C L R James on Hegel
Notes on Dialectics: PART II
The Hegelian Logic
The Doctrine of the Notion is Subjective Logic, the logic of Mind, of thought itself. In the Doctrine of Being, we dealt with thought as it watched and felt the influence of simple determinate objects. In Essence we examined a more complex process, objects were “reflected” by thought into thought determinations representing parts of the object; transition from stage to stage. Now we go over into the Notion. The object is no longer plain and simple being. It is no longer divided into thought-determinations. It is a whole once more, but a whole enriched by our previous wrestling with it. And the object being now a whole, thoroughly examined, the examination moves over not to the logic of thought in relation to the object, but to the logic of thought itself, of the concept, as a concept.
And so too the notion may, if it be wished, be styled abstract, if the name concrete is restricted to the concrete facts of sense or of immediate perception. For the notion is not palpable to the touch, and when we are engaged with it, hearing and seeing must quite fail us.
But Hegel insists, the notion is concrete, a “true concrete” for thought though it is, there has been incorporated into it all the wealth of being and essence “merged in the unity of thought”.
The previous doctrines had a triple movement. Thus the Doctrine of Being moved between Quality, Quantity and Measure. The Doctrine of Essence moves between Identity, Difference and Opposition (which passes back into Ground); there is a relation between Quality and Identity; between Quantity and Difference; between Measure and Opposition (or Ground).
In the Doctrine of Being the dialectical movement was confined to transition into something else. In the Doctrine of Essence the dialectical movement is confined to transition into something which belonged to the very thing we were examining – “the something else” is the something itself; but its Other, we dug it out. All these are connected together, opposition, higher stages, etc. I shall not do a damned thing about that. This is not a summary of exposition of the Logic. It is an introduction to the Logic, an illustration of how we should use it, and a demonstration of its validity.
But we should be prepared now to look for a triple movement in the Notion. It is there, and these divisions are very old in the examinations of thought. They are Universal, Particular and Individual. Then Hegel is going to spend long pages on Judgment, on the syllogism: All men are mortal, Gaius is a man, therefore Gaius is mortal. He pursues them into all their different shapes and forms, but they are not abstract, formal, finite, fixed, limited. He shows how they developed out of one another, by contradiction, etc., using all the laws he has worked out in the objective logic. Take the Judgment. When you say, “a house is good, according to its character”, you make one sort of judgment; when you say “the house, if of such and such a character, is good”, you have developed that judgment and so on. He has four main classes of Judgment, the Judgment of Inherence, the Judgment of Subsumption, the Judgment of Necessity, the Judgment of the Notion; but the Judgment of Inherence, for instance, is divided into the Positive Judgment, the Negative Judgment, the Infinite Judgment; and each of the others has its three divisions. I have not worked through the Judgments, but I know that the Judgment of Inherence corresponds to Quality in the Doctrine of Being and to Identity in the Doctrine of Essence; that the Judgment of Subsumption and Necessity correspond to Quantity in the Doctrine of Being and Difference in the Doctrine of Essence. The same with the syllogism and so on. Hegel says, in ordinary logic books they tell you, here are these forms: apply them or learn them or do something with them. He says: they didn't just fall from the sky, they each came from somewhere, at a certain stage of development; they moved to higher and more complicated forms, they proceeded to these higher forms by a certain process. In Dialectics of Nature, Engels has what is in my modest opinion a very satisfying passage on the Judgment.
Now if you have been paying attention you will now know what the Doctrine of the Notion is about; it deals with this development of the standards of consciousness as such. You remember the Preface and the Introduction to the Phenomenology, the thing tested and the testing thing. Notion deals with the testing thing – the apparatus of thought. And despite all Hegel's raptures about how now we are in the blue sphere of the World-Spirit, etc., in the Subjective Logic he traces as logically objective a development as you could wish. But it is well to remember that we are in the realm of thought. Its destructive character is development, by which Hegel means that it shows only what is immanent in it, for example, the plant is developed from its germ. Nothing appears in the plant which is not contained in the germ. Identical twins show that very clearly. At fifty they often look exactly alike, which means that their germ contained all that they afterwards became. Hegel is saying that whereas in the Doctrine of Being the thing changes into something else, but something else which though “else” is really a part of it, it reflects an interior other; in the Dialectic of the Notion, the small thing, the abstract beginning, constantly expands and develops into broader and broader, more concrete, a more rich, more complicated, more all-embracing stages, which were in it from the very beginning. Thought, remember? Thought. Ideas as ideas.
With this very modest contradiction we can now begin. I shall interpret freely and then stick the passage down. Nowhere, not even in Marx, have I been so thrilled at the sheer logical divining and interpretative power of the human intellect. If you want to try it out yourself the passage is on p. 242 of the larger Logic where he is taking up the Particular; he has already dealt with Universal. We haven't to deal specially with Universal. We are familiar with it. State is a universal – it embraces every kind of political government. It is entirely concrete. It is entirely abstract. Such another is “the revolution”. Another universal is socialism. It means everything. Yet it means nothing in particular.
Socialism, then, is a Universal (in thought, mind you, a concept). It is as a germ, it contains a lot of things in it. This germ takes determinate form, a particular form. This is its being, as for example in The Communist Manifesto or in the Manifesto of the First International. The Notion as Universal becomes a determinate notion. But in the Doctrine of Being when nothing became something, it was a simple “immediate”. Not so in the Notion. When the Universal of socialism becomes determinate, this is no simple immediacy. It is “equal to itself”. It is a form of mediation which is absolute. (You have to feel this.) It is not there only waiting to be transformed into some Other. True it contains Intro-Reflection or Essence. It is not going to stay there forever. It will change, it will move. But to give some rough examples: when Marx wrote his concepts down and defined them, he did not do this looking to see contradictions in them, from which he would find a higher truth. No, that was determinate socialism. Leninism as concept and doctrine was concrete socialism. You see this in the distinction between the bourgeois revolution and the proletarian revolution (examples only). The bourgeois revolution in Russia as Lenin saw it, aimed at doing something which would create, unloose the possibility of the proletariat organising freely (as in Europe) and struggling for socialism. That was a transition. But the proletarian revolution is the proletarian revolution. It is not fundamentally a transition to anything else. True it has at a given time weaknesses, defects; these will be removed. But it is posed in its own right. It is a mediation, it does not comprise the Universal in its full totality, but it is an absolute mediation. It is the Notion in “principle”, a word Hegel uses often in this section, and he says that any Notion whose particular form is not the Notion in principle is no good. It is “barren”. Now comes a brilliant use of dialectic, which will give amazing results. Socialism is a Universal which in 1864 takes a determinate, concrete form. But, says Hegel, it is “clothed” in the Universal. The determinate form, what Marx writes, has certain weaknesses, defects, “differences” with the Universal. He and everybody else who has any sense knows that. The doctrines are concrete but they are not complete socialism. But they are written in terms of the Universal: this and that and that are socialism. Therefore the doctrines of 1864 become content and the Universal becomes form, and therefore abstract. In the pure Universal it is just absolute negativity, socialism which we know will have to negate and negate until it finds it total realisation. But when it finds in principle a determinate content, this content is determinate, which makes the Universal in it abstract.
Here is the complete paragraph:
The determinateness of the particular is simple as principle (as was seen); but it is simple also as moment of totality – as determinateness against the other determinateness. The Notion, in so far as it determines or distinguishes itself, points negatively at its unity and takes the form of one of its moments (which is of ideal nature) of being: as determinate Notion it has a Determinate Being in general. But this Being no longer signifies bare immediacy but Universality – immediacy which through absolute mediation is equal to itself and equally contains the other moment, Essence or Intro-Reflection. This Universality which clothes the determinate is abstract Universality. The particular contains Universality as its Essence; but, in so far as the determinateness of the difference is posited, and thereby has Being, this Universality is related to the difference as form, and the determinateness as such is content. Universality becomes form in so far as the difference exists as the essential- whereas in the purely universal it exists only as absolute negativity, and not as difference which is posited as such.
Now to go on. The first sentence I cannot understand – give me a few moments – but after that it is plain sailing. (Why all this excitement? Because just over the page Understanding gets a going over, is exposed, in a manner that does the heart good.) In the determinate Notion, the Notion is outside itself. It is socialism, the pure negativity. But it is determinate. Marx's doctrines, ideas, are concrete enough. They will appear in the Commune in a few years. And though there are differences between socialism, as a pure universal, and socialism in its determinate form, yet there is no other socialism and the identity is close enough. But the identity is merely “immediate”. It is not the totality, in 1864, not the full, complete idea. (Today we are much closer to this. One world, international socialism, etc.)
In itself, it is this completeness as the germ is in itself the plant. It is for itself, in the determinate form, for itself in principle. But although there is mediation, there are going to be further stages, yet these stages are not “posited”, the main business is not to develop what is inherent and bound to appear. The main business is what is. But precisely because we are dealing with something in principle, the content has the form of indifference to its Universality. It is not the totality. OK. But it is not, as in the Doctrine of Essence, unable to move a step without looking back to see what it reflects, and looking forward to see what will come. Sure we are going to mediate, but this thing here and now is good enough for us.
And now, my friends, we approach. Let the maestro speak for himself now and we shall trail along behind. (You will get some shocks, though.)
This is the proper place also to mention the circumstance which has caused Understanding latterly to be held in such small esteem and to be ranked after Reason – namely the fixity which it imparts to the determinatenesses, and hence to the finitudes. This fixity consists in the form of abstract Universality which has just been considered: by virtue of it they become immutable.
Trotskyism, seeing that Second (reformist) International and Third (revolutionary) International and enemy-of-private property bureaucracy were embodiments “in principle” of socialism, of the Universal, which they undoubtedly were completely failed to study p. 244 of the Logic and recognise that these, concrete as they were, were yet abstract Universals in the sense that Hegel has so carefully explained. They were only a form. They were not totality. And precisely because they were abstract Universality, they could become fearfully fixed and ferociously finite. The very fact that they are Universals is what gives them their toughness and their staying power. In simple Being and reflective Essence, movement is easier.
For qualitative determinateness, and Determination of Reflection, exist essentially as limited, and, in their barrier, have a relation to their Other; they thus contain the necessity of transition and passing away. But Universality (which they have in Understanding) gives them the form of Intro-Reflection, which withdraws them from the relation to other and renders them imperishable.
Socialism! A world socialism, a revolutionary international an international that is reformist, my God ! These are not perfected examples, but they are not ordinary manifestations. These are Universals. And so Understanding gets stuck with them. Universals they were, but limited Universals. As Hegel says, Understanding pays these things a respect which belongs only to the “pure” Notion and only to a determinateness which was itself Universal.
Now in the pure Notion this eternity belongs to its own nature, and so its abstract determinations would be eternal essentialities only according to their form; but their content is not adequate to this form, and consequently they are not truth and imperishability. Their content is not adequate to the form, because it is not determinateness itself as universal; that is, it is not as totality of the differentia of the Notion, or not itself the whole form . . .
Now I don't know, but it seems to me that Hegel, having examined phenomena and totalities of all kinds, has here extracted the process of the thought of Understanding in a manner which makes us see our problems in a new and infinitely richer light. There are others coming which will startle and illuminate us. But Hegel is a dialectician. There is not only difference, there is identity, there is a connection. See how Hegel, who has been belabouring Understanding, now shows us that it has an indisputable – yes, sir – indisputable place in dialectic:
Understanding then represents the infinite force which determines the Universal, or conversely imparts fixed persistence through the form of Universality to what in determinateness has in and for itself no stability; and it is not the fault of understanding if no further progress is made.
That is clear enough. Understanding then even in the Notion is the kind of thought which determines the Universal. It is a positive quality. It says: boys, this is it. Look how this embodies the Universal. See how it represents socialism here, and there, and over there. See how this reformist International is reformism incarnate. Understanding in fact is genuinely revolutionary, and in the establishment of a determinate Universal, you cannot tell the difference between it and Reason. Reason in fact uses Understanding for this purpose. (Isn't this wonderful ! The arriere-pensee, the things I am saying and not saying.) But Understanding is overwhelmed by these magnificent principled determinatenesses. He wants to settle down now and get to work. When Universal begins to wish to get out of this Particular, Understanding rages furiously. This, my friends, he says, is Universal. It has faults, but it is Universal. At last, when Understanding can stay there no longer he moves, but to do what? He says: “My friends, we have no troublesome thinking to do. The plans are here. The great architect of our now regrettably degenerated Universals, he left us the final blueprints. All we have to do is to push aside the impostors and ‘erect the old structure afresh'.”
Understanding then imparts “fixed persistence”. But, says Hegel, and this is salutary if totally unexpected:
It is a subjective impotence of reason which allows these determinatenesses to count in this manner, and is unable to lead them back to unity through the dialectic force which is opposed to this abstract Universality, that is, through the peculiar nature (in other words, the Notion) of these determinatenesses.
Here are two ideas of substantial importance for us. Reason leaves poor Understanding stuck in its finitudes. Subjective Reason is responsible. It is too weak to overcome the gap. The effort has to be made. And how? By seeing the peculiar nature, i.e. the Notion of these fixed, limited determinatenesses. That is plain enough. The Notion is a free, creative working class, a working class which is not what it is in capitalism. The determinate Notion does its best, but when this is exhausted you have to get back to socialism, to your Universal of the beginning, and thus get rid of an exhausted, finite, limited particular. A new particular is needed.
Understanding is mischievous. That is correct.
It is true that through the form of abstract Universality understanding gives them what may be called such a hardness of Being as they do not possess in the spheres of Quality and of Reflection; but by this simplification understanding also spiritualises them and so sharpens them that they receive only at this extreme point the capacity of dissolving and passing over into their opposite.
Understanding, by its obstinacy, its sticking to the finite categories, prepares them for the stage where they must be dissolved and pass over into their opposite. Bear in mind that the Universal uses a particular. When that particular is no good it throws it over. That particular perishes.
The highest maturity or stage which any Something can reach is that in which it begins to perish.
It is at this stage that subjective Reason is compelled, COMPELLED, to intervene. We shall need that idea often.
But this is the peculiar property of the Notion.
Understanding commits the blunder of blunders by making the determinate Notion imperishable. The only thing imperishable is the Universality of the Notion. That quality belongs to the Notion alone
and consequently the dissolution of the finite lies expressed in it itself, and in infinite proximity.
It is the Universal which makes it clear that finite categories are going to be destroyed, principled though they are.
This Universality immediately argues the determinateness of the finite and expresses its inadequacy to itself. Or rather, the adequacy of the finite is already given; the abstract determinate is posited as being one with Universality, and as not for itself alone, for then it would be only determinate, but only as unity of itself and of the universal, that is, as Notion.
The general argument is clear. If not, work it out yourself.
Says Hegel, “The ordinary practice of separating Understanding and Reason must therefore be condemned in every respect.
Understanding has its place. It is the abuse of the fixed, limited category which is criminal. And Hegel plays on a sad but salutary note. Understanding, by carrying the thing to the heights it does, thereby prepares the way for Reason to make the jump. If you are not able to say that our very principled category, nationalised property, and a principled category it can seem to be, if you are not able to say: “In view of what socialism is, I have to repudiate this category and get back to fundamentals and create a new criterion,” if you cannot do that, then you persist in the determination and end by making false determination the means by which you destroy everything.
I don't see how any reasonable person can deny this much: that Hegel, faced with the workers' state theorists, would be able to say, “I know those people. I have seen that sort of thing happen dozens of times. I wrote about it in the Notion.”
But that is not all. The Notion has, you remember, a third division, Individual. You remember the three, Universal, Particular, Individual. The individual is the same as Actuality. The concrete. (But we are dealing with thought, the concrete is the concrete stage of thought.) As I see it, we have socialism, the Universal, looking for somewhere to place itself. Marxism, in general, puts forward a general programme. Let us form an International of such and such principles. That is a Particular. But on 14 May 1871, Karl Marx not in general but concretely wrote a document about the Paris Commune, and expressed certain concrete ideas, proposals, and forecasts. In the sphere of thought this document is a concrete, an Individual.
Now the Particular is midway between the Universal and the Individual When you move out of it, you can move out of it, either back to the Universal – then the Universal, disregarding the particular, “ascends to higher and highest genus” – or you “descend” (Hegel's word) into the concrete Individual. I hope the point is clear. And then comes a superb statement:
At this point the divagation occurs by which abstraction leaves the road of the Notion and deserts the truth.’
This is precisely Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution. The concrete struggle in Russia he ignored. Was it a bourgeois revolution? Lenin said it was and concretely waged proletarian war against the liberal bourgeoisie and the Mensheviks, their agents. His programme, his ideas, his Notion of socialism, yes, of socialism, could find its deepest profundity precisely because of that concreteness. But Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution? Hegel immediately, immediately nails it. At this point he said occurs the divagation from the truth. And what form does it take?
Its higher and highest universal to which it rises is but the surface which has less and less content.
Precisely. The permanent revolution had no content at all. The only concrete thing that came from it was the fact that it drove Trotsky always towards the Mensheviks and against Leninism, in all the long, hard, difficult years in which Bolshevism was hammered out. He scorned the concrete. As Hegel continues:
The Individuality which it scorns is that profundity in which the Notion comprehends itself and is posited as Notion.
If anybody can understand this, we can. Trotsky soared into the thin abstractions of the permanent revolution. Nothing came of it. Nothing. And it was Lenin's concrete theories, dealing with the actual, the Individual, from which came all the wonderful insights and illumination which enriched the notion of socialism.
The Notion is concrete. It is thought but it is concrete. It is a judgment, a decision, an action, an intervention. It is not knowledge in the head for the sake of the head. Matter, society, acts by impulse, makes its knots, the knots form old categories, old categories make new categories, new categories clarify matter and society, for thought teaches me intelligent action. The categories are the highest form of matter, at any rate inseparable from matter, the form of today, which will be content tomorrow because it is content already, content posited. Without this concreteness the Notion gets no place. You cannot apprehend it by abstraction. Abstraction remains motionless without individuality.
Life, Spirit, God, and also the pure Notion cannot therefore be apprehended by abstraction, because it keeps off from its products Individuality, the principle of singularity and personality, and thus reaches nothing but universalities lacking both life and spirit, colour and content.
Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution was precisely lacking in these. Lenin it was who got from the concrete life, spirit, colour, content. But it is not only the struggles of 1905-17. The struggles of today illuminate these absolutely incredible analyses of Hegel, incredible because so universally valid. The official Fourth International has no concept whatever of socialism. All Trotsky can say about Russia after twenty-five years is: revise the plan, reinstate the soviets. He has learnt nothing. The same old content, no life, no spirit, no colour. And we, have we any special life, spirit, colour? That others will have to judge. I shall go at that problem before we are done. But I repeat now as we said in The Invading Socialist Society: If you reprint State and Revolution, The Threatening Catastrophe, Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? and The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, you get a clearer picture of concrete socialism, concrete perspectives, concrete action for the workers to follow than in all the writings of the Fourth International for twenty-five years.
Hegel is remorseless. And I constantly marvel at the amount of work he must have done to get the thing down so pat, in abstractions. He continues as follows to tear Understanding apart:
You cannot escape the consequences of the Notion. A Notion is a Notion. It embraces all the parts and they are inseparable. Understanding first of all gets Universalities lacking all colour, content, life and spirit. But these products of abstraction which have scorned the Individual, the concrete, are individuals themselves. Understanding takes the concrete and makes that into a Universal. It therefore sees the Universal only as determinate Universality: and therefore the concrete, the Individual, which it has elevated into this position has taken upon itself the tremendous task of determining itself (self-relation). For this the concrete thus pushed up into the situation of Universal is quite unfitted.
Does this sound rather abstract? Not to me. We have seen nationalised property, the concrete in Russia, taken and pushed into the position of Universal. What socialism is, what it aims at, what it means for me, all that has gone by the board. That has become the purest abstraction: the workers' parties competing peacefully in their soviets, the plan revised in the interests of the toilers, etc. etc. When you protest, you are invited to observe how much coal, steel, oil, and literacy there is. You point out that in 1928 when they were back at the 1917 level there were only maybe a few thousand, or even more, in concentration camps, etc. But every time the coal, steel, etc., are increased, the totalitarianism and the corruption increase, and so we have a graph. As production under planning increases, so every bourgeois evil increases until we have fifteen to twenty millions in concentration camps, forced labour camps, etc., and such a monstrous state as no mortal had ever imagined. It is surely time to think about socialism – examine what we meant by it and we mean by it. No, not for them. The whole thing revolves around nationalised property and if, if nationalised property continues to preserve the bureaucracy and commit these monstrosities, then shall we at last go back to re-examine our universal, socialism? By Christ, no. Finish away with Marxism instead. Throw it out. It has failed us. Nationalised property remains master of the field.
Here is the extract, judge for yourself:
But the unity of the Notion is so inseparable that even these products of abstraction, while they are supposed to omit Individuality, are individuals themselves. It raises the concrete into Universality, and takes the universal only as determinate Universality: but then this is just Individuality which has resulted in the shape of self-relating determinateness. Consequently abstraction is a separation of the concrete and an isolation of its determinations: it seizes only individual properties and moments, for its product must contain that which it is itself.
You get the last sentence? This Abstract Universal tears up the concrete into pieces. It takes isolated pieces of it, and with this as the basis of its thinking all it can now produce is what it took up and made into a Universal. That is the whole procedure of the workers' statists. Germain thinks only in terms of nationalised property, plan, dual character of the bureaucracy. He could say: in Poland nationalisation had taken place before the Russians came in. The Russians destroyed the power which the workers had their hands on and brought back elements of the bourgeois class. All Germain has to say is: it is or is not nationalised property exactly and behold at any rate the dual character of the bureaucracy. His Universal is not the careful elaboration of the basic concept which Marx and Engels made after any event – Marx on the Commune, Lenin in State and Revolution. No, sir. His Universal is now nationalised property and all its products bear that stamp.
See now what happens. This Universal has taken up the concrete, the Individual, into itself, pushing the real Universal into the thin air of the most abstract of abstractions. The individual as content and the Universal as form are distinct from each other. You remember that at the beginning the Universal entered freely into the First International. That programme, that conception was not perfect, but such as it was you could talk about in terms of socialism. You took the Universal as a form in which you placed, worked out the particular content which you had. You remember too that this made the Universal abstract, but an abstraction which “clothed” the particular content. But here Universal as form is one thing. Content is another. Not even Germain can use the terms of socialism to describe the Russian barbarism, and nobody today has the nerve to say any more that the proletariat in Russia is the ruling class. The Universal of Understanding, of Germain, is not absolute form. It cannot even talk in terms of those absolute necessities of socialism, workers, power, independent action, workers as masters of themselves, in fundamental opposition to capitalism, where the industrial system is their slave-driver. No. Germain cannot do it except as an abstraction. However inadequate the First International was, as a conception, it could “clothe” itself in these things. (This I take to be the general sense of the passage. The original should be looked up in the German.) But as we continue the examination we see finally that this abstract Understanding has produced a peculiar kind of Universality. By making it so abstract and then tying it up with the concrete, the abstract Universal itself has become a concrete.
Here is the extract:
The distinction between this individuality of its products and the Individuality of the Notion is that, in the former, the individual as content and the universal as form are distinct from each other – just because the former does not exist as absolute form, or as the Notion itself, nor the latter as the totality of form. But this closer consideration shows the abstract itself as unity of the individual content and abstract Universality, that is, as concrete – which is the opposite of what it is supposed to be.
And in 1948 we do not operate in the void. The moment you lose the socialist Universal, no power on earth can save you from state-capitalist barbarism.
Now for the final passage. It offers us a good opportunity to sum up. Remember the movement of the Notion is development. It is free power. It is thought, mind you, the concept seeking fulfilment in thought. The Communist Manifesto, theManifesto and Programme of the First International, Marx on the Commune, Lenin in State and Revolution. This is the concept developing itself. Lenin's State and Revolution is a particular form of the Universal as is the programme of the Communist International and the 21 points. But the Individual concrete is the day-to-day laws, decisions, articles, decrees, speeches, etc. That is the concrete, the individual notion. So that the Universal of socialism and the particular form of State and Revolution become concrete in the individual acts, ideas, places, programmes and conflicts etc. The abstract is the soul of the Individual, the concrete. Why? Because without the Universal and Particular, the concrete makes no sense. This is an advanced case of the relation between the Idea and Actuality which we dealt with in the Doctrine of Essence.
Here is the extract:
But Individuality is not only the return of the Notion into itself; it is also immediately its loss. In Individuality it is in itself; and, because of the manner in which it is in itself, it becomes external to itself and enters into actuality. Abstraction is the soul of Individuality, and, as such, is the relation of negative to negative; and it, as has been seen, is not external to the universal and the particular but immanent; and they through it are concrete, content, and individual. And Individuality as this Negativity is determinate determinateness, is distinguishing as such; through this introReflection of distinction it becomes fixed; the determining of the particular takes place only through Individuality, for it is that abstraction which now, as Individuality, is posited abstraction.
I advise you to be in no hurry. Read the passages over and over again, especially the difficult ones. Familiarise yourself with them. There is a great temptation. It is to read these, get only a general idea, and then fasten on to what is familiar – the purely social and political analysis that I make following these technical sections. If you do that you will never learn to handle the Logic. Work at these technical passages for what they teach but also as exercises, until they sink in, and you begin to think in those terms.
We now have to do one last passage from this Introduction to the Notion. Do not be misled by my hopping and skipping and jumping as I have to do, into forgetting that the internal consistency, the structural logic of the logic itself is marvellous. Development into development, in general, then split into its parts, and the development of the first gone over again, but now at a higher level and a deeper penetration, to explode, leap into something higher, whereupon the old processes gain new depths, etc. This is precisely logic. It is not life, i.e. history. And only when logic is a logical, impeccable movement, can you then deal with the innumerable manifestations of life. This I can only mention and motion to here and there in passing. But to demonstrate that, no, not me.
So before he ends the Notion in general, Hegel goes back to something which has always concerned him. He began it in the Doctrine of Being – Quality – with the real infinite and the dead infinite. He went back at it in the Doctrine of Essence in Ground, and the Being or not-Being of the Finite as the basis of Ground. Now he has shown us how the Universal takes a particular from in the Particular and becomes concrete in the Individual- You cannot understand the Individual unless you see it as a concreting of the Universal, and positing further abstraction of the Universal because from it the Universal will find the basis of still further abstractions. For the Individual is going to move on. Now:
The individual, then, as self-relating negativity, is immediate selfidentity of the negative; it is-for-self. In other words it is abstraction which determines the Notion, according to its moment (which is of ideal nature) of Being, as immediate. Thus the individual is a qualitative One or This.
He takes it back to quality, the Doctrine of Being. Now remember your Doctrine of Being:
According to this quality it is, first, self-repulsion, by which process the many other Ones are presupposed; and secondly, it is negative relation against these presupposed others; and, in so far, the individual is exclusive.
But – as Rosa Luxemburg used to write – attention! Universality must watch its relation to these concrete Ones. Universality is a moment of the concrete, the Individual. But it is not merely an element of the Individual.
If by the universal is meant that which is common to more than one individual, then the beginning is being made from their indifferent persistence, and the immediacy of Being is mixed with the determination of the Notion. The lowest possible image of the universal in its relation to the individual is this external relation of it as a mere common element.
You say that whatever form a concrete workers' state may take, it is distinguished always by nationalised property. It is the lowest possible form of the Universal. The rest of the section takes this up in detail. Hegel, particularly here in the Notion, insists that Individuality is posited “not in the external but in a notional distinction” – nationalised property is to be seen in the light of your notion of what socialism is. Don't do that. Don't make the mistake of taking this concrete, this merely common persistent element as the Universal! You then will, as sure as day, end by making it all your notion. Then you say: the world has now reached a stage where capitalism can no longer continue. From this you say that this economy must obviously be nationalised and planned. You then say that if the Russian bureaucracy continues for a long time, after the war, it is obviously the precursor of a new ruling class. Then we have to agree that the Marxist expectation of socialism is a Utopia. That is where you land in thought and we are dealing with thought. That Trotsky as an individual would have thrown himself on the side of the masses and would have repudiated pessimism and defeatism in the heat of the class struggle, that we haven't to argue about. But the whole methodology had within it the destruction of the basis on which he stood. For he stated most precisely that the Russian bureaucracy would restore private property. So that although the time of its continuance is not too important (the world situation being what it is) the obvious determination of the bureaucracy to maintain nationalised property and fight another world war for it, this, eats at the heart of those who insist on carrying on Trotsky's method. He made a finite into an infinite. He took the being of the finite and made it into an Absolute. He took a moment of the Universal, and made it into the Universal itself. Whence these tears. Hegel is not finished with this by the way. In his last section of the Idea of Cognition, he takes this finite and finite, being and not-being of the Absolute, common persistence in the Notion and finally lays it to rest in a masterly display on the Definition. But I can tell you in advance that I shall leave out the Definition. Too much is involved.
And now before we go on, do me a little favour, friends. Just sit down and read this whole previous section over. No? OK. As Marx said in the last paragraph of the Critique of the Gotha Programme, do what you like now. I have saved my own soul.
Contents | Hegel on the Notion | next excerpt