The word “epistemology” is not common, but it is important. It comes from the Greek and means to speak about knowledge (“epistēmē”) i.e. it's the study of the foundations of science.
For example, the foundation of the Christian “science” is the figure of the Christ, and the one of dialectical materialism is matter considered as eternal and in movement.
The great Bangladeshi revolutionary Siraj Sikder expresses here a very interesting point of view, very deep, very intense, very dense. Here is what he says:
“The correct line of leadership develops only after many times repetition of the cycle of matter to conscience, conscience to matter, that is, practice to knowledge, knowledge to practice. This is the epistemology of Marxism, that is, dialectical materialist epistemology.
Chairman Mao more elaborately discussed it in ‘Some questions concerning methods of leadership’. There he said, “All correct leadership of our Party is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses’.
This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action.
Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.”
From that we get two following process of development of knowledge:
A) Perceptual knowledge from matter – Practice
To collect ideas of masses, that is, going to contact of object, reflecting that in brain and collecting perceptual knowledge. For that, leadership needs to break the ice. That means to resolve all the problems regarding leadership in a unit or area.
B) Conceptual Knowledge – stage of Theory
This stage is to transform collected ideas into synthesized ideas, to make Conceptual Knowledge-Theory-Plan-General line, that is, to raise Matter-Perceptual Knowledge to Conscience-Conceptual Knowledge stage.
C) Contact with Matter – Practice
To bring Conceptual Knowledge-Conscience-Theory-Plan-General Line to masses, activate that, i.e. to apply Conceptual Knowledge-Conscience-Theory-Plan-General Line to Practice and test the correctness of Theory-Plan-General Line through perseveringly transforming matter according to that.
The transformation of matter happens in course of practice according to the Conceptual Knowledge-Conscience-Theory-Plan-General Line, is correct. In that stage, knowledge regarding matter completes.
If conceptual knowledge does not fully conform to the change and transformation of matter, then, we have to create perceptual knowledge in course of practice and application, clear the errors through making summation of experience and research, and make new Theory-Plan-General Line, that is, Conceptual Knowledge has to be made, again that has to be applied in Practice for verification; we have to apply that to change and transform matter.
Thus, correct line develops going through the repeated cycles of Matter-Practice-Perceptual Knowledge to Conscience-Conceptual Knowledge-Theory-Plan-General Line, and from Conscience-Conceptual Knowledge-Theory-Plan-General Line to Matter-Practice-Perceptual Knowledge. We have to apply method of mass line in guiding cadres too.”
This is indeed the correct explanation of the law of reflection. When saying “to collect ideas of masses, that is, going to contact of object, reflecting that in brain and collecting perceptual knowledge”, Sikder uses clear words for that:
- বস্তু means object (“bastu”),
- মস্তিষ্কে means the brain (“mastiṣka”),
- প্রতিফলিত করা means to reflect.
And we can see two steps: the first of this step concerns the five senses. It is logical, as the humans are living matter. What drives the humans is not a “spirit”, a “soul”, but their own material existence.
Therefore the first step can only be based on perception, connected to practice, because practice means transformation and therefore feelings that go with it. That's why the working class is the most revolutionary class of the history.
The second step concerns the Theory, the conceptualization. Here, Sikder shows that he understood perfectly the teachings of Lenin and, before him, of the European social-democracy of the end of the 19th century.
Dialectical materialism considers that without the conceptualization, there is no synthesis. Of course, the synthesis must come back to the masses, and this is a difficult task. But nothing is more wrong than the spontaneous line that refuse this conceptualization.
When we look at Charu Mazumdar, we can see that he is often accused of leftism in India, for his line of annihilation. But if we take a look at Mazumdar's teachings, we don't see that he “stopped” the process at the first step. On the contrary, he battled for the constitution of the Party – precisely for the existence of the level of conceptualization. So, he was no a mere partisan of spontaneity.
The concept of “Party” is not simply a “political” one, it is not merely an “organization”: it is a place for synthesis, and that's why there is always a two line struggle in it: it reflects the dialectical process which is happening.
The Party is in itself the reflection of reality in movement, and the guiding thought is the tool permitting the jump from the level of perception to the one of conceptualization.