The Neue Engels-Lekture II — How They Concealed Engels’ Dialectical Method.

Haldane’s introduction to the English translation of the second edition of Dialectics of Labour provides the following statement:

‘It was a great misfortune, not only for Marxism, but for all branches of natural science, that Bernstein, into whose hands the manuscript came when Engels died in 1895, did not publish it. In 1924 he submitted it (or part of it) to Einstein, who, though he did not think it of great interest from the standpoint of modern physics, was on the whole in favour of publication. If, as seems likely, Einstein only saw the essay on electricity, his hesitation can easily be understood, since this deals almost wholly with questions which now seem remote. The manuscript was first edited by Riazanov, and printed in 1927. However, Adoratski’s edition of 1935 is more satisfactory, as several passages which made nonsense in the earlier edition have now been deciphered’.

This statement implicitly alludes to the two important factors that perverted the reconstruction of Engels’ work: (1) although the first edition of Dialectics of Labour was edited by Riazanov — the editor of MEGA — the second edition was edited by some Stalinist stooge (2) this is reflected in the popularization this stooge made of Engels’ work completely concealing the systematic intent of Engels dialectic. Thus rather than the published version of Dialectics of Nature consisting in a work of philological scholarship worthy of MEGA that would have shown the fragmentary complexity of Engels’ intended project, we are left with a dogmatic and vulgar parody of systematicity; a complete misstep that misrepresents the entire core of the project. This can be seen in the following, which misinterprets Engels performative immanent critique of the vacuousness of naturphilosophy for theories that Engels simply got wrong —

‘In the essay on ” Tidal friction,” Engels made a serious mistake, or more accurately a mistake which would have been serious had he published it. But I very much doubt whether he would have done so. In the manuscript notes for Anti-Dühring, he supported the view, quite commonly held in the nineteenth century, that we find truths such as mathematical axioms self-evident because our ancestors have been convinced of their validity, while they would not appear self-evident to a Bushman or Australian black. Now this view is almost certainly incorrect, and Engels presumably saw the fallacy, and did not have it printed’.

As gross as this author is to impute such base subjectivity to Engels, in trying to save him from being guilty of rudimentary scientific mistakes, he completely misunderstands the dialectical nature of Engels Dialectics of Nature — for rather than crude scientism, these mistakes are central to Engels performative immanent critique: on one hand they point to the crude hypostitization of immediacy foundational to capitalist nature philosophy, which implies the inevitable negation of this rubbish in the overcoming of capital, on the other hand they are so crude once the mistakes have been pointed out consciousness inevitably transcends immediacy and raised to the standpoint of totality and the necessity of overcoming capital is grasped. Therefore, as I will show, these purported mistakes are central to the esoteric core of Engels’ mature work.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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