"Where to Begin?", 1901,
A conspectus on the book of G.W.F. Hegel "The Science of Logic", 1915,
"Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism", 1916, "The State and Revolution", 1917
An answer to the question "where to begin?" is relative to an epoch. For the epoch when there is a revolutionary theory for its times, it makes sense to start by creating a national political newspaper, uniting various local social-democratic cells. But, for the epoch when there is no revolutionary theory (the modern times, the epoch of the information revolution), it makes sense to start by creating the necessary theory.
We should not blindly copy the answer provided by previous authorities, but need to ask ourselves, “How is the answer they provided relative to their times?” “What is the relationship of this answer to our times?”
Lenin studied dialectics in Switzerland in 1914-1915, after the onset of World War One and self-destruction of the Second International. Basing himself upon the study of Hegel's "Science of Logic", Lenin lists the following elements of dialectics:
- Investigate an object in itself, following its own development, not substituting for this analogies, other examples, digressions, in other words: not substituting for the object under investigation another subject matter. "Hic Rhodus, hic saltus!" was the slogan of Hegel.
- Grasp the entire spectrum of relationships of a given thing to others.
- Observe development of the object itself, its own inner life, its own movement and spread into different areas.
- Grasp inner contradictory aspects and tendencies of the thing.
- See a thing as a sum and unity of opposites, of contradictory tendencies.
- Observe the struggle and development of the contradictory tendencies inside the object.
- Use both analysis and synthesis - split the whole into parts, and assemble together parts into a whole. Knowledge is a kind of a human constructor.
- The relationships of each thing are not only specific and concrete, but are also general and universal. Each thing, or a process, is related to another thing, or a process.
- In each thing there is not only "a unity of opposites", but some of these qualities (or properties, tendencies, etc.) passes into other, sometimes into their opposite!
- Knowledge is an endless process of discovery, or opening, of new aspects of a thing. Each thing is infinite and fractal in nature.
- The process of knowledge passes from surface of a thing, its phenomenal appearance, to the essence of the thing, its inner law and structure, and from one essence to another one, still deeper.
- The process of knowledge goes from co-existence of qualities to causality, i.e. one quality being the cause of another one, and from one form of inter-relationship to another one, still deeper.
- At each new stage of development of a thing certain qualities, present at the lower stage, appear again, in a changed form.
- In development of a thing, we see a return to a seemingly old structure, i.e. "a negation of the negation". One example: the process of Restoration in any Revolution.
- There is a struggle between form and content. There is a shedding off of the old form as required by the content, injecting a new content into the old form, and the old content taking up a new form. One example of this is how knowledge was done: first, in a poetic form, then in a form of dialogues, then in a lecture, monologue form.
- There is a transition from quality into quantity and visa versa.
As the reader sees, dialectics is:
1. a summary of methods of knowledge. Hence, we need to continuously update these by following the works of the most outstanding philosophers-scientists of our time.
2. Dialectics is a resume of the most general relationships in the Universe. Again, we need to continuously update these in regard to our expanding horizon of knowledge.
Lenin got into dialectics when he saw no hope for an immediate revolution, in the night of the imperialist war that covered the world. This pessimism didn’t last long, as he adopted the topic of imperialism and wrote a book on the subject.
Lenin on imperialism:
1. Imperialism is the highest stage of development of capitalism (during Lenin's time, book was written in 1916). Hence, fascism is the highest stage of capitalism in the period of WWII. Hence, the U.S. led global imperialism, as we witness in the U.S. attack of Yugoslavia in 1998, of Afghanistan in 2001, in the 2003 attack on Iraq, in the NATO-led attack on Lybia in 2011, in the French excursion into Mali in 2013 – all these are the highest instances of capitalism in modern times.
2. We see a division of the world into "new proletariat", i.e. those who produce commodities, e.g. workers in China, and those who live off the crumbs of the profits, e.g. the American workers, “the middle class”.
3. As the workers in the imperialist world are bought off, Revolution brews in colonial and semi-colonial countries.
In "State and Revolution", written in Russia in hiding, immediately before the October 1917 revolution, Lenin summarizes the teaching of Marx and Engels on state. A state is essentially a group of armed people. This is an instrument in the interests of the ruling class. A social revolution takes place only when this apparatus of violence is shattered. Usually, it is replaced by a new organization of armed people.
A state always plays the role of an "independent" judge in the tug of war between opposing interests, but this is for the naive. It is always acting in the interests of the ruling class, but this is masked by various means. There are times when the state is "Bonapartist", i.e. finds itself balancing between antagonistic interests. This is the condition which the current "transitional" states find themselves in. For example, in Russia today the power is in the hands of “the cops”, i.e. internal army, the security agencies.