In Defence of Dialectical materialism as propounded by Marx, Lenin and Mao

Harsh Thakor

There may be inherent flaws or loopholes in the practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and still questions on the theory but in the manner of a boulder resisting a gale we must defend the very backbone of the ideology. Marxist-Leninist-Maoist dialectics has no substitute in solving the problems of mankind. All idealist trends like post-modernism have to be confronted tooth and nail.

I do not endorse the viewpoint of Kenny Lake in article in Kites blog on 'Infantile Internet disorder and strategy of revolution' that detaches Marxist –Leninist-Maoist dialectics. It does throw light on the spiritual essence of MLM by reflecting on development and role of consciousness but deeply falls into the quagmire of idealism in approach.

It gives Maoism the scope to rupture and sees positive elements in post modernism. It tries to combat mechanical materialism and feels even Mao was dogmatic to an extent. It is a great lesson for Marxist-Leninist-Maoists of today to more thoroughly defend the backbone of MLM and also the correct questions that have to be asked. Certain regions of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism have not been completely untapped like the sub-conscious mind, mutation in evolution, individual freedom or inner consciousness in man.

The essay is open minded and broad based delving into very relevant regions but lacks clarity on the dialectical materialist philosophy of all the great teachers and arguably veers into regions of idealism, subjectivism or metaphysics.

In one statement it pushes Leninism into the museum by stating "The standard communist reflection theory of truth and reality, as enunciated in Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, is thus called into question (and in my mind over matter, is something that needs to be discarded)."

Postmodernist philosophy has to be confronted at it's very roots. In this regard the Gonzolaite sections of today like Struggle Sessions have produced positive writings in exposing Post-modernism at its very base. Even Chairman Joma Sison with lucid writings and razor sharp clarity refuted the idealist approach. Very important to understand that Mao made no rupture from dialectical materialism. and that Engels was no idealist as portrayed in certain circles.

Kenny Lake wrongly gives credibility to philosophy of the Renaissance period of enlightenment. Pertinent that Chairman Gonzalo tooth and nail even defended Stalin on dialectical materialism .Even if he was the pioneer in synthesizing Maoism in none of his writings did he reveal any idealist approach of finding dogmatism in Mao or Lenin's writings or highlighting rupture.

This viewpoint of Lake demonstrates the flaws inherent in the Maoist streams who although not dogmatist on important aspects like universality of ppw still are affected by idealism. We must remember that a new discovery or leap is not a radical break from the old order in context of Marxist ideology

Such idealist deviations make it all the more important for cadres to re study the essence of Stalin's writings on Marxist-Leninist dialectics, critically. We have to assert the fundamental continuity thread between Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. We must study Mao ‘On Philosphy" and 'On Contradiction' to understand phenomena of discovery with Continuity from Leninism.

We must remember the huge strides made in Science interpreting Darwinian or Einstienian concepts in USSR and China who combated idealistic or metaphysical approach towards study of biological laws.

The great strides in Socialist building in Maoist China and former USSR occurred because of mastery of Marxist-Leninist dialectics in dealing with problems with concrete solutions.

With methodical Marxist-Leninist-Maoist mastery Chairman Joma Sison defends the fundamentals of Dialectical materialism.


"Scientific developments, especially in quantum physics, are increasingly in relative correspondence with the spiritual belief systems of what Engels called “primitive communist” societies. What communists (Engels included) have been all too quick to write off as the idealism of spiritual wisdom is starting to look much more materialist (in its recognition of universal energy and the interconnectedness of all reality) than the materialism that emerged from Europe in the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and which Marxism took as its starting point for understanding reality. Postmodernist philosophy is also relevant here in how it rejects rigid categorizations, overarching proclamations, and meta narratives, recognizes the greater role of human agency, and challenges notions of pure objective truth. As much as we need to oppose the paltry political programs of postmodernism, if communists ignore or one-sidedly reject its philosophical insights, this will only reinforce dogmatism."

"It is beyond the scope of this essay to fully engage these questions of the relation between the objective and subjective factors in the revolutionary process, between truth and reality, and how new developments in science and philosophy and older spiritual wisdoms should inform and transform communist theory. In future issues of kites, I will be publishing a longer essay that gives my answers to these questions (and asks more questions). The poverty of philosophy in the international communist movement over the last four decades stems in part from our failure and refusal to do what Marx and Engels did: engage all the latest developments in science and different schools of philosophy, and incorporate the results of this rich engagement into communist ways of understanding and transforming the world. Instead, most of us have been under the delusion that communist theory can develop entirely out of the MLM canon and, perhaps better but still profoundly limited, directly and exclusively out of our own practice."

"This is not to say we should throw out the importance of summing up and theorizing practice or being grounded in the MLM canon. Indeed, we have one particularly helpful place to turn within the MLM canon to make the ruptures needed today: Maoism. Mao’s greatness was in recognizing and giving leadership to the dynamic and determining role of the subjective factor in the revolutionary process as a force that could radically transform the “objective conditions” it confronted, and doing the same in regards to the role of the relations of production, social relations, culture, and ideas in pushing forward the socialist transition to communism. In other words, Mao’s theoretical contributions exemplify the principle that the masses are the makers of history. This was a break with dominant thinking in the Second and Third Internationals that viewed the productive forces and objective conditions as almost always principal in the revolutionary process. Such thinking put the brakes on revolutionary advance, as, for example, when Uncle Joe advised the CPC after WWII not to aim for seizing nationwide power and resume civil war with the Guomindang. It is no coincidence that this rupture, led by Mao, occurred in China, where philosophical traditions (and healing practices like acupuncture) had not been entirely superseded by the mechanical, dualistic, and deterministic modes of thought that reigned in Europe for centuries."

"Mao’s own writings, however, do carry forward some of the mechanical and deterministic thinking that had become ingrained in Marxism and was magnified by Stalin. Nevertheless, I believe the spirit and practice of Mao, and to a significant extent his writings, do offer a point of departure for communists to further rupture with dualism and mechanical determinism. Carrying out that intellectual work will have tremendous ramifications on practice, as we need a conception of the revolutionary process that does not mainly rely on just the right objective conditions for revolutionary advance."

"The confusion, setbacks, betrayals, and defeats of and in the international communist movement from 1976 on have been nothing short of devastating for those of us still or newly committed to revolution, and for the billions of masses whose life conditions cry out for revolution. The valuable history we have to draw from and the advances against difficult odds in recent decades that shine a path forward, on the other hand, continue to offer hope and inspiration. Against this backdrop, it is disturbing to witness in 2019 what Mao described decades ago: “dogmatists can easily assume a Marxist guise to bluff, capture and make servitors of cadres of working-class and peasant origin who cannot easily see through them; they can also bluff and ensnare the naive youth” (this and subsequent quotes from Rectify the Party’s Style of Work, 1942).

But Mao didn’t let this problem disturb him. He fought for comrades to make ruptures with dogmatism: “I advise those who have only book-learning but as yet no contact with reality, and also those with little practical experience, to realize their own shortcomings and become a little more modest.”


"Dialectical materialism is a precise expression for the Marxist materialist philosophy as opposed to both idealism (objective and subjective) and to mechanical materialism. Materialist dialectics takes into account the materiality of the universe as well as the contradictory factors in the balances and transformations within nature and society and in the interactions of society and nature.”

“The dialectical materialist adopts the materialist and scientific outlook and the mode of cognition and practice that gives due attention to the dialectical or interactive relation of human consciousness and material reality, especially in the process of social transformation, and debunks the supernatural as well as the subjectivist as the sole or main determinant of reality and the transformation of social reality.”

“Dialectical materialism seeks to comprehend both the natural and social sciences, study how materialist dialectics (with its laws of contradiction) applies in any field of scientific knowledge and understand scientific knowledge as both products of social practice and being consequential to social reality and social transformation. Dialectical materialists are ever obliged and ready to learn from social investigation as well as scientific experiment.’
“Dialectical materialism is ever interested in and enlightened by the entire range of natural sciences. It appreciates the basic laws of motion in various types of natural phenomena as an explanation and confirmation of the materiality of the universe. In the dialectical materialist explanation of Mao, a piece of stone cannot take the place of the egg and bring forth a chicken, no matter the amount of temperature applied and no matter how much praying by the objective idealist and wishing by the subjective idealist.”

“The fundamental principles of dialectical materialism as laid down and clarified by Marx and Engels, benefited from the rise of humanism against divinism during the Renaissance and the rise of scientific and rational thought from the 16th century onwards. Philosophy became increasingly shorn of the superfluous Platonistic, idealistic and divinistic categories among the most advanced thinkers. It became clear that matter is the object of scientific investigation.”

“Dialectical materialists appreciate Newtonian physics as a great scientific advance in its own time and remains useful in building houses and bridges and in making and operating electro-mechanical processes. But it rejects mechanical materialism and sheer empiricism as much as it rejects objective idealism as philosophy and as the basis of or guide to social science. Thus, dialectical materialists have put forward materialist dialectics as the interaction of human consciousness and material reality.”

“Dialectical materialists appreciate the advance of scientific knowledge, such as the epochal one from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics. The latter gives us a more intimate knowledge of the atom, the materiality of energy and the realm of astral physics. Pertinent to quantum physics, Einstein demonstrated that the photons in a wave of light strike and disturb the electrons of a targeted object in photography.”

“Quantum physics verifies that particles are in waves and that the particle and wave are two sides of the same physical phenomenon, in the same way as matter and energy as well as photon and light. It debunks the attempt of some idealist scientists and philosophers to spiritualize the wave and make the particles subordinate to it and make these less essential or less important.”

“There is double absurdity in the statement that “scientific developments, especially in quantum physics, are increasingly in relative correspondence with the spiritual belief systems of what Engels called primitive communist societies. There is an attempt to misrepresent Engels as having been an idealist and as having asserted the scientific validity of spiritual belief systems where in fact he saw through such unscientific belief systems as reflections of social practice and the given level of speculation in primitive communal societies.”
“The great Mao made no rupture from dialectical materialism when he answered the question, Where do correct ideas come from? His answer is a brilliant summation and amounts to an enrichment or development of Marxist philosophy, particularly in the epistemology of dialectical materialism. He declares and explains that the source of knowledge is social practice, consisting of production, class struggle and scientific experiment.”

“The three terms are well sequenced historically: primitive and more advanced societies exist and develop on the basis of production as human activity, class struggle impels and propels the maintenance and change of class-divided societies and scientific experiment enables the scientific and technological development that leads to social development.

In our time the application of quantum physics has generated information technology to accelerate production, communications and distribution of goods to favor the monopoly bourgeoisie and its financial oligarchy, especially during the decades of the neoliberal policy regime. But the adoption of higher technology has made more frequent and worse the economic crisis (the crisis of overproduction) and the financial crisis (the abuse of credit) of the capitalist system.”

“Consequently the deepening and worsening of the crisis of the world capitalist system has generated among the proletariat and people the outrage and desire for revolution. The recurrent rounds of crisis have become the opportunity for building the mass movement and revolutionary forces. And the higher technology for maximizing profit and accelerating the private accumulation of capital provides the tools for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses at a faster rate than ever and eventually for building socialism at new and higher technical and cultural level.”

Dialectical materialists always seek to learn from the laws of natural science in order to shed light on the materiality of the objective conditions and subjective factors interacting in social reality and social transformation. And in the realm of social science, they learn best and most from the impact on and consequences of the advances in science and technology to society. But they never seek to replace with any notion of dialectical materialism any scientific law or process discovered and proven in the process of scientific experiment or technological innovation."

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Apr 17, 2020

Harsh Thakor

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