Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963


The survey of historical materialism is the best part of Schaff Introduction to the Marxist Theory. He was praised by Ossowski for having tried to remove, to a certain extent, the ambiguities and to explicate the meaning of the basic concepts, and by others for having renounced economic determinism[308]. The final result is not, however, satisfactory. This is due partly to the difficulties of the subject, and partly to the acceptance of incompatible premises.

Schaff takes as his starting point Stalin’s highly controversial pronouncement that historical materialism is an extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life. Historically it is not true. Engels noted in the preface to Anti-Dhring that only after the dialectical laws had been discovered to operate in history, he undertook the task of convincing himself that they also govern the ‘apparent fortuitousness of (natural) events[309]. The formulation of historical materialism preceded that of dialectical materialism.

Moreover, it is more than doubtful whether Marx was ever anything more than a historical and philosophical materialist. In a striking passage in Capital, to which very early attention was drawn in Poland[310], Marx emphasised the enormous distance dividing man from the animal kingdom. What is ‘exclusively human’ in man was to Marx not easily reducible to matter; he was a conscientious scholar, reluctant to content himself with some ‘indications’ of a general nature to consider his point satisfactorily proven. Marx accepted the assumption of philosophical materialism. It is impossible to separate thought from matter, man’s consciousness from his body. Marx further assumed that matter was primary and thought secondary and this he found confirmed by the course of history. ‘Consciousness’, Marx wrote in The German Ideology, ‘can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life process’. The latter is the man’s struggle to secure his subsistence. Men must be in a position to live in order to be able to ‘make history’. The production of the means to sustain life is, therefore, man’s first historical act. Marx did not think that any further assumptions were necessary to support historical materialism. If there were, they should be looked for in the science of Nature[311].

In a sense Zolkiewski was right when he wrote that dialectical materialism is a generalisation of the Marxian theory of history and culture. It does bear the marks of minds disdainful of abstract subtleties. It takes a bold, breath-taking leap of thought to contend that if the material world is primary and mind secondary it follows that the material life of society is also primary and its spiritual life secondary[312]. The term ‘material’ has in the antecedent and the consequent a different meaning, and even if it had the same there still remains a considerable gap between the material and social reality large enough to make us stop and reflect over what is involved.

Philipp Frank wrote recently that close ties have always and everywhere existed between man’s picture of the physical Universe and his picture of an ideal human society. Political and religious trends, particularly in our own century, have favoured such interpretations of the results of science that would or could support their ideologies. This is a sociological fact which once revealed can be investigated and helps to relieve the picture of the Universe from its ideological preconceptions[313].

There is a great deal of these preconceptions in Stalin’s account of dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism in Stalin’s exposition is a transparent introjection of the class struggle, of the order of succession of social-economic formations, of the inevitable revolutions, even of Party strategy and tactics, into the structure of the Universe, from which they are derived as laws of Nature[314]. Stalin’s Universe and its laws are a ‘socio-cosmic’ conception and it is little wonder that he was able to deduce from it any sociological, political or historiosophical thesis he desired. In this manner historical materialism is no longer a mode of critical thought and a conceptual framework for the analysis of social and historical reality, as was the case in Capital or The Eighteenth Brumaire. It emerges from Stalin’s hands as a component part of the scientific view of the world, founded on the science of Nature and validated by experience. At least this is the outcome if circular thinking is cheerfully ignored.

The deduction of historical materialism from the universal laws of the external world has, however, serious disadvantages. In dialectical materialism a historical and transitory state of society is hypostatised into a metaphysical state of affairs. Although this metaphysical state of affairs is supposed to be dynamic, involves both evolutionary and revolutionary changes, its laws of development themselves cannot change; they must remain immutable and apply to every state of society. To assume that the laws themselves are changeable would allow laws to be dispensed with altogether. If the change of laws is admitted as a scientifically valid explanation, everything is explained in advance, no theory or hypothesis is any longer needed. An assumption that purports to explain everything provides no explanation of anything.

On the ground of an empirical sociology one can argue that the laws of social, economic, and historical development differ or operate in a different manner according to the social and other conditions prevailing in a given society. This explanation fails, if it is assumed that these laws are inherent in the structure of the Universe. For instance, why should the passing of slow quantitative changes into abrupt qualitative changes, which makes social revolution an inevitable phenomenon, apply to the capitalist and not apply to the socialist society? In this respect Marxian historical materialism as a purely sociological and historical hypothesis with its distinction of the ‘pre-historical’ and ‘historical’ phase in the development of mankind, is superior to Stalin’s ‘socio-cosmic’ approach. It is of the very essence of the Marxian historical dialectics that the passage from the present class-divided to the future classless society results in a complete change of the laws of historical development. Marx could make this claim, since his dialectical principle is not a general principle, applicable to any imaginable realm of being, but specifically related to human society. He did not extend it beyond human society and its history, or, more precisely, beyond the capitalist society. Stalin’s metaphysics makes of the change of social laws a phenomenon to be explained and difficult to account for.

The unitary pattern within which historical materialism has been placed offers another major difficulty. According to Marx, the stage of history is set in the ‘kingdom of necessity’. This is no figure of speech. In Capital Marx tried to show how capitalistic production ‘begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation’. This inexorability is established by several stages, of which the first is concerned with the relations between the individual on the one hand, and class and society on the other.

For Marx the ‘real individual’ cannot be conceived outside class. His nature coincides with what he produces and with how he produces and this means that he cannot be conceived outside society, and in society outside the classes which came into existence in the wake of the division of labour. The class asserts ‘an independent existence over and against the individuals, so that the latter find their conditions of existence predestined, and hence have their position in life and their personal development assigned to them by their class, become subsumed under it’ [315]. In a class-divided society the individual is strictly determined in what he is and in what he does by his class role. In contradistinction to the Hegelians and also to Feuerbach, Marx found the ‘essence’ of the individual in the ‘ensemble of the social relations’ which bind him up with other individuals within his class and with those outside it, in the latter case by the mediation of inter-class relations[316]. The individual is like a knot in a net, a point of the intersection of the chords, without an independent existence outside the net, moving always with it and never on his own. This opinion will be referred to by the name of the ‘thesis of sociological determinism’.

The thesis of sociological determinism is one of the basic assumptions in Capital and Marx warned his readers about it at the very outset. Particular persons should not be blamed for their actions depicted in the pages of Capital. They are only ‘personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests’, creatures of social relations, for which they are not responsible. Marx makes use of this assumption repeatedly in the following pages to describe the actions of the capitalist as determined by ‘external coercive laws’, over which to lament is of no avail. Individuals act under compulsion, they function as the ‘wheels’ of the social mechanism. As Popper justly said, Marx looked upon human actors on the stage of history ‘as mere puppets, irresistibly determined by economic ties’ [317].

It is important to extricate the assumption of sociological determinism from its application in the Marxian analyses of social and historical processes, because otherwise the abstract concepts of instruments of production, productive forces, relations of production, mode of production, acquire the character of disembodied forces that compel events to happen and the historical process to move in its predestined direction. Marx wished them to be always related to concrete groups and classes of individuals, as their modus operandi. The question then arises, however, in what way the relations between abstract concepts, in terms of which social and historical processes are described and explained, compel the individuals to act in the manner in which they are supposed to act. The thesis of sociological determinism provides the answer. The individual as such, that is to say, outside his class, can be disregarded; the state of society and its development is exclusively determined by its class structure and class struggle. The social and historical laws govern the ‘movements’ of the social classes as majestically and imperturbably as Newton’s laws do those of the heavenly bodies.

The thesis of sociological determinism also makes clear why so many people feel that the Marxian sociological and historiosophical doctrine deprives the individual of freedom, and with freedom, of genuine responsibility (although in a classless society the man regains, or rather conquers freedom by having liberated himself from class determination, and thus confirms Marx’s prediction that the social animal in man can develop into an individual only in society).

It is clear that a man cannot be morally responsible unless he is capable of acting freely. On the other hand, if man’s actions were entirely unpredictable, like a throw of a dice, to hold a man responsible for them would be neither reasonable nor justified[318]. Responsibility presupposes some kind of determinism and a place for freedom must be found within it. The concepts of an individual’s freedom and of determinism cannot be considered as mutually exclusive.

Marx’s thesis of sociological determinism assumes more than some kind of determination of the individual’s actions. The individual is strictly determined in his action by class and inter-class relations. What Marx’s capitalist does, ‘does not depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist’, his actions are a mere function of capital, of the external coercive laws, ‘endowed in his person with consciousness and a will’. His private conscience is of no avail, since he cannot help playing the role assigned to him by the existing state of social conditions. He could not act otherwise than as he does, whether he is aware of it or not.

Freedom is incompatible with this strict determinism, with having to act under internal or external compulsion, which makes it impossible to will and to act in this rather than in another way. The freedom which the critics of the Marxian doctrine have in mind consists in the freedom of choice. The latter and determinism do not exclude each other, but strict determinism does exclude freedom of choice. In a strictly determined world the man has no real alternative, he is neither free nor morally responsible for his deeds. Even when he fully understands the forces which make him do what he does, this knowledge does not somehow liberate him from being under compulsion. A man who falls down from a mountain peak is not made free in his fall by the knowledge that what happens to him is in agreement with the law of gravity. It is doubtful whether this knowledge is of any comfort to him, although it seems to be to some people, should what they say be accepted at its face value.

In Stalin’s ‘socio-cosmic’ conception of dialectical materialism the thesis of sociological determinism is strengthened and made immune to any criticism limited to social and historical facts. It cannot be argued any longer that the thesis of sociological determinism is a sociological hypothesis to be tested or a historical interpretation, a selective point of view, justifiable by what it can reveal and achieve, but as arbitrary as any other historical interpretation. It becomes a piece of the unique cosmic pattern, an instance of how the cosmic forces operate in and through men and society, and bring about the succession of certain states of affairs. Marx’s words that it is of no avail to lament over historical necessity acquire a new dimension. Dialectics of Nature and dialectics of society and history confirm each other, because all dialectical laws themselves are subject to the first law of dialectics. They constitute an ‘integral whole’, depend on and are determined by each other[319].

Stalin’s ‘socio-cosmic’ conception of dialectical and historical materialism comes into conflict, however, with the views established on the ground of practical and political premisses, deduced from the ‘revolutionary content of Marxism’, rediscovered by Lenin and developed into the voluntaristic outlook of Marxism-Leninism. Marx recognised the existence of a revolutionary force in society, identified by him with the industrial proletariat, ultimately brought into being by the dialectical relation between Nature and man. It is a natural force in so far as men are creatures of Nature, but no cosmic force, which it becomes, if Stalin’s view is accepted.

Since Lenin wrote What is to be Done not even the industrial proletariat as a whole, but only its most conscious and advanced part, the Party, has become the carrier of the revolution. Later the Soviet State and, with the Soviet State, the Soviet Army were assigned the role of the demiurge of history, which is responsible for the revolution spreading over the surface of the Earth[320]. Thus, however, the carrier of the revolution can hardly be conceived as a natural force in the Marxian sense, and still less as a cosmic factor. The revolution becomes a human goal and purpose imposed on social reality by free human agents, who act in accordance with their knowledge and ideals, instead of being mere ‘wheels of social mechanism, working, as Marx suggested, ‘with iron necessity towards inevitable results’. Marxist-Leninists actually regard this view as morally cynical and factually erroneous[321].

This implies, however, that whatever limiting conditions of intelligent actions there might be in any definite historical and social situation, the latter does not determine one single path of development, but leaves open at least more than one major alternative of action. The contingent and the unforeseen enters thereby on the social and historical scene. Furthermore, since knowledge, skill, intelligence, and other unforeseeable human factors assume an important role in the development of events, economic determinism is reduced to the status of being one among the many determinants of social and historical events. The role of the individual in history, which is justly denied on the assumption of economic determinism, must again be admitted. With the acceptance of the voluntaristic principle, for which social and historical reality is as much a creation of a purposeful ictivity as of circumstances independent of human will, leadership becomes indispensable.

Thus Marxism-Leninism includes incongruous and incompatible principles, which cannot be simultaneously held. unless it is only a sum total of plausible beliefs, claiming no scientific validity. If that were the case, the incompatibility of various Marxist-Leninist tenets would be no unusual occurrence. Probably all of us, at some time or other, adhere to beliefs which either are contradictory or lead to a contradiction. Contradiction and incompatibility condemn to absurdity, however, a body of beliefs which claims universal validity and purports to be a scientific system of ‘objectively true’ statements. This claim is made with respect to Marxism-Leninism, and in particular with respect to its sociological and historical content. It is, as Schaff claims, ‘an exceptionally consistent and complete theory’. The question, therefore, arises how to deal with the contradictions and the problems resulting from the acceptance in the system of theses derived from the principle of strict determinism and the voluntaristic principle. The first excludes the existence of free human agents, the second assumes that at least some of them may successfully strive for what they feel to be best in a world of the contingent and unforeseen.

In Schaff’s exposition the incongruity and incompatibility of various parts of historical materialism in its Marxist-Leninist version do not disappear but grow more pronounced. The social phenomena, Schaff states repeatedly, are subject to natural necessity, take place independently of the will of man. The social processes proceed with an elemental and inexorable power of the phenomena of Nature; this applies equally to the change of one economic-social formation into another and the general order of their succession. In particular, socialism is an objective social necessity which inevitably results from the capitalist formation[322].

On the other hand Schaff declares economic materialism to be a distortion of Marxism-Leninism, foreign not only to Lenin, Plekhanov, and Stalin, but also to Marx and Engels. He extols the ‘creative power of human thought’, which changes gradually and indirectly the economic basis, and ultimately the whole social reality. He recognises the importance of ideas which have a considerable effect on the economic structure, and in general of the ‘spiritual factor’ in the social development. In Schaff’s opinion Marxism-Leninism is not guilty of the one factor fallacy. The social development is not reducible to the operation of economic forces, which are essentially forces of Nature and which man is powerless to influence[323].

How can these two collections of assertions be held together? Schaff does not try to answer this question in earnest and is satisfied when he is able to ascertain that they were actually held by one or other of the so-called classics, and to support his contention by a pertinent quotation from the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Plekhanov, or Stalin. He does not analyse these quotations to discover their meaning and to test their mutual consistency. He refuses to discuss the substance of any objections or to consider the phenomena themselves. The authority of the so-called classics of Marxism-Leninism justifies the truth of the statements and constitutes a sufficient reason for the rejection of any objection that questions the justice of the claims made by his authorities.

Schaff’s method is exegetic. What agrees with a body of assertions assumed to be true, is true, and what disagrees with it, is false. Schaff faithfully follows Lenin’s ‘deductive method’. It assures him easy victories over opponents, but the results are unsatisfactory unless the conclusions are believed in advance or accepted on other grounds. The procedure is that of a political controversialist, the subjects discussed are philosophical and methodological. The exegetic method has later become very common and widely used by Polish Marxist-Leninists. Schaff, however, set the pattern and was the first in Poland to offer it as a method of what was to replace a genuine philosophical argument.

Schaff compared Lenin’s ‘deductive method’ to the procedure applied in mathematics and logic. A mathematician rejects a theorem if it is incompatible with already proved theorems and which added to the system makes it contradictory. He also accepts p as true if ∼ p is not a theorem of the system. This defence of Lenin’s ‘deductive method’ clearly ignores the difference between a mathematical or logical theorem on the one hand, an empirical and philosophical statement on the other. Neither in the empirical sciences nor in philosophy can the truth of p be inferred from the falsehood of ∼ p. So far as empirical science is concerned, this manner of reasoning was ultimately rejected some three centuries ago after Galileo had subjected Aristotle’s physics to his memorable criticism. No man of science and hardly any philosopher would today consider in earnest Engels’ advice, endorsed also by Lenin, to the effect that science can benefit from going back to Hegel’s school, whose great contributions to the natural sciences Engels put higher than those of Newton and Laplace[324]. Philosophers of an empirical and scientific turn of mind stopped supporting their arguments by Schaff’s procedure at least since Locke, for Lenin’s ‘deductive method’ has invariably led to dogmatism in two meanings of this term: to the acceptance as certain of assertions that are doubtful, and to the acceptance as true of assertions which should be rejected in view of their having been shown inadequate or invalid.

The salient feature of Schaff’s presentation of historical materialism is his insistence on the ‘creative power of human thought’, on man’s capability of remaking social reality and of subjugating natural and economic forces by means of his knowledge of the respective laws. A few years later, after the publication of Stalin Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Schaff self-critically observed that his former view on the matter smacked of the error of subjectivism[325].

According to Schaff, Marx and Engels neither denied nor underestimated the reciprocal interactions between the economic basis and the ideological superstructure; they recognised the importance of social consciousness and, in general, of a considerable number of intermediate factors operative between the basis and the superstructure; they accepted the reciprocal actions and reactions exercised and suffered by the economic basis, ideology, and the intermediate factors, which result in an intricate, if not intractable, web of mutual interdependence. As a matter of fact, Schaff’s interpretation is only a paraphrase of Plekhanov views to be found in The Development of the Monist View of History and Fundamental Problems of Marxism.

The prominence given to Plekhanov’s opinion was not prompted, however, by theoretical considerations, by the opinion that pure economic materialism is an inadequate method of research and explanation. The role of consciousness in social development was put into relief only by Lenin and Stalin; it reflected their political experiences and the requirements arising from the prevailing social conditions[326]. Plekhanov’s interpretation of historical materialism in which the economy of society and its psychology were conceived as ‘two sides of one and the same phenomenon, that is to say, of the struggle for existence’ [327], best fitted the requirements of the political situation. The latter called for a theory which would justify both the Marxian thesis: ‘the social existence of men determines their consciousness’, and the new one emerging in the Marxist-Leninist practice: ‘the social consciousness of men determines their existence’. The shift of emphasis and the changes from Marxian determinism to Marxist-Leninist voluntarism were dictated by the demands which practice imposed upon theory. Under the pressure of political demands alterations and adjustments were made in the ‘scientific outlook’, which, although changed out of recognition, still remained the ostensible guide to action. Such ‘theories’, conforming solely or mainly to the transitory political requirements, were called ‘mythologies’ a few years later. ‘In this capacity’, wrote Kolakowski, ‘the theory instead of fulfilling its practical function owing to its cognitive value loses its cognitive function in favour of its practical role, ceases to be a justification and becomes a sanction for practice, stops being a theory and turns into a mythology’ [328]. Schaff’s presentation of historical materialism has really nothing to do with the development of its cognitive content but only, or at least mainly, with the development of the Party line on historical materialism as the basis of the Party’s strategy and tactics.

Schaff Introduction to the Marxist Theory was something more than a systematic survey of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine written by an ardent believer and a faithful Party member. It exemplifies an attitude to philosophy and thinking in general, for which thinking is never an autonomous cognitive activity and a pursuit of knowledge, for its own sake, but is always closely integrated with and subordinated to the struggle for survival and to some basic preoccupations of man’s life, above all, to the conquest of power and its consolidation. In Marxist-Leninist philosophy has become a means to this end. Political power secures the control over man’s overt action, ideological power – over man’s mind and conscience. In the Marxist-Leninist language the expressions ‘philosophical or ideological struggle’ carry the meaning which the term ‘struggle’ commonly conveys. Marxist-Leninists treat philosophy seriously because they think that it allows them to extend and fortify the system of social and political power. In the long run, it is one of the main devices by means of which power may be effectively held.

Schaff’s book was actually an introduction to philosophical struggles in the indicated sense and in this respect it had a twofold significance. It introduced to Poland Lenin’s exegetic method and it announced the appearance of a new type of philosopher. This new type can generally be termed ‘political scholar’, since it was not confined to philosophy. It does not merely indicate the fact that scientific criteria of eligibility for scientific research were not always decisive for academic appointments. The more important characteristic of a political scholar was his belief that his particular discipline is not autotelic, but only a means to some higher ends, served by the Party, to which he either belonged or which he supported. Consequently, he believed that thought, of which the Party does not approve, must be wrong, and that it was his duty to subordinate his views to the Party, that is, to its ideological considerations and political ends. This made of him a suitable person for being entrusted with the responsibility for the establishment of officially approved theories, methods, and ideological interpretations in various branches of science and in the humanities. In the Stalinist period practically each of them had an ideological leader, with vast administrative powers, who, as the expression current at that time put it, commanded on this particular front.

This development had very little in common with Marx. Marx differentiated between what he said as ‘a Party’ and ‘a scientific man’. Only Lenin ridiculed and rejected ‘non-partisanship in philosophy’ and in his inimitable manner supplied it with Marx’s authority[329]. The appearance of political scholars is closely bound up with the principle of partijnost’. A political scholar accepts ultimately as true what the Party leadership decides to be true and rejects as false what the Party leadership decides to be false, and this is the essence of parlijnost’. In non-Marxist language we can say of him that he considers himself above all a member of the movement, in his hierarchy of values the good of the Party comes before that of science.

The political scholar is a relatively new but not an entirely unknown phenomenon. Znaniecki differentiated various types of scholars and scientists and investigated their respective social roles. One of them was the religious scholars and the sacred school, the social form of their organisation[330]. The characteristics of the religious scholar and his role performed within the sacred school bear a close resemblance to the political scholar and to the ideological school respectively. These similarities were put into relief by the introduction of the concept of institutional Marxism-Leninism, derived from Durkheim’s views on the social origin and function of religion[331].

The distinctive characteristic of religion in Durkheim’s sense is that in religion thought and action are inseparably joined together. The religious phenomena in Durkheim’s sense are those which consist in obligatory beliefs connected with some practices relative to objects (sacred things) given in these beliefs[332]. The obligatory character of beliefs held in common and of collective practices associated with them differentiates religious phenomena from the legal or moral, which lack either the former or the latter kind of obligatoriness. In this conception of religion the content of the beliefs has a secondary importance; they fulfil their function if they are considered to be sacred, i.e. beyond doubt, are held in common, and command an unconditional subordination on the part of all group members. By compelling conformity they endow the group with cohesion, which no other means would secure. This is the social purpose which the obligatory beliefs and practices serve. Unlike other collective representations, the compulsion of religious beliefs is experienced as a force which resides both outside the individual group members and within them. They act, therefore, as an effective restraint against non-conformity and every kind of social behaviour that injures the group cohesion.

Durkheim’s concept of religion also applies to beliefs and practices that are not religious in the common meaning of the term. From the sociological point of view, every combination of beliefs and practices can fulfil the religious function provided that they concern some important aspects of man’s life experience. Marxist-Leninist ideology satisfies this requirement which has enabled it to be transformed into a body of beliefs endowed with the compulsory power of a religious creed (in Durkheim’s sense). The institutionalisation of the Marxist-Leninist ideology secures considerable social advantages for it enables it to compel conformity. But as a result its cognitive content must suffer accordingly. To fulfil its social function the doctrine must be immunised from change and adjustments, and by being exempt from criticism and rational examination the doctrine is bound to lose touch with the realities of present-day science and to become more and more dogmatic as well as ossified.

The religious function of a doctrine (in the above defined sense) is incompatible with its cognitive role, no single doctrine can act in both capacities without either its scientific or religious function grievously degenerating in the process. The scientist’s maxim: de omnibus dubitandum, is a useless and harmful precept for a prophet, the obedience expected from a believer conflicts with the basic obligation of a scientific worker, who owns obedience to no authority, neither to Caesar nor to God. The technique effective in political strife is out of place in science. The untouchable authority of a political leader is of decisive importance in achieving political success and constitutes a fatal impediment to the advance of knowledge. Moreover, a political discussion differs from a scientific one. The aim of the former is not only to establish that one is right, but also to ‘destroy’ the opponent by exposing the social and existential foundations of his thinking, and thus discrediting his general outlook and theories. The weaker the opponent the better for ourselves. In a scientific discussion the stronger our opponent the better the truth. The adversary in a scientific discussion is first and foremost our ally in the common pursuit of discovering what is actually the case.

A doctrine which merges religious and scientific functions is a retrogressive social phenomenon. The separation of these two functions has been attained after a long historical struggle, fraught with tragic events, and completed in the social sciences only recently. A scientific doctrine may be made to serve a religious end, but this does not promote either science or social well-being and progress. Science has other uses which may effectively help in the solution of practical problems without jeopardising or impeding scientific advance. The operation of religious beliefs (in Durkheim’s sense) in the realm of scientific knowledge is not only responsible for the anachronistic and mythical content of Marxism-Leninism, but also for inducing peculiar psychological attitudes, modes of behaviour and standards of moral judgement on the part of the believer and those toeing the line. Their most far-reaching effect is the undermining and final destruction of the urge to search for truth[333].

Marxist-Leninists did not challenge the basic facts of this analysis, that is, they agreed that their doctrine fulfils a religious (in Durkheim’s sense) and a cognitive function[334]. What they refused to accept was the incompatibility of these two functions. They not only contended that the religious and cognitive functions of Marxism-Leninism are compatible, but also that their combination is beneficial both to scientific and to social progress. The two functions ‘are organically bound together’, they constitute a ‘dialectical unity’ and they cannot, therefore, hamper each other. Once the proletariat has acquired political supremacy, the proletarian ideology is forever emancipated from being conceived in what Engels called ‘false consciousness’.

If every science is partisan, and this a political scholar sometimes believes with a fervour immune from any doubt, his partisanship accomplishes openly and consciously what others hypocritically conceal or do unwittingly. Moreover, he thus best serves science. A scientific worker is invariably socially conditioned and politically inspired in some way or other. Only those who let themselves be led by the Party of the proletariat have an uninhibited interest in the advance of science. The ideology of a progressive class always promotes and encourages the development of knowledge in every possible manner. There might exist certain psychological factors which can sometimes induce an undue caution in the revision of theoretical assumptions in view of the fact that for Marxist-Leninist there is no pure theory, every abstract thesis affects practice. Since, however, the theory is determined by the material conditions of existence and must ultimately correspond to what these conditions dictate, the theory is bound to be changed, every incongruity be sooner or later eliminated and replaced by what more faithfully corresponds to the changing social and economic basis, whatever psychological factors might come into play. There may be temporary deviations and errors in the theoretical formulation of ideology, but these are transient and all discrepancies are inevitably and finally removed by the pressure of freely and benevolently developing social relations of production. The theory itself guarantees the readjustment of the doctrine and the reestablishment of the correspondence between its cognitive content on the one hand, and the material conditions of existence on the other[335].

It will be noted that with these assumptions the theory becomes irrefutable. Since its being undogmatic is one of its premisses, it is unassailable and impregnable as much from within as from without. Everything confirms it, and nothing can falsify it. It provides an explanation for itself, for anything that might happen, for any objection raised against it. It accounts for regularities and chance events, for what is predetermined and what is a man-made deviation or an error of judgement. It can never be wrong.

In 1949 this confession of faith became a dogma, guarded by another dogma, namely that it is a scientifically established fact. It was impossible to dispute and critically examine it outside the philosopher’s study[336].