20 January, 2020

Avoiding Global Catastrophe

We Must Unify the Struggles of the Left

Two significant problems currently stand in the way of the essential political actions absolutely necessary to dispense with the clearly evident causes that produce most of the debilitating issues of today - which together can only be due to the Capitalist System, underpinning all of the difficult aspects and problems that we encounter.

For nothing less could possibly make any real and lasting difference!

But, being confronted with such a seemingly impossible-to-achieve solution will always then impel people to focus their anger-and-actions upon a current single evident problem (climate change, refugee crisis, Palestine, Brexit, fracking, stop the war coalition) now being addressed. And the apparent lack of any wide-ranging, integrating stance, more or less guarantees the inevitable downturn and final ebbing away of support in all such individual-and-separated actions.

The first difficulty is that clearly and evident separation of all the necessary and growing struggles, which, when so isolated from one another, and with no evident, overall-solving-objective available, can never individually have the necessary wherewithal to actually visualise any real Change-in-the-System, and, no matter how legitimate those single issues are, they will definitely only swiftly build to a maximum, and then decline, ENTIRELY due to each isolated struggle's unavoidable Lack of achieving any Persisting Success!

Surely, the dynamism of such struggles has to be understood to address this recurring problem?

For, the "purely moral" isolation often involved does NOT naturally indicate a necessary wider scaling-up-of Protest, into something both more general, and with a wider range of other related and important struggles - with common causes.

And crucially, a unifying-political-form of organisation, encompassing the extended, clearly-related range of issues, and a consequent coherent, comprehensive and integrated Programme of what has to be done, AND ALSO, necessarily, a series of Objectives to be concretely achieved, on-the-road to a Final permanent Political Transformation of the situation, will be vital in sustaining the necessary momentum of all the struggles.

I was immediately energised by the Extinction Rebellion response to the clearly accelerating Global Warming and consequent Climate Change (caused by the unsustainable growth of Global Capitalism), and the also clearly evident increasing undermining of the usual Climate Stability, into instead the possibly catastrophic outcomes for both the Planet and its Peoples.

The recent official attempts to re-frame Extinction Rebellion as extremist, even terrorist in nature, really reveals that power feels threatened by this mass mobilisation of school children!

I have been involved in a wide variety of such struggles, all my adult Life, and have seen the Rise and Fall of totally legitimate, but almost always separated movements, which, even when they succeeded, have NEVER left behind a sufficient political change to defend and maintain any gains. So, though the solution seems clear enough - the Unity of such Struggles is never ever achieved both concretely or organisationally!

YET, the argument frequently and vigorously insisted upon by many organisers of such actions is that widening the struggles will drive away supporters of this particular individual issue, and hence cause it to fail...

NO! it will fail precisely because the wider basis for the problem still remains, and at the first opportunity any gains will be removed again.
I was greatly stimulated by the remarkable actions of those energised to both help, and then to vigorously demonstrate, after the terrible Grenfell Fire Disaster in London: there were many angry, energetic, articulate and organising people powerfully moved to do what they could.

But it rose to a crescendo, and finally ebbed away.

Such great people should have been integrated into a bigger force-for-change, but where are they now?

What a waste of love, energy and talent!

Now, we have to reveal exactly why this never happens.

I am a Working Class person, who got an Education and thereafter a series of posts in Educational institutions, from Schools to Universities, in three different countries. I was, throughout my adult life, involved in political struggles, and consequently ended up involved in one organisation or another, but though they all had what they considered was an overall unifying stance, the leaders both didn't, and indeed couldn't, have meant it.

The leaders were invariably from the Wrong Class!

And, the level of understanding of these leaders, though often sophisticated, and well-read, was always inadequate to powerfully energise both their members, and those they were attempting to help or recruit.

I have subsequently met many of my past-colleagues from such organisations, again later in life, and they had all reverted-to-Class, and found my continuing commitments embarrassing, and even often pretended that they didn't recognise me, and kept out of my way!

So I was, over time, in a variety of Political Parties.

NOTE: I am a physicist, but a steadfast opponent of the then and now current Copenhagen Stance, which is still today the consensus position in Modern Sub Atomic Physics, so, in my youth, I looked around for an alternative stance! I finally found it in a book entitled Materialism and Empirio Criticism, which criticised the at-the-time-of-its-writing, increasingly popular ideas of Henri PoincarĂ© and Ernst Mach, who were termed Positivists. The stance of the writer of that book, a certain V. I. Lenin, was brilliant, philosophically, but he was no physicist. So, finding out that Lenin was a Marxist, I joined the Communist Party, expecting to find what I needed there.

But it wasn't available!

It took me some time to find out, but I never found anyone who wanted to discuss the problem, and finally realised that the version of Marxism which they subscribed-to, resided solely in a series of books covering a particular area of studies, which certainly did not include Physics! No one was an active practising Marxist, though they all insisted that they were.

And throughout my political life, in various Parties, I found the very same problem. A consistent, coherent and comprehensive stance was simply not involved.

So, more generally, the separation of struggles COULD NOT be integrated via a shared theoretical stance - for nobody involved seemed to have one.

Now, even supposing such a comprehensive Marxist Stance actually existed, and I could understand it, several difficulties were still inevitable...

Not least was its comprehensive application to Modern Physics - a truly mommoth task: then a facility for applying it to political compaigns and objectives, and finally, perhaps most difficult of all, the means by which all the various struggles including new ones (as they arose) could be presented from an integrated critical position - absolutely essential to formulating the correct policies for them all, and sufficiently energising to my auditors to integrate them all into a coherent and extendable overall campaign.

I feel I have finally got somewhere with the first two of these objectives.

But now, at 80 years old, and almost blind, I feel I will not complete the third...

That, perhaps, will be your task!

05 January, 2020

Special Issue 67: Holistic Materialism Addendum

This Special Issue of SHAPE is an addendum to the original two part series entitled Holistic Materialism published last year.

The original series constituted a set of loosely related papers by Marxist theorist Jim Schofield concerning his philosophy of science, and his application of Holism and Dialectical Materialism to the sciences, especially particle physics. This has been a historical and epistemological project as much as it has been a philosophical and scientific one. In order to understand the mistakes and impasses we are presented with in science today, it is imperative to go back and have some understanding of how knowledge and philosophy have evolved over human history.

But what exactly is Holistic Materialism? Holism is a word that means different things to different people, a seemingly vague term that is often abused and misused - ‘holistic medicine’ for example covers all sorts of pseudoscientific nonsense no empricial researcher would care to be associated with. However Holism as a philosophical concept refers to something quite specific, and for Jim Schofield it is encapsualted in its opposition to the Pluralist position (not to be confused with pluralism), which sees all entities and laws as separable - capable of being isolated and studied in isolation - but more importantly, that this separability will somehow unlock the truth of how things in reality work. Essentially it is the philosophy of reductionism and this underpins almost all contemporary scientific research.

Jim Schofield’s work is a unique critique of the hidden assumptions which underpin all science.

This is not the first time the term Holistic Materialism has been used, however. We see it linked to biology and 19th century naturalists in the writing of Ernst Mayr.

“The discovery of the similarity between dialectical materialism and the thinking of the naturalists is not new. Several authors have called attention to it, particularly Allen... He starts quite rightly: “The process of natural selection is as dialectical a process one could find in nature.” Allen thought that the dialectic viewpoint of the naturalists had been lost between 1890 and 1950... Allen asserts that the “holistic materialism” of the naturalists had failed to incorporate two important dialectical views. First “the notion that the internal change within a system is the result specifically of the interaction of opposing forces or tendencies within the system itself.”
The Roots of Dialectical Materialism (Mayr, 1997)

In the work of Schofield we see this kind of holist view of natural systems but very much informed by the dialectics of Karl Marx. It is not enough to see the interconnected-ness of things but realise how natural dominances emerge, to the point of seeming universal, and also how these dominances can come crashing down as their internal contradictions finally play out. It is in these crucial events that we see the Emergence of the wholly new. In these papers we see how Pluralist science prohibits access to this fundamental feature of reality, and that while those 19th century naturalists may have hinted at the way forward, holist science is something new.

In this additional set of papers we address Mayr’s contribution directly, including his full paper The Roots of Dialectical Materialism as part of this publication.

Jim Schofield’s initial conspectus (also included here) is critical of Mayr’s positioning of early Naturalists as instrumental in the development of Marxist theory, but also acknowledges Mayr’s work as potentially very valuable to the further development of Marxism, philosophically, and in aiding the difficult progression towards a holistic scientific method.

The World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International, certainly considered Mayr’s work important to Marxism, publishing a detailed obituary of this great thinker upon his death in 2005. In this piece Walter Gilberti writes:

“Mayr’s life-long interest in the fundamental questions that continue to animate the biological sciences, combined with his exceptional longevity as a working and thinking scientist, engendered in him a profound appreciation of its history. In particular, he stressed the importance of a study of the history of scientific concepts (natural selection, e.g.). He wrote: “Preoccupation with this sort of conceptual history of science is sometimes belittled as a hobby of retired scientists. Such an attitude ignores the manifold contributions which this branch of scholarship makes” (1982). He stated further: “One can take almost any advance, either in evolutionary biology or in systematics, and show that it did not depend as much on discoveries as on the introduction of new concepts.... Those are not far wrong who insist that the progress of science consists principally in the progress of scientific concepts” (1982).”

This is certainly similar to Schofield’s view and the approach taken by this retired scientist, also trying to better understand how science works, and how it fails to work, through theory. Scientific Concepts are vital here, as Mayr suggests. However objective one’s data may seem to be, it is only through the frame of key concepts that interpretation and understanding begin.

Holistic Materialism is just such a concept - a frame for understanding our scientific findings by adopting the much wider view that is necessary, in such a complex and interconnected world.

03 January, 2020

Leonard Susskind's Reality (wholly defined by Mathematics)

Idealist & Pluralist 

In a couple of series of Lectures by Leonard Susskind of Stanford University, he totally defines both Sub Atomic Physics and Cosmology solely via his beloved Lingua Franca - Mathematics. "The Math" in question is wholly Pluralist, as defined in the Greek Intellectual Revolution of the 5th century BC, and is only actaully applicable to Pure Forms - that is Forms that are forever qualitatively FIXED.

It was the necessary FIXITY of ALL the relations involved that made possible the totally New devising of Simplified Relating Abstractions. For, it was these, and these alone, that enabled its intrinsic properties. But they are only true about such forms and literally nothing else.

So in promoting Mathematics to being this Lingua Franca (wholly illegitimately) of both General Reasoning and all of The Sciences, the Greeks were using that language where it could NEVER be used, unless all the features in those disciplines were somehow completely qualitatively unchanging: and that is impossible! So, in their both arriving at the defining of all Natural Laws as eternal, and, and thereafter, using ONLY a Pluralist Rationality in both Science and Reasoning to illegitimately manipulate those significantly distorted bases to deliver all the rational consequences generatable from those bases.

And the Forms of Mathematics are not only pluralistic, but also totally idealistic too: for they represent only the simplest, purest Forms, which only very rarely apply in the situations that are addressed. And take this incorrect stance even further, as the Pure Forms of Mathematics are fitted-up to an adjusted Reality, by using Pluralistically arranged-for experimental data to complete the felony!

Now our Stanford Lecturer covers his Physics and Cosmology entirely by means of Mathematical Rationality, which is of course wholly illegitimate in both areas. 

His auditors ask him questions that require Physical answers, but he allows absolutely NO deviation to his own steadfast purpose: he admits of no possible deviations from his own super confident techniques. At best he arrives at echoes of conclusions aquired elsewhere, but NONE outside of the premise that Formal Equations encapsulate the whole truth, and all deviations from such Truths are the aberrations. The Essences are embodied in his maths-based manipulations. He is a competant mathematician, but a poor Physicist and Cosmologist!

Different "realities" made possible by the ideality of Mathematics...

The State II

Anarchists "Smash the State"

The Key Purposes of the Revolutionary State

Now, anarchists were, and still are, totally opposed to the idea of a Socialist State (or indeed to any kind of State at all), and they instead extol the virtues of democratically-run local communes and grassroots action.

It was The Anarchists that brought The First International Association of Working People, organised by Karl Marx, to total collapse.

Marx had insisted that a Socialist State was vital, providing both centralised resources and services to all, and protecting the new system from threatening opponents. Negotiating with other states on a global basis, would be essential - at least for a time.

It would definitely be even more imperative, after a successful Revolution, as most, if not all other states would still be under the prior kinds of Regimes, driven to protect their own Capitalist interests, and would consider the very existence of the Socialist State an exemplar for their Working People, and hence a threat to the current rulers too.

But, returning to the Anarchists, Subsequent History has shown that they were wrong, and Marx was indeed right! For, after the Sucess of the Russian Revolution - England, the USA and even Japan sent in armies to put down the Revolution, but due to a strong State-Organised Red Army of The People, they were all successfully defeated.

And, even after the Revolution, there were still ex-owners and even so-called Social Revolutionary Parties (based on the peasantry and still strong in the truly vast countryside), who continued to work against the new regime. It definitely required a State-wide organisation to root them out, or everything gained by a People's Revolution would be lost - most Revolutions do indeed fail.

And, in addition, opposing and surrounding Capitalist Powers worked incessantly to isolate the new State, particularly in Trade and Commerce, and even sent in agents allied with internal opponents, and even criminals, to undermine the nascent socialist Economy, and smuggle out valuables originally targeted for confiscation by the State to be taken from the wealthy as The Property of the People.

And, many different and previously non-existant Public Services had to be devised, built and organised on a vast scale, literally from scratch - and from immense Defensive Military Forces, on the one hand, and a totally new National Health Service, and a Quality Education System at all levels not just for the rich, but for Everybody and, finally, of course, Public Transport too - Russia was a truly enormous country! 

And, the intended country-wide Democracy, to be based upon People's Councils (or Soviets), was initially miniscule, and needed both resources and guidance, so that individual isolated organisations didn't all make the same mistakes all over the country.

What a tremendous undertaking! Yet with a majority of the People energetically-on-board. Remember, everything that had existed previously was constructed and maintained by, and to serve the needs of, the wealthy landed Gentry and the then Ruling Class, with the Tsar at its head. Absolutely nothing had served the needs of the workers - either the Peasants on the Land, or the Workers in the Factories.

Whole droves of agents. hangers-on and even servants to the Prior Ruling Class and their institutions, were now "demoted" to ordinary working class status - and of course they didn't like that one bit!

So, the enormous task of building a new, fairer society, had to undertaken with the whole country locked in Civil War with the Royalists and their supporters, while also being ravished by Armies of Intervention, aiming to put down the Revolution and re-instate the Old Regime.

And all this in the biggest physical country on Earth!

They needed to be organised Country-Wide - and that had to be via the State apparatus - how else could it have been done?

And, not only did they do it! BUT also the leaders of the Revolution - The Bolshevik Party, knew not only why they need a State, but also its dangers! For Lenin had long explained that, in the longer run, on the way to Communism - there would be a deliberate Withering Away of the State!

But, this was a completely new kind of Revolution. There was no nascent Capitalist Class, held back by a Feudal Regime. For, in spite of the Feudal monarchy, Capitalism was growing apace and welcomed by the Ruling Class. The Capitalists were certainly not siding with any Socialist Revolution.  Maybe the February Revolution of 1917 removed the Tsar, but the Revolutionry Tide hadn't yet finished, the October 1917 Revolution, this time led by the Bolsheviks, was for terminating Capitalism too.

And, all objectives were achieved - at least initially!

But, all Revolutions attempt the apparently impossible, by which is meant - that they attempt to establish the Wholly New. NO prior patterns were ever available for guidance: in fact every Emergence of any kind is inevitably prefaced by a series of major crises in the prior situation, which always finally culminate in the System's Total Collapse. And only then does a very different series of alternative constructive attempts occur, which, initially at least, also fail.

But, nevertheless, they can and do finally culminate in a wholly New and final breakthrough into a self-maintaining success - a new stable system.

The Origin of Life was such a Revolution, as was the Emergence of Consciousness in Human Beings. But, even these were not achieved without devastating calamities along the way!

And this one was surely typical of the real biggies, like Life and Consciousness: it would be a truly major Emergence Event, and would require a long gestation period to remove all unwanted liabilities left over from the past. And, as distinct from the other major Emergences, this one involved, for the very first time, conscious participants and organisations, who were aware of the occurrence of such events, and not only could they consciously intervene, but so could and did the defenders of the previous System. 

The problem with anarchists is that they don't understand Emergence. The Revolutionary State is the attempt to build and defend the new stability - without this consolidation of power Capitalism will return with ease.