December 16th 2017

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COVER STORY The meaning of Christmas

CANBERRA OBSERVED Parliamentary stampede tramples freedoms

EUTHANASIA Palliative care remains the true solution

FOREIGN AFFAIRS The more Zimbabwe changes, the more it stays the same

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Putting the 'fair' back in the fair go for farmers

OPINION The new Reformation: How Christians found themselves on the 'wrong' side of history

PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIETY Why Marxists will not engage with opponents

ECONOMICS Kim Beazley rides in as a white knight for the TPP

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Mergers could give unions a striking profile

MUSIC Sounds like ...: A vain search for meaning

CINEMA Casablanca: Contender for the 'perfect film'

BOOK REVIEW Australia behind the scenes in WWII

BOOK REVIEW Political sparks at the 'Friendly' Games

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Why Marxists will not engage with opponents

by Gerard Wilson

News Weekly, December 16, 2017

The campaigners for same-sex “marriage” promote their cause under two slogans, the one of vastly more importance than the other. They have so successfully drenched the mainstream media with “marriage equality!” that even the opponents of same-sex “marriage” are beguiled into using varieties of the question-begging phrase.

The idea behind the slogan is that, in being denied the opportunity to marry in the same way as heterosexual couples (that is, having their union sanctioned by the Marriage Act), homosexuals are denied their human rights. Indeed, the logic of the same-sex “marriage” rhetoric is that any couple of whatever nature is denied their human rights if shut out of formal marriage by government legislation. There’s no slippery slope argument here; just the logical extension.

‘Love is love’ is just a slogan

The second slogan, “love is love”, is even less an argument than a slogan. The idea seems to be that love between homosexuals – or any couple of whatever nature – is the same as the love between a man and a woman. Even if that is true – and it’s very debatable – it does not follow that such couples should enjoy the sanction of the Marriage Act, the key feature of marriage being the union of male and female.


Supporters of the present legislation limiting marriage to the union of male and female reject the claim that human rights are being denied. Indeed, human rights have nothing to do with the question. The logic is straightforwardly deductive. If marriage in the Marriage Act is limited to the union of male and female, any individual of the male or female sex is free to marry. No rights are denied. Homosexuals willingly choose not to marry. The question is one of definition (as has been repeated ad nauseam), not of human rights.

One can also defend the present legislation inductively, remembering that (valid) inductive arguments do not give necessary conclusions. Since time out of mind, and in all cultures, marriage has been understood as the union between male and female formalised by the state and community, and sacralised by the prevailing religion. The reasons for the state and religious intervention are, in brief, political and moral. Protection of marriage as between male and female has been an essential part of societies that endure over time – that remain healthy.

In this, one can discern an under­lying principle of utility, or one can view the enduring tradition of marriage as prescriptive. There is also a natural law argument, but I will not go into that here, for I have said enough to make my point. The point is that those supporting the present Marriage Act and the maintenance of the traditional idea of marriage have coherent rational arguments to propose. This is to leave aside the implications for the rights of free speech, of religious liberty and of free association, if there is a change to the definition of marriage.

What is the same-sex “marriage” supporters’ response to this?

In the mainstream media, the supporters of same-sex “marriage” have not engaged with the arguments. Nor have groups like the internationally funded extreme-left GetUp! Instead there has been unrelenting vilification (shouts of homophobe! and hate mongers!) and the sometimes violent attempts to shut down meetings to support traditional marriage.

It is not just the marriage “debate” that provokes such a response from the left. The left’s response in the same-sex “marriage” debate is the paradigm example. You also confront the same abusive response to rational challenges to climate change (denier!), and the Stolen Generation and the conduct of Aboriginal affairs (racist!).

Why is this? Is the left just a bunch of totalitarian thugs who understand that power is the bottom line of political action, and that abuse and violence are among the necessary tools for gaining and maintaining power? For it is only by achieving irresistible power that one’s ideology can flower. The record shows that standover and violence are essential elements of leftist action, and irresistible power is the aim.

No, it’s not just thuggery, though it is clear some activists are in there for the kick violence gives them. Violence is the praxis of the Marxist theoria, and the transcendent feature of the theoria/praxis unity is Marx’s dialectical materialism. Let nobody be fooled; Marxist ideas and a Marxist mentality are the prime movers in all present social issues, however unconscious in many.

Marxism is an extensive and complex theory. Few Marxists, particularly the activist bashing his way through a peaceful gathering of dissenting citizens, have the time and intellectual ability to achieve a full grasp of the theory. The major obstacle is Marxism’s roots in German philosophy from the great Immanuel Kant to Georg Hegel, the latter’s sometimes impenetrable thought having a critical influence on the development of Marx’s materialist dialectic.

Of course, there are features of Marxism that are easily (and eagerly) digested: history is the tale of class struggle, of the exploiter and the exploited, and of the capitalist oppression of the worker, leading via the materialist dialectic to the socialist utopia where perfect freedom and equality reign and everyone can choose “hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, tending cattle in the evening and engaging in literary criticism after dinner” (Marx, The German Ideology). It is how the materialist dialectic works that causes the problems of comprehension. It is comprehensible on one level, but not so easily fathomed on a deeper level.

Marx borrowed – let’s say “stole” – from Hegel’s dialectic. Philosopher Roger Scruton described Hegel’s dialectic as “the method of progression among concepts, whereby a ‘more true’ concept is generated from inadequate beginnings, through overcoming the oppositions intrinsic to them”. At the risk of distortion by too simple an explanation, Hegel’s “concept” brings “its own negation with it”.

The resolution of the opposition is a concept on “a higher level … This new concept generates its own negation, and so the process continues, until, by successive applications of the dialectic, the whole of reality has been laid bare” (Roger Scruton, A Short History of Modern Philosophy, p165.) Hegel applied the same dialectic to the evolution of history.

This process is sometimes known as the thesis-antithesis-synthesis-new thesis process. A clearer illustration of the process is found in Plato’s dialogues. For example, a definition of justice is proposed (thesis), that definition is challenged (antithesis), the objection is resolved (synthesis) and a new definition is proposed (thesis), and the process starts again. Of central importance in Hegel’s idealist dialectic is that the process is dynamic – shot-through with changefulness.

Marx turned Hegel’s idealist dialectic into a materialist dialectic by making labour and the class struggle the point of the clash of concepts. The materialist dialectic is the story of the working through of the class struggle within the prevailing economic or labour conditions – Marx’s “forces of production”.

The continual clash of the exploited with the exploiters resolves into a new set of economic/labour conditions until the final resolution – communism. This is the thesis-antithesis-synthesis-new thesis process.

In contradiction of his materialist metaphysics, Marx claimed that this process amounted to an invariant law of change. It was inevitable that human society would work through a series of economic arrangements until it reached the communistic utopia. Revolution, not always violent, was unceasing. The series of economic arrangements, he said, were primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and communism. We are in the penultimate state of capitalism.

There is one other important feature of the materialist dialectic that must be considered.

“Conditioned” by the economic/labour base (the forces of production) is a “superstructure” of the “relations of production”. The superstructure consists of law, politics, art, religion and so on, all of which work to protect (as conditioned) the economic base. If the economic base is the unresolved clash of exploiter and exploited, then the superstructure so conditioned is a temporary bulwark of injustice that must pass. All is temporary injustice until the final resolution leading into the socialist utopia.

It is not possible to dig deeper into the materialist dialectic in this short space. But ideas relevant to my demonstration are that Marx’s socio-analysis (the dialectic) aims to pierce through appearances to lay bare social reality; that reality is “changeful and conflictual rather than inert and static”; that “the act of inquiry shapes as well as discovers knowledge … knowledge is not bestowed but won”; and that “a dialectical approach offers an entree into the possible nature of things that is blocked to view from a non-dialectical perspective”.

The non-dialectical view is the normal processes of human reasoning that examines the world halted in its processes. This makes the changefulness and dynamism of the world difficult – if not impossible – for our cognitive faculties to assess. This is one of the most serious problems for Marx’s materialist dialectic. (R. Heilbroner, Marx: For and Against. See chapters 1 and 2 for a detailed discussion of these ideas.)

The features of Marxism sketched here amount to a mentality that thoroughly permeates the world of the left. So, how does the mind that believes that reality is changeful and dynamic, that history is leading societies through conflict to a socialist utopia, that all societies before the utopia are essentially unjust and exploitative, that all authority is illegitimate before the eschatological resolution, and that we all must cooperate in achieving mankind’s irresistible destiny, react to challenges at any point in this ineluctable process?

Well, it’s a waste of time, isn’t it, and a toleration of injustice, to dignify irrelevant non-dialectical arguments (normal everyday reasoning) with dialogue? We might as well smash pointless bigoted opposition from the political arena and be done with it.

Gerard Wilson is an Australian novelist and the founder and president of the Edmund Burke Society. His latest novel, The Witch Hunters, is a satire on the state of the Catholic Church in contemporary Australian society. Available from the author: PO Box 3116, Mornington, Victoria, 3931. Or visit

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