By Tom Watts 6/6/2018

“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it” – Karl Marx

Historical Dialectical Materialism (HDM) is a method of analysis to understand the world as it actually is in order to affect its change.  Historical and dialectical materialism are doctrines that were developed within the Marxist tradition and refer to ideas found in the works of Karl Marx (1818–1883).

Materialism is our subject, and historical and dialectical are adjectives modifying and describing this subject, so let’s begin by defining this term. We are not here referring to the love of and quest for material wealth and creature comforts in the vulgar sense, as the term is commonly used, but in the scientific sense that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter and that economic or social change is materially caused.

In this sense, materialism is completely opposed to idealism, and is rooted in concrete analysis of concrete conditions. We must therefore dismiss from our minds all preconceived notions and prejudices about reality, all religious and philosophical beliefs, and strive to be thoroughly objective and see reality as it exists independent of our subjective ideas. We must seek truth from facts and take as our premise that objective reality rules!

Dialectical here is used in the sense of being concerned with or acting through opposing forces. Marxist dialectics holds that everything exists as a unity of opposites. It defines a situation in which the existence or identity of a thing (or situation) depends on the co-existence of at least two conditions which are opposite to each other, yet dependent on each other and presupposing each other, within a field of tension. Between up and down there is a unity. Stairs that go up also go down. A thing can transform into its opposite. What is hot can become cold, a positive can turn into a negative, what is first can become last, and so on.

In Dialectics of Nature (1883), an unfinished work by Marx’s close comrade Friedrich Engels, which applies dialectical materialism to science:  One “law” proposed in the Dialectics of Nature is the “law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa.” Probably the most commonly cited example of this is the change of water from a liquid to a gas, by increasing its temperature. Engels proposes that: Quantitative changes give rise to qualitative leaps. By applying heat to or chilling water and raising or lowering its temperature by degrees, a point is reached where it makes a qualitative leap into steam or ice.

Likewise, by studying and practicing with a musical instrument, one makes a qualitative leap and becomes a musician. In a process like this, there may be a series of qualitative leaps in which one becomes a great musician or virtuoso, widely acclaimed for one’s proficiency.

In the process of evolution, quantitative changes within a species gives rise to a whole new species.  British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) came up with a “Theory of Natural Selection” which stated that because resources are limited in nature, organisms with heritable traits that favor survival and reproduction will tend to leave more offspring than their peers, causing the traits to increase in frequency over generations. But these gradual quantitative changes lead to revolutionary qualitative leaps in which there is both continuity and a radical rupture with the past.  Mutation refer to changes in chromosomes and genes, which typically manifest physically. The great variety of plant and animal species is evidence that multiple mutations have occurred over the years giving rise to qualitatively higher and more complex life forms that coexist with previous forms or that survive while others become extinct though a process of natural selection.

Because everything is in process and constantly changing, adaptation to new conditions is the criteria for survival. Dramatic changes in the environment can cause massive extinction, and setback the evolutionary process or even turn this into a dead planet, but barring that, the trend is upward and humanity is proof of that. Our social evolution has taken us from being typical members of the Great Ape Family living in trees to where we stand on the verge of becoming interplanetary travelers and intergalactic explorers. Our horizons are only limited by our ability to consciously evolve beyond the stage of class exploitation and self-destructiveness. This is our critical hour when we will make (or fail to make) a qualitative leap to a higher plane of social organization.

Historical materialism is dialectical materialism applied to the struggle of human social evolution. In Marx’s words: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”― Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

In every contradiction there must be a principle aspect of the contradiction, and it is when the secondary aspect becomes the principle aspect that a revolution takes place. In any complicated set of contradictions, one contradiction must be the principle contradiction which determines the direction of the change of the lot. The principle contradiction of the moment may not be the basic contradiction, the resolution of which will be revolutionary. In the case of human social evolution the basic contradiction is between the base and the superstructure, or to be more explicit, between the socialized (and globalized) character of production and the private ownership of the means of production. The principle contradiction at this time is between the need of this private ownership—the monopoly capitalist ruling class—to consolidate its global hegemony and the chaos and anarchy (including the threat of a third world war) it is unleashing by its unsuccessful attempts to accomplish this. It is this principle contradiction that is bringing the basic contradiction to the forefront making it a question of necessity to resolve the basic contradiction by socializing ownership of the means of production or facing self-inflicted annihilation.

When we step back and take a good look at the whole panorama of human social evolution, we see three distinct epochs. First: the Epoch of Primitive Communalism, which is the formative stage of human society in which people live together communally without a class hierarchy or class exploitation. Second: there is the Epoch of Class Exploitation that negated the first stage by instituting private property and class hierarchy based upon class exploitation. Within this epoch there have been stages of development going from lower to higher stages starting with 1.) Slavery, in which people were reduced to property that could be bought and sold (and there were stages of that that reflected evolution), 2.) Feudalism, or more or less a stage of transition between slavery and capitalism in which the peasant masses were exploited by and oppressed by a land-owning hereditary elite class which was the ruling class in society, and 3.) Capitalism, in which the old feudal ruling class is overthrown by a bourgeois (capitalist) class that revolutionizes the base and superstructure of society in its own interests and becomes the new ruling class.

Finally, there is the negation of the negation in which the Epoch of Communism replaces all previous forms of social relations based upon class exploitation by eliminating class divisions entirely and in which egalitarian society is restored but on a global basis and based upon principles of equality and social justice for all. In each of these stages of transition there are low, middle and high stages in which quantitative changes give rise to qualitative leaps. Revolutions in the mode of production at the base of society are reflected by revolutions in the superstructure. Of course there is unevenness in development and not everything changes at once nor without struggle. People in the Americas were primarily living in the epoch of primitive communalism when “discovered” by European colonialism which was then at a stage of high feudalism transitioning to capitalism. Slavery was introduced by the colonialists who stole the lands of the indigenous peoples and enslaved them and imported slaves from Africa to supply cheap labor to their colonies. This enabled the primitive accumulation of capital to make the rising class of bourgeoisie powerful enough to overthrow the old feudal ruling class in Europe.

Eventually, a conflict developed between the rising industrial bourgeoisie and the agrarian-based slave-owning class leading to the Civil War in the United States. Having defeated the slave-owning elite, the new industrial-based bourgeoisie allowed the continuation of the defeated slaveocracy in the South in the form of a neo-feudal system of share-cropping and institution of “Jim Crow” segregation imposed on the ex-slaves of African descent that lasted into the late 20th Century. Even today, a system of “racial oppression” based upon the ideology of “white supremacy” continues in the United States and internationally as an essential component of capitalism. The “super-exploitation” of “people of color” is a major component of the system of class exploitation. This led Mao Tse-tung to state unequivocally in 1963 that:  “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the Black people.”

Capitalism transitioned to Monopoly Capitalism or Capitalist-Imperialism in the late 19th Century when industrial capitalism became subordinate to finance capitalism and the rise of giant cartels dominated by big banks. Wealth and power keep concentrating into ever fewer hands and capitalism becomes more globalized. We are now in the stage of neoliberalism, which is the highest and final stage of monopoly capitalism. Neoliberalism is not only capitalism in decline but is rushing human society towards extinction. This is reflected by the change in the principle contradiction in the world since around 1970, which was first articulated by Huey P. Newton in his “Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism,” which he arrived at by applying dialectical materialism to make a fresh analysis of the world situation.

Huey’s theory was not completely fleshed out, indeed he did not fully apply HDM to develop it in a thoroughly scientific way. This is a task that has been taken up by the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, which was founded within the U.S. prison system in 2005 under conditions of extreme adversity. This has put us out in front in developing an ideological-political line that will form the basis for world proletarian socialist revolution. This is why it is imperative that we master the revolutionary science of HDM and apply it in a living way and not simply dogmatically regurgitate formulas from the past when the principle contradiction was not what it is today. Flying a jet is not the same as flying a biplane, and a rocket ship is still more complex and requires new skill sets. However, one still needs to master certain basics of aeronautics and propulsion but at a higher and more advanced scientific level based upon new technology.

We are not simply calling on Black People to unite in their own self-interest but to rise to the occasion of playing a vanguard role in world history and in relation to all oppressed people, including poor and working class white people. We are calling upon everyone in the world to become “all-the-way revolutionary” and act in the highest interests of humanity. We are all “riders on the Earth” and we all face extinction if we fail to “seize the time” and make the next step in human social evolution. Of what possible benefit is it to integrate into a system that is going to kill us all? How can we possibly separate ourselves from global extinction? All these idealist theories and ideologies don’t mean squat! Nationalism is now an anachronism as out of date as roof thatching or shoe buckles. We ain’t got time for that! We need to unite, and we need to unite around the only solution that is going to work in the collective interest of humanity.

That solution is world revolution that shifts all power to the people! We need to organize from the local communities on up to the world community of communities, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, Black, Brown & White, women and men, youth and elders, gays and hetrosexuals, Christians, Muslims, Atheists and Jews, skilled and unskilled workers, employed and unemployed, rockers and hiphoppers, rednecks and ghetto boppers, in short—we need to build people’s power wherever there’s people! We need to build a Worldwide United Front Against Capitalist-Imperialism, Racism and Police State Repression! We need to build a United Panther Movement based upon basic agreement with the Black Panther 10 Point Program and apply it to all communities inclusive of the democratic needs and rights of each community. We need to unite into a powerful fist to smash the institutions and ideas that divide and oppress us. We need to kick to the curb that which robs us of our humanity and stand shoulder to shoulder against all oppression!

This is Our Time! Either We Rise Together or We Die Together!
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win! All Power to the People!
Panther Love and Panther Power!



  1. How is materialism opposed to idealism?


  1. What is meant by unity of opposites?


  1. Give an example of the transformation of quantity into quality.


  1. How does a lower life form transform into a higher one?


  1. Why did Marx say “men make their own history but not as they choose?” what limits them?


  1. What are the three great epochs in the history of the evolution of human society?


  1. What are the three main stages in the Epoch of Class Exploitation?


  1. What is the difference between the base and the superstructure of society?


  1. If class exploitation is the base of society, why must the superstructure be a class dictatorship?


  1. If the people, led by the working class, seize the power from the exploiting capitalist class, why must they dictate to the overthrown class until classes are eliminated and all of society has been revolutionized?


  1. How did contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas introduce democratic and egalitarian ideas to the Europeans?


  1. What is meant by negation of the negation, and how does it apply to the revolution we are building towards?


  1. Why must there always be a principle aspect of a contradiction?


  1. Why is it important to identify what the principle contradiction in the world is at this time?


  1. How does the present principle contradiction bring the basic contradiction to the forefront?


  1. How does resolving the basic contradiction take us to a whole new epoch of history?


  1. If equality and social justice for all becomes the base of society, why does this eliminate the need for a state?


  1. How does Huey’s Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism represent a qualitative leap in the science of revolution and how does it have continuity with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism?


  1. What did Mao mean when he said: “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the Black people”?


  1. How did capitalism give rise to racism and why does it perpetuate it?


  1. Why does neoliberalism represent the final stage of capitalist-imperialism?


  1. How does Trump provide a cover for the ruling class and neoliberalism?


  1. How is that prisoners had the freedom to take up the continuation of developing revolutionary ideological-political line in this period?


  1. Why is ideological-political line so critically important?


  1. Why must we link building the struggle against racism and police state repression to building a worldwide united front against capitalist-imperialism?


  1. Why does the United Panther Movement need the leadership of a vanguard party and what is the relationship between building the movement and building the Party?



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