N.I. Bukharin: Historical Materialism - a System of Sociology


3: Dialectical Materialism

a. Materialism and Idealism in Philosophy; the Problem of the Objective

In our consideration of the question of the human will, the question whether it is free, or determined by certain causes, like everything else in the world, we arrived at the conclusion that we must adopt the point of view of determinism. We found that the will of man is not divine in character, that it depends on external causes and on the conditions of the human organism. This brought us face to face with the most important question that has troubled the human mind for thousands of years - the question as to the relation between matter and mind, which in simple parlance is often spoken of as the relation between "soul" and "body". In general, we distinguish between two kinds of phenomena. Phenomena of the one kind have extension, occupy space, are observed through our external senses: we may see them, hear them, feel them, taste them, etc.; such we call material phenomena. Others have no place in space and cannot be felt or seen. Such, for example, are the human mind, or will, or feeling. But no one can doubt their existence. The philosopher Descartes considered just `` this circumstance to be the proof of man's existence; Descartes said "Cogito, ergo sum" - I think, therefore I am. Yet, man's thought cannot be felt or smelt; it has no color and cannot be directly measured in yards or meters. Such phenomena are called psychical; in simple language, "spiritual". We have now to consider the question of the relation between these two kinds of phenomena. Is the mind "the beginning of all things", or is it matter? Which comes first; which is the basis; does matter produce mind or does mind produce matter? What is the relation between the two? This question involves the fundamental conception of philosophy, on the answer to which dePend the answers to many other questions in the domain of the social sciences.

Let us try to consider it from as many standpoints as possible. First of all, we must bear in mind that man is a part of nature. We cannot know for certain whether other more highly organized creatures exist on other planets, although it is probable that such do exist, for the number of planets seems endless. But it is clearly apparent to us that the being called "man" is not a divine creature, standing outside of the world, projected from some other, unknown, mysterious universe, but, as we know from the natural sciences, he is a product and a portion of nature, subject to its general laws. From the example of the world as we know it, we find that psychic phenomena, the phenomena of the so called "spirit", are an infinitesimal portion of the sum of all phenomena. In the second place, we know that man has sprung from other animals, and that, after all, "living creatures" have been in existence on earth only for a time. When the earth was still a flaming sphere, resembling the sun today, long before it had cooled, there was no life on its surface, nor thinking creatures of any kind. Organic nature grew out of dead nature; living nature produced a form capable of thought. First, we had matter, incapable of thought; out of which developed thinking matter, man. If this is the case - and we know it is, from natural science - it is plain that matter is the mother of mind; mind is not the mother of matter. Children are never older than their parents. "Mind" comes later, and we must therefore consider it the offspring, and not the parent, as the immoderately partisan worshipers of everything "spiritual" would make it.

In the third place: "mind" does not appear until we already have matter organized in a certain manner.

A zero cannot think; nor can a doughnut - or the hole in it - think; nor can "mind" think without matter. Man's brain, a part of man's organism, thinks. And man's organism is matter organized in a highly intricate form.

In the fourth place: it is quite clear from the above why matter may exist without mind, while "mind" may not exist without matter. Matter existed before the appearance of a thinking human; the earth existed long before the appearance of any kind of "mind" on its surface. In other words, matter exists objectively, independently of "mind". But the psychic phenomena, the so called "mind", never and nowhere existed without matter, were never independent of matter. Thought does not exist without a brain; desires are impossible unless there is a desiring organism. "Mind" is always closely connected with "matter" (only in the Bible do we find the "spirit" hovering unaided over the waters). In other words: psychic phenomena, the phenomena of consciousness, are simply a property of matter organized in a certain manner, a "function" of such master (a function of a certain quantity is a second quantity depending on the first). Now man is a very delicately organized creature. Destroy this organization, disorganize it, take it apart, cut it up, and the "mind" at once disappears. If men were able to put together this system again, to assemble the human organism, in other words, if it were possible to take a human body apart and put it together again just as one may do with the parts of a clock, consciousness would also at once return; once the clock has been reassembled it will operate and start to tick; put together the human organism, and it will start to think. Of course, we are not yet able to do this. But we have already seen, in our discussion of determinism, that the state of "mind" of the consciousness, depends on the state of the organism. Intoxicate the organism with alcohol, the consciousness will become confused, the mind is befuddled. Restore the organism to its normal state (for instance, administer antidotes for toxic substances) and the mind will again begin to work in the normal manner. The above clearly shows the dependence of consciousness on matter, or in other words, "of thought on life".

We have seen that psychical phenomena are a property of matter organized in a certain manner. We may therefore have various fluctuations, various forms of material organization, and also various forms of mental life. Man, with his brain, is organized in one manner - he has the most perfect psychical life on earth - a true consciousness; the dog is organized in a different manner and the psyche of the dog therefore differs from that of man; the worm is also organized in a special manner, and the "mind" of the worm is consequently extremely poor, by no means comparable with that of man; the organization of the stone places it with inanimate matter, and it therefore has no psychic life at all. A special and intricate organization of matter is required for the appearance of a psyche. An extremely intricate organization of matter is the necessary presupposition for the appearance of an intricate psychic life, which we call a consciousness. On earth, this consciousness appears only when matter has been organized, as in the case of man, with his most complicated instrument, the brain in his head.

Thus, mind cannot exist without matter, while matter may very well exist without mind; matter existed before mind; mind is a special property of matter organized in a special manner.

It is not difficult to discern that idealism (the doctrine based on a fundamental idea underlying all things, a "spirit"), is simply a diluted form of the religious conception according to which a divine mysterious power is placed above nature, the human consciousness being considered a little spark emanating from this divine power, and man himself a creature chosen by God. The idealistic point of view, if pursued to its conclusion, leads to a number of absurdities, which are often defined with a serious face by the philosophers of the ruling classes. Particularly, we find associated with idealism such views as deny the external world, i.e., the existence of things objectively, independently of the human consciousness, sometimes also the existence of other persons. The extreme and most consistent form of idealism is the so called solipsism (Latin solos, "alone", "only"; ipse, "self"). The solipsist reasons as follows: "What data do I possess? My consciousness, nothing more; the house in which I live is present only in my sensations; the man with whom I speak, also only a sensation. In a word, nothing exists outside of myself, there is only my ego, my consciousness, my mental existence; there is no external world apart from me; it is simply a creature of my mind. For I am aware of only my own internal life, from which I have no means of escaping. Everything I see, hear, taste, everything about which I think and reason, is a sensation, a conception, a thought, of mine."

This insane philosophy, concerning which Schopenhauer wrote that genuine supporters of it could be found only in the insane asylum (which did not prevent Schopenhauer, however, from considering the world als Wille and Vorstellung, "as volition and concept", in other words, from being an idealist of the purest water), is contradicted by human experience at every step. When we eat, conduct the class struggle, put on our shoes, pluck flowers, write books, take a wife or a husband, none of us ever thinks of doubting the existence of the external world, i.e., the existence - let us say - of the food we eat, the shoes we wear, the women we marry. None the less, this fallacy is based on the fundamental position of idealism. As a matter of fact, if "mind" is the basis of all things, what was the state of the case before man existed? There are two possible answers: either we must assume the existence of a certain extra-human, divine spirit of the variety mentioned in the ancient Biblical stories; or, we must assume that the events of ages long past are also the product of my imagination. The first solution leads us to so called objective idealism, which recognizes the existence of an external world independent of "my" consciousness. The essence of this world is found in its spiritual origin, in God, or in a "supreme mind" which here takes the place of God, in a "world will", or in some other such hocus pocus. The second solution leads us straight into solipsism, through subjective idealism, which recognizes the existence only of spiritual beings, of a number of thinking subjects. It is easy to recognize solipsism as the most consistent form of idealism. But where does idealism find its basis as a matter of fact? Why does it consider the mental beginning to be more primitive and fundamental? For the reason, in the last analysis, that it assumes "my" data to consist of my sensations only. But if this is the case, I may doubt equally well the existence of a post in the yard, and of any other human being but myself, including my own parents. Thus solipsism commits suicide, for it destroys not only all of idealism in philosophy, but, in the consistent pursuit of its idealistic views, leads to a complete absurdity, to complete insanity, contradicted at every step by the actual practice of men.

Theoretical materialism and idealism must not be confused with "practical idealism" and "materialism", for the latter have nothing to do with the former. A man who remains faithful to his ideal is called an "idealist" in the practical sense; he may be an outspoken opponent of philosophical idealism, of theoretical idealism. A communist who sacrifices his life is an idealist in practice, and yet a materalist through and through. The philistine who sobs to his Lord may have very idealistic notions, which do not prevent him, however, from being a base, stupid, selfish and narrow-minded creature.

Plato is commonly considered the founder of philosophical idealism: Plato believed that only "ideas" exist objectively, i.e., in reality. Men, pears, wagons, do not exist; the idea of a man, of a pear, of a wagon, does exist. These ideal patterns, existing from the beginning of time, dwell in a special supermundane resort of "reason". What men consider to be pears, wagons, etc., are merely wretched shadows of the corresponding idea. Above all these ideas there hovers, like the spirit of God, the supreme idea, the "idea of the Good". A tendency to subjective idealism is usually found in those Greek philosophers known as Sophists (Protagoras, Gorgias, etc.), who set up the principle that "man is the measure of all things". In the Middle Ages, the Platonic "ideas" began to be interpreted as models and patterns according to which the Lord shapes visible things. For instance, the louse that we see is created by God according to his "louse-idea", which dwells in a supersensual world. More recently, Bishop Berkeley developed the view of subjective idealism, maintaining that only the spirit exists, the rest being mere imagination. Fichte believed that without a subject (a cognizing spirit) there could be no object (external world), and that matter is an expression of the idea. Schelling held ideas to be the essences of things, based on a divine eternity. All being, according to Hegel, is merely an effluvium of objective reason in the course of its unfolding.

Schopenhauer regards the world as will and conception (Wille and Vorstellung). Kant recognizes the existence of the objective universe (Ding an sich), but it is not subject to cognition and is immaterial in its nature. Idealism, with its many subdivisions, has become very strong in modern philosophy, by reason of the predilection of the bourgeoisie for everything that is mystical, an indication of its low morale, now full of despair, eager for mental solace.

We first find tendencies to materialist philosophy in the ancient Greek philosophers of the so called Ionic school, who considered matter to be the basis of all being, but likewise believed that all matter was capable of more or less feeling. These philosophers were therefore called Hylozoists (those who put life into matter; from Greek hyle, ΰλη, matter; and zoe, έωή, life).

Of course these first steps were rather unsatisfactory in their result. Thus, Thales sought the basis of all being in water; Anaximenes, in air; Heraclitus, in fire, Anaximander, in a certain substance of indefinite nature and embracing all things, called by him apeiron, the "infinite", "unlimited". The Hylozoists also included the Stoics, who considered all existing things to be material. Materialism was further developed by the Greeks Democritus and Epicurus, later by the Roman Lucretius Carus. Democritus magnificently expounded the basis of the atomistic theory. According to his doctrine the world consists of moving, falling material particles, atoms, whose combinations constitute the invisible universe. In the Middle Ages, the idealistic claptrap prevailed on the whole. The brilliant and profound intellect of Baruch Spinoza developed the idea of the Hylozoist materialists. In England, the materialist standpoint was defended by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). Materialism was much encouraged in the period preliminary to the French revolution, which produced a number of excellent materialist philosophers: Diderot, Helvetius, Holbach (whose chief work, Système de la nature, appeared in 1770), Lamettrie (Man a Machine, 1785).. This group of philosophers of the then revolutionary bourgeoisie has furnished us with excellent formulations of the materialistic theory (cf. N. Beltov: On the Question of Evolution of the Monistic View of History, and N. Lenin: Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, pp. 26 et seq.). Diderot ingeniously derided the idealists of the type of Berkeley: "In a moment of madness, the sentient piano imagined it was the only piano existing in the world, and that the entire harmony of the universe was accomplished within itself" (Oeuvres complètes de Diderot, Paris, 1875, vol. ii, p. 118) In Germany, in the Nineteenth Century, this cause was advanced by Ludwig Feuerbach, who had a great influence on Marx and Engels, and they, in turn, furnished the most complete theory of materialism, by combining it with the dialectic method (see below), and extended the materialistic theory to the social sciences, banishing idealism from its last place of refuge. Of course, the senile bourgeoisie, now drooling about God like a soft-brained old man, regards materialism with hatred. It is easy to understand that materialism necessarily will be the revolutionary theory of the young revolutionary class, the proletariat.

b. The Materialist Attitude in the Social Sciences

Everyone will understand that this dispute between materialism and idealism cannot possibly fail to be expressed in the social sciences also. In fact, human society presents a number of phenomena of various kinds. For instance, we find "exalted matters" such as religion, philosophy and morality; we also find innumerable ideas held by men, in various fields; we find an exchange of goods or a distribution of products; we find a struggle between various classes among themselves; there is a production of products, wheat, rye, shoes, machinery, varying with the time and place. How shall we proceed to explain this society? From what angle shall we approach it? What shall we consider its fundamental element, and what its secondary, or resulting element? All these are obviously the same questions that have been faced by philosophy and that have necessarily divided the philosophers into two great camps-that of the materialists and that of the idealists. On the one hand, we may imagine persons approaching society in approximately the following manner: society consists of persons, who think, act, desire, are dominated by ideas, thoughts, "opinions", from which they infer: "opinion dominates the world"; an alteration of "opinion", a change in the views of men is the fundamental cause of everything that goes on in society; in other words, social science must in the first place investigate precisely this phase of the matter, namely, the "social consciousness", the "mind of society". Such would be the idealist standpoint in the social sciences. But we have seen above that idealism involves an admission of the independence of ideas from the material, and of the dependence of these ideas on divine and mysterious springs. It is therefore obvious that the idealist point of view involves a downright mysticism, or other tomfoolery, in the social sciences, and consequently leads to a destruction of these sciences, to their substitution by faith in the acts of God or in some other such conception. Thus, the French writer Bossuet (in his Reflections on Universal History, 1682) declares that history reveals a "divine guidance of the human race"; the German idealist philosopher Lessing declares that history is an "education of the human race by God"; Fichte states that reason is manifest in history; Schelling, that history is a "constant and progressively discovered revelation of the Absolute", in other words, of God. Hegel, the greatest philosopher of idealism, defined the history of the world as a "rational, necessary evolution (Gang) of the world spirit". Many other such examples could be given, but the above will suffice to show how close is the connection between philosophical views and those prevailing in the social sciences.

The idealist forms of the social sciences and the idealist sociologists therefore behold in society, first of all, "the idea" of this society; they consider society itself as something psychical, immaterial; society in their opinion is a great mass of human desires, feelings, thoughts, wills, confused in endless combinations; in other words, society is social psychology and the social consciousness is the "mind" of society.

But society may also be approached from an entirely different standpoint. In our discussion of determinism, we found that man's will is not free, that it is determined by the external conditions of man's existence. Is not society also subject to these laws? How shall we explain the social consciousness? On what does it depend? The mere formulation of these questions brings to mind the materialist standpoint in social science. Human society is a product of nature. Like the human race itself, it depends on nature and may exist only by obtaining its necessities from nature. This it does by the process of production. It may not always do so consciously; a conscious process is possible only in an organized society, in which everything proceeds according to a plan. In unorganized society, the process goes on unconsciously: for example, under capitalism, the manufacturer wishes to obtain more profits and therefore increases his production (but not for the purpose of affording assistance to human society). The peasant produces, in order to provide himself with food, and to sell a portion of his production to pay his taxes; the tradesman, in order to keep himself above water and establish himself in society; the worker, in order not to starve. As a result, the entire society in some way continues to muddle along, for better or for worse. Material production and its means ("the material productive forces") are the foundation of the existence of human society. Without it, there cannot be a "social consciousness", "mental culture", just as there cannot be a thought without a thinking brain. We shall take up this question in detail later on; for the present let us consider only the following; let us imagine two human societies; one, a society of savages; the other, a society in the final stage of capitalism. In the former society, all activities are devoted to the immediate securing of foodstuffs, hunting, fishing, the gathering of roots, primitive agriculture; of "ideas", of "mental culture", etc., there is very little; we are dealing here with men that are hardly more than monkeys, tribal animals. In the second example, we have a sublime "mental culture", a great Babylonian confusion of morality; justice, with its countless laws; highly evolved, endless sciences, philosophies, religions, and arts, from architecture down to fashion plates. And yet, this Babylonian confusion is of one type where the bourgeoisie rules; it is quite different where proletarians rule; different again for the peasants, etc. In a word, in this case, as we usually put it, the sublime "mental culture", the "mind" of society, the sum of "ideas", is extremely developed. How was it possible for this mind to develop? What were the conditions of its growth? The growth of material production, the increase in the power of man over nature, the increase in the productivity of human labor. For, when not all the available time is consumed in exhausting material labor, people are free a portion of the time, which affords them an opportunity to think, reason, work with a plan, create a "mental culture". As everywhere else, so in society also, matter is the mother of mind and not mind the mother of matter; it is not the social "mental culture" ("social consciousness") that produces the substance of society, i.e., above all, material production, the obtaining of all kinds of useful objects from nature by society, but it is the evolution of this social substance, i.e., the evolution of material production, that creates the foundation for the growth of the so called "mental culture". In other words, the spiritual life of society must necessarily depend on the conditions of material production, on the stage that has been attained in the growth of the productive forces in human society. The mental life of society is a function of the forces of production. What this function is, just how the mental life of society grows out of the productive forces: that is a subject that will be discussed later. For the present we may only observe that this view of society naturally makes us consider it not as an aggregate of all possible kinds of opinions, particularly in the domain of the "sublime and beautiful", the "elevated and pure", but first of all as a working organization (Marx sometimes called it a "productive organism").

Such is the materialist point of view in the domain of sociology. This point of view, as we know, by no means denies that "ideas" have their effects. Marx even said distinctly, in discussing the highest stage of consciousness, which is scientific theory: "Every theory becomes a force when it secures control over masses." But materialists cannot be satisfied with a mere reference to the fact that "people thought so". They ask: why did people in a certain place, at a certain time, "think" so, and "think" otherwise under other conditions? In fact, why do people think such an awful lot anyway in "civilized" society, producing whole mountains of books and other things, while the savage does not "think" at all? We shall find the explanation in the material conditions of the life of society. Materialism is therefore in a position to explain the phenomena of "mental life" in society, which idealism cannot, for idealism imagines "ideas" developing out of themselves, independently of the base earth. For this very reason the idealists, whenever they wish to construct any real explanation, are forced to resorting to the divine: "This Good", wrote, Hegel in his Philosophy of History, "this Reason in its most concrete conception, is God; God rules the world ; the content of his government Regierung), the execution of his plan, is universal history:'1) To drag in this poor old man who constitutes perfection, according to his worshipers, and who is obliged to create, together with Adam, lice and prostitutes, murderers and lepers, hunger and poverty syphilis and vodka, as a punishment for sinners whom he created and who commit sins by his desire, and to continue playing this comedy forever in the eyes of a delighted universe - to drag in God is a necessary step for idealist theory. But from the point of view of science it means reducing this "theory" to an absurdity.

In other words, in the social sciences also, the materialist point of view is the correct one.

The consistent application of the materialist point of view to the social sciences is the work of Marx and Engels. In the year (1859) in which Marx's book, A Contribution to the Critique of political Economy, which presents an outline of his sociological theory (the theory of historical materialism) appeared, there also appeared the principal work of Charles Darwin (Origin of Species), whose author maintained and proved that changes in the animal and vegetable kingdoms are influenced by the material conditions of existence. But it by no means follows that the Darwinian laws may be applied without further ado to society. We have first to prove the peculiar form in which the general laws of natural science are applicable in human society, a form characteristic of human society only. Marx bitterly derided anyone who failed to understand this; thus he wrote, concerning the German scholar F. A. Lange: "Herr Lange, it seems, has made a great discovery : all history must be sublimated under a single great law of nature. This law of nature is the phrase (for in this use, Darwin's expression is a mere phrase), the `struggle for life'. Instead of analyzing this `struggle for life , which expresses itself historically in distinct and varied forms of society, all you need do is to re-christen any concrete struggle with the phrase struggle for life':' (Letters to Kugelmann, June 27, 1870, Die Neue Zeit, 1902, vol. 20, pp. 541, 542)

Of course, Marx had his forerunners, particularly the so called Utopian socialists (Saint Simon). But before Marx, the materialist standpoint had not been consistently carried out by anyone in a form capable of creating a truly scientific sociology.

c. The Dynamic point of View and the Relation Between Phenomena

There are two possible ways of regarding everything in nature and in society; in the eyes of some, everything is constantly at rest, immutable ; "things ever were and ever will be thus" ; "there is nothing new under the sun." To others, however, it appears that there is nothing unchanging in nature or in society; "all earthly things have passed away"; "there is no going back to the past." This second point of view is called the dynamic point of view (Greek dynamis, "force", "motion"); the former point of view is called static. Which is the correct position? Is the world an immovable and permanent thing, or is it constantly changing, constantly in motion, different today from yesterday? Even a hasty glance at nature will at once convince us that there is nothing immutable about it. People formerly considered the moon and the stars to be motionless, like golden nails driven into the sky; likewise, the earth was motionless, etc. But we now know that the stars, the moon, and the earth are dashing through space, covering enormous distances. And we also know that the smallest particles of matter, the atoms, consist of still smaller particles, electrons, flying about and revolving within the atom, as the heavenly bodies of the solar system revolve around the sun. But the whole world consists of such particles, and how can anything be considered constant in a universe whose component parts gyrate with whirlwind speed? It was formerly also believed that plants and animals were as God created them: ass and asafoetida, bedbug and leprosy bacillus, plant-louse and elephant, cuttlefish and nettle, all were created by God, in the first days of creation, in their present form. We now know that such was not the case. The forms of animals and plants are not such as the Lord of creation deigned to make them. And the animals and plants now living on earth are quite different from those of other days; we still find skeletons or impressions in the rock, or remnants in the ice, of the huge beasts and plants of bygone ages: gigantic flying beasts covered with scales (pterodactyls), huge horse-tails and ferns (whole forests, later petrified into anthracite coal, a remnant of the primeval forests of prehistoric days), veritable monsters, such as ichthyosauri, brontosauri, iguanadons, etc. All these once existed and are now extinct. But we then had no fir-trees, birches, cows, or sheep, in a word, "all is changing under our zodiac". What is more, there were no humans, for the latter developed from hairy semi-apes not very long ago. We no longer marvel at the changes that have taken place in the forms of animals and plants. But it should surprise us still less that we ourselves may outdo the Almighty in this field: any good swine-herd, by an appropriate choice of food and an appropriate mating of male and female can continue to produce new races; the Yorkshire hog, which is so fat that it cannot walk, is a creature of human effort, as is also the pineapple-strawberry, the black rose, and many a variety of domestic animals and cultivated plants. Is not man himself constantly changing under our very eyes? Does the Russian worker of the revolutionary epoch even externally resemble the Slavic savage and hunter of bygone days? The race and appearance of men are subject to change with everything else in the world.

What is the inference? Evidently, that there is nothing immutable and rigid in the universe. We are not dealing with rigid things, but with a process. The table at which I am writing at this moment cannot be considered an immutable thing: it is changing from second to second. To be sure, these changes may be imperceptible to the human eye or ear. But the table, if it should continue to stand for many years would rot away and be transformed into dust and this would merely be a repetition of all that has gone before. Nor would the particles of the table be lost. They would assume another form, would be carried away by the wind, would become a portion of the soil, serving as a nourishment for plants, thus being transformed, for instance, into plant tissue, etc.; there is therefore a constant change, a constant journey, a constant succession of new forms. Matter in motion: such is the stuff of this world. It is therefore necessary for the understanding of any phenomenon to study it in its process of origination (how, whence, why it came to be), its evolution, its destruction, in a word, its motion, and not its seeming state of rest. This dynamic point of view is also called the dialectic point of view (other traits of dialectics will be treated below).

The difference between the dynamic and static point of view is already found in the ancient Greek philosophers. The so called Eleatic School, headed by Parmenides, taught that everything was immovable. According to Parmenides, being is eternal, constant, unchanged, unique, uniform, indivisible, homogeneous, immutable, like a round sphere at rest. Zeno, an Eleatic philosopher, sought to prove, by means of very ingenious observations, that motion was impossible at all. Heraclitus, on the other hand, taught that there was nothing that did not move; he maintained that "everything flows", nothing rests (panta rei, pauta rei); according to Heraclitus, it was impossible to descend twice into the same river, for the second time the river would already be a different river. His associate, Kratylos, was of the opinion that it was impossible to bathe even once in the same river, since the latter was constantly changing. Democritus also assumed motion to be the basis of all things, specifically, a straight-line motion of atoms. Among modern philosophers, Hegel, of whom Marx was a disciple, defended motion and becoming (origin, transformation from not-being into being) with particular persistence. But, for Hegel, the basis of the universe was the movement of mind, while Marx-to use the latter's own words - turned Hegel's dialectics upside down, replacing the movement of mind by the movement of matter. In the natural sciences, the view still prevailed at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century which was expressed by the famous scientist Linnaeus : "There are as .many species as the Supreme Being has created." (Theory of the persistence of species.) The most important advocate of the opposite view was Lamarck and later, as already indicated, Charles Darwin, who finally refuted the old conceptions.

The world being in constant motion, we must consider phenomena in their mutual relations, and not as isolated cases. All portions of the universe are actually related to each other and exert an influence on each other. The slightest motion, the slightest alteration in one place, simultaneously changes everything else. The change may be great or small - that is another matter - at any rate, there is a change. For example: let us say the Volga forests have been cut down by men. The result is that less water is retained by the soil, with a resulting partial change in climate; the Volga "runs dry," navigation on its waters becomes more difficult, making necessary the use, and therefore the production, of dredging machinery; more persons are employed in the manufacture of such machinery; on the other hand, the animals formerly living in the forests disappear; new animals, formerly not dwelling in these regions, put in their appearance; the former animals have either died out or migrated to forest areas, etc.; and we may go even further: with a change in climate, it is clear that the condition of the entire planet has been changed, and therefore an alteration in the Volga climate to a certain extent changes the universal climate. Further, if the map of the world is changed to the slightest extent, this involves also a change - we must even suppose - in the relations between the earth and the moon or sun, etc., etc. I am now writing on paper with a pen. I thus impart pressures to the table; the table presses upon the earth, calling forth a number of further changes. I move my hand, vibrate as I breathe, and these motions pass on in slight impulses ending Lord knows where. The fact that these may be but small changes, does not change the essential nature of the matter. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundings. Of course, we are not obliged at every moment to pay attention to the universal concatenation of phenomena: a discussion of poultry- raising need not always lead us into a discussion of everything else same time, the sun, the moon, for instance; which would be folly, for in this case the universal bond of all phenomena would not help us. But in a discussion of theoretical questions it is very often necessary for us to bear this relation in mind; even in practice it cannot always be ignored. We are in the habit of saying that a certain man cannot "see further than his nose", which means that he considers his environment as isolated, as having no relation with what lies beyond it. Thus, the peasant brings his product to the market, thinking he will make a handsome profit, but suddenly finds prices so low that he hardly recovers his outlay. The market binds him together with the other producers, it transpires that so much grain has been produced and thrown on the market that only a low price can be obtained. How could our peasant make such a mistake? Simply because he did not (and could not from his out-of-the-way home) observe his own relations with the world market. The bourgeoisie, instead of becoming richer after the war, found itself facing a revolution of the workers, for the reason that this war was connected with a number of other things which the bourgeoisie did not understand. The Mensheviks and the Social-Revolutionaries, the Social patriots in all countries, declared that the Bolshevik power in Russia could not maintain itself for long; the root of their error was in the fact that they regarded Russia as an isolated case, having no relation with all of Western Europe or with the growth of the world revolution, which lends assistance to the Bolsheviks. When, in simple parlance, we rightly say that "all the circumstances must be taken into consideration , what we really mean is that a given phenomenon or a given question must be considered with regard to its connections with other phenomena, indissoluble union with "all the circumstances".

In the first place, therefore, the dialectic method of interpretation demands that all phenomena be considered in their indissoluble relations; in the second place, that they be considered in their state of motion.

d. The Historical Interpretation of the Social Sciences

Since everything in the world is in a state of change, and indissolubly connected with everything else, we must draw the necessary conclusions for the social sciences.

Let us consider human society, which has by no means been always the same. A number of very different forms of human society are known to us. For instance, in Russia, the working class has held power since November, 1917, supported by a portion of the peasantry, while the bourgeoisie is being kept within bounds, although a part of it (about 2,000,000) has emigrated. The workers' state controls the factories, machine shops, railroads. Before 1917, the bourgeoisie and the landowners were in power, controlling everything, and the workers and peasants labored for them. At a still earlier period, before the so called Liberation of the Peasants, in 1861, the bourgeoisie was for the greater part a trading class; there were few factories; the landholders ruled the peasants like cattle, and had the right to whip them, sell them, or exchange them. If we trace the course of bygone centuries, we shall find semi-savage nomadic tribes. So slight is the similarity between these various forms of society that if we should be able by a miracle to resuscitate a robust feudal landowner, given to whippings and greyhounds, and to bring him - let us say - into a meeting of a factory or works committee, or Soviet, the poor fellow would probably die of heart-failure at once.

We are also acquainted with other forms of society. In ancient Greece, for example, when Plato and Heraclitus were constructing their philosophies, everything was built up on the labor of slaves, who were the property of the great slaveholders. In the ancient American state of the Incas, there was a regulated and organized society dominated by a class of priestly nobles, a sort of intelligentsia, which controlled and managed everything, and guided the national economy, a ruling class superior to all other classes. We might give many other examples as evidence of the constant flux in the social structure. Nor does this necessarily mean that the human race has constantly improved, i.e., gradually approached perfection. We have already pointed out that there have been many cases of the destruction of very highly developed human societies. Thus, for example, the land of the Greek sages and slaveholders passed away. But Greece and Rome at least had an enormous influence on the later course of history; they served as a fertilizer for history. But it has sometimes happened that entire civilizations have disappeared without a trace in other peoples and other times. For example, Professor Eduard Meyer writes concerning the evidences of an ancient civilization discovered in France by means of excavations: "We are here dealing with a highly developed civilization of primitive men ….. which was subsequently destroyed by a tremendous catastrophe and had no influence whatever on future ages. There is no historical relation between this Palaeolithic culture and the beginnings of the neolithic epoch:2) But while we may not always observe growth, there is always motion and alteration, though it may end in destruction or dissolution.

Such motion is observed not only in the fact that the social system is in process of change; for social life as such is constantly changing decisively in all its expressions. The technology of society is changing: we need only to compare the stone hatchets and spear-heads of ancient times with the steam-hammer; manners and customs change: for instance, we know that certain races of man take pleasure in eating the captives they have taken, which even a French imperialist of the present day would not do himself (but he will have his black troops, in the process of serving civilization, cut the ears off dead bodies); certain tribes had the habit of killing their old men or young girls, and this practice was considered highly moral and holy. The political system is changing: we have seen with our own eyes how the autocracy yielded to a democratic republic, then to a Soviet republic; scientific views, religion, every-day life and all the relations between these, change; even the things we consider essential, fundamental, were by no means always as they are, we have not always had newspapers, soap, clothing; we have not even always had a state, faith in God, capital, firearms. Even the conception of what is beautiful and not beautiful is subject to change. The forms of family life are not immutable: we are aware of the existence of polygamy, polyandry, monogamy, and "promiscuous cohabitation". In other words, social life suffers constant change together with everything else in nature.

Human society therefore passes through different stages, different forms, in its evolution or decline.

It follows, in the first place, that we must consider and investigate each form of society in its own peculiar terms. We cannot throw into a single pot all epochs, periods, social forms. We cannot consider under a single head, and recognize no differences between, the feudal, the slaveholding, and the proletarian workers' systems of society. We cannot afford to overlook the differences between the Greek slaveholder, the Russian feudal landowner, the capitalist manufacturer. The slaveholding system is one thing; it has its special traits, its earmarks, its special growth. Feudalism is another type; capitalism, a third, etc. And communism - the communism of the future - also has its special structure. The transition period preceding it - the period of proletarian dictatorship, is also a special system. Each such system has peculiar traits that require special study. By this means only, can we grasp the process of change. For, since each form has its special traits, it also must have its special laws of growth, its special laws of motion. For instance, Marx says, in Capital, concerning the capitalist system, that the main object of his study is to discover "the laws of motion of capitalist society". For this purpose, Marx had to explain all the peculiarities of capitalism, all its characteristic traits; only thus could he discover its "law of motion" and predict the inevitable absorption of petty production by largescale production, the growth of the proletariat, its collision with the bourgeoisie, the revolution of the working class, and, together with this, the transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Most bourgeois historians do not proceed thus. They are inclined to confuse the merchants of ancient times with the present-day capitalists, the parasite lumpenproletariat of Greece and Rome with the proletariat of the present day. This confusion is useful to the bourgeoisie in its effort to demonstrate the enduring power of capitalism and the futility of the slave uprisings in Rome, from which it augurs the futility of present-day proletarian uprisings. And yet, the Roman "proletarians" had nothing in common with the present-day workers, and the Roman merchants had very little similarity with the capitalists of our time. The whole structure of life was different. It is therefore easy to see that the course of change must then have been different. Marx says : "Every historical period has laws of its own . . . . As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws."3) For sociology, which is social science in its most general form, dealing not with the individual forms of society, but with society in general, this law is very important as a guide for the specific social sciences, for all of which sociology, as we have seen, constitutes a method.

In the second place, each form must be studied in its internal process of change. We are not dealing, first, with a single form of social structure, perfect and immutable, and succeeded by another equal immutable form. In society, it is untrue - for instance - that capitalism continues throughout its entire period in unchanged form, to be succeeded by an equal unchanging socialism. As a matter of fact, each specific form is constantly undergoing change throughout the period of its existence. It has passed through a number of stages in its development: trading capitalism, industrial, financial capitalism with its imperialist policy, state capitalism during the world war. Nor did the nature of the case remain uniform within each of these stages; it would then have been impossible for one stage to yield place to another. Indeed, each preceding stage was a preparation for the following stage; during the period of industrial capitalism, for example, the process of concentration of capital was going on. On this foundation financial capital with its trusts and banks was built up.

In the third place, each form of society must be considered in its growth and in its necessary disappearance, i.e., in its relation with other forms. No form of society descends from heaven; each is a necessary consequence of the preceding social state; often it is difficult to discern the boundaries between them, the termination of one, the beginning of the other; one period overlaps the other. Historical epochs are not rigid and immovable units, like physical objects; they are processes, current forms of life, subject to constant change. In order to trace properly any such form of society we must go back to its roots in the past, follow the causes of its growth, all the conditions of its formation, the motive forces of its development. And it is also necessary to study the causes of its inevitable destruction, the tendencies which necessarily involve the disappearance of this form and prepare the introduction of the next form. Each stage is thus a link in the chain; it is connected with a link behind it and a link ahead of it. Even though bourgeois scholars may admit this fact as far as the past is concerned, it is impossible for them to grant it with regard to the present: capitalism will not perish. They are willing to go so far as to trace the roots of capitalism, but they are afraid to think of the conditions that lead capitalism to its destruction. "This blindness constitutes all the wisdom of present-day economists, who teach the permanence and harmony of the existing social relations."4) Capitalism evolved from medieval feudal conditions owing to the growth of the commodities system. Capitalism is passing into communism through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only by tracing the connections of capitalism with the preceding system, and its necessary transformation into communism, can we understand this form of society. Every other form of society must be studied from the same point of view; this is one of the demands of the dialectic method, which may also be called "the historical point of view", since it regards each form of society not as permanent, but as an historical stage, appearing at a certain moment in history, and similarly disappearing.

This historicism of Marx has nothing in common with the so called "historical school" in jurisprudence and political economy. This reactionary school finds its principal task in proving the slowness of all changes, and in defending any bit of antiquated gossip that is "hallowed by age". Heinrich Heine already said concerning this school:

Beware of that king in Thule, avoid
The North and its lurking dangers;
Police, gendarmes, whole historic school
You and they are better strangers.

(Heinrich Heine, Germany: A Winter's Tale, Caput xxvi, in Collected Works, translated by Margaret Armour, London 1905, vol. xi, p.89).

To guard the "sacred traditions" is an imperative necessity for the bourgeoisie. It is for this reason, particularly, that phenomena that owe their origin to a specific historical stage are considered to be eternal, to have been handed down by God, and therefore insurmountable. We shall take three examples.

I. The State. We now know that the state is a class organization, that there cannot be a state without classes, that a classless state is a round square, that the state could not arise until a certain stage in human evolution had been reached. But listen to the bourgeois historians, even the best of them! Eduard Meyer says: "How far the formation of organic groups can proceed in the case of animals, I often had occasion to observe, thirty years ago, in Constantinople, in the case of the street dogs; they were organized in sharply distinct quarters, into which they would admit no outside dogs, and every evening all the dogs of each quarter gather in an empty lot for a meeting of about half an hour, in which they bark loudly. We may therefore actually speak of dog states of definite outline in space." (Eduard Meyer: Geschichte des Altertums, vol. i, first half, 3d ed., p.7,) It will therefore not surprise us to find Meyer accepting the state as a necessary property of human society. If even dogs have states (and therefore, of course, laws, justice, etc.), how could men get along without one?

II. Capital. On this subject the bourgeois economists show the same idiosyncrasies. It is well known that capital has not always existed, nor capitalism either. Capitalists and workers are a phenomenon of historical growth, by no means eternal. But the bourgeois scholars always defined capital as if it - and also the capitalist regime - had existed from all time. Thus, Torrens wrote: "In the first stone which he (the savage) flings at the wild animal he pursues, in the stick that he seizes to strike down the fruit which hangs beyond his reach, we see the appropriation of one article for the purpose of aiding in the acquisition of another, and thus discover the origin of capital." (Marx Capital, vol. i, Chicago, 1915, p.205, footnote.) The monkey beating nuts out of a tree is therefore a capitalist (but without workers !). Modern economists are not much better; in order to prove the eternity of the state power, these poor wretches are obliged to endow their dogs with the capacities of Lloyd George and their monkeys with those of the Rothschilds!

III. Imperialism. Bourgeois scholars who take up this question often define imperialism as the effort at expansion in any form of life. Of course, imperialism is the policy of financial capital, and financial capital itself did not arise as a dominating economic form until the end of the Nineteenth Century. Little the bourgeois scholars care about that! In order to show that "things have ever been thus", they elevate the chicken which picks up kernels into an imperialist, since it "annexes" these kernels! The dog state, the capitalist ape and the imperialist chicken are an excellent indication of the level of modern bourgeois science.

e. The Use of Contradictions in the Historical Process

The basis of all things is therefore the law of change, the law of constant motion. Two philosophers particularly (the ancient Heraclitus and the modern Hegel, as we have already seen) formulated this law of change, but they did not stop there. They also set up the question of the manner in which the process operates. The answer they discovered was that changes are produced by constant internal contradictions, internal struggle. Thus, Heraclitus declared: "Conflict is the mother of all happenings," while Hegel said: "Contradiction is the power that moves things."

There is no doubt of the correctness of this law. A moment's thought will convince the reader. For, if there were no conflict, no clash of forces, the world would be in a condition of unchanging, stable equilibrium, i.e., complete and absolute permanence, a state of rest precluding all motion. Such a state of rest would be conceivable only in a system whose component parts and forces would be so related as not to permit of the introduction of any conflicts, as to preclude all mutual interaction, all disturbances. As we already know that all things change, all things are "in flux", it is certain that such an absolute state of rest cannot possibly exist. We must therefore reject a condition in which there is no "contradiction between opposing and colliding forces", no disturbance of equilibrium, but only an absolute immutability. Let us take up this matter somewhat more in detail.

In biology, when we speak of adaptation, we mean that process by which one thing assumes a relation toward another thing that enables the two to exist simultaneously. An animal that is "adapted" to its environment is an animal that has achieved the means of living in that environment. It is suited to its surroundings, its qualities are such as to enable it to continue to live. The mole is "adapted" to conditions prevailing under the earth's surface; the fish, to conditions in the water; either animal transferred to the other's environment will perish at once.

A similar phenomenon may be observed also in so called "inanimate" nature: the earth does not fall into the sun, but revolves around it "without mishap". The relation between the solar system: and the universe which surrounds it, enabling both to exist side by side, is a similar relation. In the latter case we commonly speak, not of the adaptation, but of the equilibrium between bodies, or systems of such bodies, etc. We may observe the same state of things in society. Whether we like it or not, society lives within nature: is therefore in one way or another in equilibrium with nature. And the various parts of society, if the latter is capable of surviving, are so adapted to each other as to enable them to exist side by side: capitalism, which included both capitalists and workers, had a very long existence!

In all these examples it is clear that we are dealing with one phenomenon, that of equilibrium. This being the case, where do the contradictions come in? For there is no doubt that conflict is a disturbance of equilibrium. It must be recalled that such equilibrium as we observe in nature and in society is not an absolute, unchanging equilibrium, but an equilibrium in flux, which means that the equilibrium may be established and destroyed, may be reestablished on a new basis, and again disturbed.

The precise conception of equilibrium is about as follows: "We say of a system that it is in a state of equilibrium when the system cannot of itself, i.e., without supplying energy to it from without, emerge from this state." If - let us say - forces are at work on a body, neutralizing each other, that body is in a state of equilibrium; an increase or decrease in one of these forces will disturb the equilibrium.

If the disturbance of equilibrium is of short duration and the body returns to its former position, the equilibrium is termed stable; if this does not ensue, the equilibrium is unstable. In the natural sciences we have mechanical equilibrium, chemical equilibrium, biological equilibrium. (Cf. H. von Halban: Chemisches Gleichgewicht, in Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften, vol. ii, Jena, 1912, pp.470-519, from which we take the above quotation.)

In other words, the world consists of forces, acting in many ways, opposing each other. These forces are balanced for a moment in exceptional cases only. We then have a state of "rest", i.e., their actual "conflict" is concealed. But if we change only one of these forces, immediately the "internal contradictions" will be revealed, equilibrium will be disturbed, and if a new equilibrium is again established, it will be on a new basis, i.e., with a new combination of forces, etc. It follows that the "conflict", the "contradiction", i.e., the antagonism of forces acting in various directions, determines the motion of the system.

On the other hand, we have here also the form of this process: in the first place, the condition of equilibrium; in the second place, a disturbance of this, equilibrium; in the third place, the reestablishment of equilibrium on a new basis. And then the story begins all over again: the new equilibrium is the point of departure for a new disturbance, which in turn is followed by another state of equilibrium, etc., ad infinitum. Taken all together, we are dealing with a process of motion based on the development of internal contradictions.

Hegel observed this characteristic of motion and expressed it in the following manner: he called the original condition of equilibrium the thesis, the disturbance of equilibrium the antithesis, the reestablishment of equilibrium on a new basis the synthesis (the unifying proposition reconciling the contradictions). The characteristic of motion present in all things, expressing itself in this tripartite formula (or triad) he called dialectic.

The word "dialectics" among the ancient Greeks meant the art of eloquence, of disputation. The course of a discussion is as follows: one man says one thing, another the opposite ("negates" what the first man said); finally, "truth is born from the struggle", and includes a part of the first man's statement and a part of the second man's (synthesis). Similarly, in the process of thought. Since Hegel, being an idealist, regards everything as a self-evolution of the spirit, he of course did not have any disturbances of equilibrium in mind, and the properties of thought as a spiritual and original thing were therefore, in his mind, properties also of being. Marx wrote in this connection: "My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of `the Idea', he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external phenomenal form of `the Idea'. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought . . . . With him (Hegel) it (dialectics) is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell" (Capital, Chicago, 1915, vol. i, p.25). For Marx, dialectics means evolution by means of contradictions, particularly, a law of "being", a law of the movement of matter, a law of motion in nature and society. It finds its expression in the process of thought. It is necessary to use the dialectic method, the dialectic mode of thought, because the dialectics of nature may thus be grasped.

It is quite possible to transcribe the "mystical" (as Marx put it) language of the Hegelian dialectics into the language of modern mechanics. Not so long ago, almost all Marxians objected to the mechanical terminology, owing to the persistence of the ancient conception of the atom as a detached isolated particle. But now that we have the Electron Theory, which represents atoms as complete solar systems, we have no reason to shun this mechanical terminology. The most advanced tendencies of scientific thought in all fields accept this point of view. Marx already gives hints of such a formulation (the doctrine of equilibrium between the various branches of production, the theory of labor value based thereon, etc.).

Any object, a stone, a living thing, a human society, etc., may be considered as a whole consisting of parts (elements) related with each other; in other words, this whole may be regarded as a system. And no such system exists in empty space; it is surrounded by other natural objects, which, with reference to it, may be called the environment. For the tree in the forest, the environment means all the other trees, the brook, the earth, the ferns, the grass, the bushes, together with all their properties. Man's environment is society, in the midst of which he lives; the environment of human society is external nature. There is a constant relation between environment and system, and the latter, in turn, acts upon the environment. We must first of all investigate the fundamental question as to the nature of the relations between the environment and the system; how are they to be defined; what are their forms; what is their significance for their system. Three chief types of such relations may be distinguished.

1. Stable equilibrium. This is present when the mutual action of the environment and the system results in an unaltered condition, or in a disturbance of the first condition which is again reestablished in the original state. For example, let us consider a certain type of animals living in the steppes. The environment remains unchanged. The quantity of food available for this type of beast neither increases nor decreases; the number of animals preying upon them also remains the same; all the diseases, all the microbes (for all must be included in the "environment"), continue to exist in the original proportions. What will be the result? Viewed as a whole, the number of our animals will remain the same; some of them will die or be destroyed by beasts of prey, others will be born, but the given type and the given conditions of the environment will remain the same as they were before. This means a condition of rest due to an unchanged relation between the system (the given type of animals) and the environment, which is equivalent to stable equilibrium. Stable equilibrium is not always a complete absence of motion; there may be motion, but the resulting disturbance is followed by a reestablishment of equilibrium on the former basis. The contradiction between the environment and the system is constantly being reproduced in the same quantitative relation.

We shall find the case the same in a society of the stagnant type (we shall go into this question more in detail later). If the relation between society and nature remains the same; i.e., if society extracts from nature, by the process of production, precisely as much energy as it consumes, the contradiction between society and nature will again be reproduced in the former shape; the society will mark time, and there results a state of stable equilibrium.

2. Unstable equilibrium with positive (favorable) indication (an expanding system). In actual fact, however, stable equilibrium does not exist. It constitutes merely an imaginary, sometimes termed the "ideal", case. As a matter of fact, the relation between environment and the system is never reproduced in precisely the same proportions; the disturbance of equilibrium never actually leads to its reestablishment on exactly the same basis as before, but a new equilibrium is created on a new basis. For example, in the case of the animals mentioned above, let us assume that the number of beasts of prey opposing them decreases for some reason, while the available food increases. There is no doubt that the number of our animals would then also increase; our "system" will then grow; a new equilibrium is established on a better basis; this means growth. In other words, the contradiction between the environment and the system has become quantitatively different.

If we consider human society, instead of these animals, and assume that the relation between it and nature is altered in such manner that society - by means of production - extracts more energy from nature than is consumed by society (either the soil becomes more fruitful, or new tools are devised, or both), this society will grow and not merely mark time. The new equilibrium will in each case be actually new. The contradiction between society and nature will in each case be reproduced on a new and "higher" basis, a basis on which society will increase and develop. This is a case of unstable equilibrium with positive indication.

3. Unstable equilibrium with negative indication (a declining system). Now let us consider the quite different case of a new equilibrium being established on a "lower" basis. Let us suppose, for example, that the quantity of food available to our beasts has decreased, or that the number of beasts of prey has for some reason increased. Our animals will die out. The equilibrium between the system and the environment will in each case be established on the basis of the extinction of a portion of this system. The contradiction will be reestablished on a new basis, with a negative indication. Or, in the case of society, let us assume that the relation between it and nature has been altered in such manner that society is obliged to consume more and more and obtain less and less (the soil is exhausted, technical methods become poorer, etc.). New equilibrium will here be established in each case on a lowered basis, by reason of the destruction of a portion of society. We are now dealing with a declining society, a disappearing system, in other words, with motion having a negative indication.

Every conceivable case will fall under one of these three heads. At the basis of the motion, as we have seen, there is in fact the contradiction between the environment and the system, which is constantly being reestablished.

But the matter has another phase also. Thus far we have spoken only of the contradictions between the environment and the system, i.e., the external contradictions. But there are also internal contradictions, those that are within the system. Each system consists of its component parts (elements), united with each other in one way or another. Human society consists of people; the forests, of trees and bushes; the pile of stones, of the various stones; the herd of animals, of the individual animals, etc. Between them there are a number of contradictions, differences, imperfect adaptations, etc. In other words, here also there is no absolute equilibrium. If there can be, strictly speaking, no absolute equilibrium between the environment and the system, there can also be no such equilibrium between the elements of the system itself.

This may be seen best by the example of the most complicated system, namely, human society. Here we encounter an endless number of contradictions; we find the struggle between classes, which is the sharpest expression of "social contradictions", and we know that "the struggle between classes is the motive force of history". The contradictions between the classes, between groups, between ideals, between the quantity of labor performed by individuals and the quantity of goods distributed to them, the planlessness in production (the capitalist "anarchy" in production), all these constitute an endless chain of contradictions, all of which are within the system and grow out of its contradictory structure ("structural contradictions"). But these contradictions do not of themselves destroy society. They may destroy it (if, for example, both opposing classes in a civil war destroy each other), but it is also possible they may at times not destroy it.

In the latter case, there will be an unstable equilibrium between the various elements of society. We shall later discuss the nature of this equilibrium; for the present we need not go into it. But we must not regard society stupidly, as do so many bourgeois scholars, who overlook its internal contradictions. On the contrary, a scientific consideration of society requires that we consider it from the point of view of the contradictions present within it. Historical "growth" is the development of contradictions.

We must again point out a fact with which we shall have to deal more than once in this book. We have said that these contradictions are of two kinds: between the environment and this system, and between the elements of the system and the system itself. Is there any relation between these two phenomena? A moment's thought will show us that such a relation exists.

It is quite clear that the internal structure of the system (its internal equilibrium) must change together with the relation existing between the system and its environment. The latter relation is the decisive factor; for the entire situation of the system, the fundamental forms of its motion (decline, prosperity, or stagnation) are determined by this relation only.

Let us consider the question in the following form: we have seen above that the character of the equilibrium between society and nature determines the fundamental course of the motion of society. Under these circumstances, could the internal structure continue for long to develop in the opposite direction? Of course not. In the case of a growing society, it would not be possible for the internal structure of society to continue constantly to grow worse. If, in a condition of growth, the structure of society should become poorer, i.e., its internal disorders grow worse, this would be equivalent to the appearance of a new contradiction: a contradiction between the external and the internal equilibrium, which would require the society, if it is to continue growing, to undertake a reconstruction, i.e., its internal structure must adapt itself to the character of the external equilibrium. Consequently, the internal (structural) equilibrium is a quantity which depends on the external equilibrium (is a "function" of this external equilibrium).

f. The Theory of Cataclysmic Changes anal the Theory of Revolutionary Transformations in the Social Sciences

We have now to consider the final phase of the dialectic method, namely, the theory of sudden changes. No doubt it is a widespread notion that "nature makes no sudden jumps" (natura non facit saltus). This wise saying is often applied in order to demonstrate "irrefutably" the impossibility of revolution, although revolutions have a habit of occurring in spite of the moderation of our friends the professors. Now, is nature really so moderate and considerate as they pretend?

In his Science of Logic (Wissenschaft der Logik)5), Hegel says: "It is said that there are no sudden changes in nature, and the common view has it (meint) that when we speak of a growth or a destruction (Entstehen oder Vergehen), we always imagine a gradual growth (Hervorgehen) or disappearance (Verschwinden). Yet we have seen cases in which the alteration of existence (des Seins) involves not only a transition from one proportion to other, but also a transition, by a sudden leap, into a quantitatively, and, on the other hand, also qualitatively different thing (Anderswerden.); an interruption of the gradual process (ein Abbrechen des Allmählichen), differing qualitatively from the preceding, the former, state" (the italics are mine. - N. B.).

Hegel speaks of a transition of quantity into quality; there is very simple illustration of such a transition. If we should heat w ater, we should find that throughout the process of heating, before a temperature of 100 C. is reached, the water will not boil and turn into steam. Portions of the water will move faster and faster, but they will not bubble on the surface in the form of steam. The change thus far is merely quantitative; the water moves faster, the temperature rises, but the water remains water, having all the properties of water. Its quantity is changing having its quality remains the same. But when we have heated it to 100 C, we have brought it to the "boiling-point". At once it begins to boil, at once the particles that have been madly in motion burst apart and leap from the surface in the form of little explosions of steam. The water has ceased to be water; it becomes steam, a gas. The former quality is lost; we now have a new quality, with new properties. We have thus learned two important peculiarities in the process of change.

In the first place, having reached a certain stage in motion, the quantitative changes call forth qualitative changes (or, in more abbreviated form, "quantity becomes quality") ; in the second place, this transition from quantity to quality is accomplished in a sudden leap, which constitutes an interruption in the gradual continuous process. The water was not constantly changing, with gradual deliberateness, into a little steam at a time, with the quantity of steam constantly increasing. For a long time it did not boil at all. But having reached the "boiling-point", it began to boil. We must consider this a sudden change.

The transformation of quantity into quality is one of the fundamental laws in the motion of matter ; it may be traced literally at every step both in nature and society. Hang a weight at the end of a string, and gradually add slight additional weights, each being as small as you like; up to a certain limit, the string will hold". But once this limit has been exceeded, it will suddenly break. Force steam into a boiler; all will go well for a while; only the pressure indicator will show increases in the pressure of the steam against the walls of the boiler. But when the dial has exceeded a certain limit, the boiler will explode. The pressure of the steam exceeded perhaps by a very little the power of resistance offered by the walls of the boiler. Before this moment, the quantitative changes had not led to a "cataclysm", to a qualitative change, but at that "point" the boiler exploded.

Several men are unable to lift a stone. Another joins them; they are still unable to do it. A weak old woman joins them - and their united strength raises the stone. Here, but a slight additional force was needed, and as soon as this force was added the job was done. Let us take another example. Leo Tolstoi wrote a story called "Three Rolls and a Cookie". The point of the story is the following: a man, to appease his hunger, ate one roll after another, for each still left him hungry; in fact, after his third roll, he was still hungry; then he ate a little cookie, and his hunger was appeased. He then cursed his folly for not having eaten the cookie first: for then he would not have had to eat the rolls. Of course, we are aware of his mistake; we are dealing here with a qualitative change, the transition from the feeling of hunger to that of satiation, which transition was accomplished in one bound (after eating the cookie). But this qualitative difference ensued after the quantitative differences: the cookie would have been of no use without the rolls.

We thus find that it is foolish to deny the existence changes, and to admit only a deliberate gradual process. Sudden leaps are often found in nature, and the notion that nature permits of no such violent alterations is merely a reflection of the fear of such shifts in society, i.e., of the fear of revolution.

It is a characteristic fact that the earlier theories of the bourgeoisie, touching the question of the creation of the universe, were catastrophic theories, though naive and wrong ones. Such, for instance, was Cuvier's theory. This was displaced by the evolution theory, which introduced many new elements, but one-sidedly denied cataclysmic changes. Of such nature are the works of Lyell (Principles of Geology), in the field of geology. But at the end of the last century there again arose a theory which recognized the importance of sudden changes. For instance, the botanist De Vries (the so called mutation theory) maintained that from time to time, on the basis of previous changes, sudden alterations of form ensue, which later fortify themselves and become the starting paints of new courses of evolution. The older views, which were hostile to "sudden changes", are now no longer sufficient. Such notions (Leibnitz, for instance, says: "Everything in nature goes step by step, never by leaps and bounds" - tout va par degrés dans la nature et rien par saut) evidently arose on a conservative social soil.

The denial of the contradictory character of evolution by bourgeois scholars is based on their fear of the class struggle and on their concealment of social contradictions. Their fear of sudden changes is based on their fear of revolution; all their wisdom is contained in the following reasoning: there are no violent changes in nature, there cannot be any such violent changes anywhere; therefore, you proletarians, do not dare make a revolution! Yet here it becomes exceptionally evident that bourgeois science is in contradiction with the most fundamental requirements of all science. Everybody knows that there have been many revolutions in human society. Will anyone deny that there was an English Revolution, or a French Revolution, or a Revolution of 1848, or the Revolution of 1917? If these violent changes have taken place in society, and are still taking place, science should not "deny" them, refusing to recognize facts, but should understand these sudden shifts, and explain them.

Revolutions in society are of the same character as the violent changes in nature. They do not suddenly "fall from the sky". They are prepared by the entire preceding course of development, as the boiling of water is prepared by the preceding process of heating or as the explosion of a steam-boiler is prepared by the increasing pressure of the steam against its walls. A revolution in society means its reconstruction, "a structural alteration of the system". Such a revolution is an inevitable consequence of the contradictions between the structure of society and the demands for its development. We shall discuss the nature of this process below. For the present we need only to know the following: in society, as in nature, violent changes do take place; in society, as in nature, these sudden changes are prepared by the preceding course of things; in other words, in society as in nature, evolution (gradual development) leads to revolution (sudden change) : "The violent changes presuppose a preceding evolution, and the gradual changes lead to violent changes. These are two necessary factors in a single process."6)

The contradictory nature of evolution, the question of cataclysmic changes, is one of the most essential theoretical questions. Though a great number of bourgeois schools and tendencies oppose teleology and favor determinism, etc., they nevertheless stumble on these questions. The Marxian theory is not a theory of evolution but of revolution. For this very reason it is inacceptable to the ideologists of the bourgeoisie, and they are therefore ready to "accept" the whole theory except its revolutionary dialectics. Objections to Marxism usually assume the same form. Thus, Werner Sombart, a German professor, treats Marx with great respect where evolution is involved, but at once attacks him as soon as he scents theoretically the revolutionary elements of Marxism. Entire theories are even built up, showing that Marx was a scholar in his evolutionary point of view, but ceased to be a scholar when he became - even theoretically - a revolutionist; he then leaves the sphere of science and gives himself up to revolutionary passions. P. Struve, once a Marxian, author of the first manifesto of the Russian Social-Democracy, a man later metamorphosized into a protagonist of pogroms and a prime counter-revolutionary ideologist, also began by attacking Marxism in its theory of cataclysmic changes. Plekhanov, then a revolutionist, wrote- "Mr. Struve wants to show us that nature makes no sudden leaps, and that the intellect (reason) will not bear such leaps. The fact is, Struve means his own intellect, which indeed tolerates no leaps, for the simple reason, as is said, that he cannot bear a certain dictatorship:" (The italics are Plekhanov's; Criticism of Our Critics, p.99.) The so called "organic school", the Positivists, Spencerians, evolutionists, etc., all oppose cataclysmic changes because they cannot bear a "certain dictatorship".


As with chapters i and ii, adding the following: Deborin : Introduction to the philosophy of Dialectic Materialism (in Russian). G. Plekhanov (N. Beltov) : Criticisyia of Our Critics (in Russian). Karl Marx: Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy, Chicago, 1913. G. Plekhanov: Fundamental Problems of Marxism (translated). J. Berman: Dialectics in the Light of the Modern. Theory of Cognition (in Russian; not orthodox, but critical). A. Bogdanov: General Science of Organization (in Russian; an ingenious attempt to dispense with philosophy). L. Orthodox (Axelrod): Philosophical Sketches (in Russian). Karl Kautsky: Anti-Bernstein (in German). N. Bukharin: The Economic Theory of the Leisure Class (chapter one). The critical literature written in opposition to dialectic materialism is exceedingly voluminous. The most important Russian writers in this field are Kareyev and Tugan-Baranovsky (The Theoretical Foundations of Marxism)


1)Philosophie der Geschichte, Reclam edition, page 74

2)Eduard Meyer Geschichte des Altertums, I, i, second edition, 1910, page 247.

3)Karl Marx: Capital, vol. i, pp.22, 23. Chicago, 1915. TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: This quotation is taken by Marx from a paraphrase of his position in the words of Professor A. Sieber, of the University of Kiev.]

4)Karl Marx: Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy,Stuttgart, German edition, 1921, p.xvi.

5)Hegels Werke, 2d ed., vol. iii, p.434 (German original).

6)Plekhanov: Criticism of Our Critics (in Russian), 1906 edition, p.104.