which the philosophers gave to this question spit them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature... comprised the camp of 'idealism'. The others who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism." (Marx, Selected Works, Vol I, p.329.)
    Last edited by Petros Agapetos; 06-17-2019 at 03:51 PM.

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    c) The World and Its Laws are Knowable

    Contrary to idealism, which denies the possibility of knowing the world and its laws, which does not believe in the authenticity of our knowledge, does not recognize objective truth, and holds that the world is full of "things-in-themselves" that can never be known to science, Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth and there are no things in the world which are unknowable but only things which are as yet not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice.

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    Historical Materialism

    It now remains to elucidate the following question : What, from the viewpoint of historical materialism, is meant by "the conditions of material life of society" which in the final analysis determine the physiognomy of society, its ideas, views, political institutions, etc.?

    What, after all, are these "conditions of material life of society", what are their distinguishing features?

    Nature, the geographical environment, which is one of the indispensable and constant conditions of material life of society and which, of course, influences, the development of society...Geographical environment is unquestionably one of the constant and indispensable conditions of development of society, and of course, influences the development of society, accelerates or retards its development. But its influence is not the determining influence, inasmuch as the changes and development of society proceed at an incomparably faster rate than the changes and development of geographical environment. In the space of 3000 years three different systems have been successively superseded in Europe: the primitive communal system, the slave system, and the feudal system. In the eastern part of Europe, in the U.S.S.R., even four social systems have been superseded. Yet during this period, geographical conditions in Europe have either not changed at all, or have changed so slightly that geography takes no note of them. And that is quite natural. Changes in geographical environment of any importance require millions of years, whereas a few hundred or a couple of thousand years are enough for even very important changes in the system of human society.

    a) What is the Chief Determinant Force?

    What then is the chief force in the complex of conditions of material life of society which determines the physiognomy of society, the character of the social system, the development of society from one system to another? This force, historical materialism holds, is the method of procuring the means of life necessary for human existence, the mode of production of material values - food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. - which are indispensable for the life and development of society.

    Primitive Communism < Slavery < Feudalism < Capitalism < Socialism
    Last edited by Petros Agapetos; 06-17-2019 at 11:03 PM.

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    Concerning the question of matter and thought, Marx says: "It is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks. Matter is the subject of all changes. (Ibid., p.302.)

    Describing Marxist philosophical materialism, Lenin says:

    "Materialism in general recognizes objectively real being (matter) as independent of consciousness, sensation, experience.... Consciousness is only the reflection of being, at best an approximately true (adequate, perfectly exact) reflection of it. " (Lenin, VolXIII, pp.266-67)

    And further:

    Matter is that which acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensation; matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation... Matter, nature being, the physical is primary, and spirit, consciousness, sensation, and the psychical is secondary. The world picture is a picture of how matter moves and how 'matter thinks'? The brain is the organ of thought.

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    The Main Types of Relations of Production



    Five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist, and socialist.

    Primitive Communal System

    The basis of the relations of production under the prinitive communal system is that the means of production are socially owned. This in the main corresponds to the character of the productive forces of that period. Stone tolls and later the bow and arrow precuded the possibility of men individually combating the forces of nature and beasts of prey... Labour in common led to the common ownership of the means of production as well as of the fruits of production. Here the conception of private ownership of the means of production did not yet exist, except for the personal ownership of certain implements of production which were at the same time means of defense against beasts of prey. Here there was no exploitation, no classes.

    The Slave System (Slavery)

    The basis of the relations of production under the slave syste is that the slave-owner owns the means of production, he also owns the worker in production - the slave, whom he can sell, purchase, or kill as though he were an animal. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period .Instead of stone tools, men now have metal tools at their command; instead of the wretched and primitive husbandy of the hunter, who knew neither pasturage nor tillage, there now appear pasturage tillage, handicrafts, and a division of labour between these branches of production. There appears the possibility of the exchange of products between individuals and between societies, of the accumulation of wealth in the nads of a few, the actual accumulation of the means of production in the hands of a minority, and the possibility of subjugation of the majority by a minority, and the conversion of the majority into slaves. In a slave system there is no common ownership of the means of production or of the fruits of production. It is replaced by private ownership. Here the slave-owner appears as the prime and principal property owner in the full sense of the term.

    Rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, people with full rights and people with no rights, and fierce class struggle between them - such is the picture of the slave system.

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    The basis of the relations of production under the feudal system is that the feudal lord owns the means of production and does not fully own the worker in production - the serf, whom the feudal lord can no longer kill, but whom he can buy and sell. Alongside of feudal ownership there exists individual owndership by the peasant and the handicraftsman of his implements of production and his private enterprise based on his personal labour. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period. Further improvements in the smelting and working of iron; the spread of iron plow and the loom; the further development of agriculture, horticulture, viniculture and dairying; the appearance of manufactories alongside of the handicraft workshops - such are the characteristic features of the state of the productive forces.

    Here exploitation is nearly as severe as it was under slavery - it is only slightly mitigated. A class struggle between exploiters and the exploited is the principal feature of the feudal system.

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    The basis of the relations of production under the capitalist system is that the capitalist owns the means of production, but not the workers in production - the wage labourers whom the capitalist can neither kill nor sell because they are personally free, but who are deprived of means of production and, in order not to die of hunger, are obliged to sell their labour power to the capitalist and to bear the yoke of exploitation.

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    Alongside of capitalist property in the means of production, we find, at first on a wide scale , private property of the peasants and handicraftsmen no longer being serfs, and their private property being based on personal labour. In place of the handicrat workshops and manufactories there appear huge mills and factories equipped with machinery. In place of the production of the peasant, there now appear large capitalist farms run on scientific lines and supplied with agricultural machinery.

    The new productive forces require that the worders in production shall be better educated and more intelligent than the downtrodden and ignorant serfs, that they be able to understand machinery and operate it properly. Therefore, the capitalists, perfer to deal with wage workers, who are free from the bonds of serfdom and who are educated enough to be able properly to operate machinery.

    But having developed productive forces to a tremendous extent, capitalism has become enmeshed in contradictions which it is unable to solve. By producing larger and larger quantities of commodities, and reducing their prices, capitalism intensifies competition, ruins the mass of small and medium private owners, converts them into proletarians and reduces their purchasing power, with the result that it becomes impossible to dispose of the commodities produced. On the other hand by the explanding production and concentrating millions of worders in huge mills and factories, capitalism lends the process of production a social character and thus undermines its own foundation, in as much as the social character of the process of production demands the social owndership of the means of production; yet the means of production remain private capitalist property, which is incompatible with the social character of the process of production.



    These irreconcilable contradictions between the character of the productive forces and the relations of production make themselves felt in periodical crises of over-production, when the capitalists, finding no effective demand for their goods owing to the ruidn of the mass of the population which they themselves have brought about, are complelled to burn products, destroy manufactured goods, suspend production, and destroy productive forces at a time when millions of people are forced to suffer unemployment and starvation, not because there are not enough goods, but because there is an overproduction of goods. -- Crises of overproduction are endemic to capitalism!

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