Marxist Philosophy

II. The History of Philosophy

We have already discussed how the fundamental question of philosophy did arise. But development of philosophy presupposes a situation in which a section of population is freed from necessary labour and has enough time to devote on art, science and philosophy etc. In the later part of primitive communism, with the invention of new means of production (copper etc.) and simultaneous division of labour, extension of exchange etc., production greatly developed and now the human labour power could produce more than was necessary for its maintenance. The means of maintaining additional units of labour power were present, likewise the means of employing them. Prisoners of war, who earlier were simply killed or adopted to the victor tribe, were allowed now to live as slaves and their labour was made use of. Thus the slavery was invented and it soon became the dominant mode of production in all such societies. Consequently a special class freed from actual labour come into being. “Without slavery no Greek state, no Greek art and science. We should never forget that our whole economic, political and intellectual development presupposes a state of things in which slavery was as necessary as it was universally recognised.” (Engels: Anti-Duhring) Thus philosophy in various forms took shape only in the era of slavery in Greece, Iran, India, China etc. Here we will discuss Greek philosophy only because as Engels...

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III. Sources of Marxist Philosophy

Contrary to metaphysics and mechanical materialism, it was Hegel’s (1770-1831) dialectical system which developed dialectics to a higher stage. For the first time Hegel presented nature, history and intellectual field as a continuous process and it was his greatest contribution. According to Hegelian dialectics the whole world is in ceaseless flux, in unresting motion and change; and it also tried to discover those internal relations that can give all motions and developments the shape of a complete whole, but Hegel could not solve that problem because (i) as an individual he had his own limitations, (ii) in his era, natural science and science of society had not developed to such an extent as mentioned earlier (three discoveries), and (iii) he himself was an idealist. In his view, his ideas were not reflections of objective reality in human mind, but to the contrary even changing matter was itself the reflection of some “Absolute Idea”. Thus with this idealist concept, Hegel turned everything upside down. Hegel presented laws of dialectics as merely ‘laws of thinking’. In this form, these laws are superimposed on nature and history (instead of discovering them in these and developing them from these). So the objective world must correspond with this system of thought (which itself is the product of the development of human thought !) But the true significance and the revolutionary character of the Hegelian...

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IV. Unity and Struggle of Opposites

Lenin, while pointing out weaknesses in the dialectical method adopted by Plekhanov, emphasised that the law of unity of opposites is the essence of dialectics. “Dialectics in proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects.” Later on, Mao Zedong in his brilliant essay. ‘On contradiction’ discussed this essence of dialectics in detail, systematically and comprehensively. So, while dealing with dialectics, we will concentrate on this essence, i.e., unity and struggle of opposites or contradictions. 1. Contradictions, i.e. mutually opposite aspects exist universally and in all processes, whether in nature, society or in human thought. Struggle of these opposites is the very cause of development of these processes. Engels said, “Motion itself is a contradiction”. For example : In mathematics : + and — ; X and ÷ In electricity : positive and negative In social science : new and old, advanced and backward, slaves and slave-owners, serfs and feudal lords, workers and capitalists. In war : Offense and defense, advance and retreat. In human thought : reality and uptopia. etc. etc., i.e. in every thing and process, contradiction, i.e. unity and struggle of opposites exists from beginning to end. Therefore, contrary to a metaphysician’s approach of ‘yea, yea; nay, nay’, dialectical method demands that whenever we study any object, phenomenon or process, we study both the mutually opposite aspects and their interrelation inherent in...

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V. The Materiality of the World

1. Lenin said, “Development (or motion) is struggle of opposites.” According to materialist outlook, “Motion is the mode of existence of matter.” Motion in cosmic space, mechanical motion of smaller masses on the various celestial bodies, the vibration of molecules as heat or as electrical or magnetic currents, chemical decomposition and combination, organicalile — at each given moment each individual atom of matter in the world is in one or another of these forms of motion or in several forms at once. Hence, there is neither any “absolute soul” or “ubiquitous God” in this world, the world also did not need any “first impulse.” The whole universe is nothing but matter in motion. Natural science tells us that when there were no living or human beings, then too, objective world existed. Hence, objective world exists independently of our consciousness. In the process of development from quantitative to qualitative change, living beings developed out of non-living beings and from living beings human race developed gradually. So the whole world including human brain is the result of dialectical development of matter. Brain itself is the highest development of matter. Hence consciousness is the product of matter. Therefore, materialist outlook demands that we must proceed from objective reality, we must make concrete facts, unity and struggle of opposites inherent in a matter our starting point and should not act according to our...

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VI. Historical Materialism

Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels applied dialectical method in studying history and analysed man’s social life with materialist outlook, thereby giving birth to historical materialism. We will now discuss some of the salient features of historical materialism. 1. Contrary to idealism, historical materialism searches the cause of social development not in any “Universal Soul” or in any “supernatural force”, but in the material life of human beings. To live, men need food, clothes, dwellings, energy, etc.; and to acquire these things men must provide them. Production is the first historical act which separates human beings from the rest of animal world. To produce, they need means of production (ploughshare, machines etc). Means of production, human labour, skill and experience of labour (with which men produce)—all these things are called productive forces. But this is only one aspect of production. For production, for acquiring means of subsistence from nature, only productive forces are not enough. Only by establishing certain relationship among themselves, men can acquire means of livelihood from nature. This relationship among themselves may be of mutual co-operation or it may be of subordination of a section of population by the other. In the process of production, the relationship men establish among themselves is called production relations. For facilitating production, production relations must correspond with the productive forces. Productive forces and relations of production, together constitute the mode of...

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EPILOGUE

Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics. One is its class nature : it openly avows that it is in the service of proletariat. The other is its practicality. It emphasises the dependence of theory on practice, emphasises that theory is based on practice and in turn, serves practice. Proletariat is a class with no private property. It has nothing to loose but its chains. On the other hand it has the whole world to win. Therefore this class is free from the narrow sectarian mentality of petty producers and can only have an unbiased, unprejudiced and farsighted attitude in looking at things. Being a thoroughgoing revolutionary class whose mission is the liberation of whole mankind, only proletariat can make use of the thoroughgoing revolutionary system of human thought—the dialectical materialism. No other class can make use of this philosophy for its sectarian ends. Proletariat, armed with this philosophy, will inherit and further advance whatever fine traditions the mankind has developed so far. It looks at all objects, forces, organisations, individuals, as they are, in both their positive and negative aspects, in their contradictions and process of development. This is the philosophical basis of the difference between largeness of mind of the proletariat and sectarianism of petty producers. Dialectical materialism does not allow any wishful thinking but demands an objective analysis. It safeguards proletariat from indulging in...

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APPENDIX – I

INDIAN PHILOSOPHY As observed beforehand, the emergence and development of philosophy, its progress and stagnation, all depends upon the development of productive forces in the society, upon the development of men’s production struggle, class struggle and scientific experiments. Indian society passed through primitive communism and slavery and after stepping in the feudalism it became stagnant. The same social structure remained intact till the arrival of British colonialists. Thus our ancient society went through two transition periods—first, from primitive communism to slavery and second, from slavery to feudalism. During these transition periods, new productive forces and scientific developments led to the emergence of several philosophical trends in which we find debates on same fundamental questions which were raised in Greek philosophy too. Still, the specific course of the transition of Indian society provided some distinctions to it also. Though struggle between different trends of philosophy continued even after the new productive forces came at a standstill, but due to the lack of material basis, an objective catalyst, it more and more departed from the objective world and ultimately renounced the world as myth— ‘Brahmsatyam Jaganmithya’ (Brahm is the only truth, the world is false). And after that the Philosophy discontinued the march itself—of course through many turns and curves, through quite an interesting course. During 1000 BC to 1000 AD, the march of Indian philosophy, too, is the march of...

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Appendix-II

Agnosticism : The agnostic’s conception of nation is materialistic throughout. The entire world is, according to them, governed by law, and absolutely excludes the intervention of action from without. But, they add, we have no means either of ascertaining or of disproving the existence of some supreme being beyond the known universe. Agnostics admit that all our knowledge is based upon the information imported to us by our senses. But, they add, how do we know that our senses give us correct representation of the objects we perceive through them? Thus, as far as they claim to know anything they are materialists and in spheres about which they know nothing, they are idealists. According to them, one may correctly perceive the qualities of a thing, (i.e. its taste, colour, smell etc.), but can not correctly perceive by any sensible or mental process so as to grasp the thing-in-itself. Though this philosophy came into existence in 3rd and 4th centuries in Greece (Anecidemus), but it was Kant (1724-1804) and Hume (1711-76) who revived it. Positivists of later period developed this theory. Positivism : In the decade of 1840, positivism came to being as a philosophical trend against French materialism and atheism. According to this trend, the main task of scientific thought is to collect facts acquired through “pure experience” and to generalise them. On the basis of knowledge acquired through...

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MARXIST PHILOSOPHY

Introduction We are passing through a period of great transition. On the one hand, the economy is in chaos, political system is breaking down and social fabric is disintegrating, and on the other hand masses are in motion, rising mass struggles for economic justice, political democracy and social harmony are generating high expectations and opening up new vistas. Autocracy is fast sp1ading its dragnet. At this juncture, role of revolutionary theory assumes paramount importance. And if at this turning point of history, we want to take our motherland on the path of peace, progress and prosperity, Marxism is the only hope. Unfortunately the are many varieties of adultrated Marxism in the market aw hence a lot of confusion exists. So, we decided to publish three pamphlates in a popular form dealing with three component parts of Marxism —philosophy, political economy and socialism, which may be of some help at the present juncture. Marxist Study Centre Delhi August,...

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1. In Quest of Philosophy

We are living in a topsy-turvy world. An unprecedented turmoil has gripped us economically, politically, socially and morally. Galloping inflation, mounting unemployment, political instability, earth-shaking revolutions and people’s heroic struggles as well as various brands of ‘socialism’ contradicting each other, increasing atrocities committed by the state, widespread bloodshed, degradation of moral values, break up of emotional family ties, recurring natural and man-made disasters, energy crisis, all-pervading corruption, unique scientific explorations and inventions coupled with the danger of nuclear and chemical warfare, rising international tensions, and so on—all these things are perplexing our mind. Why this universal turmoil? We try to jump into the whirlpool, but then seek refuge in fatalism, status-quo-ism. Sometimes it seems as if some mysterious forces are tearing apart our established order in vengeance; but at other times the same forces look generating hope for a better life. Philosophy is commonly understood as something mysterious, something outside realm of our daily practical life, but simultaneously it is considered universally applicable also. In everyday life people often use philosophic aphorisms. In case some one dies prematurely, his relatives often say in consolation ‘Who can stop the ever-moving chariot of destiny? Life and death, loss and gain, fame and infamy are all in the hand of all powerful destiny.” But time comes when mare fatalism does not work. Complex object conditions of life to have a bird’s eye-view,...

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