Causality and Human Will
Preparing for what lies ahead is one of the most important things that revolutionaries face today. There have been many organizations in the history of America that were overtaken by events and simply fell apart because they were not prepared for what came their way. Revolutionaries cannot make the proper assessments if they do not deeply understand causality, that is, cause and effect. This question and its examination are of extreme importance.
What do we mean by causality? The dictionary states that it is the principle that everything that happens must have a cause. If everything that happens has a cause then everything that happens is an effect of something else, and in turn lays the foundation for something else to happen.
All of the philosophies in the world are connected to this question of explaining the relationship between cause and effect. Winston Churchill summed up a prevalent philosophy of causality in his famous statement about history. â€œHistory?â€ he said. â€œJust one damned thing after another.â€ According to this view, there are no connections, no cause, no effect, no relation between things; just a jumble of things that happen.
Dialectical and historical materialism unites cause and effect, which is totally separated in most other philosophies. Dialectical and historical materialism gives revolutionaries a tremendous advantage in that it unifies the process. By unifying cause and effect, it unifies and integrates the whole development of the world.
The world is an integrated whole. It is all the result of billions of causes and effects. Everything that happens is related to the rest of everything that happens. It is a complex, difficult thing but we can understand what is happening to us and what happens around us if we proceed from this conception.
Cause and effect and the individual
We must avoid any mechanical considerations that cause and effect can be reduced down to such as â€œI kicked the dog and the dog bit me.â€ That is not causality. There is nothing mechanical in the scientific concept of cause and effect, of causality.
Causality teaches us that certain developments make things possible and make other things impossible. But that does not guarantee that anything in particular is going to happen.
Conditions set the stage for various things to happen, but it is the intervention of human beings that make things happen in a particular way. It is the ability of human beings to grapple with the world as it is presented to them and to have a goal within all this possibility that makes things happen.
In this question of causality and everything in human activity, it is the human mind, the human will that is the determining factor. That does not mean that human beings can do anything they want under any circumstances. The parameters are laid out by cause and effect. Within those parameters, what happens depends on what human beings think and what they are prepared to sacrifice and struggle for.
Lesson from history
We can use an example from our own history, the U.S. Civil War, to illustrate our point. The mechanical view of causality would simply state that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and the Civil War was the effect. The real world is not quite that simple. If we look at the history, we can see that there were years of personalities and events that shaped the hows and wherefores and the results of the Civil War. It wasnâ€™t just a civil war; it was a war that had a result. That result was shaped by what people did before the firing even began. The role of the individual, the thinking of the combatants (that is, the subjective side) the role of the national culture, the role of a nationâ€™s history â€” the whole complexity of social relations played a role.
For the first three years, the war was fought with the aim of keeping the Union together. But the Union couldn’t galvanize the moral support to win the war. Wars are won on the basis of moral support. They appear to be won on the basis of technical or material superiority, but in the final analysis wars are won on the basis of moral support for those wars.
If this doesn’t seem possible, just look at Afghanistan today. The people there are fighting against the most technologically advanced society in the world and the U.S. still canâ€™t beat them. Thousands of civilians are being killed. This slaughter of human beings is galvanizing the entire region against the United States.
If we revolutionaries are going to be successful in our efforts, we have to understand the relationship between the inevitability of the destruction of capitalism and the path of accomplishing that destruction. We can say that communism is inevitable just like it could be said that, because of the conditions, the destruction of slavery was inevitable. But the destruction of slavery dragged on for three brutal years until the American people got the idea of what they had to do in order to end that war.
People blame Lincoln for dragging the war on and not declaring emancipation earlier. They don’t give Lincoln the credit that he deserves for how he maneuvered the State of the United States through all the various channels and blocks to finally arrive at the situation where he could declare such an emancipation. Here we can see the role of the individual. At the end of the war Lincoln certainly wanted to begin the process of integrating the blacks into American society â€” starting off by giving the vote to the black veterans and blacks who were literate and making them full citizens. At that point, and because of that, he was murdered. Johnson, who was pro-Southern and pro-slavery, took over and stopped that entire process. It took a hundred years for the blacks to achieve what Lincoln had intended them to achieve in five.
Revolutionaries have to keep their eye on where the process needs to go, and grasp completely the significance of the role of individuals, including each of us, to negatively and positively affect this process. Each one of us has that burden of history on our backs â€” what we all do affects the future of our country and the world.
Preparing for the future
So our task is to see the dialectic between cause and effect, and secondly, to see the individual (or that is to say, the subjective side) in this process of development. The situation today is at the stage where revolutionaries have to be absolutely conscious of what their responsibilities are within the context of cause and effect. Not within just any context, but within the context of cause and effect.
History today demands something that has never been demanded of human beings. We’re talking about the struggle against the most brutal, powerful, imperial State that the world has ever known. Weâ€™re talking about the struggle against a State that has sanctioned secret murder.
We face a difficult situation ahead that is very different from the situation of the past. But because we revolutionaries understand the process of cause and effect and the indispensable role of the individual and the human mind in that process, we can face the future confident that we will play our role in guiding the ship through the storm and bringing it safely to port.
March/April 2012. Vol22.Ed2
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011