Marx's dialectical materialism

Khalid Gueddar (Morocco)-economic crisis-bull bound
MARX/LENIN / The fight against alienation is, after all, the general goal – something that has disappeared in Leninism


When Hans I. Klæven recently countered my attack on Leninism, he constantly claims that Karl Marx also thought the same as Vladimir Lenin. If this were true, I would have to distance myself from socialism's greatest theoretician, and that would certainly be questionable.

But of course Lenin's teaching is only one interpretation of Marxism – just as obviously as the fact that the communist parties almost everywhere, and also in Norway, have tried to hide this. For my own part, I caught a glimpse of a different Marxism by reading Jean-Paul Sartre – a way of thinking that surprisingly and inquisitively encompassed not only economics and politics in the narrow sense, but also the world of children, the relationship between the sexes, the arts and religion, small groups, the mentally ill, and which was based on a theory of combating alienation as the general objective.

Bourgeois freedom is a mask that hides "capital" as a false form of value – that hides the source of values, work.

But precisely the concept of alienation has disappeared in Leninism, for deep-seated theoretical reasons that shall not be touched on here – suffice it to say that they have to do with Lenin's perception of consciousness as a "reflection" of matter. Did Marx also have a similar opinion i capital? The worse! Without the concept of alienation, we are almost helpless when it comes to understanding the forms of oppression in advanced industrial societies. When e.g. Walter Ulbricht right up to the end considered alienation a ridiculous problem in East German industry, he committed, in my opinion, a significant mistake, indicative of Leninism.

The work

Take something Hans Fredrik Dahl wrote here in this column before the EC referendum. This time, he predicted, the usual apparatuses of power (the state, Ap, etc.) would not be trumped through their will, because "the substance of politics is revealing". That is excellently expressed! What "emerged" was the main interest of the farmers and wage workers, the "material" of the social struggle, and what cracked was the formal power structure, the one that is visible to everyone and that forms the facade of our society.

And precisely in this way Marx can be understood: the scandalous thing about his "materialism" – it does not consist in the fact that it sees through the apparent main forms of domination – religion, the constitution, morality, etc. – and directs attention to the "substance of politics", namely the mode of production, the dialectic between productive forces and production conditions? Marx uncovers and reveals: Bourgeois freedom is a mask that hides "capital", which in turn is a false form of value that hides the source of values, work. Wealth is unmasked as the fruit of exploitation, the commodity with its price as fetish worship, the truth about individualism is the alienation of the majority of the population. Unmasking of false appearances in order to show the substance or matter of social life – it is an important form of dialectical materialism that is easy to find in Marx, but difficult to find in Lenin and Leninism.

Knowledge as a production factor

Hans I. Kleven's own book, The class structure in Norwegian society (1965), illustrates this well. Well, it is an instructive work, but I think that anyone who tries to work more in-depth with the book will come to the same conclusion as me, namely that it is, after all, a rather formal conception of the class relations that is presented, based mainly on formal legal characteristics of property.

The truth about individualism is the alienation of the majority of the population.

Now Marx's concept of property is far from clear, but what is clear is that he was not thinking of property in a legal (legal) sense – but of the property that "points out" through all formalities. What informal, "substantial" property means in today's industrial society is one of the most important questions within the theory of social classes. Thus, the increasing importance of educational institutions for economic growth – "knowledge as a factor of production" – can make them part of the mode of production, and the "owners" part of the ruling class. Right or wrong – such a thought requires an unmasking, materialistic investigation, which Kleven's book leads to, but does not itself initiate.

It is by thinking about the relationship between the formal and the material, as I have suggested, that political theory can easily be reconciled with the theory of individual and group psychotherapy. And it is by thinking of alienation as the most important, general manifestation of domination that political theory can be reconciled with the attack on technocracy and the destruction of the ecological balance. Leninism's thinking, on the other hand, goes in a different direction.

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