In our theoretical work we must break sharply with the twin evils of dogmatism and empiricism.
Dogmatism asserts that all our answers have already been given by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin or Mao and that we simply have to parrot their words, no real effort at analysis or application of theory being required. Dogmatists parading as the staunchest followers of these great leaders repudiate the most fundamental essence of Marxism, its absolute dependence, in originating and testing ideas, on material reality.
Empiricism is the basing of ideas on immediate, personal experience. This is a denial of Marxism just as fully as is dogmatism because immediate experience can only be a small part of the whole picture. Our general revolutionary theory is drawn from the lessons of world history and the experience of mankind and the specific experience of class struggle and revolution, as concentrated and analysed by the great leaders. To ignore this theory, to refuse to study the whole picture, is to ensure serious, fundamental error.
These truths are raised here because we are calling for a concentration of effort on analysing the concrete situation, on integrating our theory with British conditions. This means that we must really put to use the analysis of capitalism by Marx, Lenin and other great thinkers while honestly facing the fact that their analysis is not, nor could be, sufficient for our needs in modern Britain. Every successful application of Marxism-Leninism of necessity involves a development and enrichment of the general theory. Under the pretence that they are applying Marxism to changed conditions, opportunists abandon the revolutionary essence of Marxism. An example is the revisionist ’British Road to Socialism’. This must not be used as an excuse for embracing dogmatism, and failing to really “apply Marxism-Leninism to changed conditions”.
These evils of dogmatism and empiricism are prevalent in Marxist-Leninist circles in Britain and are a form of the failure to unite theory and practice discussed in the next section. They seem to be opposite but in fact they often co-exist in the same individual. Some comrades are dogmatic when discussing ideas and empirical in any plan for practical action. We have encountered comrades who in theoretical discussion are fully content to mechanically repeat what they have read in books, with no relation to the realities of present-day Britain, yet who in practical activity are very easily manipulated by social-democrats or other opportunists through totally empirical considerations.