On Notes on dialectics

Erik Empson

Iíve just looked at Notes on dialectics, 1948. The above is one of the most resolutely Hegelian socialist political tract I have yet come across. In a highly idiosyncratic manner James expounds the course of the dialectic of Hegelís logic, in parallel with polemics against aspects of the labour movement and trotskyist tendencies. This leads to some curious conclusions. Take for instance the designation of Stalinism as a determinate negation and continuation of Leninism that has captured the living substance of the subject (the proletariat). This latter is the object of Jamesís discourse and a political programme that advocates the abolition between the division between proletariat as object and as consciousness. Fundamental to this is the emphasis upon Hegelís insight that ultimately truth must not be perceived only as substance but object too. Also present is an assertion of the historical specificity of changing categories. Bernsteinís revisionism is due to objective factors within proletarian movement, as is the Stalin episode, as is Leninís perception of the em-bourgeoisification of sections of the working class. For all above see (57-58) of Notes on Dialectics. Overall it is interesting to see a resolute insistence on politics from below exhibited in such strongly Hegelian terms.

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