The emergence of dialectical materialismas a reflection of proletarian maturity

When the bourgeoisie set out to conquer power, it came up against the ideology of the former ruling class, materialized in the Church and the Catholic religion. The Enlightenment was the culmination of the ideological conflict with the superstructure of the ancien régime, bringing to the fore the figure of the individual endowed with reason and free will.

The bourgeoisie’s dual historical task

The establishment of the capitalist mode of production, or rather the consolidation of the bourgeoisie’s power over the whole of society throughout the 19th century, led to a transformation of values and lifestyles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had already noted this in their 1847 Manifesto, saying of the bourgeoisie that

« The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ―natural superiors, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ―cash payment.

It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.

It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe.

It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”

This transformation of the way of life was well described in the works of Honoré de Balzac, with a critical focus on a romantic idealization of the past. Marx and Engels called this ideology « feudal socialism », which justified a return to the ancien régime, and which would recombine in the 20th century in fascism and its corporatist ideology.

In any case, the historical role of the bourgeoisie was that of the most complete dissolution of all the moral standards of the ancien régime.

In France, the bourgeoisie’s historical mission spans two centuries, between 1789 and 1989.

Between 1789 and 1917, the bourgeoisie fully asserted its claim to control society in the face of the social strata of the ancien régime. Naturally, this involved a predominantly political struggle, particularly over institutional, educational and clerical issues.

It was a time of trial and error for the bourgeoisie as it sought to form the political regime best suited to asserting its domination and leadership.

Thus, in 1875, the republican form of the regime was established, followed by school as central institution, the influence of the Church being historically set aside in 1905 in the « inventory quarrel », until 1913, when the obligation of secret voting in the polling booth and by envelope was enshrined in law, putting an end to the hegemony of the parish priest-worthy people tandem in the countryside.

The First World War was the culmination of the process: there was no crack in the political edifice, the mobilization for war was full and complete, at all levels of society. The bourgeoisie appears as the ruling force, having completely triumphed over the former ruling class.

But this does not mean that the bourgeoisie has completed its historical tasks, for it still has to train and consolidate a proletariat that is still far too immature, not what it is concerned itself, but in relation to the necessities of capital accumulation.

It’s important to understand that, up until the 1920s, France’s population was still massively rural, with a sea of self-sufficient domestic producers and an industry still fragmented and run by professional workers with skills inherited from the guild. Similarly, until the 1970s, the figure of the « worker-peasant » persisted in many industrial regions of France, just as some working-class homes in the most isolated rural areas had no toilets or running water.

And so, at the very heart of capitalism’s first general crisis, the bourgeoisie’s second mission began: to transform the peasantry, itself shaped by the ancien régime, into a proletariat that did not exist within capitalism, but through the accumulation of capital.

With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can safely say that France saw the formation of a proletariat in the period 1920-1970, at the very moment when the capitalist mode of production experienced its first qualitative break.

The proletariat as a historical force, born in the first general crisis

From this point of view, the following must be affirmed: the first general crisis of capitalism is not the space of confrontation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but rather the space of affirmation of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.

The proletariats of each country were still too immature to pose as positive protagonistsagainst a bourgeoisie that had only relatively decomposed, since it had been victorious on one side, that of its confrontation with the old feudal regime, still so pervasive across the globe.

Nor should we forget the emergence of the United States, a vast country with unhindered capitalism, spreading a way of life perfectly adapted to capitalist needs, without having to confront the historical situation as it exists in Europe.

The socialist experiments of the 20th century appear to be an attempt by a nascent proletariat to take charge of the universal, historical movement to raise the productive forces. This is a major contradiction: a historical social force still in its chrysalis was called upon to lead the major scientific process of industrialization.

This process was all the more difficult to manage through planning, as the proletariat itself was maturing within the process. This contradiction materialized in the debates on the modalities of the new socialist state apparatus and the trial-and-error implementation of planning.

It was only after this period of economic establishment that the proletariat of these countries – 1930-1940 for the USSR, 1950-1960 for People’s China – came to a full understanding of its own ruling vision, dialectical materialism.

But it was also at this turning point that the proletariat failed against revisionism, for the bourgeoisie was still on the move, not having fully achieved its second task, having entered into decadence only relatively.

While the proletariat « completed » the bourgeoisie’s two missions in backward countries, thus revealing its historical superiority, it remained on the threshold of realizing its own mission. The affirmation of socialist-communist ideology was thus confined to the proletariat as the pole opposed to the bourgeoisie, illustrated by its emblem of the hammer and sickle.

Dialectical materialism, the affirmation of proletarian maturity

When the proletariat aims for (and achieves) the conquest of power in the twentieth century, it does so first and foremost to direct the productive forces towards the full satisfaction of society’s needs.

The aim is quantitative production based on harmonious planning.

Socialism is about putting an end to pauperism, but also to the individual-king exemplified by the triumph of the private entrepreneur who decides on the lives of workers as well as of the consumers.

From this point of view, the proletariat is not confronted with the consequences of capitalist industrialization in terms of consumer society. Consumer society is the historical culmination of the capitalist mode of production, opening the way for the proletariat to grasp itself, for itself and with its own historical mission.

The reason is simple: the grip of the commodity had to be generalized to all aspects of human life, and the subsumption of the worker had to be superimposed by the subsumption of the consumer as the culmination of the capitalist mode of production.

It’s not for nothing that Marx begins Capital with an analysis of the commodity, and his well-known assertion that « the wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production reigns is announced as an ‘immense accumulation of commodities' ».

Let’s take an image. If we make a worker in the 1920s read « The fetish character of the commodity and its secret », he will perceive its dimension, but not with the same depth as the proletarian of 2023. The worker of the 1920s is marginalized in terms of consumption, and lives a restricted life in this respect; he is not as familiar with commodities as the proletarian of 2023, whose consumption is everywhere.

If you make a proletarian of 2023 read « The Working Day », he’ll grasp its substance, but not with the same intensity as the worker of 1936. Not that the proletarian of 2023 works less, but the psychic and psychological implications of work prevent him from having the same distance from work as the worker in 1936.

We are witnessing the completion of the bourgeoisie’s second historical mission, with the existence of a proletariat that participates fully in capitalism, both as producer and consumer.

Dialectically, it’s also the consecration of the proletariat’s maturity. You can’t have a consumer proletariat, i.e. one that is alienated, without having a proletariat that is subjectively active in making consumer choices.

Consumer society corresponds to a stage of advanced development of the productive forces which, in its capitalist framework, gives rise to multitudes of markets valorizing heaps of subjective identities. This requires a certain cognitive disposition as a consumer, but also a degree of intellectual enrichment as a producer.

In this sense, the working class can grasp science, no longer simply as a modality for analyzing each sector of life (biology, chemistry, neurology, etc., etc.), but as a universal principle that takes the name of dialectical materialism. This understanding is made all the easier by the legacy of the 20th century’s long and vast experience.

Consumer society enshrines multi-dimensional connections

Until the development of consumer society, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie posed a framework that could still be said to be formal. There were bourgeois on one side, proletarians on the other.

The understanding of dialectical materialism was still marked by residues of « one-sided » conceptions: if it wasn’t bourgeois, it was proletarian, and vice versa. The real content of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as classes faded into the background, leading to the triumph of economist, syndicalist and reformist tendencies.

Even when refusing to abandon the cause, it was reductive to consider that dialectics had to be « applied » in such and such a field, each field being seen separately, as if they had a life of their own with no logical connections between them in the general whole.

This is why, even with the best will in the world, the social democracy of pre-1914, the Communist movement of the first half of the 20th century, and even the People’s Republic of China in the second half of the 20th century, always had to blindly chase after problems to try and solve them. The ability to take a global view was lacking.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was precisely the understanding of this lack of global vision. Before the GPCR, the Party was seen as a center that had to support and steer in the right direction. With the GRCP, the Party was seen as the hard core radiating its approach throughout the country.

The People’s Republic of China called this « Mao Zedong Thought », believing it to be an ideology, an ideology applied to concrete Chinese conditions, a state of mind, a mentality.

This is absolutely right, and every country does indeed need a guiding thought, a historical synthesis of national reality that exposes its contradictions.

Nevertheless, the GPCR is not only the expression of the need for a guiding thought, it is also the consideration of ideology as irradiating the whole country from its hard core, the Party.

It’s obviously easier to understand this vision in the 21st century than in 1966. In an underdeveloped country, and even in the second half of the 20th century in general, there was a tendency to separate things, to consider that each thing existed separately, forming a separate domain.

With the development of productive forces, on the contrary, it is immediately apparent that everything is linked: it is no longer possible to do economics without mathematics, physics without philosophy, geography without physics, archaeology without astronomy, law without history, architecture without aesthetics, mechanics without computer science, sport without biology, etc.

In the past, there were few goods and a hint of craftsmanship was still present, or we imagined a few large factories for the most massive goods, such as cars. Nowadays, we know that there are a variety of industries in different countries, designers in other countries, sellers, carriers, deliverers and so on.

The very existence of the Internet as a global network implies multiple connections. Naturally, this network is fragmented, separated by countries and their possible blockages, monopolies monopolizing its use, the lack of technical access in certain countries of the world, etc. Nevertheless, a human consciousness that has experienced the Internet is fundamentally different from one that has not.

In short, we can now see how everything is connected. Unfortunately, this rise in the level of knowledge is taking place within the framework of capitalism, in parallel with widespread consumerism. All intelligence serves capitalist competition and the systematization of commodification at every level.

Dialectical materialism is the way to understand this contradiction between developed productive forces and a reading of things demolished by consumer society. Dialectical materialism brings together where capitalism divides, and separates where capitalism artificially brings together.

End of prehistory, beginning of history

In concrete terms, what is at stake is not simply a new material distribution within humanity, but the re-establishment of the human being as a social animal, after a detour begun with agriculture and animal husbandry. Human civilization ceases to live « beside » reality, in the illusion of omnipotence.

The Dialectical Materialist Party takes it upon itself to put forward this essential thesis for the 21st century: the proletarian class struggle is not simply situated in human space-time, but takes place within the framework of cosmological development itself.

Put another way, the proletarian revolution is not simply the reconciliation of humanity with itself, but the harmonious unification of humanity with all living matter, with the planet as Biosphere.

As the opposite pole to the bourgeoisie, the proletariat not only brings about a social revolution, but also a qualitative leap forward for humanity as a whole.

This concept of the proletarian revolution as a vector for the extension and enrichment of civilization was well understood by the founders of dialectical materialism. The well-known thesis of communism as the « end of prehistory » is to be found in Marx’s 1859 Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, made famous by Stalin himself, who strove to present this text as the general classic of dialectical and historical materialism.

Here’s what Marx writes:

“The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals’ social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism.

The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation.”

Historically, this thesis has been understood as the end of the exploitation of man by man, and more generally of all oppression. This is absolutely true, but to put it this way is to limit it to a single dimension.

We must insist on the fact that we’re talking about « prehistory » and not simply « history »: there’s a reading of mankind’s development not just by and for itself, but in the context of Matter as a whole, of which mankind is only a part. To understand this, we need to read the passage from Capital analyzing « the fetish character of the commodity and its secret »:

“The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature.

The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan.

This, however, demands for society a certain material ground-work or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development.”

The socialist mode of production is humanity which grasps itself, and, grasping itself, can only grasp its own nature as a living being acting within the great whole of matter in motion.

Dialectically, it was necessary to arrive at this epoch of commodity generalization for the proletarian revolution to be a point of culmination for Humanity, that of the passage to a new Civilization enabled by the dialectical materialist worldview.

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