Excerpt from L: A Novel History

Quotation from Appendix I of L: A Novel History, on L’s dialectic. When I wrote it I meant it to be a lampoon, but it turns out (see the post of Kierkegaard and Hegel below this post) that it is true to solemn old Hegel’s own idea of what “the dialectic” ought to be: –

I have tried to paraphrase those interpretations which have been most widely acknowledged as reliable, especially where they have, in broad generalities if not particulars, agreed. This however does not mean that there will be no contradictions in the content of what I now put before the reader: on the contrary, accuracy requires statements which negate each other. And since this in itself needs to be explained before we can proceed, we must acquaint ourselves with the nature of L’s “dialectic”.
It is immediately apparent to the student of L, that the later works contain revision, recantation, outright contradiction of asseverations made in the earlier. What he must grasp is that it is this very business of asserting “unrevisable” tenets which are subsequently revised, or “redefined”, that the apostles of the “new” mystical Marxism regard as the “correct methodology” of “the new reasoning”. Thus they insist that students use the complete oeuvre, in order of composition: for, as one authority has written:

“For each of us to follow in the footsteps of the Master, it is necessary that we not merely register the points of the dialectic, but experience with our very nerves the shock that each undestroying negation can perform upon us so as to transform us, break and remake us, and allow us to pass on to the next shaping event of understanding in the deepest sense of the word, so that by these ‘stations of the cross’ we come to that high point of essential marxisma where we know we have arrived at the transfiguration, the recombination of our very atoms, which sends us forever as a current through the drift of all humanity and all time, redeemed from our individual selves, and made one with all.”

Or as another has said:

“If any L-ite believes he stands in the light because he has grasped a complex meaning of the Master’s, it is necessary for his soul, which is to say the soul of communist man, that again and again the intellectual rug, so to speak, be pulled from under him. The Master allows none to stand comfortably on solid ground: he rolls worlds away from under our feet.”

It is plainly important to distinguish between L’s “progressive dialectic”, i.e. “statement – positive negation – positive negation of the negation – statement” from the traditional method of rationalism, i.e. hypothesising, criticising, adjusting, which, in L’s view, was “the clumsy groping by the capitalism-conditioned mind of the reactionary”, and “outdated bourgeois reasoning”. Once, he declares, it “passed for logic”, but no longer: the dialectic alone is “relevant logic”; and in any case, “traditional logic is worthless, it is the sleight of mind of the unperceptive”.

William Severn, acknowledged by many non-Marxists to be the most reliable authority on the work of L, has explained L’s method thus:

“The advance of L’s ideas is not to be thought of as a process of building and adapting in accordance with facts, but rather of building the theoretician by shifting him from one mood to another, from one anxiety to another. True knowledge is received by the emotions, suffered by the body, and used by the soul. ‘Revelation’ – his own word – does not inform you, but transforms you. What is hard to grasp, the point where ‘the faithful waver and miss’, is that the later statement is always the truer, the latest ‘the extreme truth’, yet earlier ‘negated’ statements are not false. (‘Steppingstone theses may be “erroneous'” in that they do not always lead onward, but they cannot be “false”.’) The dialectic is a progress, in which each statement is a step into ‘ever denser truth’. He who would walk in the true way to reach the extreme truth and his own ‘transfiguration, which is to say his total reidentification as a self-aware outlet of the common consciousness of proletarian man’, must follow in L’s steps. There are no short cuts. Since the extreme truth is to be felt rather than comprehended, since it is a ‘means of becoming’ and not of learning in the rationalist’s or ‘bourgeois’ sense, the only way is through ‘the agonies of progressive revelation’.

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