The general views of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on what they have called “historical materialism” have found a large number of adherents and commentators throughout the world. Their views, however, were never systematically and thoroughly organized but were permitted to be issued more than a hundred years ago in rather scattered fragments over a period of about forty years. It is surely time that revolutionary thinkers become more clear about the philosophy of dialectical materialism, as Lenin later called it, and worked out a more systematic and organized body of philosophical thought.
First, let us keep clearly in mind what we ought to mean by the word “philosophy". All sorts of statements are commonly made using this much abused term, such as:
“My philosophy is: Always tell the truth!”
"Osteopaths have a different philosophy from allopaths.”
"The Christian philosophy is: Place your faith in Jesus.” etc.
In these statements the term “philosophy” may well be replaced by such terms as attitude, bias, opinion, principle, policy, general position, or any number of similar expressions.
Some people are called philosophers because they speculate about god and devil, soul over body, spirit over flesh, mind over matter, pure reason versus practical reason, name versus thing, etc. Included among these speculators are such well-known “heroes” as Plato, Kant, Hegel, Hume, Bergson, and innumerable religious dreamers all spinning out word-webs of different sorts. Often the more unintelligible and obfuscating abstruse they are the more they are considered “profound” philosophers.
Such cannot be the content of philosophy in the twentieth century. Philosophy must not be separated from science. Philosophy is not metaphysics; it is not religion; it is not logomachy. It can not be divorced from the nature of the world around us.
Perhaps, because of the historic distortions and confusions provided by the many meanings given to the term “philosophy”, this term should be thrown out of our vocabulary as the poison of ruling class apologists. If, however, we agree to keep the term philosophy, we should give it only one meaning: The organization of the most general, the most fundamental ideas underlying all of science itself. If you do not base yourself on science, you cannot be a philosopher. The so-called philosophers who have not done this should be considered metaphysicians, or ideologists of all sorts, but not philosophers.
Philosophy is not a “party” affair, it is not a class affair, for social classes to accept at their convenience. What is true is that this or that class, or party, tends to formulate an ideology that represents its basic interests. For example, the revolutionary sections of the working class, fighting for power and utterly conscious of the reality of their lives, accept a materialism that explains their role as the real creators of wealth and the eventual inheritors of the earth and all the riches in it, while their class enemies accept ideas of god, luck, free will and other fantasies as the basis of their power. For the revolutionary thinkers of the working class, scientific materialism becomes its dominant philosophy; for the rulers, scientific materialism is anathema.
We may say, in passing, that by the term “class” here is meant a definite social entity having the following qualifications:
1. It is bound to the productive process. It is not a class if it is not so bound.
2. It is made up of individuals with common interests.
3. It may be divided into any number of sections each having its own separate sectional interests, but these sectional interest can not be considered the interests of a class unless they are basic to those of the entire class.
4. A class must be conscious of its need for political power. For example, a strike of a few or many workers, even a general strike by all the workers in a nation, is not a class action unless these workers are conscious of their role as a class to seize power.
5. If workers do not propose to act to seize general State power they are not acting as a class. It is those workers who consciously move to seize State power as a class to whom scientific materialism most appeals and by whom it is best accepted.
A working class that is class-conscious must see its role as that of seizing power all over the world, taking in national sections of the working class in every country. In this sense class-consciousness has not yet achieved realization anywhere.
It has been said that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary party, that is, a political party capable of overthrowing a ruling class by revolution and holding State power. It would be even truer to say that without revolutionary practice there is neither revolutionary theory nor a revolutionary party. Basically, it is practice that gives rise to the theory, not the reverse, though both are intimately intertwined. Practice educates men to comprehend appropriate theory.
Since philosophy is based on science, we must now ask ourselves what is science? Science is the organization of verifiable data provided by the forces of nature all about us, including those that operate within us. Science may be said to consist of a method as well as a content. The method generally includes observation, experimentation, analysis, synthesis, and the organization of the material of the universe as we find it. The content consists of the arranged information thus obtained under the given circumstances.
The observations and experimentations of science are often clumsy and faulty. These defects science is constantly striving to remedy, especially through advanced techniques that provide ever more refined instrumentation for observation, experimentation, measurement, and evaluation.
Science is continuously moving the unknown into the world of the known; it is unceasingly changing constants into variables; it is constantly exposing being as becoming; it is forever dealing with change and movement in time and space.
Similarly, the organization of the information is constantly being modified. There are no longer rigid logic-tight compartments dealing with matter and motion, with quantity and quality, with positive and negative, with physics and with chemistry, with the living and the non-living; with life and death, with animal and vegetable, with the human being and his environment, with mind and body, with freedom and necessity, etc.
What has become clear to us is that while the forces within us and around us are constantly changing and evolving, we ourselves, in order to understand these changes, by virtue of the obtuse mechanisms by which we operate, must “stop to think”, and thus, since nature never stops, we are always out of date and out of tune. In this sense, while man is part of nature, his sense of perception, his ideations, and his ratiocinations never really accurately reflect nature. He is always living in the past. Even so, science saves him from insanity.
If philosophy is based on science, science, in turn, is based on the premise of materialism—namely, that all exists is matter in motion of which materially we, the thinkers and reasoners, are a part. Such questions as: Did man exist before the world? or Did mind exist before matter? or Is there a god (and his host of archangels, angels, cherubim, saints, devils, etc?) are all ridiculous products of rulers quite capable of sacrificing their gullible victims.
Of course, we can organize all sorts of fantastic ideas and give them names ending in “-ology”, or “-osophy” so as to make them look “scientific” but, unless they deal with the materiality of the universe in a verifiable way, they are only pseudo-sciences. Among such fantasies are such terms as astrology, necromancy, metaphysics, theosophy, demonology, and such. It is true, of course, that religionists or metaphysicians may also be scientists in this or that limited field. Such contradictions are found everywhere. These do not contradict the fact that science, as such, has nothing to do with their religion, or with their metaphysical speculations. Furthermore, scientists may pursue their fields of research so terrorized by ruling class, by State, and by Church as to refuse to follow the conclusions of their science so that they may continue to live comfortably or to pursue their work.
While there is a very necessary interconnection between the theoretical investigations of science and the technology and practical techniques of arts, crafts, and skills, basically, theory is the product of technology, and technology is the product of technique as developed by the praxis, by the experience, by the trial and error of artists, craftsmen, and others working to sustain and to improve their lives. Thus a slave-holding or feudal society with relatively poor techniques could not possibly advance learning as much as a mercantile society with more advanced technique; or a mercantile society as much as a capitalist society; or a capitalist society as much as a socialist one.
The fact that science deals with specific and concrete situations does not at all mean that it is barred from generalities and even from abstractions. The generalities arise from a great mass of concrete data that tend to show trends, valid as long as the circumstances giving rise to them hold true. The abstractions, such as are treated in mathematics, for example, may be useful hypotheses for further concrete advances or useful methods for measuring real bodies or things.
Neither generalizations nor abstractions are part of nature, but are rather part of our nature. The generalizations are our generalizations; the abstractions are our abstractions; the so-called laws of science are our laws of our science. The truth in them is our truth. Truth is our realization that our ideas and thoughts truly, or really, reflect the occurrences of the world around us and of which we are a part.
This does not mean that truth is but opinion, or that truth is individual, each one being entitled to call truth whatever he believes. Truth must be tied up with objective events outside of us. It is true if it is verified as corresponding to the events of nature in a given space-time frame of reference.
Nor does it mean that truth is eternal or unchanging. Truth may explain events within one framework of reference and may be error when applied to another framework. As events change, so does truth; and truth, held too long, or in a different frame of reference, must become error.
The science that traditionally had dealt most with abstractions is mathematics which treats not only of numerals or quantitative measurements, but deals also with such abstractions as point, line, planes (such as square, triangle, and circle), as well as solids and parameters. Of course, any item not a solid, or a body, is unreal. Points, lines (straight, angular, curved), circles, and planes do not exist by themselves in nature. They are mental constructs with distinguished characteristics or functions of real bodies or events and which, when abstractly considered, can tell us more about these bodies or events. The constructions formed in our thinking by reasoning (ratiocination, rationalization), by ideation, or by consciousness are only reflections of the forces around us.
It seems that for the human mind to understand the forces of nature, all realities have to be distorted as images. Images do not exist in themselves but are the mere reflections of objects. They are part of materiality only as the object on which the reflection appears is material, similar to the way the rays of light emitted from a star or reflected from an object impinge upon the sensory organs of the viewer.
As mere reflections, images have no history, no evolution, but merely change. Such an image is thought. If by the term history we mean not the written record made by man but evolutionary development made in time, ideas have no history and no development. It is the human who evolves and develops, and as he does so he may change his ideas as the stimuli around him impinging on his neural system induce him to change in order for him to survive and develop. Such translations of the work of Marx entitled “The History of the Theories of Surplus Value” should be entitled instead “The Written Record of the Theories of Surplus Value” so as not to imply “The Evolution of the Theories of Surplus Value.”
The term materialism as a system of ideas can also have no evolution or development but can change only with the persons creating these systems. The term dialectical materialism is consistent since both terms refer to mental constructions. The term dynamic materialism would be inappropriate since ideas have no dynamism.
Outside of us are real bodies and forces impinging on us on all sides; inside of us we have only impressions and ideas about these forces coming to us by way of our neural mechanisms developed over eons of time to allow humans to survive and develop. All these impressions we must symbolize. The chief function of thinking seems to be symbolization; the chief end of thinking seems to be the correlation of symbol to reality so as to provide a basis for survival and growth of the thinking organism. Language as a means of communication of ideas is symbolization often several times removed through ideation, encoding, reception, decoding, translation, transliteration and recoding.
Outside of us everything is discrete, concrete, and simultaneous; inside of us we treat things through symbols placed in order and dealt with in sequence, seriatim, one symbol (or a few) at a time, one idea (or a few) at a time, through language. The number of sensations we can integrate into perception and be aware of is relatively few.
If we wish to be conscious, or aware of anything, we must break down our referent into appropriate parts and study the relation of each part to the whole, removing disturbing influences from our thoughts so that we may concentrate. The construction of what is whole and what is part is entirely ours to enable us to understand better what is going on. In the meantime, in dynamic nature, all is changing, each part within itself, each part to every other part, each part to a changing whole and their myriad mutual relationship.
It is because of the inner necessity of man to stop, to pause, to take things in order, to have priorities, to choose, etc., that purpose, the interrelationship of means and ends, of methods and goals, becomes developed. In nature there is no purpose but only cause and effect. All this shows why the abstract symbol of “point” is so important for us. For man, “point” means top, pause, position, beginning, and end. In nature there is no point, no stop, no beginning, no end. The forces of nature act as one continuum, while our own entity is mortal and ephemeral.
We can do nothing without taking a “position”, or “point of reference” or “standpoint” or “viewpoint". For us what is objective must first become transformed into the subjective. But this does not mean that the objective (distorted by us subjectively, independent and outside of us) is but a poor reflection of the subjective. The fact that nature is independent of us does not mean that we are not interdependent with nature.
We become aware of nature through our sense and sensations. But this does not mean that nature exists only through our sensations and therefore truth is mere subjectivity, not at all an approximation of reality.
Praxis, or practices, is not the same as experience. Experience may be said to be the best teacher, but experience must be based on the praxis of nature to be checked for truth. The experience of mankind is not needed for nature to function, but nature is needed for experience to function. The praxis of nature goes on whether we experience it or not.
Would there be light if there were no eyes to see it? No, there would be rays of particles moving in flows from the sun, but there would be no “light” since “light” is the result of these rays impinging on eyes. Would there be sound if there were no ears to hear. No, there would be movements of the air but no “sound” since “sound” is the result of these waves striking on ear drums. We must not confuse our neural sensations with the forces of nature giving rise to these sensations.
As in the case of the abstraction “point” so in the case of the abstraction “line” used symbolically in mathematics. Line is but the extension of a point in any direction. Of course, there are no “lines” as such in nature, just as there are no “points".
But just as point is needed in thinking to show position, so line is useful to show limitation. The limits of objects we mark by lines in order to learn roughly the dimensions of objects. If we draw a piece of coal, our lines causing the coal to stand out from its background would be very rigid and straight. In nature, however, the limits of the coal would be very fuzzy as all sorts of chemicals and atmospheric reactions would be taking place affecting the coal or disintegrating it.
The line may also symbolize direction, or the trajectory of bodies in motion. Of course, there are no straight lines in nature, since nothing in nature moves in a straight line as delineated by us. The straight line must symbolize at best only extended position; it is the curved line alone that can adequately symbolize a body in motion. Pieces of metal fired from a gun tumble, bullets fired by a rifle rotate; both oscillate in flight. The trajectory of the flight will be curved as part of a spherical shape.
On the human side, the straight line represents death or stillness. It spells rigor mortis, it represents potential energy. If the line is angular it simply represents uneven strain on the dead supporting parts. In the course of time the kinetic strains break the dead limbs which in time return to the curvaceous form as they become part of the dynamic forces of nature again. Bodily movement must always be curvaceous.
If it is the curved line that is of major symbolic importance to man, it is not only in the form of the circle or ellipse but also in the form of a spiral where it appears as most significant to humankind. It is true that the circle is the feature marking the sphere, the globe, the globule, the particle, the body in motion, with kinetic force manifesting action and reaction, but it does not symbolize bodies evolving, developing with dynamic force. This latter activity, where the movement is in one direction only and cannot by made reversible is best symbolized by the spiral, by the helix, or by similar formations. Bodies are not only in continuous motion, they are also in continuous evolution; they are not only spherical in shape but spiral in direction.
Basic to an understanding of nature is not merely its materiality but its infinite differentiation. Similarity may exist but not identity. There is a law of individuality in nature (not to be confused with individualism). No matter how poorly our sensations may react to our environment we are aware of our difference from our environment, which awareness is the product of the eons of time in which our entity, our organism, evolved to where it is at present.
With an awareness of differentiation comes an awareness of the fact that to us the universe is not one piece but a total of many parts. How that total is constructed and of how many parts is another matter, but parts and whole do exist and with this differentiation of self and non-self appears the concept of number: one and many, quantity and sequence, addition and subtraction, something and nothing, ratio and proportion, and all the other abstractions which mark the ordinary field of mathematics.
Quantity is a fact of nature; how we quantify, measure, calculate, and reckon is our peculiarity. We could not be aware of one if we were not aware of two. No one thing exists alone. No one idea is in our mind alone. All thinking must embrace contrast and comparison. In contrast we emphasize the differences while assuming the similarity; in comparison we emphasize the similarity while assuming the differences.
The primary arithmetical processes are addition and subtraction. Of course, in a world of given materiality one cannot add in one place without subtracting in another. If 1 plus 1 equals 2 (1 + 1 = 2), it is only another aspect of the fact that 2 minus 1 equals 1 (2—1 = 1). In short, addition must go with subtraction and vise versa.
But this is a static and unreal condition. In reality 1 plus 1 never equals 2 for if we add we must add two things qualitatively alike (1 apple plus 1 apple equals 2 apples), but, as we have pointed out, each particle in nature is individually different from every other particle. “We” is not the plural of “I” because there can by only one “I". It might be more realistic to say one part plus one part merge into a greater unity or entity (1 + 1 = 1). Or we can say 1 plus 1 equals zero, (1 + (-1) = 0), where each part cancels each other. In short, in reality, 1 plus 1 is more or less one (1 + 1 ≠ 1; 1 = ≠ 1; 1 ≠ 1). In language this concept is covered by the existence of the generic and of the collective nouns. All entities may be considered collectives.
If we add or subtract, it is because we adopt a “position”, a “point” which we may call “zero” from which we take our direction. Here is where we separate “positive” from “negative". How appropriate to call our “point of view” zero! Zero, of course, is nothing. No thing is nothing. Nothing is simply the absence of every thing and that is impossible. The symbol zero (0), at least, is attached to our materiality and marked by a rim, a border, a circumference, supposedly surrounding a “void” or “empty space” (whatever that may be).
The opposite of zero is infinity (∞ ). If zero is starting point before the beginning, infinity is endless with no limit. Both are artificial constructs. If zero is added or subtracted to what we’ve got, we remain just where we started. With infinity, however, we never know where we are since admittedly the limit is beyond our finite ken.
Quantity, then, is not primarily a characteristic of a thing but a relation of one thing to another, a relation of part to the whole. In this respect quantity is to be differentiated from quality. The qualities of a thing are what mark it off from every other thing. Bourgeois scientists love to call the qualities of a thing by the term “properties"; for example they may talk of the specific physical properties of calcium chloride, or potassium phosphate. It seems scientists under bourgeois rule must endow everything with “property"; each thing having its own “property". Strange how all things must have “properties” while many human beings are without any property!
Ah, but humans have property! We say: The worker has two hands—in fact, that is what he is often called, a “hand"; in the same way the employer has a head—and is often so called; similarly the negro male slave used as a stud in Virginia plantations had a penis, and this property was rented out. Would it not be infinitely truer to say that arms and head and penis, etc., are the qualities of the human male? Why must we use the verb to have instead of the verb to be in designating the qualities or characteristics of anything? In time, dear reader, capitalism, or private property, will not always be so ubiquitous.
It is true that possession and personality are inextricably intertwined. Our environment, including our possessions, tend to mold us and affect our personalities. We say we are cold and we have a cold; we are going and we have gone; we are foot-sore and we have a foot-ache. But we cannot maintain that such statements are scientifically accurate.
One point of importance in dealing with every-day speech is that it reflects “common sense” rather than science. Science starts from common sense but soon goes so far beyond it as its techniques are refined that each may appear fantastic to the other.
When the qualities of separate things differ markedly we give separate names to designate them. This has led some metaphysical speculators to ask: Since the qualities of a body differ and may change, what is the thing “itself"? The qualities are phenomenal and noted by our senses, but the thing “itself”, the “noumenon” existing “under” the phenomenon, isn’t that a different matter? Does not science simply deal with “aspects” of matter, while matter itself is beyond science and belongs to god, ideas, metaphysics and speculation? (What is metaphysics but the apology for the priest!)
The bodies around us appear in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, physical qualities, actions, and functions. The sum total of these qualities and functions is what designates the body in question. In grammar this may be translated to mean that the noun is nothing but the sum total of adjectives we may apply to the noun.
Indeed all of language is dominated by the adjective, as can be seen by the analysis of the verb. In the sentence “Boy loves girl,” for example, the verb “love” shows the boy is a loving boy and the girl is a beloved girl. The verb then is an adjective that modifies both subject and object describing mainly function rather than quality.
The more we know the qualities and functioning of a thing the more we know the thing itself. We cannot know all because that would take limitless capacity and limitless time, but we can and do constantly improve our knowledge. In the progress of science we have come to learn of infinitely small particles composing all bodies: such as protons, electrons, neutrons, mesons, photons, etc., but we learn of them only through their functioning and their qualities pertaining to those functionings.
Incidentally, as bodies change their functioning they change their qualities of features which are products of these functionings. Basically, structure follows function, not the reverse. Structure is the dependent variable, function the constant or independent variable. Similarly, organization, or arrangement is a dependent variable of mass.
But although function determines organization, or structure, we must remember function is a characteristic of matter, the mass of which may be equated to its energy and velocity. Matter functions while function matters.
In another way this is like saying quality is a function of quantity. We have already noted that quantity is a relation between things as parts are related to whole. The parts and the whole change as their quantitative relations change and these changes are noted as changes in qualities. Science has already discovered that adding one tiny electron to an atom will change completely the functioning and so the characteristics of that atom.
Here we have the scientific basis for the defense of the dialectic as an explanation of the mode of thinking that truly reflects the dynamics of nature. Nature itself has no dialectic, it has only constant change. The dialectic (in which as soon as we are aware of anything we are aware of its opposite or contrast, only to fuse this concept into a new all embracing entity that continuously goes through the same cycle) was held to be the true method of philosophical reflection of the forces of nature by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In this method there is always a position, an opposition, and a composition which in turn becomes a new position. In the words of Hegel there exists in thought only thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
All this is true enough and is especially fitting for revolutionists who wish to overthrow capitalism and construct out of it a new social order—socialism. But by itself such a dialectic is incomplete.
Science is too obtuse to detect qualitative change in each addition or subtraction of quantity no matter how small. Change in quantity may be so minimal that it is not the contrast but the similarity with the preceding situation that is important to be noted. Change is modification, but not every change, not every modification need be stressed as antithesis. It is only when enough quantitative changes have been added that qualitative change can be verified. When looked at closely, revolution is the antithesis or opposite of evolution. From afar, from a historic perspective, revolution may be considered only part of a larger more embracing evolutionary process.
A position is not merely a break from the past, a discontinuity, but also is connected with the past, in continuity with the past. We have not only contrasts but comparisons. We have not only differences but similarities. It may take some time before a scientist’s position may give way to opposition and later composition. In short, the dialectic method is appropriate whenever we consider quantity having qualitative effects; otherwise we should consider continuous changes as modifications. Our evaluation is that Marx and Engels were too overwhelmed by Hegel to have been entirely scientific. After all, Hegel’s metaphysical and unscientific idealism should not have been considered so entirely divorced from his dialectical methodology to have allowed that methodology to be considered completely scientific. Hegel was not such a split personality as his Marxist followers would have us believe and if they attacked his idealism they might have tried to connect that idealism also with his dialectic.
Among the basic data given us by science are space and time, as well as matter and motion. These are all closely interconnected as the facts of nature. No more than matter and motion, neither space nor time are figments, or inventions, of our imagination. If we doubt that space exists independent and outside of our thoughts, all we need to do is to step off the roof of a tall building. This will silence our doubts and our thoughts.
One thing we know about space is that all bodies occupy and have been given three dimensions: length, or extension in one direction, right or left; height (or depth) or extension up (or down); and width, or extension forward or backward. Bodies having these dimensions not only occupy space, they are forms of limited space, they are space delineated by us.
But what about space supposedly not enclosed by limits, is it a void without body? Is it limitless or infinite without end? We have already stated that just as subtraction is another form of addition and that the negative is another form of the positive from a different “position”, so space may also be considered a “body". If a body is limited space, space is limited by bodies within it or part of it and may be considered the remained existing after we have subtracted the bodies in space. In this connection, when we speak about space being unlimited, we mean that our finite mind cannot go beyond a certain point to find its limits. We stop at our limit but with the understanding that all science is concerned with problems of limits.
There is really no valid reason to reject the concept that space itself is a body, not a void, a body so “thin” that our poor instrumentation can not measure it, and so bodies such as sun rays, X-rays, and such may move in its ambiance without any hindrance from space, so far as we can now measure. Perhaps it is better to conceive bodies not so much penetrating space as being enveloped by space, as being part of space, the grandest and master body of all! If “bodies” are nodes or rythms, space may be constructed without nodes, space is rhythm without periodicity the reverberations of which give us time.
Whatever may be the conclusions of science on this matter, we do not intend at all to pontificate. We make no pretence of knowing the “last word” on scientific progress. Whatever conclusions on space may be valid, what we wish to emphasize here is that space itself in all its manifestations is part of the materiality of nature.
We may note, in passing, that “dimension” is irrevocably bound up with “direction". In nature, just as there is no point or line, so there is no direction. The principal directions marked North, East, South, West, and their modifications do not exist in nature but are all inventions for our convenience as we take up “position".
We cannot comprehend body or mass without motion. That all is change is a fundament of science and is also at the very basis of our consciousness. We could not know matter without its functionings, activities, motions, movements. It is not merely that mass is in motion, mass is interchangeable with motion, with energy, as Albert Einstein has so dramatically shown. But if mass may be equated to energy this does not mean that “matter has appeared”, but rather that mass and energy are two aspects of the same objective materiality verifiable in nature and independent of our wishful thinking trying to prove soul has conquered flesh, god is supreme, mind is superior to matter, or all the other trash the rulers of our society want us to believe, in proportion as they themselves pretend to represent soul, god, and mind and the workers flesh, sin, and matter.
If mass may be equated with energy, mass may be equated with rhythm. Change, and motion, and all activity has come to be measured in time. That time exists independent of us is sadly known to all us aging mortals. Time is measured by motion in space just as motion is sequence in time. The motion measuring time is periodic motion, or rhythm, even if these “periods” are not too well known to us and seem asymetrical. The motions may be the periodic rotation of the earth on its axis, the oscillations of the earth around the sun, or the sun in its galaxy, or the galaxy in relation to other galaxies, or the distance travelled by light in a given time period. In all these cases time is intertwined with space as velocity is intertwined with mass and energy.
And how often do we hear time measured in spatial terms, such as: “within the space of a week”, “The days lengthened into months"; “within this frame of time”, etc.
Every body on this earth has weight, but weight is a force, an energy that is proportional to its mass and its gravity acceleration. There may be body without weight not because there is no body but because there is no gravity acceleration, as the astronauts constantly demonstrate. Again, the weight may be so minimal that mass may be practically measured as energy showing itself only for the slight nanasecond when it collides and extinguishes another body as an “anti-body". For mass to travel at the speed of light it must be reduced to the mass of a particle of light and thus practically to become energy.
And just as mass can equal energy, space-time may be considered one unity in which duration plays a role in time as dimension in space; and sequence in time as direction in space. Velocity is a concept that includes the period for a body to traverse a given space. By “period”, in time, is meant the same as “line” in space. It marks the limits, the interval between periodic cycles of motion or rhythm.
It is thanks to time sequence that we can obtain knowledge of cause and effect or the relationship of one event to another. The effect of one event is the cause of another. Causes are caused by other causes; effects are affected by other effects. Actually there is no one cause or one effect, but there exist many simultaneous events acting as causes for many other events which we label effects. And the causes may be so intertwined with the effects as practically to reverse the process, the effect becoming the cause and the cause the effect. The best science can do in the nexus of cause and effect is to find the most salient event in the time sequence that would lead to the most salient effect.
In the analysis of cause and effect all preconditions must be considered causes to an event and all past conditions effects. A precondition to the existence of a tree obviously is the existence of the earth. We cannot ignore the earth and a host of similar factors in considering the tree and its coming into existence. So with all things as well.
But it is not true that we must always precede from cause to effect, from past to present, to get the truth. On the contrary, it is our understanding of the present, or what we consider the present, that enables us to understand the past. The pre-conditions preceding us have evolved into conditions now within our ken. Going from the past to what we consider the present is not going from the known to the unknown but rather is going form one variable to another variable far more pertinent to us. In the so-called present we are in an environment of which we are an integral part. We understand the old from our knowledge of the new.
Of course, this does not at all mean that we need ignore the past, but rather that we can not ignore our duty to concentrate on the present. We can only understand the past, but it may become our necessity to change the present. The old is not as important to us as the new.
We traditionally label time as past, present, and future, or as categories roughly marked as preceding our time, during our time, and following our time. But past time is conceived by us only as past events, occurrences or happenings involving items in a restricted portion of space-time. We can not conceive of past time by itself. These past events continue to evolve, however, and have their effects in the present. The present, however, strictly speaking, is the most ephemeral moment in which the evolving forces press on to our consciousness (but always belatedly) so that the present represents a continuum from the past rather than any given period of time. The moment an event happens, at that millisecond it has already happened and only several milliseconds later do we learn that it has happened (is happening). By means of analyzing the process of events in the immediate past-present, we may be able roughly to anticipate trends and events to come. This past-present anticipation we call the “future.”
There is no given future as fact. And grammarians err when they make the future a tense and not a mood or aspect. In language, the future merely represents a present statement of intention, determination, obligation, or prediction of events to come, and really belongs to the subjunctive mood of wish, uncertainty, doubt, and fear.
While all this is true so far as we subjectively are concerned, yet the science that tells us matter cannot be created or destroyed, thereby also tells us that the future as events and evolution to come, is just as solidly based as the past. The events of the past, modified and changed as they evolve, must continue into the time following. The materiality of the past is not extinguished into fancy in the present, or following the present. Man is mortal but events in time-space are eternal.
This does not mean that we can necessarily prognosticate the near future by even a close scanning of the trends of the near past, or the past present. In between the past and the future stands the present, including elements unpredictable to us and appearing to us as luck, accident, chance, fortuitous circumstances in an “open” world.
For us, the world is “open” to luck and chance not only because the limits of the universe and its events are far beyond our finite limitations, and so unpredictable to us, but also because our actions cannot be entirely automatic. In our consciousness there is a little fact mixed with a lot of fiction. Our mostly insane behavior may be motivated accordingly. And as we behave, we help change the world around us as we act and react and interact with it.
The past is beyond change. In the past are only events. The present is full of events. Here events are the sign of change. The future waits on the changes of the present before it can become fact.
In our ratiocinations we stand in great danger of error when we abstract features and think of them standing alone. We may consider the simple easy and the complex more difficult to understand; but even if the simple precedes the complex, the simple may come into prominence only after its complex form has fully evolved. Labor power existed before commodity production in society but it was only under a fully developed commodity producing system that the simple fact of labor power being a commodity came to be discovered and analyzed. Commodities existed before capitalism, but only under fully developed capitalism was it discovered how commodities became capital.
It is not that the specific is easier to understand than the general or that the concrete is simpler than the abstract. Quite the contrary is the case. That underdeveloped man, or a baby, concentrates on the specific and the concrete rather than the general or the abstract is true enough, but this is due not because of their having the luxury of a choice but because of their necessity to survive.
The generalization or the abstraction, precisely because it is our formulation, is artificially stripped of a great deal of content. Reality is always infinitely detailed and specific; truth must recognize the deficiencies of human analysis and reasoning. The metaphysicians’s statement that “only the general is true” should be placed under the religionist’s plea that “god is all in all.”
Growth, development, and evolution are especially important to the complex living organism, particularly the human. In a way the growth of a living organism resembles disintegration, and indeed involves disintegration, as the growth of a cancer cell disintegrates the body of its host. A one-celled organism in its growth may eventually multiply by division, one cell becoming two. This differs from disintegration is that in growth the two parts continue to grow, as its antecedent did, into a unity like its antecedent, whereas in disintegration each part breaks up the former whole or unity. In disintegration the total mass and energy has not been increased but merely scattered into its environment. In the case of the cells, the mass and energy of the new cells augment the original quantities of these factors at the expense of its environment. And this is true whether by the binary fission the two cells are apart from each other or whether they have become fused into a greater entity.
Death resembles disintegration although the term “death” should be applied only to a complex entity, the cellular parts of which continue to live long after the entity as a whole is considered “dead". In their common atomic components there is no differentiation between the “living” and the “non-living” just as in their common molecular cellular structure there is no differentiation between plant or animal or between the microbe and man.
Behind the binary fission and cell reproduction stands the nutritional system of the cell. By means of this system the organism extracts elements from its environment, ingests and absorbs them as nutrients, and transforms them as nourishment, increasing the mass and energy of the cell. At a given point, the mass and energy so produced become too great for the cell to contain under the given circumstances. Instead of bursting its wall and disintegrating, the cell, after long evolution, developed through its complicated system of chromosomes a method of division into two equal parts, later into unequal parts each bearing a definite relation to the whole, and then into greater and greater integrated complexes until man is evolved who can observe, experiment, be aware of and reason about all these processes. In any case, it is nourishment, food in its broadest sense, that stands behind reproduction, sexual or not.
Naturally, for humans, if there is no nourishment there is no growth, no reproduction, but only death. This nourishment must be obtained from the environment and as the organisms evolve into more developed entities their methods to secure this nourishment becomes ever more effective. Life, then, begins as interaction with its environment to secure what life needs for survival and growth. Ecology is at the basis of biology.
Aggregation and congregation become proven methods for survival and development and eventually take the form of the herd, the horde, the social entities of family, clan, tribe, nation, etc. Man is the product of his social order and owes his superior development to it. Only the insane ruler, capitalist, or oppressor fails to recognize that his power derives from his social order and must, in the long run, be responsive to the needs of his society.
The emergence of man through his society greatly improves his relationship to nature, his nourishment, his effective reproduction, his capacity, his capability, his ability, his intellect, his intelligence. All these are marked by his invention of tools and instruments, by his discoveries of resources and raw materials.
Thanks to his more effective techniques, man is able to domesticate animals, to accumulate wealth, to develop agriculture and industry. And with this comes greater power to dominate others, to enslave others, to form ruling castes and classes that exploit and oppress others. In short, with the development of man’s productive abilities, came the rise of the State, with its tyrants, its slave-holders, its barons, its kings and emperors, its capitalist covert dictatorship, its capitalist open dictatorship, its managerial and bureaucratic centrist controls.
Thanks to ever-growing technology and techniques, each reinforcing the other, every social system develops its own internal antagonisms where the old class order gives way (by crash or by infiltration) to the new until at last all classes will become intolerable and a purposeful truly social order is introduced which will end man’s multiple alienation from himself and from other men and merge into a world brotherhood.
It is technique and technology that determine our ecological efficacy and are at the basis of our production. It is our mode of production that determines our productive relations which in turn form the basis of our superstructural social and legal relations, all reflected by our consciousness and giving rise to all sorts of theories.
As an illustration of these relations we give the following schema pertaining to a modern society:
1. The structure deals with the production and distribution of values or commodities and may be divided into the principle branches: industrial, commercial, and financial. The industrial structure, in the broadest sense, consists of such sections as extraction (mining, mineral wells, etc), field products (agriculture, cattle-raising, etc), basic metals, chemicals, transportation and communication, energy and power, machinery and producers goods, construction, production of consumers goods (necessities and luxuries) and various auxiliary pursuits. Similar subdivisions can be made of the commercial and financial branches.
¶2. The substructure is the foundational part of the structure, without which the rest of the structure could not be built. It appears as the production of essential and producers goods. It consists of the wealth of the country and its resources (meteorological characteristics, climate, topographical features, continental shelf, mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, seas, and other bodies of water, metals, minerals, flora, fauna). It also consists of the labor force, including size, distribution, demographic and ethnological features.
3. The infra-structure deals with the ability of the human material, the labor force, to handle and control the subjects and instruments of labor. The physical aspect of the infra-structure which can be called social or public capital consists of such items as highways, schools, sanitation systems, water systems, etc. Infra-structure is concerned with the capability of the people to learn and to communicate arts, skills, crafts, techniques, and training, and includes the area of health (physical, mental, and moral), and language.
4. The superstructure embraces the totality of human relations flowing from the economic structure and includes religion and philosophical views, methods and contents of educational systems, literature and arts, scientific levels and achievements, ethnic and social groupings, trade unions, forms of sports and recreation, social organizations of control, political organizations, military-police systems, government, State, nation, etc.
Theories, ideas, and motivations vary according to the social interests of the class reflecting them. The class that benefits from the system has an interest to maintain it; the class at whose expense the rulers exist must take another position.
Naturally, those who are sufficiently brain-washed to have been allowed to become “professors” in institutions of “learning” will object to this. They wish to pose not as miserable by-products of the class struggle but as leaders of “free thought” and “free will".
Capitalism, as such, is concerned with two basic problems: the increase of profit—and this includes problems of production and circulation of wealth—and social control. Professors of “economics”, “sociology”, “politics”, “history”, “philosophy”, and such, are those primarily concerned with brain-washing for social control. The other professors are allowed to function for the profit of their masters but only if they themselves have first been brain-washed to conclude that they must not challenge the social control of their masters. The “professors” stand at the portals of all important publications, preventing any but members of their own mutual admiration societies from entering their sacred preserves of communications.
As connoted by our schema of social structures given above, there is a close relation between the structure and the superstructure. Basically, the superstructure rests on the structure, just as thinking is fundamentally conditioned by nourishment; but this does not mean that there is no interaction between the two, say, between thinking and doing, between technology and technique, between technology and revolution. On the contrary, there is a very close interaction in each of these cases.
Similarly, there is a close interaction between the productive structure and the infra-structure involving mental development, mental capacity to understand and operate the productive apparatus and its correlative parts. Here it is not a question of intelligence; that is, the mass of information one has absorbed, but of intellectual capacity and ability to meaningfully absorb that mass of information. This capacity and ability may vary with longevity, with experience, with health, with language.
Finally, the infra-structure is intimately connected with superstructural relations. Better mental capability will help avoid or rectify incorrect ideas, just as better ideas may improve health.
The intertwining of thinking and doing, of theory and practice, must not allow us to lose our head as to what is basic and what is secondary in these relationships. Thinking is still the product of the functioning of the brain; the brain remains a product of the functioning of the body, the first need of which is nourishment through the proper relation with its environment.
The interaction between thinking and doing gives the individual person a set of choices, or perspectives, of priorities that in turn sets a purpose to his life. Under these influences he feels that he has “freedom of choice” and “free will". In fact, his will is extremely limited by his environment, and especially by the social structures around him. Necessity, not free will, governs his actions if he wishes to survive. Of course, he can also fulfill his wish to die!
To the individual person a certain illusory freedom exists because to him many events are unpredictable. Chance impels him to choose and this chance is translated as free will. When these choices are considered collectively, however, they readily fall into patterns explainable as part of the structures of our society.
To understand social activities better, we might perhaps accept the aphorism: If we could do what we ought to do, then we would do what we ought not to do (for error is easier and far more ubiquitous than truth); let’s be glad we do what we must do. Ethics, indeed, is no substitute for economics or politics. It can not adequately explain mass social phenomena.
Will we ever be free from necessity? It depends what we mean by “necessity.” In one sense there is no doubt about it, if we consider that man is not only a part of nature but is increasingly controlling nature, modifying it and even creating forms unknown before. As creator, man increasingly replaces god. As purposeful creator, social humankind becomes a part greater than the whole. Teleology will then guide causality; purpose will be superior to chance. Then necessity will give way to freedom.