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The Last Dialectic

In the mid 1980’s I attended a Marxist-Leninist training school at the University of Chicago.  Hosted by the local branch of the CPUSA, it was designed as a weeklong crash course in basic theory and organizing for new party members.  For me, it was also a chance to see old comrades and revisit the richly ethnic eateries in nearby neighborhoods .  For me, it was still a time of misguided idealism and the comfortable innocence of a binary Left/Right mindset.  It was a time before my discovery of the phrase, New World Order, and everything it implies.         

As expected, much of the curriculum was a rehash.  I later learned, though, the most interesting instruction came in the social hours after the classes.  Oddly, a memory of one of those encounters has stayed with me for a long time.  Throughout the years it has served as a conundrum, of sorts.  Departing from the lighthearted conviviality, a new comrade asked an older member what will happen when humanity reaches the stage of full communism.  “When there are no more class contradictions engendering dialectical social change”, he asked, “will the process of historical materialism end?”                    

“There will still be a contradiction.” came the answer, “The dialectic will be man versus nature.  With no contentions among mankind, we will be free to explore and conquer the cosmos.  We will conquer nature, itself.., the last dialectic.”                  

To this day I remember the serene, wistful look on his face after replying.  He was on his second, or third, bourbon and water.  I also remember not having a clue then exactly what-the-hell space exploration had to do with dialectical materialism.  Nodding in agreement, as if I understood, I merely continued to work on my Budweiser.  At that time, I had big ambitions within The Party.  At that time, I hadn’t a clue that his words would prove to be strangely prophetic.                 

                                                                   Man vs. Nature                  

John Hurt as 'Winston' in the film, 1984

Today we find the Marxist theory of historical materialism, as the dialectical engine of historical progress, unreliable.  The assertion that the inevitable and crowning socio-economic stage of human history will be full communism is mythic.  As well, the naïve notion of a unified humanity colonizing space, a’ la Star Trek, is not on the menu.  However, ironically, we are, indeed, witnessing an amazing struggle between man and ‘nature’ in this era that boggles the mind.  Perhaps it will prove to be the last historical dialectic that will supplant all others.                  

From the year, 1984, the futurist film, 1984, based on George Orwell’s book by the same name, treats us to a graphic tale of one man’s struggle to maintain his individuality and sanity in a world gone mad with repression and totalitarianism.  In the closing scenes Winston’s thought crime (seeking what is true and untrue) is discovered by the Big Brother government and he is brutally tortured to accept that whatever The Party says is truth.  But that is not enough.  He is conditioned to love The Party and his servitude.  His human spirit; his very nature, is extinguished.              

A central part of Winston’s conditioning demands passive acceptance of doublethink.                 

Doublethink is a word described in the fictional language of Newspeak and the act of simultaneously accepting as correct two mutually contradictory beliefs…  Its opposite is Cognitive Dissonance, where the two beliefs cause conflict in one’s mind.*              

For example, The Party’s slogan of “War is Peace” is doublethink.  Essentially, doublethink allows The Party to rule by any means necessary making moral justification and political consistency irrelevant.             

It is noted that science fiction often presages future reality.  Recently, President Barak H. Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.  Concurrently, he leads our military-industrial machine in two wars of imperialist occupation with a new third war possibly on his plate.  He presides over a nation on constant terror alert justified by Jihadist fanatics created, and easily used, to serve this agenda.  The population is constantly hammered to surrender personal freedoms in exchange for promises of personal safety.  We have complacently accepted the 1984 doublethink of “perpetual peace through perpetual war”.         

The classic philosophical dialectics of; thesis > antithesis > synthesis, have effectively been translated into; truth > lies > mind control.           

The film, 1984, came to theatres 25 years ago.  The future is here.       



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