Dialectical Materialism – the Worldview of the Working Class

tunnel-mining-worker-wallpaper-previewLesson 1: “Dialectical Materialism – the Worldview of the Working Class”.

Partisanship and Class Philosophy

Philosophy usually refers to our most general conception of the nature of the world and of humanity’s place and purpose in it, i.e., to our worldview.

Since all people have a worldview, it follows that all people also have their own philosophy, even if they have never learned to reason about it. Every person is influenced by certain philosophical views, even if he or she didn’t think them through and cannot formulate them clearly.

Moreover, every philosophy is party philosophy or – since a party is always the political representative of a certain class – every philosophy is class philosophy.

Why do we say this?

Here’s why.

Some, for example, think that this world is nothing but a “sad place” and that our life in it is a preparation for a better life in a different and better world. From this view of the world, they believe that we must endure whatever happens to us without fighting against it, because we cannot change anything anyway, but that we should try to treat everyone around us as kindly as possible. This is one type of philosophy, one type of worldview.

Other people think that the world is a place for enrichment, and that everyone in it should take care of themselves. This is another kind of philosophy.

And since philosophy is a worldview and everyone has a worldview of some sort, and since people do not live isolated from each other, but together, in large human communities, their worldviews, while differing from one another, have also much in common with each other. Hence there arises the need for systematizing and elaborating this common part in all worldviews in a given society, turning unconsciously shared folk beliefs and views into something more or less coherent and systematic, i.e. into a well-formulated and coherent theory. This is the task of philosophical scholars.

In developing their theories, philosophers have often created something very confusing, extremely abstract, and extremely difficult for most people to understand. Although few people can fully understand purely philosophical works, these works nevertheless have a very broad impact on all of society. The fact that philosophers have systematized certain beliefs greatly reinforces those beliefs and helps to spread them even more widely and impose them on large masses of ordinary people. Hence all members of society are, in one way or another, influenced by these philosophers, even if they have never read their works.

Therefore, we cannot regard philosophies as something completely separate, independent of anything, as mere products of the mental labor of individuals. Of course, the formulation of views, the special methods by which philosophical theories are elaborated and expounded are the work of individual scholars. But the views themselves, in their most general form, have a social basis which reflects the social activity and social relations of a given time and which, therefore, do not come ready-made from the minds of philosophers, but are perceived by them in their social life.

Since the decay of the primitive community, that is, during the whole historical period to which the history of philosophy belongs, human society has been divided into classes, therefore, the various views that have circulated in society have expressed the world view of various classes. This is still the case, because even now we are living in a class society. Consequently, various philosophical systems always express the standpoint of this or that class. In fact, they are nothing but a systematized and theorized class point of view, or ideology of a certain class.

That is why philosophy has always been, and still is, a philosophy of class.

Philosophers may sometimes pretend that it is not, but this does not change the essence of the matter. People do not and cannot think in isolation from society, independent of class interests and class battles going on in society. Philosophy is a worldview, an attempt to understand the world, humanity and its place in this world. Therefore, a worldview cannot be anything other than a class position, and a philosopher acts merely as a thinking representative of a certain class. And how could it be otherwise? Philosophical systems are not thrown to us from another planet, they are created here on Earth by people who are involved, whether we like it or not, in the existing class relations and class struggle. Consequently, no matter what philosophers say about themselves, there is no philosophy that does not reflect the viewpoint of a certain class or that is indifferent and impartial to the class struggle. No matter how much we search, we will not find any impartial, non-partisan, above-class philosophy.

Moreover, all the philosophies of the past expressed the point of view not just of any social class that existed at the time, but only of the so-called “educated” classes, that is, of the exploiting classes. Up until the emergence of the modern working class, which is a specific product of capitalism, the leading philosophical systems expressed the ideas of the exploiting classes. It was their views that dominated philosophy, just as these classes dominated society.

From this it follows that the working class, if it intends to lead the leadership of society, must express its own class viewpoint in the form of philosophy and contrast this philosophy with philosophical systems expressing the views and defending the interests of the exploiting classes.

“In few words the merits of Marx and Engels to the working class can be expressed as follows: they taught the working class self-knowledge and self-consciousness, and in the place of dreams they put science,”[1] Lenin wrote.

By teaching the working class self-knowledge and self-awareness and uniting all the workers and exploited around them, K. Marx and F. Engels created the revolutionary theory of the working class struggle and indicated the path by which the working class could put an end to capitalist exploitation, could begin to lead masses and free once and for all the whole society from all oppression and exploitation of man by man.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels operated at a time when capitalism was still on the rise and when the forces of the working class were just beginning to unite and organize. Their theory was later developed by Lenin. Lenin was already living and working when capitalism had reached its last stage, that of monopolistic capitalism (imperialism), and when the era of proletarian revolutions had begun. During the construction of the world’s first socialist society, this theory was further developed by Stalin.

Marx and Engels taught that without its own party, the working class can never triumph over capitalism and cannot lead all of society forward toward the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. Therefore, the working class must have its own party, independent of all bourgeois parties. Lenin further developed Marxism’s doctrine of the party; he showed that the party must act as the vanguard of its class, as the most conscious part of its class, and that it is an instrument for winning and holding the political power of the proletariat.

To fulfill such a role, the party obviously must have knowledge, understanding and foresight of the events of reality; in other words, it must be armed with a revolutionary theory on which its policies are based and which guides its activities.

This theory is Marxism-Leninism. Marxism-Leninism is not only an economic theory, and it is not only a political theory, it is also a worldview – a philosophy. The philosophy of Marxism-Leninism is dialectical materialism.

Economic and political views themselves are not and can never be independent of a general worldview. Moreover, special economic and political views always express the worldview of those who hold those views, and, conversely, philosophical views always find expression in views of economics and politics.

Recognizing all this, the revolutionary party of the working class mustn’t fail to formulate its philosophical views, and having formulated them, it mustn’t fail to adhere to them consistently; nor must it fail to develop and safeguard its party philosophy. This philosophy embodies general ideas that serve as a means for the Party to understand the world it seeks to change; with them it defines its goals and outlines how to fight for them. This philosophy embodies the main ideas through which the Party seeks to enlighten and organize the entire class and to influence, lead and win over the entire mass of the working people to its side, showing them the conclusions necessarily derived from each stage of the struggle, helping the working people to learn from their own experience how to advance toward socialism.

This is why a philosophy has emerged that expresses the revolutionary worldview of the working class, and why this philosophy – dialectical materialism – is defined as the worldview of the Marxist-Leninist Party.

Experience itself has taught the party that it must have its own philosophy. It has shown that if the party does not have its own revolutionary socialist philosophy, then inevitably its philosophical ideas become the result of borrowing from hostile, anti-socialist, i.e., bourgeois sources. If we do not accept the point of view of the working class and struggle for socialism, then we willy-nilly adopt the point of view of the capitalists and the struggle against socialism. That is why the party of the working class, in order to be a real revolutionary leader of its class and not to mislead its class by borrowing hostile capitalist ideas and policies corresponding to such ideas, must formulate, defend and propagate its own revolutionary philosophy.

Class Philosophy and Truth

Some might object that what was said above is a complete distortion of the whole essence of philosophy.

Some will say that they agree that class interests may incline us to believe in one thing rather than the other. But shouldn’t philosophy be above that? Shouldn’t philosophy be objective and impartial and teach us to leave class and party interests aside and strive only for Truth? After all, it is Truth itself that matters, not that it satisfies one class interest or another. If philosophy is partisan, then it is partial, and if it is partial, how can it be objective, how can it reflect Truth?

The answer is that, in fact, the working class viewpoint of philosophy is more committed to Truth than any other class viewpoint.

Does Truth exist? Certainly, yes – and human society, constantly evolving, is historically getting closer and closer to it. But different views, depending on their partisanship, cannot be equally close to Truth. As each philosophy reflects a class point of view, and as one class differs from another in its social role and contribution to society, so their philosophies differ from one another in their embodiment of positive achievements in elaborating Truth about the world and society.

People tend to think that if we take a partisan, class standpoint, we turn away from Truth; and that, on the other hand, if we really seek Truth, we should be strictly impartial and nonpartisan. But in reality it’s not like that at all. Only when we take the partisan viewpoint of the most progressive class, we are able to approach Truth.

Consequently, the definition of dialectical materialism as the philosophy of the revolutionary working class party in no way contradicts the claim of dialectical materialism to express Truth and to be a means to reach Truth. On the contrary, we have every right to claim it because of the specific position and special historical role of the working class.

And here is why. With the exception of the working class, all the other classes that sought to lead society were exploiting classes. Any exploiting class, whatever its achievements, is always forced to seek certain means of disguising its real position and its aims, both from itself and from the exploited, and of proving the eternity and justice of its domination, since such a class can never admit its real position and real aims as an exploiting class.

For example, in ancient slave society, Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of antiquity, argued that the institution of slavery was a law of nature, since some people are slaves by nature.

At the height of feudal society, Thomas Aquinas, the greatest philosopher of the Middle Ages, imagined the entire universe as analogous to a feudal system. He arranged everything according to a feudal hierarchy,[2] at the top of which was God, surrounded by the chief archangels. Everything depended on what was directly above it in the system, and nothing could exist without a god.

As for capitalism, as Marx and Engels observed, the ruling class of that society, the bourgeoisie, “left no other bond between men than bare financial interest”. This was also reflected in early bourgeois philosophy, especially in early English philosophy. It pictured the world as composed of independent atoms, with each of them finding its full completion in itself and being preoccupied only with itself. It was the mirror of capitalist society as imagined by the rising bourgeoisie. With the help of such ideas, the bourgeoisie succeeded in disguising its own goals of domination and enrichment. According to these ideas, the worker and the capitalist were “on the same level,” since each was a free human atom, and they freely made a contract under the terms of which one had to work, the other had to provide capital and pay wages.

Echoes of these old bourgeois ideas still exist today in our modern capitalist society, which constantly tries to emphasize in every way the independence and isolation of people from one another. For example, the well-known thesis widespread in Russia, “I work for myself and my family,” clearly shows that people who share this ideology distance themselves from all other people in society, singling out their family from the rest of society, which is alien to them. They do not perceive society as a whole, but rather assume that it is composed of separate elements competing with one another (in this case, families), analogous to the same atoms of the English philosophers. Hence the widespread term – “atomization” of society.

But the working class does not need any of the self-deception (false consciousness) that such philosophies always contain. It does not desire the creation of a new system of exploitation, but the destruction of all exploitation of man by man. For this reason it is not interested in disguising anything, but in understanding things exactly as they really are. Because the better it knows the Truth, the stronger it will become in the class struggle and the faster it will win.

Moreover, the other ruling classes have always wished to perpetuate themselves and last as long as possible. They therefore favored philosophical systems that viewed their position in society as eternal and unchanging. Such systems attempt to define the nature of the universe in such a way as to present certain social relations as necessary, eternal and unchangeable. From which it follows that since a given social system is a necessary part of the whole, it is as eternal and unchanging as the whole itself.

But the working class does not wish to perpetuate its class position. On the contrary, it wants to put an end to its own class position as soon as possible and build a classless society. Therefore, the working class does not need a philosophical system that establishes some false permanence.

Hence, the party philosophy of the working class has every right to claim to be the arbitor of the Truth. It does not require lies. It is the only philosophy which is based on the principle of striving to understand things exactly as they are, in all their manifold changes and interrelations, without distortion or embellishment.

Philosophy of the masses

Of course, such a hitherto unusual and inherently revolutionary philosophy could not have been born at once. Mankind has been nurturing it for centuries. Lenin writes about Marxism: “…there is nothing in Marxism that resembles ‘sectarianism’ in the sense of some closed, rigid doctrine that has emerged away from the main road of the development of world civilization. On the contrary, the genius of Marx lies precisely in the fact that he gave answers to questions that the advanced thought of humanity had already posed. His doctrine emerged as a direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy, and socialism.”[3]

Marxism is the continuation and completion of the past achievements of philosophy. Marxism ends one era of the development of philosophy and begins a new one, for in comparison with the philosophical systems of the past it follows a fundamentally new path. It is a revolution in philosophy, the end of the “philosophical systems” of the past, a philosophy of an entirely new type.

Marxism-Leninism has a very different goal from the philosophies of the past. It is not a philosophy that expresses the worldview of an exploiting class, a minority that seeks to impose its power and its ideas on the masses in order to keep them in subjection. Quite the contrary, Marxism-Leninism is a philosophy that serves the common people in their struggle to overthrow all exploitation and build a classless society.

It could be said of the philosophy of the past that it was an attempt to understand the world and the place and purpose of man in it, an attempt inevitably conditioned by the class views, prejudices and illusions of philosophers belonging to the various exploiting classes.

Marxist-Leninist philosophy is an attempt to understand the world in order to change it. And dialectical materialism is the theoretical weapon in the hands of the people that serves the purpose of changing the world.

Marxism-Leninism does not invent a “doctrine” and it doesn’t then try to make everything fit this doctrine (as previous philosophies did), it bases its ideas about things on factual investigation of the objective reality, on careful study of it, proceeds from experience and practice, and verifies the conclusions reached with them.

Thus dialectical materialism is in the full sense a people’s philosophy, a philosophy of science and a philosophy of practice. Marxist philosophy is the philosophy not of the elite but of the proletarian masses.

The revolutionary character of dialectical materialism is embodied in the two sides of Marxist-Leninist philosophy that gave it its name, dialectics and materialism.

In order to understand things, in order to change them, we must study them not according to the requirements of any abstract system, but in their actual change and interrelation, and this is what is understood by dialectics.

We must also set aside preconceived ideas and ideas about things and try to conform our theories to the actual conditions of material existence, which means that our views, our theory, are materialistic.

In dialectical materialism, Engels wrote, for the first time the materialist standpoint was really taken seriously, and it was consistently carried out because dialectical materialists “worked up the nerve to understand the world, nature and history exactly the way they presented themselves to anyone who approached them without preconceived idealistic fantasies… without regret, they sacrificed all idealistic fantasies that did not correspond to facts. And there’s nothing more to materialism at all”[4]

Prepared by MLLM Work Way

[1] V. I. Lenin, Opus, 4th ed., vol. 2, p. 6.
[2] Hierarchy – an order in which whatever is on the highest rung dominates what is on the lower rung. Thus the serfs were at the bottom of the feudal hierarchy, and the king at its top. Similarly, the pope is the head of the “Catholic hierarchy”.
[3] V. I. Lenin, Opus, 4th ed. 6.
[4] K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, vol. 366.

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