Header Ads

Header ADS

Quality and the Self Movement of Matter

Prepared by the Leningrad Institute of Philosophy under the Direction of
M. Shirokov 1941

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was no longer possible to see in the workshop of the craftsman and in his manual skill a model of the domination of man over the forces of nature as imagined byDescartes in the seventeenth century. The development of capitalism brought with it a radical upheaval in the entire productive activity of society.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?” Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto.
The dream of the rising bourgeoisie of subduing nature, of making use of the “forces of
fire, water, air, etc.” (Descartes) was coming true in a remarkable degree. However, as often happens the realization was not at all like the anticipation. The new world when revealed to man in his productive action had very little in common with the colourless picture of mechanical nature given by Descartes.
The invention of engines acquainted man with the possibility of converting one form of energy, thermal, electrical, mechanical, chemical, into another, and proved in practice that movement is by no means of the same mechanical pattern as had been represented. The development of chemistry and of chemical production still further displayed the great variety of nature. The possibility of selective breeding, of producing new varieties of plants and animals, had been demonstrated in horticulture and farming. The theory of Darwin, which was largely based on these facts, showed without any of the mystical “vital forces” of mediaevalism that a living organism is not a machine, that vital phenomena can by no means be accounted for by mechanical laws. The earlier social theories had taken the characteristics proper to the individual craftsman type of economy and treated them as the eternal properties of society as such. But new social groups were differentiated as bourgeois production developed and their relations were ever more clearly seen to be the fundamental characteristics of the changed economic and social order.

The world was seen to be much more alive and much more diverse than the mechanists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and their followers thought.

The more fundamental are the changes that we make in things, the more deeply does our knowledge penetrate into their internal nature. The recasting of nature in production is quite distinct from the external action of men on passive inert matter. In the work of a craftsman external mechanical working of the material still predominates, but the chief success of industrialization is due to its exploitation of the forces belonging to nature on a much greater scale than hitherto.
“He (the worker) uses the mechanical, physical, chemical properties of bodies with the view of making them, as forces, act on other bodies in conformity with his own purpose.”*Capital.
The line of the development of production under capitalism is in fact this – the capitalist seeks more and more to replace the labour of the worker by the movements of the material things themselves, the movements of the lifeless means of production.
Reason is just as cunning as it is powerful,” wrote Hegel. “The cunning consists generally of that intervening action which forces objects, in conformity with their own nature, to act on each other and undergo a mental transformation, and while it is not directly involved in that process, none the less attains the realization of its own purpose.”
What under capitalism emerges as the basic means of producing relative surplus value and is therefore always working in a primitive unconscious and somewhat disguised form, now appears in the period of proletarian dictatorship and under socialism as the conscious guiding principle of all society, which, moreover, is liberating itself from the role of a living appendage to a dead machine.

By setting up a dam against the current of a river, we make the latter produce an electric current. The energy of falling water, the chemical energy of solid and liquid fuel convey us in a tramcar or a motor-car, or set factory wheels in motion. The automatization and mechanization of production denote man’s ever increased usage of the forces of nature itself.

Everything in the world – said Descartes – is in mechanical movement. By this he meant that the source of motion is to be found in the forces that mechanically impel a thing from outside. The more developed practice of material production and of class struggle makes evident the activity of things themselves, discloses the changes within them, and reveals their self movement.

The principle of the self movement of matter, as we know from the previous chapter, is one of the basic principles of logical materialism, one of the basic propositions of the dialectical theory of development. The discovery of this principle and its demonstration along the whole line of science and practice puts in quite a new light the problem of our knowledge of reality and our power to change it. The changing of things is by no means the same as the re-combination of things in different variants and proportions, as the mediaeval seeker after gold thought and as the alchemistic “doctors of modern capitalism” also think, nor is it a simple changing of outward relations, as thought and think the mechanists.

In the study of a thing in its changes and also in the changes wrought in it by our practical activities, we must proceed from the thing itself.

The thing itself must be scrutinized in its relations and its development,” wrote Lenin, formulating the first of the three basic elements of dialectic. This thesis was developed in detail by Lenin under the following heads:
(1) objectivity of scrutiny (not examples, not variations, but the thing in itself);
(2) the whole aggregate of the various relations of this thing to others;
(3) the development of this thing (or phenomenon), its proper movement, its characteristic form of life.
The revolutionary practice of the proletariat in contradistinction to utopian socialism is a wide application and development of this principle. All utopianism is metaphysical. Utopians in trying to recast society do not proceed from the development proper to it, or from those motive forces which are created by the capitalist order itself, but from a “good” plan, which (quite fortuitously for society) was devised one fine day by a gifted man. For the realization of their plans the utopians appeal to the representatives of the aristocratic and the bourgeois state and to different members of the exploiting classes, reckoning to evoke in them those philanthropic feelings which by no means flow out of their objective class position.

Their metaphysical and idealistic approach and their lack of contact with the movement of objective actuality make their efforts impotent and ridiculous.

“The objective world pursues its own course,” and human practice which is confronted by this objective world meets difficulties in realizing its aim and even stumbles on impossibilities.
In this state of affairs “the will of man and his own practice hinder the attainment of his aims – because they separate themselves from knowledge and do not acknowledge external actuality as truly existing (as objective truth). We need a union of knowledge and practice” (Lenin).

If our action is not to be without result it must be included in the movement of the object itself. Only by understanding the object in its self-movement can we find the point of departure for changing it.
In this lies the revolutionary force of the theoretical studies of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. The wide range and effectiveness of Stalin’s formulations of practical policy, his directives to the Soviet Government, do not merely express the clash between a revolutionary will and a resistant objective reality as some misguided socialists believe. Stalin always proceeds from a dialectical study of conditions, from an accurate summing up of each new situation, from a careful correlation of class forces. And that is precisely why his utterances show up so mercilessly the blunders of those who are continually advocating capitulation before difficulties; that is why he is able to lay before the Party and the whole mass of workers a wide prospect of successful application of revolutionary creative energy.

The heroes of “left phraseology”* show a utopian approach to actuality. In 1927 the Central Committee of the Party, noting the perspectives of revolutionary movement for the next few years and basing their considerations on the statistics of the growth of world capitalist production, recorded their conviction that there was at that time a period of relative stability in capitalism. This was indeed the case and it was not until 1929 that this period came to its close. Zinoviev was one of those who treated this analysis with contempt. He argued that it was more necessary to gauge the revolutionary spirit of the workers than the world output of coal and iron.
Left phraseology. Lenin exposed those “terribly revolutionary” socialists who refused any kind of compromise, were impatient with the slow-moving masses and talked of immediate revolution in spite of the immaturity of the situation. He further pointed out that their “Leftism” seldom went beyond speech-making. (See Lenin, “Left Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder.)

By closing his eyes to the objective fact of the stabilization of capitalism, Zinoviev supported the German ultra-“lefts,” who were calling for immediate revolutionary action, although at that time the predisposing conditions were insufficient. One can only summon the masses to the barricades when faced by an immediate revolutionary situation, i.e. an extreme degree of economic and political crisis in the old order.
It is impossible to ‘make’ a revolution.... Revolutions grow out of crises and culminations of history that are objectively ripened (i.e. that are independent of party or classes).” Lenin, Collapse of Second International.
Of course a revolution does not come about without the organized activity of a revolutionary class, “the old government does not fall unless it is dropped.” All history is made up of the action of people, but this action is capable of making a revolutionary change only when it reflects the self movement of the social order, the development of objective actuality itself. In all the practice of the proletariat, in all its great and “little” affairs, we find the application and confirmation of the Leninist principle: In knowledge and action we need “an objective scrutiny, not examples, not variations, but the thing in itself”; in knowledge and action is disclosed “the development of this particular thing – its own proper movement, its own life.”

The disclosure of the activity of things, of their self movement, demonstrates that things are by no means fixed and constant as the metaphysicians think and as sometimes seems in experience.
–the great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind-images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end.” Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 54.
In nature there are no unchangeable things, all nature is made up of processes. At first glance this thought seems strange and evokes many doubts. How are we to reconcile this formula of Engels with daily experience in which we deal with objects that are stable and unchanged for our experience? If everything is so absolutely changeable and fluid, how can we find in the world any definite stable differences? If there is no stability then there is no definiteness in any thing. Thus – says the subjective idealist – every definiteness is conditional, it is introduced by our consciousness into the flow of sensations. Our mental equipment makes us interpret sensation complexes in different ways, but all differences and distinctions exist only within our consciousness.

The mechanist, Sarabyanov, reasons in the same way. From absolute fluidity and mutability he deduces the conditionality and subjectivity of every definiteness: “Our relativity is absolute, because all flows and changes; there is no point of rest except as conditioned by us, and of course we are not scared of relativism.” The daring Sarabyanov is not scared of absolute relativism and goes straight to idealistic conclusions – every state of rest, every stability is “conditioned by us,” i.e. by the subject, and therefore all differences too are subjective. The living man, the corpse, death, are processes. In these there is no stability; to distinguish them is only possible conditionally, only by introducing definiteness out of the subject. “Mankind in its practice is conditioned to understand ‘living man’ as a being with one kind of processes, a corpse as a being with another kind of processes.” “Death itself is a conditioned notion,” wrote Sarabyanov in another article.

All these dicta of Sarabyanov are directly connected with his negation of objective truth and are undoubtedly subjective idealism, but are not we ourselves inclining in that direction when we acknowledge all things as a process, are we not pouring water on the idealistic mill of absolute relativism? Not at all! All these subjective conclusions of Sarabyanov flow out of his purely metaphysical approach to the understanding of what comprises the stability of things.

The qualitative differences between the solid, liquid and gaseous states of a substance are perfectly definite, but this definiteness is not a stability of dead rest, as metaphysicians think, but a stability of types of movement, a definiteness of different forms of molecular movement.

Molecules in their turn consist of still smaller particles – atoms, which also are in motion, and atoms consist of constantly moving electrons. And according to the latest theory the electrons themselves are nuclear centres of special wave processes, comparable with those which give us concerts on the wireless, and with those we call light. It appears that at the basis of stable things are to be found wave processes. It is quite clear that science will not remain at this point, that the investigation into the “depth” of matter will go further. But there is no doubt that the discovery of each new qualitatively distinct stage of matter will be, as hitherto, a discovery of a new form of movement.

What is this “movement”? The mechanist, as we know, will say that movement is the displacement of a body in space and that objectively only mechanical displacements exist. It is obvious from what has been said that we disagree with this. The struggle for the mastery of the self-movement of the forces of nature and society (the latter consisting of the class struggles characteristic of the higher stages of social development) have disclosed a whole array of qualitatively unique types of movement, among which mechanical movement is only a very simple form.
Every movement includes in itself mechanical movement and the rearrangement to a greater or lesser degree of the particles of matter. To understand these mechanical movements is the first task of science, but only the first. Mechanical movement by no means exhausts movement in general. Movement is not by any means just a ‘movement,’ a simple change of place, it is in hyper-mechanical realms a change of quality too.”*
Engels, Anti-Dühring.
Movement as applied to matter, is change in general,” which comprises an infinite number of concrete aspects of change.

The movement of molecules in solid, liquid and gaseous bodies does not by any means amount to their simple change of position. This movement is latent heat, which has its qualitatively peculiar laws. The uniting and disuniting of atoms into molecules is a qualitatively unique chemical process. The movement of electrons in a metal wire gives us an electric current. Wave processes in the ether are of an electro-magnetic character.

The vital processes of an organism, the development of society, the thought of man are all qualitatively unique processes, which it is quite impossible to reduce to simple movements of particles.

However, it is wrong to suppose that all forms of movement exist independently of each other and only make external contacts. On the contrary they mutually penetrate.
“Every one of the higher forms of movement is connected always and of necessity with real mechanical (external or molecular) movement, just as similarly the higher forms of movement produce at the same time other aspects of movement; chemical action is always accompanied by changes of temperature and electrical action; organic life is impossible without mechanical, molecular, chemical, thermal, electrical and other changes. But the presence of these collateral forms does not exhaust the essence of the main form in each case.”Engels, Dialectic of Nature.
It still has in addition to these constituent movements its own unique character.

Harvey discovered the movement of the blood-circulation. This was for his time a very important discovery. Without circulation, without contraction of the muscles, an animal cannot exist. Breathing and digestion comprehend a whole range of chemical changes. But in none of these is included the specific quality of an organism, its uniqueness. The movement characteristic for an organism is the ceaseless changing of organic substances – a process of combustion, dissolution and renovation of living matter, a process of assimilation of nourishment, whereby the fabric of the body is continuously being woven. On the basis of this process arise all other processes that are peculiar to the organism – growth, struggle with the beginnings of morbid conditions, reproduction, etc. Biological changes comprehend in themselves other forms of movement which are “collateral” to the unique vital processes of the organism.

In the interlacing of a number of distinct processes there is always a determined species of movement which embraces all the others, subordinates them to itself, and is characteristic of the thing as a whole, constitutes its uniqueness, its distinction from other things, forms the basis of its stability.

An animal will die, i.e. will cease to be an animal, will be turned into a heap of decaying albumens if by interrupting its breathing we stop certain organic changes even for a short time. An organism is a qualitatively unique process; without this process there is no organism. In just the same way the various forms of society are living, fluid and qualitatively unique processes. Proletarian dictatorship exists only in the process of class struggle, in the process of building socialism, in the process of abolishing classes. Its stability and its qualitative definiteness are exactly comprehended within the definite form of class-struggle. “Proletarian dictatorship is a prolongation of class struggle in new forms,” wrote Lenin. This form of movement – a struggle ever intensifying in the process of abolishing classes – makes up the inalienable definiteness of the soviet order.

The process of socialist industrialization is a form of struggle with both internal and external class enemies. The Right-opportunists did not understand that. In their fear of the difficulties of the reconstruction period they proposed to suspend the class struggle, to reduce the pressure on the kulak, to weaken the control over the middle peasantry, to slacken the tempo of industrialization. If the Party were to listen to the Right-opportunists, if the working class were to cut short its struggle against the exploiting classes and no longer to direct the peasantry, proletarian dictatorship would cease to be proletarian dictatorship and capitalism would be re-established.

It is impossible to stop the movement of matter. By stopping or delaying the socialist offensive we inevitably call into existence new forms of capitalist activity, encourage their growth and allow the offensive to pass over into their hands. Interrupting social movement in one form, we evoke it in another. The Right-opportunists did not understand the dialectic of movement and became the mouthpiece of the kulak opposition; objectively, therefore, they were counter-revolutionists.
We laid down at the beginning of this chapter that to every thing there belongs internally a special type of movement. In the exposition following we drew one very important conclusion; the movement of a thing – its self-movement – defines its internal nature, is its uniqueness, its quality. Engels was right: the world consists of processes, of qualitatively unique movements of matter. The quality of a thing is given by the particular kind of movement that is fundamental to it.
This proposition of materialistic dialectic has great importance for the theory of knowledge and for the entire world-outlook. It leaves no place for mysterious isolated and unchangeable properties and forces, it rejects the representation of the world as a dead mechanism.

In spite of the metaphysic of properties the qualities of material things are now deprived of every mystery. We are enabled to study them as fully determined, exactly distinguished forms of movement.

The mechanists notwithstanding, variety and vitality exist, are not mere subjective representations; matter by its own proper movement creates countless shades of qualitative differences. And however rich and many-sided our representations may be, the copy of the actual world in our consciousness will always be measurably more abstract, poorer, more dead, than the actual life of material nature.
The mechanists in their conflict with the metaphysic of properties rightly pointed out the unscientific character of representing the world as an aggregation of qualifies independent of each other. But they themselves failed to understand wherein lies the unity of matter. They sought the unity of matter in identity of particles, in saying that matter is everywhere and always the same. In practice such “unity” leads to the splitting up of nature into particles externally indifferent to each other. The actual unity of the world lies in the materiality of all its qualitatively different forms, in their continual vanishing and appearance. A man, a very simple living organism, an inorganic substance – all are qualitatively different stages of one and the same ascending scale of material development.

The unity of the world exists in variety. The general connection is realized through the qualitative differences of separate things. This dialectic of the general and the particular, of unity and diversity, was unattainable by the mechanists. And yet it is just in this that we find the key to disclose the relations and connections in nature, and so provide the basis for a right understanding of the mutual connection of qualities.
Powered by Blogger.