16 August, 2016

Becoming a Professional in a Specialist Discipline

Prof. Richard Wolff - professional Marxist?

What is necessary to claim expert status?

When do you actually become a professional physicist, or even a professional Marxist?

It certainly isn't when you first commit to your chosen area-of-study or set of supported-premises: for such disciplines cannot be simply taken-on by an individual's immediate decision to follow that career or stance. Indeed, to do so requires both a significant investment in a comprehensive set of studies, and appropriate assessments at various levels, up to such a standard as to be employed in that field, and capable of delivering what the post entails.

For example, this writer is a professional physicist, having gone through successfully all the levels, up to and including a University degree with Honours, and usually beyond even that in what is considered Postgraduate, studies and achievements.

They don't have the same formal structures available in Educational Institutions for becoming qualified as a Marxist, it being essentially anti-establishment, and certainly also no ivory-tower occupation - necessitating sincere and total involvement in political activism, towards a prior, decided-upon objective, as well as both extensive studies, published contributions, and, most importantly appropriate, productive political analysis, and even acute and penetrating policy-making and leadership in political activities.

Anyone can claim that they have become a Marxist after agreeing with a particular speech, or being convinced by a brilliant Marxist book, but it isn't true! They will, in fact, have only become some sort of follower-of, or maybe an arguer-for, a Marxist position.

I'm afraid that is not nearly enough. For, it is, surely, only equivalent to someone claiming to be a scientist having agreed to a single brilliant lecture, or being convinced by a remarkable scientific work.

To make such a claim would be laughable, and hence, so it is when individuals claim to have become Marxists. And, with many "professed Marxists" or even "professed physicists", such things have not been, and never will be, remotely achieved!

There is, particularly in my own subject, Physics, a widespread self-delusion involving the manipulation, interpretation and use of Formal Equations only, which, because of an undoubted measure of original speculation, can give the appearance that some wholly new Physics has been produced.

But, it is an illusion!

You cannot do Physics, merely by doing Mathematics. And, even the effective use of such formulae does not validate you as a scientist - only as a competent technologist. Of course, these distinctly differently defined disciplines are frequently confused, especially in the last century, when things took a remarkable turn, which effectively banned Explanation (most particularly in Sub Atomic Physics).

NOTE: As I was, personally, and for many years, particularly good at such things, I can say that they are not Physics, without any claims that my criticism is mere "Sour Grapes". For, it took a great deal more to finally become a physicist!

And, of course, the philosophical discipline we term Marxism, even having read all the masters' works, will never suffice, for to be a Marxist, you have to understand and successfully employ the entirely new methods involved. It is essentially Hegel's method of Dialectics, which seeks out what are termed Dichotomous Pairs of contradictory concepts, both of which are surprisingly derived from the very same assumptions, but which always, in the end, result in an undoubted rational impasse, which can only be transcended via a in-depth study of the producing premises involved, and their necessary revision to dissolve the impasse and replace it with a rational pair of options.

Marx's version, was to transfer Hegel's method, wholesale, from the idealist sphere of Thinking, to Reality in general, and its development.

Now, to merely talk of correcting the underlying premises to achieve such breakthroughs, actually tells us Nothing! For, Hegel also rejected our then universally applied Formal Logic as the only means of reasoning. He showed, clearly, that such was solely limited to only stable situations - those in which all change was merely quantitative - which is why its means of expression was Mathematics, which is also limited to the very same constraints.

Formal Logic only applied to Stability!

Hegel knew, from his profound and original researches into Thinking about Thought, that Qualitative Changes were never addressed in development (which for Hegel was exactly what was happening in Thinking), and his work was immensely extended by Marx to include all of Concrete Reality too!

The actual development of material things, the Origin of Life, and its subsequent Evolution, as well as the trajectory of qualitative changes and even Revolutions in Human Societies, were ALL subject to such crucial changes.

So, to be a Marxist (continuing and extending this development), you have to employ that kind of Analysis to equip both you and your comrades in action to make real progress in understanding what is going on, not only in the present struggle within Capitalism for the hearts and minds of the People, but vitally in understanding its inevitable major Crises and Revolutionary opportunities.

Now judging political activists by such criteria, the last real professional revolutionary Marxists were those in the Russian Bolshevik Party at the beginning of the 20th century.

For example, this professed "Marxist" felt that he was a "recruit" to the cause, aged 19, and joined the Communist Party in the UK, but in spite of a lifetime as an activist, and, within a series of supposedly "Revolutionary Marxist" parties, he has only, finally, become a Marxist in the last few years.

In his case, he only arrived at a sound and productive philosophical stance via a surprising and circuitous route (and it wasn't achieved within and due to any of the professed "Marxist" organisations, he had belonged to for many decades).

For, he was also a serious professional scientist, and a dedicated teacher: but even there, in how he daily earned his living, and passed on his understanding to his students, he wasn't where he knew he had to be. And, this didn't even begin to happen, until he became involved, as a computer software expert, in a wide range of other people's advanced, postgraduate researches.

His contributions were clearly defined: he had to produce software to facilitate his colleagues researches, and his technical abilities were nowhere near as important, as were their professional objectives. He had to understand what they were doing, and invent wholly new computer programs to give them exactly what they wanted.

Surprisingly, the latter course in this series of developments took things into an unusual area - the teaching of professional Dance Performance and Choreography, with a brilliant expert in that field, who required immaculate access and control of recorded footage taken exemplar Dance works by world-class performers, delivering brilliant and innovative pieces.

The mere passive watching would not suffice. Jacqueline Smith-Autard, who was a world leader in her field, required a so-far-impossible control over captured movements, in order to get students to not only reproduce them correctly, but also to understand what sequences and articulations were possible in original choreography. So, our scientist/programmer was presented with something very different. The key features had to be precision Access to particular moves, and immaculate Control of those moves, with full-speed, slow-motion, backwards or forwards motion, looping around a chosen movement, with "multi-screen" simultaneous comparisons of similar moves (not as stills, but as controlled and manipulate-able movies). These tasks proved entirely beyond what was currently available technologically: AND not available anywhere in methodology.

He was forced to use the-then-revolutionary Laser-disc technology, and undertake considerable research into the properties of both video and film, as particularly the increasingly dominant Digital versions of such means. It was in this work that what he had never been able to talk about previously, suddenly gelled into a method.

The solution of many, long-standing problems ensued, not only in Dance, but in movement generally, and, thereafter, into the solutions of major impasses in both Physics and Philosophy.

Of course, what had been lacking in both Science and what was usually considered to be "Marxism" was a sound philosophic stance, when it came to motion, and hence, consequent methods for dealing with the essence of all movement - Qualitative Change!

NOTE: For those who reject this point, may I refer them to Zeno's Paradoxes, and also Hegel's investigations into Dichotomous Pairs and rational impasses.

In Science, the positions taken had been historically-determined by the amalgam of Materialism, Plurality, Formalism and Pragmatism - a surprising mix that only worked by a pragmatic switching between concepts whenever difficulties occurred, and hence was bound to end up with terminal crises, and retreat, marked finally by the changes set-in-stone by the Solvay Conference of 1927.

Solvay Conference

In Marxism, however, the mix was of activism allied with a crude Trade Union consciousness, which simply never addressed the necessity of Revolution, and frankly never understood what it was that both Hegel and Marx had achieved philosophically!

That stance was subsequently totally lost in the fight against interlopers from the enemy class - termed Revisionism - and, crucially, the refusal to view Marxism as a generally applicable Philosophy and method!

Indeed, the major intellectual problems of the 20th century, particularly in Science, were after Lenin's intervention, totally ignored.

But, it was in addressing these areas that Marxism could attain a wholly new and higher level, and re-equip itself politically too.

Remember what Marx had said, "Philosophy thus far had been to interpret the world: the point now was to change it!"

And, in spite of Marx's revolutionary contributions, human reasoning, with the old objectives, still fell far short of what was both possible and necessary, in the new Stance, to achieve the new objectives!

Christopher Caudwell, mightily took up the task on in the 1930s, but was killed in fighting fascism in Spain, long before he had achieved what he was seeking in Physics (see his book The Crisis in Physics).

Elsewhere, professed Marxists refused to concern themselves with such problems, and hence, looked only backwards at the Marxist Canon, without extracting the absolutely vital Marxist Methods involved there. So, instead of actually extending the ground that Hegel and Marx had uncovered, and thus both strengthening and deepening it, they actually returned to the old Formal Rationalism, with a overlaid reformist political agenda only!

The more profound aspects of Marxism, which Marx had got from Hegel, were simply not understood, and hence never used in analysing situations. The famed Dialectic was reduced into a series of tricks, rather than a profound, if difficult, method.

Hegel had realised that all human understanding, at every stage, was always based upon an inadequate set of premises, though each succeeding set was able to reveal more Objective Content (parts or aspects of the truth), and hence allow significant, if limited, progress in our understanding.
Nevertheless, every single new set of premises would inevitably reach its own denouement in yet another major impasse. And, these would always be indicated by what came to be called Dichotomous Pairs of contradictory concepts - both of which were direct consequences of errors or omissions, in the same set of premises. He, and later Marx, realised that the usual solution of switching between these two, entirely pragmatically, could only be taken so far.

What was necessary, instead, to transcend the impasse, presented by the Dichotomous Pair, by the revealing of the premises involved, and a thorough-going critique of these with consequent inclusion of missing premises, or the replacement of proved-to-be-incorrect assumptions, so that a more true overall set was delivered. Marx had taken Hegel's remarkable achievement in Human Thought, and delivered it in its entirety into the Materialist Stance, thus producing something very different from the aforementioned amalgam of disparate and contradictory stances that made up the position of the then scientists.

What he termed Dialectical Materialism, was very different to the mechanical materialism of the scientists, and was consistent, which couldn't be said for their flexible amalgam of alternative bases.

It, certainly, wasn't merely the inclusion of Hegel's idealist conceptions, which applied only to Human Thinking: it was, according to Marx, intrinsic to material Reality generally, and its capacity to qualitatively change and even evolve!

Now, this was continued to be talked about following Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, but, frankly, never really understood. Indeed, the next sphere of study after the October Revolution in Russia, surely had to be to extend Marxism to Science, and to win the best intellectuals to the revolutionary cause, for its profound philosophical stance, as well as its political objectives.

It didn't happen!

This particular physicist was in so-called revolutionary parties for 50 years, but never came across what was needed. He was a competent physicist, disagreeing with the consensus Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, but, literally, condemned for being "diverted" by such concerns from the "real tasks".

But, they were wrong!

It was by his sole efforts, "pulled up by my own bootlaces" that the necessary task was undertaken, and, after a long gestation period, finally began to deliver results.

For those not well informed of the content and ideas in Modern Physics, a series of major problems had arisen, which the old methods were totally incapable of dealing with. The primary one was certainly the Quantum - a descrete gobbet of pure energy, and, without any material association or receptacle, with the consequent, Dichotomous Pair of simultaneous conceptions embraced in Wave/Particle Duality. The claimed to be determining experiments were the famed Double Slit series, which, to this day, are trotted out as interpretable only by the Copenhagen stance.

But, this Marxist/physicist has solved the whole set without leaving a single anomaly still standing.

He has also extended Darwin's Natural Selection to Non-Living Developments, and developed The Theory of Emergences to be directly applicable across the whole range of possible developments currently known.

Comrades, the tackling and defeat of Copenhagen is being successfully addressed only by this Dialectical Materialist, and in doing so, re-vitalises Marxism across the board, and helps prepare us for the coming major task - the Final Overthrow of Capitalism!

Shouldn't YOU be involved?

Marxism & Physics

This paper was written for a new series of publications, here and on Shape Journal, exploring how Marxist theory can solve the problems in modern physics. 

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