Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Charlatan Exposed: A reply to Gerry Healy's 'Studies in Dialectical Materialism'

Gerry Healy

We are publishing for the first time the full text of David Bruce’s critique of the bastardization of dialectics that Gerry Healy foisted on the International Committee in the 1970s and 1980s. David Bruce joined what was then the Socialist Labour League in the late 1960s and soon afterwards the staff of its printshop. He worked there continuously until the WRP broke up in 1985. Though ‘elected’ to its Central Committee early in 1984, he was primarily a technician, not a political leader. He was, however, one of a soon-to-be-notorious group that worked covertly to expose what its members saw as Healy’s personal and the wider movement’s political corruption. His essay was at the time and remains to this day the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of the philosophical outlook that Healy called ‘the practice of cognition’. Yet Bruce’s contribution to the attempts to overcome the disorientation within the International Committee in those years has been unjustly forgotten.


Sandy said...

In which this site is interesting which David Bruce joined what was then the Socialist Labour League in the late 1960s and soon afterwards the staff of its print shop. Fascinating article , thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

From: lysistrata

I did attempt to have a look at this article many times but I gave up as many times.

A sense of unfamiliarity overwhelmed me, so I was tempted to attribute this partly to its polemical character in form.

No, blame it on my lack of general knowledge on philosophy, especially on Hegel or dialectics.

Nevertheless, the renewal of your blog's design has led me to read through the article to the end.

There are, of course, many obstacles en route threatening to wrapping me with a veil of ignorance.

My conclusion is that I had better grope my way to this subject of dialectics slowly and steadily.

How can it be? Would you recommend some 'contemporary' books or philosophers on dialectics?

Alex Steiner said...

Understanding dialectics is not as difficult as it is sometimes made out. It is just that it goes against our ordinary common sense way of thinking. So it does require a bit of discipline and a bit of study. But that doesn't mean you need to become an expert in Hegel before you can take any steps forward. If you have that idea in your head it will just paralyze you.

I tried to present some easy to understand examples in my talk on the Dialectic of Revolutionary Strategy and Tactics

I also recommended in that talk The ABC of Materialist Dialectics by Trotsky. It's a very short piece that touches on some of the key points of dialectics: the transformation of quantity into quality, the unity and interpenetration of opposites and the negation of the negation. These terms may sound very obscure but they have a real content and are not hard to understand. For instance the freezing of water into ice is an example of the transformation of quantity into quality and this kind of example is so common in our everyday experience that we rarely stop to think of it in terms of dialectics.

I have previously written about contemporary thinkers whose work in the natural sciences is related to dialectical thinking. For the most recent piece take a look at The Crisis of Cosmology

Alex Steiner