Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963
The development of philosophy in Poland after the Second World War can be divided into three distinct periods. The first was the period of reconstruction which ended some time in 1949. It was marked by the rise of Marxism-Leninism as one philosophical trend among others which existed at that time in academic philosophy. Marxism-Leninism as a philosophical doctrine had a handful of supporters mostly outside the universities. They were regarded as philosophical and sociological journalists rather than as professional philosophers. In their activities they tried to dispel what they called the ‘misinterpretations of Marxist-Leninist’ and the widespread intellectual distrust of this doctrine, which was regarded as obsolete and wildly speculative, suspected of serving purely political aims under the guise of ostensible theoretical interests, and repudiated by many on moral grounds. For their part, Marxist-Leninists showed moderation in their publications concerning more specifically philosophical problems, kept on the defensive and adopted a conciliatory attitude towards other schools of thought with the exception of Christian philosophy.
While emphasising their distinctive characteristics, Marxist-Leninists also professed themselves to be the inheritors and supporters of the rationalistic and scientific tradition in philosophy. They spoke highly of the Warsaw school and logical positivism, and indicated, at least verbally, their willingness to apply modern logical, semantical and syntactical methods to Marxist-Leninist theories. Philosophical discussions were outspoken and free. In the conditions of freedom of thought and expression the Marxist-Leninist claim of having a philosophy superior to any other and of being in possession of the whole truth could have neither been made nor substantiated. The contrast between what Marxist-Leninist and non-Marxist philosophy had to offer was striking to the informed and uninformed reader alike, and the contrast was not in favour of Marxist-Leninists.
Towards the end of 1947 the scientists and scholars on the one hand and the Marxist-Leninist circles on the other lived in a watertight isolation. The former, Ossowski explained, considered Marxism-Leninism as journalism which did not deserve serious consideration’, the latter ignored scientific progress accomplished since Engels’ death and showed no interest in ‘bourgeois science’, except for the sake of polemics. What deserved a thorough inquiry, Ossowski commented, was the astonishing ossification of the philosophical and sociological Marxist-Leninist doctrine, which contrasted strangely with its political and social outlook. Marxism-Leninism was an embodiment of the ‘unity of the opposites’. It had a revolutionary programme of action, proclaimed respect for science and creative thought, declared war on superstitions and prejudices, but its theory was speculative and antiquated, still lingered in nineteenth century problems and atmosphere, and turned its back on science and empirical evidence. The puzzling combination of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary social practice with an obsolete doctrine constituted a problem to be explained sociologically. Ossowski set out to accomplish this task in two impressive essays.
Ossowski’s critical examination of Marxism-Leninism was one of the many attempts undertaken by non-Marxist scholars to discuss the foundations of the Marxist-Leninist doctrines. Although only some received an answer, the efforts of others were not wasted. In particular, Ajdukiewicz’s skilful performance played a considerable part in modifying Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy at a later date. The most comprehensive examination of Marxist-Leninist philosophy as a whole were two essays produced by Lubnicki. His criticism can ultimately be reduced to laying bare the incompatibility of Marxian positivism and naturalism with what it retained from Hegel’s philosophy.
It was generally pointed out that these Hegelian survivals have been taken over and put into relief by Marxism-Leninism, which revives metaphysical disputes of the last century and presents their solutions, now only of historical value, as a final and scientifically valid theory of the Universe, society, history, and man’s place in Nature. Marxism-Leninism abounds in vague and equivocal concepts, ambiguous and untestable assumptions, fallacious arguments, incompatible ideas derived from antiquated science, logic, and methodology. If the meaning of Engels’ various statements were examined, their implications analysed and concepts made unequivocal, many misconceptions would have disappeared. Since this has not been done, the valuable trends in the Marxian tradition-its rejection, in principle, of speculative philosophy, its insistence that only experience and reason provide valid knowledge, and that philosophy can contribute to an effective action, transforming social and historical reality-are submerged by naive and uncritical conceptions, accepted on the strength of practical considerations rather than of logical arguments.
The second period is known under the name of the ‘times of the cult of personality’ or the ‘Stalinist period’. Its commencement was not initiated by any new development in the realm of thought. It was closely bound up, to use Schaff’s words, with the ‘progress of the class struggle and of the socialist construction in our country’. The event that ushered in the new era in philosophy was the setting up of the Polish Workers’ United Party at the end of 1948. Following it Marxism-Leninism was announced to be the Party’s and the State’s official doctrine, enforced by all the administrative means at the disposal of the authorities. Marxism-Leninism could no longer be freely discussed and criticised in public, the validity of its foundations and the main body of its doctrine were placed beyond suspicion and possible human doubt, unless the revision or re-adjustment was made by the highest Marxist-Leninist authority in pr. outside the country. The Stalinist period in philosophy and science commenced in 1949 and was officially inaugurated at the First Congress of Polish Science, held in Warsaw early in 1951.
The Stalinist period was not, as might be thought, a period of complete stagnation. Much was happening beneath the surface which in the course of time has shaken the very foundations of Marxism-Leninism in Poland. The Stalinist period was unfruitful in the sense that it did not produce anything philosophically significant and impeded any development of philosophical inquiry. It ended as it commenced, namely by political events of a revolutionary character. These events took place, however, after Marxism-Leninism had already been changed out of recognition from within, and abandoned by its most promising exponents who have returned to the Marxian tradition. Marxism-Leninism disintegrated in Poland and left very few holding on to the flotsam and jetsam of the intellectual shipwreck. The first signs of what was forthcoming appeared in 1954 and the following year the disintegration was practically complete. The whole structure was so badly damaged by the moving ground of critical thought beneath it that it could not stand the slightest strain and collapsed at the first stress. It was the beginning of the third period, now in progress, which in some respects is reminiscent of the first. It cannot be described in general terms since it has not yet acquired any characteristic features.
Social and political strains and stresses, to which philosophy in Poland was exposed, were present from the first moment of peace, but only later began to weigh heavily upon and to restrict philosophical inquiry. The first three or four years witnessed a considerable degree of freedom and during this time there was a remarkable display of energy to make good the ravages of war in every sphere of national life.
It would be wrong to assume that the work of reconstruction was guided exclusively by the purpose to recreate and preserve the past. The institutions of teaching and research were provisionally reconstructed on the model of the inter-war period because they had passed the test of experience and proved their worth. The spirit that was to animate them was, however, greatly changed. The experiences of war and occupation deeply affected all and induced a considerable majority of scholars and scientists to adopt a new attitude toward their work, toward their social function and obligations. This basic change in the social attitude of the man of science constituted an important factor in post-war developments. To describe the impact of war on the world of science and learning in Poland it is not necessary to go into all the social changes which the last war brought in its wake everywhere, and which in Poland were considerably intensified by the migration of population, vast war destruction and post-war misery, international and social upheavals. What is of interest in this context can be confined to the effects of war on the mind of the man of science and to the conclusions he drew from them in the redefinition of his social function.
The experiences of war and occupation have shaken the conviction that Western Civilisation is a secure and solid rock providing in itself a bulwark against a return to the savagery of the past. Civilisation has turned out to be a thin and precarious crust. Its achievements do not provide safety at a time of crisis, but make a determined barbarian, lurking behind the mask of modern civilisation, thorough and efficient to a degree unimaginable in the more primitive ages. Moral ideals, standards of personal and public behaviour are incapable of restraining the outrages of men and whole nations dominated by the lust for power. They can be rejected or denied, they may give way under stress and reveal unsuspected, latent possibilities of human nature. Civilisation cannot be left to care for itself. It is a feeble growth which must be kept alive by the constant active co-operation of all.
The outbreak of barbarity occurred within Western Civilisation that has claimed its moral superiority over those preceding and co-existing with it. The events have proved this claim unjustifiable. Moreover, they have proved that this civilisation is affected by some deep-rooted ills, some social and spiritual sickness. The source of the disease must be traced and diagnosed to prevent its recurrent outbreak. For some more fortunate nations this may be a problem of conscience and a means of regaining spiritual comfort; for others it is a matter of sheer biological survival.
The first conclusion to be drawn from what the experiences of war and occupation implied was that the man of science could not and should not keep aloof from political, social, and, in general, the practical problems of his time. The memory that in the inter-war period Polish scientists and scholars had often remained in their ivory tower of pure science resulted in a sense of guilt. They felt that they were thus co-responsible, if only by default, for the catastrophe that befell their country; they failed to realise what was in store for them and others and to act accordingly. This must not happen again. It is a moral obligation and a social responsibility of scholars and scientists to take an active interest in the whole scale of human values and to contribute as much as they can to the elimination of evils, conflicts and maladjustments of our civilisation, which afflict their own community and that of mankind at large.
To be realistic this conclusion had to be more closely defined in the two spheres to which it was to be applied. The responsibility towards humanity at large could be fulfilled only by international scientific co-operation. This idea had in the Polish world of science and learning numerous and eager supporters. The scientist, wrote Chałasiński, has acquired a position of influence never enjoyed by him before. The fate of the world was once in the hands of high priests and military leaders, it passed later on to those of statesmen and politicians, industrialists and financiers; at present, scientists, scholars, intellectuals have also gained the invisible power of exercising influence on the course of events. They should consolidate and strengthen it by fact-finding research, providing information and helping to create a world-wide public opinion.
Considerable hopes were aroused in connection with national and international scientific and cultural bodies, above all with UNESCO. UNESCO was considered to be a palpable sign that science has become actually universal and international. Motions and appeals for organising international co-operation of scientists on various projects were submitted to UNESCO.
The sociologists were in particular anxious that the chance of studying the effects of large-scale experiments carried out by Nazi Germany on the living body of society in the occupied countries and Germany itself, and of mass postwar migrations, should not be lost. A detailed programme of such social research on an international scale was prepared by Ossowski, who also urged that the regime of national-socialism should be investigated both for theoretical and practical reasons. If an epidemic, argued Chałasinski, had killed as many people as the Nazi had all over Europe, would not all the laboratories in the world be busy trying to discover its germ and cure?
In all these suggestions the international character of the planned research was emphasised. The illusion that there exists only one way of looking at and thinking of social problems can be effectively destroyed by international co-operation of sociologists on definite common problems facing the world at large. There are questions, like that of the proper use of scientific knowledge, which are truly universal and require studies on the level of human civilisation, common effort and understanding. A new revolutionary era of the atomic age has begun. All previous revolutions have taken the communities involved unawares and unprepared to deal with what lay in store for them. The present one does not need to be a blind force, the adjustment might be made by rational foresight and purposeful self-adaptation in the light of what has become known about social attitudes on the one hand, technological and economic change on the other.
Scholars and scientists have above all a social responsibility to their own community. Knowledge means deeper insight into the phenomena of nature and society. It also means the power of betterment, the taking advantage of change, which is not always beneficial, for the benefit of society. The power of betterment results from the common effort of the scientists to achieve what could not be attained without science. This is the essential social responsibility of the man of science and to this subject was devoted a widely noted editorial article in the first issue of the new monthly Życie Nauki.
Życie Nauki was the organ of a group of scientists and scholars, active in Cracow from 1945, interested in what they called ‘the science of science’. Many distinguished scientists suggested in the past that a separate discipline to deal with various problems of science in its theoretical and practical aspect should be created. In pre-war Poland this idea was supported by a number of eminent scientists who set up a debating group in Warsaw (Kolo Naukoznawcze), meeting regularly from 1928. The Cracow circle continued this tradition. ‘The science of science’ was to combine investigations on science from methodological and historical viewpoints, to consider its organisational, technological and socio-technological aspects, as well as the role science plays or may be made to play in the life of man. The theoretical interest was reinforced by the pronounced desire, born out of the experience of hunger, poverty, cruelty, and degradation suffered during the war and occupation, of improving the material and spiritual well-being of the people. To this objective politicians, social reformers, and scientists could and should contribute their respective share.
The editorial in Życie Nauki was not a pronouncement against pure science, but against pure science for its own sake, conceived as a means of satisfying individual intellectual curiosity. It stressed its independence from and its opposition to dialectical materialism on the one hand, and the Catholic world view on the other, on account of their speculative foundations. The attitude of scientific humanism was advocated by Życie Nauki on the ground that science is of social origin, has ever remained a social phenomenon and is essentially a social activity. Science often owes its development to social needs and should recognise their claim upon itself. It depends on social conditions and social support; the scientist’s impartiality and objectivity is a product of the social character of science which is also apparent in the increasing role played by teamwork and planning in scientific activities. Once this is recognised, the cult of pure science as a private concern, with a purpose in itself, determined merely by love of knowledge, is no longer acceptable. ‘Science for science’s sake’ must be replaced by ‘science for the sake of society’ .
Scientific humanism advocated the adoption of the scientific attitude, as contrasted with the traditional, irrational, or non-scientific outlook, the willing acceptance of the services which science can render to social betterment and progress, and an active participation in the whole range of social and cultural activities that benefit the community. It recognised the supreme importance of the social and political sciences, whose development should secure for them the same place with respect to social and public life as physics and chemistry have assumed with respect to technical problems. Scientific humanism was a programme of integrating the scholars and scientists into the life of the community, of considering its needs in their research, and of imbuing the whole social life with the spirit and values of science. Science searches for an optimal solution of a given problem from which all would benefit, since all have the same needs. Political solutions consist in asserting the interests of one group against those of another. Scientific humanism did not urge the scientist to become a politician, but to replace, whenever possible, the political ways of solving social problems by those based on scientific method .
The programme of scientific humanism was criticised by different people on various grounds: philosophical, metaphysical, religious, political; Marxist-Leninist and Catholic writers repudiated it, each for reasons of their own. There were scientists and scholars who, fearing the interference and control of political authorities over science and scientific institutions, preferred the ideal of pure knowledge with no utilitarian obligations. They argued that recognition of those obligations was the thin end of the wedge which may ultimately destroy the autonomy of science. But the number of supporters of scientific humanism was considerable and included many names which carried weight and authority in the country.
There arose, however, the question of what could actually be done apart from the propagation of scientific humanism, popularisation of knowledge, and the organisation of professional associations. From this practical point of view two matters assumed great importance: first, the reorganisation of the educational system; second, the problems of the planning of science and of giving social guidance to its progress. These two problems received in the course of time a practical solution, although in a manner that was neither anticipated nor desired by those who raised them.
While the former of these problems will be touched upon briefly later, the latter deserves consideration now, because it throws some light upon the new social attitude of the scientists. The idea that science should be planned was almost universally accepted and the only difference of opinion seems to have been that some accepted it with eagerness and others as a matter of necessity. The reasons for the acceptance of a planned science were not of ideological but of a practical nature. Two of them were perhaps most important. In war-devastated Poland the whole system of teaching and research institutions had to be rebuilt and re-organised. Moreover, science was expected to provide assistance in the general reconstruction of the country. Both these tasks had to be accomplished with very limited and inadequate human resources. Thus planning of scientific activities seemed to have been an obvious answer to the problems involved. Second, the planning of science seemed to be required in view of the increasing role of team work in scientific research. Team work is involved in the common research of many individuals, and in the co-operation of various groups investigating the same subject in its different aspects. Both forms require planning in some way or other. Jan Rutkowski (1886-1949), a distinguished economic historian, who already before the war had been deeply concerned with the questions of the organisation of science, of university teaching and lecturing, and of training young scientists, and Jan Drewnowski, an economist, were the most prominent exponents of this point of view.
It was fully realised by those who advocated the planning of science that it involved a point of principle of paramount importance, that of freedom of science and of scientific research. What freedom of science means and what are its prerequisites was discussed by Ajdukiewicz with his usual precision and incisiveness. Ajdukiewicz examined the concept of the freedom of science in general terms and did not consider whether or not the planning of science has any bearing on the freedom of thought. The latter problem was taken up by Rutkowski.
Rutkowski assumed, which later turned out to be an error of judgement, that nobody wanted to use planning as a means of imposing unscientific dogmas and of prescribing methods of research. The planning of science which does not strive to achieve such aims might also come into conflict with scientific freedoms and Rutkowski recoginised this clearly. An inappropriate use of planning might be as disastrous, in Rutkowski’s opinion, as the failure to apply it where it is advantageous. Planning should be used in establishing the priorities of research, in organising team work in both its forms, in the organisation of research institutions and their territorial distribution. It would be an error to plan everything and to try to embrace in the plan every scientific worker and every scientific activity. The planning should be applied in accordance with the requirements of the problems involved, and not as a matter of principle; it should take into account the differences in mental dispositions of research workers who can not always adjust themselves to team work, although as individuals they can achieve valuable results; and it should, therefore, include the proviso that planning means leaving possibilities of research outside the planned area. Being a supporter of the planning of science Rutkowski recognised that there was a clear case for individualism in the cultivation of science, for allowing the scientist and scholar to follow his particular line of research. It is clear that no discovery or original work, extending the existing knowledge, can be foreseen and planned. We can make plans how a particular problem should be tackled and possibly solved, but we cannot plan scientific progress.
Rutkowski also recognised that the problem of who is to be the planner is of crucial importance. There were various schools of thought on this matter. It was clear, however, that the planning of science required the setting up of a supreme scientific body responsible for the development of science as a whole. The conference summoned by the Academy of Science and Learning, held in Cracow early in 1946, which accepted the principle of planning, recommended that this supreme scientific body should be elected by scientific associations.
The problems of the organisation and planning of science held the uppermost place in the preoccupations of the Cracow circle, because the group assembled round Życie Nauki was scientifically-minded. ‘Science’ meant for it ‘empirical science’. It found congenial trends and ideas, above all, in the Anglo-Saxon world. Życie Nauki showed little interest in the humanities and in the problems of humanistic values. This was the ground chosen by Myśl Współczesna, founded and published in Łod". It was the most influential periodical in the years 1946-48 and its contributors included the most distinguished men of learning. It was to be the organ of progressive intellectuals, irrespective of their political views, who repudiating any doctrine wished to induce by a free discussion and encounters of different minds the revival of creative thought in Poland. Progressiveness was not to mean a total rejection of the past but an active support for the social reforms and changes in the social structure. Among the questions with which Myśl Współczesna wished to deal, those concerning the relations between science and social life and the development of international intellectual co-operation were given pride of place.
In contradistinction to Życie Nauki, for Myśl Współczesna ‘science’ meant, above all, ‘the humanities’. Myśl Współczesna was much closer than Życie Nauki to the whole range of the intellectual life of the country and often moved close to the ground where politics, philosophy, ethics, and social sciences meet. Kotarbiński’s admirable essay on practical realism provides an instance in point.
Problems of personal and social values were directly and indirectly the main concern of Myśl Współlczesna. This was the period in Polish internal life characterised by an intense search for new intellectual orientations. The search was inspired by a sturdy sense of realism and by the awareness of the limitations imposed on the country by the realities of history and political power. Within the thus confined area the place for reason, the value of the human person, social progress and justice, finally, for the hope and the expansion of every kind of intellectual energy was to be found.
During the first three years of its existence Myśl Współlczesna remained faithful to its declared editorial policy, later denounced as ‘eclectic’ by Marxist-Leninists. The views of logical positivism, reism, and Marxism-Leninism were presented and analysed, problems of sociology and ethics were discussed from various viewpoints. Polemical exchanges of opinion on the relation between logic and dialectics, sociology and philosophy, Marxian and non-Marxian sociology took place there. While the weakness of the Marxist-Leninist philosophical assumptions were laid bare and the inadequacy of various Marxist-Leninist theories was openly discussed, a revision of the presuppositions accepted in the humanities before the war, particularly those in historiography, was undertaken. Translations of articles by Soviet philosophers and scientists were published along with reviews of important books which appeared in the Western world. Whatever other shortcomings Marxist-Leninists might have displayed, their contributions to the debate on the indicated issues were not yet reduced to monotonous repetitions of a few clichés.
Chalasiński’s numerous essays published in Myśl Współlczesna deserve special attention, because they expressed very clearly the new intellectual attitude which tried to assert itself at that time. As a sociologist Chalasiński was well qualified to express what was in the mind of scholars and scientists striving to define their social obligations and to secure for themselves a position in society that would permit them to discharge their responsibilities with respect to science and to the community. As a sociologist he had no difficulty in recognising the fact that science does not develop in a social vacuum, that it is dependent in various ways on the social structure, more generally, on the social environment, and that institutional changes in the latter may have advantageous or disadvantageous consequences for scientific activities.
The widely felt urge and demand for the ‘engagement’ of the intellectuals in the social and political issues of the time found in Chalasiński one of its most influential protagonists. He came out very early in the day as a sharp critic of the intellectuals’ detachment, of their isolation from the life of the community, which, in his opinion, had been a characteristic feature of the Polish intelligentsia in the pre-war period. To this subject he devoted a brilliant, hard hitting essay, partly historical, partly sociological, bitter in tone, sometimes extreme and not quite just in its indicting observations, but on the whole driving home salutary truths and revelations about the way of life and hierarchy of values of the pre-war Polish intelligentsia. But with a highly critical attitude to the past and with the acceptance of the social responsibility of the intellectual he combined the claim to freedom from any political and social dogma; he wished to be commtitted by his own free choice and in a manner compatible with his scientific standards. The ‘social engagement’ of the intellectual was not to be an uncritical adherence to a doctrine, which in the case of Marxism-Leninism, as he repeatedly stated, was obsolete, out of touch with the social and cultural trends and the aspirations of the mass of the people.
Chalasiński’s objective was to work out an ideological frame of reference and a hierarchy of humanistic values which would throw light on what should be done in terms of practical life and simultaneously provide guidance in social and historical research. It was clear to him as much as to a Marxist-Leninist that what a sociologist or a historian says in abstract terms does not remain an abstract idea, but is also a factor that shapes social or historical consciousness and thus changes in some way or other cultural reality. In the social sciences there exists a close interaction between the observer and the observed; what the observer says might precipitate or prevent something from happening or affect it in various ways. A social scientist must become aware of those contingencies. One way of gaining control over what he does is to clearly determine his ‘social equation’, his ideological frame of reference which governs his practical preferences and guides in the choice of his theories. The second way of exercising control is to submit one’s theories to empirical tests, to be prepared to reject them once the proof is given of their inadequacy. The fact that a social scientist holds certain political or social views is unobjectionable and unavoidable. What is objectionable might be the way of holding them, the way being either doctrinaire or empiricist.
Chalasiński’s ideological framework was based on two concepts, those of class and nation. The concept of nation is, according to him, a moral idea. ‘Moral’ is not used here in its ordinary meaning. Znaniecki called a group ‘a moral union’ when it becomes conscious of itself, tries to control its own evolution and sets for itself a collective task. Chalasiński used the term ‘moral’ in the same sense. The idea of the nation is based on the recognition that Nature made all members of the community equal in some respects and that all have the same claim to participation in the national cultural inheritance. This moral idea has been and still continues to be a driving force in history; it is independent of the material conditions of life and unaccountable in terms of economics or those of class and class relations. In general, it is not possible to explain social change and historical process without resorting to moral ideas; the strong urge to establish a moral justification for human action, including economic activities, is written plain and large on the pages of human history. Max Weber’s discovery of the connection between the rise of capitalism and protestant ethics has revealed only a particular case of a general regularity.
It is futile to search for the origin of the anti-capitalistic tendencies prevailing in modern society in the development of the proletarian consciousness. These tendencies are, in a certain sense, older than the capitalistic system, are a manifestation of the people’s protest against injustice and spring from the moral conscience inherited from ancient times, which strives for the establishment of social life on the basis of mutual assistance, of equal rights and duties and, generally, of the primacy of moral and social values over the economic ones.
The division of the community into social and economic classes as well as the class struggle are social facts. A community, however, in which only various forms of class consciousness were operative, could never become a nation; the class struggle, in the course of which one class asserts its domination over other classes, comes into conflict with the idea of the nation.
Socialism is a revolutionary ideal born out of the conflict and clash of the economic principles, epitomised in the concept of class, and the moral principles expressed in the idea of the nation. It is a revolutionary ideal since it indicates the road of transcending the contradictions and resolving the tension between what the social life actually is and what it should be in accordance with man’s sense of right and wrong. Its overwhelming power over the mind of men does not depend on any predetermined pattern which allegedly holds sway over historical events. ‘To be ashamed of misery and injustice, one must have the sense of human dignity’, and this sense is born and constantly invigorated by one’s identification with the people at large and the recognition of the common moral bond uniting individuals into a community.
Chalasiński’s social philosophy was formulated in opposition to the Marxist-Leninist ideological interpretation of social development. What Marxist-Leninists say about the determination of moral concepts by the material conditions of life is an unverifiable metaphysical speculation. Owing to Krzywicki, the Marxian tradition in Poland has been freed from the ‘dogmatic system of historiosophical metaphysics’ and reduced to the status of methodological rules, useful and fruitful in historical sciences. Metaphysical dogmas of Marxism-Leninism are unacceptable to a modern social scientist of an empirical orientation. A theory of cultural processes, based on the concept of class and class struggle, is unworkable; various essential social relations would then have to be disregarded or misconstructed. History is irreducible to economic history. For what we call economic phenomena are a part of a more comprehensive whole which is unaccountable in economic terms and can be comprehended only by means of specifically historical categories.
The Marxian conception of man rightly emphasises that there is no man in general, no universal and unchanging human nature, but overlooks that the ‘concrete man’, a man of a definite class and society, is also the inheritor of a definite tradition which as much as the other factors determines his being. Homo historicus of Marxism-Leninism is a metaphysical abstraction comparable with that of homo aeternus in Christian philosophy. It is the source of the erroneous assumption that man and society can be changed at will to comply with any predetermined pattern. It results in the conception of social technology which imposes social reforms by administrative measures, irrespective of what the state of society is and of what is objectively feasible. Faith in the administrative omnipotence of the State is not enough to carry out social reforms. Sociologically this faith is unjustifiable.
Chalasiński’s sociological-journalistic activities were a declaration of faith of a progressive liberal intellectual with his adherence to reason and experience, freedom and social justice. His views were shared by many of his fellow-scholars. The general principles underlying the liberal attitude were just then being restated in a more detached manner by some leading philosophers and some moral and social scientists. There was not only a philosophical but also an ideological abyss that divided the small body of Marxist-Leninists from the academic community.
But seen against the background of the prevailing social and political conditions in the country the ideology of progressive democratic liberalism led some observers to infer unexpected consequences. Again, Chalasiński’s journalistic activities provide the best help in tracing the course of intellectual evolution. Liberalism had no social support in Poland; there was no class, as in France or England, to transform an ‘abstract philosophical conception’ into a social and political force. With his truly remarkable insight into the historical situation Chalasiński came to the conclusion that liberalism was doomed to defeat. Individualism, to which liberalism was pledged, had a better chance of survival in the Catholic Church; the Church with its religious and moral authority and its institutional organisation throughout the country was an effective social force, actually capable of defending the dignity of the human person. The liberals were committed to social justice and social progress, but it was wishful thinking to suppose that these could be promoted and implemented by a mere pressure of ideas and personal convictions. Marxist-Leninists controlled all the levers of power in the State and were thus in a position not only to preach but also to put into effect what they considered to be social justice and social progress. Faith in reason alone is not enough, the idea of a good society which disregards what is historically possible and feasible leads only to futile protests and helpless declarations of praiseworthy intentions. It was no wonder, therefore, Chalasiński concluded, that the intellectuals were deserting the liberal, antimetaphysical and ahistoric creed, to join one or the other of the philosophies firmly grounded in the community and thus commanding real power, that is to say, either the Catholic or the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of life. Their struggle would dominate the social and political scene in Poland and determine the historical and social evolution.
In the course of time this assessment led Chalasiński to the total repudiation of the liberal outlook, no longer relevant, as he felt, to the human problems of modern societies. An intellectual, thrown upon his own resources, is helpless in the modern world. He should adjust his beliefs and attitudes to the nature of the struggle by which the world is faced and which is dominated by the conflict between two conceptions of the nation, the socialist and the bourgeois ideals. The latter, inspired by the pursuit of profit, corrupts science, and, by making of war an instrument of internal and external policy, leads to gigantic slaughters and mechanised horrors of the capitalist civilization. The former wisely controls and organises the efforts of men, directs them to constructive ends, abolishes the danger of war, and restores to scientific knowledge its deep human meaning and social function.
The man of science has to make a choice and act accordingly. He does not need a reflective and critical philosophy, but one interpreting the experiences of man who creates the history of his nation. This philosophy is to be found in Marxist-Leninist and Chalasiński became one of its most distinguished converts. The Marxist-Leninist theory of the revolutionary transformation of society is ‘scientifically irrefutable’. It provides a social and ideological framework to which science and teaching have to adjust themselves.
Chalasiński was not alone in drawing these conclusions. Some of the scholars and many literary intellectuals followed his lead.