Splitting the triumphant beast - The dogma, the action and the Ipse dixit
Up to Galileo, and even further, philosophers use to keep it short about all disputes the becoming of the world raised: who said that? Ipse dixit, he said that, that is Aristotle, he who is never wrong. The Stagyrite was a great brain and Galileo did not only admit that for saving himself from the stake. He was not wrong, Galileo said, however another is the matter: if he were here today, he would say the same things I am saying as much as I would say what he says if I had lived during his time.
"Communists are for democracy". Who said that? Marx did. Lenin reiterated it. That's true, it was 1848 and 1905 respectively; just a minute, let's recap.
Masters teach and students learn. They often repeat together what old masters used to say. Obviously, knowledge is accumulation and relation; repeating belongs to the net of relations and redundance means security in communications. It works. When we are listening to a CD, when we are sending a message, when men send and receive signals from here to Pluto, when we do banal talking on the phone: "Hello, what's the weather like?" "It's raining" "Pardon?" "It's raining". Redundance belongs to learning; human brain needs it to pass from a brief and volatile memory to a deeper and long-lasting one. Redundance, understanding, memorisation, and like an old acquaintance of ours used to say, "nail riveting". The revolutionary process is continuous: a non-stop riveting of nails.
Those he quoted was not wood nails but nails that keep together the steel bridges cast between eras. A nail gets heated on the fire; while still red-hot it is inserted into two holed I-beams and is clinched so that its head becomes forged. Whilst cooling down, it shortens and puts the beams together like no bolts can. It's a repetitive job, a systematic one, one nail after the other. Still on different beams in different positions according to a project. All of a sudden, here comes a structure, a truss-beam, a bridge, and a skyscraper, a Tour Eiffel!
It is the skilful works of tradesmen that know their job, well co-ordinated in their operations, that putting all their energies together reach excellent results. None of them will ever dream to say: "that is my nail". No one will ever carry the photo of a designer in his wallet, nor will he hang it on the wall like a little holy picture. They all know what a bridge is, they don't need saying every minute: such and such said that this is a bridge. It is a team of about ten people, each of which is drawing from the knowledge of other teams that designed and built stone bridges, wood bridges, rope or steel bridges over thousands of years.
So we clinch nails over and over again. Surely we are repeating ourselves. Still, in the meantime, we have risen from the fundaments level and we are putting structures together at a higher level with method and invariance of work. It is understood that there is no need to turn to the authority of some specific person to impose our points of view. Amongst those we could "choose" there's everything and the opposite of everything. During the workflow over time, it's useful to understand the difference between invariants and deviations; turning to names is absolutely secondary, indeed we had better do without it. No physician would dream saying: Newton said that, while experimenting on the gravitation law. Instead, if he were carrying out a historical research with other physicians or with some students, he would then be studying Newton results in the dynamics of knowledge within that field. A recognition on its fundaments.
Shortcuts never exist; the work has been incessant from thousands of years. Sometimes we do register episodes and mention names without falling into their fetishism neither in the fetishism of an affected anonymity. So, now and again, we are asked to answer for our "agnosticism" in the matter. Fake matter, nevertheless. The real question is not to hide oneself behind great characters to carry out the dirtiest betrayal operations towards their work.
Marx said that; and here come quotes after quotes. No, Marx did not say that; the human kind said that via one of its most efficient spokesmen. However, he was not alone, he was not the only one and he could not take care of all knowledge even if his brain was not stifled by TV and was not joking with his studies. We are not here to award medals or to pillory. We are exposing, linking and elaborating exclusively about a series of events and previous evaluations and - as we also mentioned in the title of this review - following ones. Facts and evaluations from there to come? Are we joking? Of course not; bridges link two banks, they carry you on the other side. Men will evaluate the new facts he will have available and first of all will be the absence of capitalism. When the present class structure is defeated, we will know exactly what men are going to do as at the beginning they will have to face a world which is just like the one we have now, "but for" its being set free from fetters and chains. It will be a liberation of energy; that is why we know where this world is going to end up.
Marx said that. All right, if it is a mnemonic means to keep it short each time. However, our programme, the one that goes over to the other side, is not the product of any "mind" in any time in any place but it is the product of a movement, of a dynamics where men and most of all classes clashed during the years, decades and centuries. A dynamics dotted with single episodes but all of them linked together and linkable in one unarguable course. So Marx said that, a hairy doctor son of an era where social productions highlight the contrast between two particular complimentary and antagonist classes that are destined to vanish and overtake one another. Marx said that during a time that was more suitable than its previous and following ones to the rising of a social theory. We had better clinch this nail more often: we go for an invariant body of theory and praxis that cannot be changed without being denied and cannot be "overtaken" without reaching their level first. However, this level means their total achievement. It is taking place and does not tolerate any bastard offspring. A course of millenniums that we call wholly revolution.
The younger mankind resorted to myths to memorise this course and fix it as invariant in respect to an individual's opinions. Later, they turned to dogmas. Today they rely on axiom-based systems. Marx displayed the latter as a material heavy artillery against the German ideology. Engels warned us about their correct use: if determinism meant linear linking between causes and effects, the entire course of future mankind would be foreseeable like an elementary equation. Lenin underlined that "Marxism is not a dogma but a guide to action". An imperfect enunciate that was however born during the highest action ever attempted by the revolutionary class where propaganda was worth as much as a cannon.
"They said", therefore, but so did Gramsci and Stalin even more clearly during their "fight to dogmatism", by using Lenin's sad sentence. It is sad because not only does Marxism have to do with action, that is men's praxes, but it derives from there. Still, it does not elevate it on a pedestal like a subject of history or a key for its understanding. It is not the sum of single men's praxes that make history but men's interaction and the interaction between men and their environment, that is their past and future they try to foresee. It would be wrong then to enquire about a phenomenon by giving him an inappropriate name to start with. "Marxism" is a personification of an impersonal process; as we know, Marx was not happy with this term that was already created in his lifetime. Anyway, this term now exists, let's use it the least as possible, however being aware that it means science of praxis laws in the becoming of mankind. Praxis is the basic level, the sum and chaotic interrelation of facts on which conscious actions and men's projects are grafted. Conscious projects are not missing then but they depend on a world that has so far moved on a chaotic basis, which is out of human control. That is why we say that mankind is moving towards the reversal of praxis.
Is Marxism not a dogma, then, but rather a guide to action? In the light of what we just said, this sentence is no longer valid when isolated form its context. Dogma means, over time, a godly revelation that cannot be subjected to analysis, philosophical doctrine admitted in a closed school, synthetic proposition based of irreducible concepts.
Today, apart from all revealed religions, dogmatic has a negative meaning especially when the doctrines of vulgar relativism and existential doubt prevail. Still, dogma is not God's breath to us, neither is it a cunning fellow’s invention or else a caste’s plot: it appear during precise times and societies, it is primordial science fixed into a canon indispensable to praxis and make a set of men and their activities coherent. Therefore dogma has historically been a true guide to action.
Communism cannot be obviously called a dogma; therefore it has no meaning in a discussion, in a research, in an elaboration to keep on stringing quotations that would be simply used to substitute working methods or put on the market in exchange of indulgences for one's sins of opportunism. We can quote 1948 Marx by transforming him into a vulgar democratic reformist like priests' ipse dixit used to transform Aristotle, in opposition to Galileo, into a forerunner of the Inquisition. Our theory put in connection the facts with the social dynamics changing them and, in this sense, we can say this is a guide to action. Not for each individual that little or nothing can do, but for the party, and therefore for the class.
Always this Marx! But these things it’s him only who knew them? Truly, they’re so evident that the communist militants could do without quoting mister Karl Marx, or show him with a simple symbol, or else report these fine statements as if their paternity were attributed to "Zi’ Nisciuno" (unknown person). The all-eaters of bourgeoisie and all kinds of their shoeshines would have had from history the same nuisances even without "ipse dixit", even if the above-mentioned mister Marx weren’t born, even if his volumes had got lost. On the other hand mister Marx was neither pretentious nor cumbersome, neither asked nor had even one knight cross, any crumble whatever of the most craved meals the power lay. He considered himself, doctor Karl, with his degree and his lifelong hard studies, nothing but an experimental evidence of the law he was investigating, a symptom himself and a symptom alike the well-off trader don Federico Engels, who used to provide him with some pennies to buy potatoes for dinner in London’s gargantuan marketplace" (PCInt, 1949).
Source: n+1 n. 6, december 2001