Study Circle 21 of 2019 – What Drives History?

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twenty first study circle of this year yesterday. We completed reading Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism by J. Stalin.

In the second half of the essay, Stalin talks about what the chief determining forces of the development of society are. He considers and dismisses the idea that geography or population growth determine societal development. He then shows that the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life and development of society – is the chief determining force of societal development. 

The mode of production includes the means of production as well as the relations of production: the technology and apparatus used for producing, as well as the relations of people to this technology and apparatus, and consequently to each other.

He then elaborates on two features of production: the constance of change, and the fact that change always begins with changes in the productive forces. From the essay:

The first feature of production is that it never stays at one point for a long time and is always in a state of change and development, and that, furthermore, changes in the mode of production inevitably call forth changes in the whole social system, social ideas, political views and political institutions – they call forth a reconstruction of the whole social and political order. 
The second feature of production is that its changes and development always begin with changes and development of the productive forces, and in the first place, with changes and development of the instruments of production.

We talked about what this means for philosophical determinism; whether socialism is inevitable because of the development of productive forces, or whether barbarism is a possibility; and the relationship between changes in religion and changes in the mode of production in Rome, the USSR and in India.

Next week, we will likely continue reading on Marxist philosophy.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 20 of 2019: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism

DYFI CUC organised the twentieth study circle of this year on Sunday, July 21. In this session, we studied half of the text, ‘Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism’, authored by J. Stalin in 1938.

The text is a simple and basic introduction to Dialectical Materialism, which can be described as a method of studying a system on a material basis, by understanding the various contradictions within it. The changes that arise in, or the evolution of, the system in question is a result of opposing forces exerted by these contradictions within it.

The etymology of the word ‘Dialectics’ goes back to the Greek word ‘Dialego’, which, Stalin wrote, “was the art of arriving at the truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent and overcoming these contradictions.”

While Marx learnt about Dialectics from Hegel, Marxist Dialectics is different from the latter’s in that it is Materialist. Hegel, who was an idealist, believed that consciousness has the original or objective existence, while what the consciousness perceives – namely matter – exists only in the consciousness.  

Contrary to Idealism, Materialism is the understanding that the matter exists in the objective world, independent of the consciousness which perceives it, and that consciousness itself is a product of matter. 

As Marx points out, “Our consciousness and thinking, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter.”

While Marx closely studied Ludwig Feuerbach who led the charge against Hegel’s idealism and sides with him in the materialist camp in opposition to the idealists, he nevertheless pointed out that Feuerbach’s approach to materialism had a serious flaw. Along with discarding the idealism of the Hegelian method, Feuerbach also discarded the dialectics in it.

This leads to a kind of materialism that tends to assume the forces which govern a system under observation to be a given or static, without questioning what the tussle between which contradictions gave rise to these forces in the first place, or, for that matter, the resolution of which of the contradictions can bring about what kind of changes to these governing forces themselves.          

Thus, Feuerbach, despite being a fierce advocate of materialism, “remained… bound by the traditional idealist fetters.” Freeing materialist thought from these fetters, Marx and Engels reaffirmed the objective existence of the material world, and established that the changes that occur in it, or to it, are a result of the opposing forces exerted by the contradictions that exist within. 

This applies not only to the physical world, not only to the evolution of humankind, but also to the development of human societies – to its evolution from one form of organisation to another (primitive communism to slave society to feudalism to capitalism).

In the next session of the study circle, we will be completing reading and discussing the remaining half of the essay in which, by drawing on the development of tools from stone age onwards, Stalin seeks to demonstrate the relationship between the productive forces of a given society relations and “relations of production”, i.e the relationships that emerge between humans as a result of their relation to the means of production. For example, slave and slave-owner, lord and serf, worker and capitalist.

Study Circle 12 of 2019 – Communism cannot be learnt by rote

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twelfth study circle of this year today. We read three short texts to refresh our understanding of Marxism.
We first read Lenin’s The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism. Lenin talks of Marxism as the successor of German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism. The three component parts are then philosophical materialism, the labour theory of value, and class struggle. 

To read further on materialism, dialectics, and the accusations levelled against Marxists about being metaphysical, we read the first part of Stalin’s Anarchism or Socialism?. This is a defence of Marxism against Anarchism, and also a simple explanation of how Marx took the dialectical method but not the metaphysical theory from Hegel.

We then moved on to reading Lenin’s The Tasks of the Youth Leagues. Lenin addresses this to the youth of the USSR, tasked, as a generation growing up under socialism, with building communism. Lenin expounds on what communist morality means, how class struggle continues under socialism, and what education under socialism ought to be like. The central point is that communism cannot be taught through its conclusions or slogans; we still need to learn of all accumulated human knowledge and derive communism for ourselves through learning and practice. In other words, communism cannot be learnt by rote.

As usual, do send us your thoughts and suggestions, including suggestions for reading material!

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi