MARXISM 101 SESSION 3: DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

The goal of the third session of Marxism 101 is to help participants understand the concept of historical materialism, its relationship to dialectical thinking, and ways to apply both as methodologies to movement work.

ASSIGNED MATERIALS

STUDY QUESTIONS
1. Why do ideas matter?
2. Why do revolutionaries need Marxist philosophy?
3. What is dialectical materialism?
4. What is the danger of dialectics without materialism? Give an example.
5. What is the danger of materialism without dialectics? Give an example.
6. Why is materialism a democratic outlook?
7. How does dialectics differ from metaphysics?
8. What are the laws of dialectical development? Give an example of each.
9. How do these concepts relate to the historical development of political economy?
10. Is any of this true?

OPTIONAL READING

LESSON
Maria Poblet of LeftRoots facilitated a series of activities to help participants understand core concepts of dialectical historical materialism.

Framing: Helping participants understand roots of the concepts

Contrasting Worldviews

  • Metaphysics in our lives:  participants watched a video in which a Congressperson shares views on climate change, and participate in a skit about a bus that is running late.
  • Idealism v Materialism Comparison: participants use this chart to help understand distinctions between idealist and materialist orientations.

Dialectial Materialism

  • Three Laws of Dialectics: Maria presented on the three laws of dialectics: transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa;  the law of unity and struggle of opposites; negation of the negation

Applying these Ideas to Movement Work: Maria shared a case study from the Taxi Workers Alliance to help participants apply the ideas.  She also walked participants through five steps to using dialectics.

FOLLOW-UP MATERIALS

Along with studying the core materials, we encourage people interested in a deeper dive, to check out the following resources related to the core materials and following themes discussed in this session of Marxism 101.

What the Heck is Dialectics?

Selection from Marx for Beginners by Rius, New York: Pantheon Books, 1989. pp. 66-82

On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-tung
a nice companion to “On Contradiction” is “On Conflict” from Continuing the Revolution: The Political Thought of Mao, by John Bryan Starr Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

“Dialectics and Revolution” in Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century by James and Grace Lee Boggs, New York: Monthly Review Press 1974.

“The Weapon of Theory” Amilcar Cabral

Domination and Hegemony” in Cultural Studies 1983: A Theoretical History Stuart Hall, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016
Stuart Hall’s lecture is responding to work by Louis Althusser. If you’re not familiar with Althusser and are interested in learning more about him, check this out: https://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/a/l.htm#althusser-louis

“Dialectics: The Alegbra of Revolution”, Raya Dunayevskaya

“Dialectical Historical Materialism for Organizers” by Badili Jones

Karl Marx on Alienation from BBC Radio 4 [VIDEO]

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