Karl Korsch 1930. The Present State of the Problem of ‘Marxism and Philosophy’
– An Anti-Critique
1. See, for example, Politische Literaturberichte der deutschen Hochschule fur Politik, vol. 1, no. 2: ‘What appears especially noteworthy is the opposition to the vulgar-marxist view that the intellectual (ideological) structure of society is a pseudo-reality. The basic principles of Marxist thought make it quite clear that this structure is of great significance for reality.’ Or the conclusions of Laszlo Radvanyi’s thorough and penetrating review in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaften, LII, 2, pp. 527ff.; ‘Even someone who does not share the author’s basic convictions must realize from this book that genuine Marxism is not a pan-economism. It does not consider the economic structure to be the only realm that is fully real. It recognizes the intellectual sphere to be completely real and to be a constitutive part of the totality of social life’ (ibid., p. 535).
2. Compare the opening speech of party chairman Wels at the 1924 Congress of the Social Democratic Party (reprinted in the official organ of the German Social Democratic Party, Vorwärts, 12, June 1924) and the opening speech of the chairman of the Communist International, Zinoviev, at the Fifth World Congress of the Communist International which was taking place at the same time (Fifth Congress of the Communist International, published by the Communist Party of Great Britain, p. 17).
3. See Die Gesellschaft, 1, 3. June 1924, pp. 306ff. The same stereotyped arguments recur in all Communist Party critics, and they can all be found in the critical introduction by the editor, G. Bammel, to a Russian translation of Marxism and Philosophy which was issued in 1924 by the ‘October of the Spirit’ publishing house, Moscow. (Another translation without any commentary was issued in 1924 just before this, by ‘Kniga’, Leningrad and Moscow.)
4. Kautsky (op. cit., p. 312) thinks that the ‘primitive Marxism’ that I and all other Communist theoreticians supposedly alone acknowledge consists of the theory found ‘in the early works that Marx and Engels wrote before they were thirty’. Bammel, however, who follows Kautsky quite blindly in all other respects (op. cit., pp. 13ff.) irrelevantly applies his own erudition (ibid., p. 14) to attack me for ignorance because I ‘began Marx’s intellectual biography with the 1843 Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’. It is enough to point out to both of ,them that I emphasized that Marxist theory had gone through these periods after its original emergence and that I considered the ideological expression of the first of these to be not the ‘early works’ but the works written after the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.
5. On this ‘second’ return to Hegel by Marx and Engels after the end of the 1850s, see some interesting points in Ryazanov, Marx-Engels Archiv, II, pp. 122ff. Labriola and Plekhanov developed this Hegelian philosophical trend, which is to be found in every line of their writings. It also persisted in Plekhanov’s philosophical pupil, Lenin, in a specific form which will be discussed later.
6. To prove this accusation, Kautsky quotes two phrases he has taken out of their context, in footnotes 30 and 68; and he omits the sentence in which I made my position on this issue unambiguously clear and where it is placed in the general context of my argument (P. 30ff.). I explicitly characterized the later ‘scientific socialism of the Capital of 1867-94 and of other later works by Marx and Engels’ as a ‘more developed manifestations of Marx’s general theory’ compared to the ‘immediately revolutionary communism’ of the previous historical epoch. Further instances of my extremely positive attitude to the later and more developed form of their theory can be found in, for example, my introduction to Marx’s 1875 Critique of the Gotha Programme and my article on ‘The Marxism of the First lnternational’ in Die Internationale, 1924, pp. 573f.
7. The phrase comes from a text Lenin wrote before the Lucerne Congress of the Berne International in July 1919 (Collected Works, vol. 29, pp. 494ff., ‘The Tasks of the Third International') It was a reply to an article written by the English Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald, at that time still considered to be a left socialist, about the ‘Third International’ — which had just then emerged before the eyes of the proletariat with its founding manifesto. MacDonald’s article was published in German in the magazine Die Kommunistische Internationale (No. 4 and 5, pp. 52ff.), which at that time was issued by the West European secretariat of the Communist International. Bammel quotes this ‘passage’ to justify a completely different proposition, because in the specific context where it occurs in Lenin it does not refer at all to the Marxist theory of the Second International. All that Lenin cites as the ‘historical service’ and ‘lasting achievement’ of the Second International which ‘no class conscious worker can deny’ are such completely practical things as ‘the organization of the working masses’ the creation of co-operative trade union and political mass organizations, the use of bourgeois parliamentarianism as of all the institutions of bourgeois democracy and a lot more’ (ibid., p. 504).
8. See my book, issued by the publishers of this text, Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung. Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Karl Kautsky (’the Materialist Conception of History. A Dispute with Karl Kautsky’, hereafter referred to as Auseinandersetzung mit Kautsky) and especially the last section on ‘The Historical Significance of Kautskyism’ (which was not included in the shortened version printed in Grünberg’s Archiv für die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbiterbewegung, XIV, pp. 197ff.).
9. Cf. the correspondence of Marx and Engels from that period, printed in my edition of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (and in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, vol. II, pp. 13ff.), and the relevant remarks in my introduction, pp. 6ff. Further important materials for clarifying this relationship are contained in Friedrich Engels’s Letters to Bernstein, 1881-1895, which have subsequently appeared (Berlin, 1925).
10. Cf. the matching accounts now given by Bernstein and Kautsky of the changes that took place at this time, both in their individual relationships to Marxist theory, and in their theoretical relationship to each other. This completely corrects the legend that Social Democratic theory had an explicitly and emphatically ‘Marxist’ character before Bernstein ‘revised W; in Meiner’s Volkswirtschaftslehre in Selbstdarstellungen, Leipzig, 1924, pp. 12ff. (Bernstein) and pp. 134ff. (Kautsky).
11. In spite of his famous statement that lie was ‘not a Marxist’, Marx himself was not entirely free from this somewhat dogmatic and idealist conception of the relationship of his Marxist theory to later manifestations of the working-class movement. See for example his repeated complaints in the 1875 Critique of the Gotha Programme about the scandalous theoretical regressions of the draft programme in comparison to the superior understanding that had previously been attained and about the way the authors of the programme had ‘monstrously violated the views held by the Party masses’. Later radical-left opponents of revisionism and of centrist Orthodox Marxism formally converted this attitude in to a system. They then claimed Marxism had ‘stagnated’ and used this system to explain why. For example, Rosa Luxemburg in an article in Vorwärts, 14 March 1903, states in all seriousness that the ‘theoretical stagnation’ which can now be detected in the movement has not occurred ‘because our practical struggles have surpassed Marxism but on the contrary because Marx’s theoretical achievement is in advance of us as a practical militant party. It is not because Marx is no longer adequate for our needs. but because our needs are not yet adequate to profit from Marx’s thought’. The learned Marxist Ryazanov reprinted this article of Rosa Luxemburg’s in a collection that was published in German in 1928 (English edition, Karl Marx — Man, Thinker, and Revolutionist, London, 1927, pp. 105ff.). Although Rosa Luxemburg’s piece was written almost thirty years ago, he has only the following to add to it from the vantage-point of today: ‘The practical experience of the Russian Revolution has shown that every new stage in the development of the class struggle of the proletariat discloses in the inexhaustible arsenal of Marxist theory the new weapons that are needed for the new phase of the struggle’ (ibid., pp. 11-12). Rosa Luxemburg turned the relation of theory to practice on its head; this dictum has certainly not put it back on its feet again.
12. Cf. Kautsky’s polemic in Neue Zeit, XX, 1, pp. 68ff. against the draft for a new version of the Hainfeld Programme, submitted to the Vienna Party Congress of 1901. In one passage this draft stated that the proletariat comes to consciousness of the possibility and necessity of socialism through the struggles that are forced on it by capitalist development. Kautsky summed up the meaning of this very well: it meant that ‘socialist consciousness appears as the necessary and direct result of the proletariat struggle’. He goes on to say: ‘But this is not true. Socialism as a theory is of course as rooted in modern economic conditions as is the struggle of the proletariat, and both arise equally from the struggle against the mass poverty and mass misery which capitalism produces. But they arise parallel to one another and not out of each other, and they do so under different conditions. modern socialist consciousness can only arise on the basis of profound scientific understanding, and modern economic knowledge is in fact as much a precondition for socialist production as is modern technology. But with the best will in the world the proletariat can create neither one nor the other; both arise out of the contemporary social process. However the bearer of science is not the proletariat but the bourgeois intelligentsia. Modern socialism first emerged among certain members of this group and through them was first conveyed to the intellectually advanced proletarians. They then introduced it into class struggle, where conditions permitted. Socialist consciousness is therefore something that is brought into proletarian struggle from the outside and not something that grew naturally from within it. The old Hainfeld Programme was therefore quite right to say that it was the task of Social Democracy to introduce the proletariat to the consciousness of their condition and of their tasks. That would not be necessary if this consciousness could emerge spontaneously from class struggle’ (ibid., pp. 79ff.). A year later, in 1902, Lenin in his famous programme What is to he Done? developed the key points in Kautsky’s arguments. He reprints the whole of what he considers to be these ‘extremely striking and important words of Kautsky’s and draws the explicit conclusion that ‘one cannot talk of an autonomous ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the course of their movement’ (Collected Works, vol. 5, pp. 383-4). The same thesis is found in many other parts of the book, e.g. P. 375, in the following quite unambiguous phrases: ‘The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade-union consciousness, i.e. the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophical, historical and economic theories elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals.'
13. Ryazanov, op. cit., p. 113. Leon Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution, which appeared in Russian at the end Of 1923 and in German a year later (published by Verlag fur Literatur und Politik, Vienna, 1924), contains a curious repetition and development of this Luxemburgist thesis that the working class ‘will be in a position to create their own science and art only after being completely liberated from their present class situation’, and that it is only in socialist society that the Marxist method of analysis, in particular, will become the full property of the proletariat — which in any case will cease to exist as such (Literature and Revolution, Ann Arbor, 1960, pp. 146-7 and pp. 184ff. and especially pp. 196 ff.).
14. This is discussed in more detail in my Auseinandersetzung mit Kautsky, pp. 119ff.
15. Cf. my programmatic article ‘Lenin and the Comintern’, published in the theoretical journal of the German Communist Party, Die Internationale (1924, pp. 320ff.) on the coming Fifth World Congress of the Communist international.
16. Here one might recall the strong criticism by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht of Bolshevik politics and tactics, dating from the very first period after the Russian Revolution and before the formal establishment of the Communist International; also the disagreement that culminated in the years 1920-1 between the radical left tendency led by the Dutch Communists Pannekoek and Gorter and the Russian Bolshevik faction led by Lenin.
17. Cf. the analysis of ‘Soviet Marxism’ by Max Werner (A. Schifrin) in Die Gesellschaft, IV, 7, pp. 42ff. and especially pp. 60ff. This is a comprehensive study, which is especially informative for non-Russian readers as it makes use of documents that are available only in Russian. While it must be borne in mind that this critical comparison of Russian and Western Marxism comes from a political opponent of the party in power in Russia today, its author is nevertheless an orthodox Plekhanovite and is philosophically on the side of Russian Marxism. Consequently his criticism is not at all aimed against the general historical structure of ‘Soviet Marxism’, but only against its latest caricatured forms which make it appear to be not a ‘development and continuation’, but a ‘corruption and distortion’ of the theoretical traditions of Russian Marxism. ('It is self-evident that Plekhanov bears no responsibility for Soviet Marxism’.) Schifrin has only a very superficial and ideological understanding of why ‘it is so difficult, if not impossible for West European Communists and — more generally — for all European Left Marxists, for all those who have been reared in (for example) the theoretical traditions of Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Mehring, to enter into the spirit of Russian Marxism’. On the one hand he ascribes this in a purely ideological way to the fact that radical Left Marxism in — the West ‘did not have the enlightenment traditions of Russian Marxism behind it’. On the other hand he locates its origin superficially in the ‘fact that Soviet Marxism has been very specifically formed as a state ideology’ and ‘tailored to the very specific tasks of the Soviet state’. On pp. 63ff. he invokes certain historical and class factors to explain the conflicts between the political theory of West European Marxism and of the left radicalism that preceded it on the one hand, and that of Russian Bolshevism on the other. But he fails to grasp that these are also the real and more profound causes of the theoretical and ideological disagreements between Russian and West European Marxism.
18. Cf. two little works by A. Deborin which appeared as early as 1924: Lenin the Fighting Materialist and Lenin’s Letters to Maxim Gorki, as well as the German translation of Lenin’s programmatic text Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy which appeared post festum with a delay of three years, in 1927 (Collected Works, vol. 14, pp. 17ff.). J. Luppol’s Lenin and Philosophy: On the Question of the Relationship of Philosophy to Revolution (in Russian) is a belated contribution to this literature — a wretched little pamphlet.
19. See for example Deborin’s philosophical anti-critique of the views expressed by Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness which appeared at that time ('Lukacs and his Critique of Marxism’ in the periodical Arbeiterliteratur, No. 10, pp. 615ff., published by Verlag fur Literatur und Politik, Vienna, 1924), and the presentation there (p. 618) of the way in which the leading representatives of philosophical ‘Leninism’ saw things at that time: ‘Lukacs already has his disciples and is in a certain sense the leading figure of a whole movement to which belong, among others: comrades Korsch (see his book Marxism and Philosophy), Fogarasi, Révai and others. Given the way things are, one cannot ignore them. At the very least we must submit the basic principles of this “new trend” in Marxism to criticism.’ See also similar statements in Pravda, 25 July 1924: ‘Lukacs’s book must attract the attention of Marxist critics because behind Lukacs there is a whole group of Communists: K. Korsch, Révai, Fogarasi and others’ — and further: ‘K. Korsch belongs to the group of German Communist comrades whom comrade Zinoviev at the Fifth World Congress mentioned in passing as theoreticians who deviate from the orthodox Marxist line in philosophy.’ Much the same is found in most other theoreticians who took part in the campaign that was launched at that time in all Communist journals and papers against this new ‘deviation’.
20. This is actually stated in the Pravda article of 25 July 1924, already mentioned, and by most other Communist Party critics. Cf. the contrary position expounded in Marxism and Philosophy (pp. 30ff. above), which states the opposite of what I am alleged to hold. The same is true of the stereotyped and recurrent accusation made by Communist Party critics in this connection that I have made an essential distinction between the views of Engels and those of Marx on this point. In fact Marxism and Philosophy refrained in general and also with respect to this particular question (see note 75) from the one-sided fashion in which Lukacs and Révai treated the views of Marx and Engels, as if they were completely at variance. It equally refrains from the fundamentally dogmatic and therefore unscientific procedure of the ‘orthodox’, who make it a completely self-evident and unshakeable article of faith that the ‘doctrine’ produced by the two Church Fathers was absolutely consistent.
21. ‘The ABC of Marxist philosophy is that truth is defined as the agreement of a representation with the objects that are external to it. Korsch calls this “the naive metaphysical standpoint of sound bourgeois common-sense”. He does not understand, or want to understand, that it is precisely his (Korsch’s) standpoint on this issue that is bourgeois — an idealist mixture of the philosophy of identity and of Machism’ (Pravda, 25 July 1924). The same argument is expressed by the editor and critical commentator of the Russian translation of Marxism and Philosophy, Bammel. In his introduction (p. 19) he quotes verbatim my statements on the consequences of this ‘naive metaphysical standpoint of sound bourgeois common sense’ for a theoretical and practical position on so-called ‘more elevated ideologies’ (p. 69 above). He then describes this whole passage and the reflections that follow it as ‘totally incomprehensible’ and poses the following accusatory question: ‘Can Comrade Korsch be counted as a Marxist materialist if he regards as a “naive metaphysical standpoint of bourgeois common sense” that view which defines truth as the agreement of a representation with an object that exists outside it and is “reflected” by it? Is it necessary to point out that his position on this question is a capitulation to the idealist theory of perception?’ However, it is easy to reply to this crushing question by asking a contrary one: ‘If that is so, why was such a terrible idealist book published in the first place?’ Thus the penetrating critic suddenly remembers his responsibility as an editor and pleads extenuating circumstances: ‘The nub of the problem is that Comrade Korsch is ignorant of the questions of gnoseology that affect the problem in which he is interested.'
22. The sentences quoted in the text are taken from a letter of Lenin’s dated 24 March 19o8 and the words italicized here were underlined by him. One can clearly see from this letter and from his later correspondence how Lenin as a ‘party man’ unreservedly subordinates all theoretical issues to party interest (Collected Works, Vol. 34, pp. 388). However the Russian editor of the German translation of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, A. Deborin, is rewriting history when he tries to show that at that time there was a ‘fundamental difference’ between the public tactical position taken up by Lenin on these philosophical issues and the position held by such orthodox Marxists and materialists as Karl Kautsky. Even Lenin’s letter to Gorki which has just been quoted and on which Deborin (ibid., pp. xixff.) bases his supposition, does not conclude with an open declaration of war but with a diplomatic proposal for ‘conditional neutrality'; it was to be ‘conditional’ because ‘it is essential to divorce this whole issue from the inner party dispute.'
Moreover in the first edition of Marxism and Philosophy, note 6, we already reproduced the peculiar counter-statement which the editors of the Russian Proletary (Lenin) published at this time in the magazine Kautsky edited, Neue Zeit [10 March 1908], XXVI, 1, p. 898. This concerned a critical observation that had been printed in the previous issue on the philosophical differences within the Russian Social Democratic Party. Lenin then made the following official statement in the name of Bolshevik Social Democracy (Collected Works, vol. 13, pp. 447): ‘This philosophical dispute (i.e. as had already been stated: “the question of whether Marxist epistemology agrees with Spinoza and Holbach, or with Mach and Avenarius"!) is not in fact an issue of inner party dispute and, in the opinion of the editors, it should not become so. Any attempt to construe these differences of opinion as the distinctive marks of the factions within the party is basically misguided. Among both factional groups there are supporters as well as opponents of Mach and Avenarius.'
This statement formally concurs with the critical observation in Neue Zeit, 14 February 1908; it too had described this philosophfical dispute as an unnecessary sharpening of the ‘extremely serious tactical differences between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks’. A year later Kautsky in a letter to the Russian emigre Bendianitse, 26 March 1909, suggested that within the Party Machism be declared a matter of individual choice. Deborin attacks this proposal violently as an ‘evident absurdity for any Marxist’. Any objective historian, however, must point out that Lenin, in the two statements of the previous year already mentioned, ‘declared Machism to be a matter of individual choice’ not only within the Party but even within each faction. Moreover, a year later, at the Paris Conference of the ‘Enlarged Editorial Board of the Proletary’ (i.e. what amounted to the party leadership at that time) a split occurred that was not totally unconnected with these philosophical issues. It was not between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, but within the Bolshevik faction itself. On this occasion Lenin made an official reply to Bogdanov’s declaration of a split in which he said that Bogdanov had split from the Bolshevik faction but not from the part ‘the faction is not a party and the party can contain within itself a wide range of shades of opinion of which the most extreme may be absolutely contradictory’ (contained in Vol. II, P. 329, note 2, in the French edition of Lenin’s selected works which have been edited with a meticulous commentary by P. Pascal: V. I. Lenin, Pages Choisies, vols. I and II, Paris, 1926 and 1927; Collected Works, vol. 15, p. 430. So in fact Lenin and Kautsky formally held the same position on this issue and it is only later that the violent differences in their general outlook developed and became clear.
23. Cf. the section devoted to this in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (pp. 238ff.) entitled ‘Two Kinds of Criticism of Dühring’, from which all the quoted passages are taken; the italics are Lenin’s.
24. At this point Lenin does not distinguish different periods in the development of Marx and Engels as his text proposes to do; he merely talks in general of the period when ‘both Marx and Engels as well as J. Dietzgen entered the philosophical arena’ (ibid., P. 242). It is obvious, though, that he is referring to their position after the end of the 1850s. More important than this chronological division for judging different statements by Marx and Engels is a division by whom they were addressed to. Marxism and Philosophy includes a concrete discussion of the latter division.
25. On this positive aspect of Lenin’s materialist propaganda, see in particular Lenin’s March 1922 article in the third issue of the Russian magazine Under the Banner of Marxism. A German translation appeared in the magazine Kommunistische Internationale, no. 21, and it was later reprinted in vol. I, Year 1 of the German edition of Under the Banner of Marxism in March 1925. It is particularly informative for correctly assessing the real historical significance of Lenin’s materialism (Collected Works, Vol. 33, pp. 227-36, ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism').
26. Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (On Religion, p. 48). This is not the place to show at greater length how Lenin’s arguments against idealist philosophy largely fall into this category of Marx’s. We will just cite one argument to illustrate this. Lenin ‘refutes’ the transcendentalist philosophical theory of the relation of subject and object in experience, by invoking the former molten state of the earth when there could be no subjective ‘representations’ of it. Lenin brings out this rather extraordinary philosophical argument again and again in various forms in the section of his work specifically concerned with this issue (op. cit., pp. 75ff., ‘Did Nature Exist Prior to Man?'). However, it is not only Lenin who uses it, but also his materialist and philosophical predecessor Plekhanov. Instead of invoking the ‘molten earth’, Plekhanov says that the modern ‘secondary epoch’ began with the ‘subjective categories of the ichthyosaurus’. A one-sided reading of Engels’s famous ‘alizarin argument’ against ‘Kant’s unintelligible things-in-themselves’ in the second section of Ludwig Feuerbach would also include it in this category. Cf. Lenin, Op. Cit., pp. 82, 87, and the statements by Plekhanov and Engels quoted there by Lenin.
27. Cf. my more detailed exposition in Auseinandersetzung mit Kautsky (pp. 29ff.) and in Grünberg’s Archiv far die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, vol. XIV, pp. 205 ff. One should add that when Lenin continually claims there has been a new shift of early bourgeois materialism into idealism and agnosticism, he invokes Engels’s 1892 Introduction to the English translation of Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft. However, this outstanding text (it was published in German in Neue Zeit, XI, I, and has now been reprinted in the new edition of Engels’s work on Ludwig Feuerbach, Berlin and Vienna, 1927) does not consider the new bourgeois idealism and agnosticism to be the major theoretical danger faced by the revolutionary workers’ movement. Engels describes it quite bluntly as a ,miserable materialism’ and with magisterial disdain he mocks at the hopes which the bourgeoisie attach to such ideological ramparts. (Selected Works, vol. II, pp. 93ff.).
28. Cf. the famous passage in the afterword to the second edition of Marx’s Capital in 1873 and also Engels’s appreciation in the opening paragraphs of Ludwig Feuerbach of the ‘true meaning and revolutionary character’ of what he considers to be ‘the conclusion of the whole movement from Kant’ in Hegel’s philosophy: ‘The conservatism of this approach is relative, its revolutionary character is absolute — the one absolute whose validity it permits.’ It would not be necessary to emphasize that the word ‘absolute’, in Engels’s text and my own, has only a figurative meaning if Lenin and those like him had not suddenly started once again to talk quite blandly and in a totally unfigurative way about absolute Being and absolute Truth.
29. Cf. what is, despite all its inevitable mystification, an excellent historical critique by Hegel of both these trends within the Enlightenment philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Phenomenology of the Spirit (Baillie translation, pp. 592-3): ‘The one kind of Enlightenment calls absolute Being that predicate-less Absolute, which exists in thought beyond the actual consciousness from which this Enlightenment started; the other calls it matter. If they were distinguished as Nature and Spirit or God, the unconscious inner working and weaving would have nothing of the wealth of developed life needed in order to be Nature, while Spirit or God would have no self-distinguishing consciousness. Both, as we saw, are entirely the same notion; the distinction lies not in the objective fact, but purely in the diversity of starting-point adopted by the two developments of thought, and in the fact that each stops at its own special point in the thought-process. If they rose above that, their thoughts would coincide, and they would find out that what is to the one, as it professes, a horror, and is to the other, a folly are one and the same thing.’ Cf. on this Marx’s materialist critique in the Holy Family, not of Hegel’s presentation of materialism and theism as ‘two sides of the same basic principle’, but of the diluted substance which Bruno Bauer extracts from it.
30. Cf. both Marx’s 1845 Theses on Feuerbach and A. Deborin’s account of the ‘dialectical relationship of revolutionary theory to practice in his critical text on ‘Lukacs and his Critique of Marxism’ Arbeiterliteratur, p. 640). There is no need here to provide specific examples of all the ways in which Lenin reduces Marxist theory to an undialectical conception, since his position is explicitly stated on every page of his philosophical work. It need only be mentioned that throughout his work, which pursues the relations of Being and consciousness across nearly four hundred pages, Lenin always deals with these relations from an abstract epistemological standpoint. He never analyses knowledge on the same plane as other socio-historic forms of consciousness, and he never examines it as a historical phenomenon, as the ideological ,superstructure’ of the economic structure of society at any given time (see Marx’s Preface to the Critique of Political Economy) or even merely as the ‘general expression of the real relations of existing class struggles’ (Communist Manifesto).
31. See Mehring’s Nachlassausgabe, I, p. 319.
32. This was sometimes acknowledged by the Russian theorist Plekhanov, Lenin’s philosophical teacher, and a man who for a definite period of history was regarded by Orthodox Marxists in East and West as the only authority on philosophical issues related to Marxism. For example, in the 1913 German edition of his Basic Problems of Marxism, there is the following statement in which he passes from an exposition of materialist philosophy to a discussion of the dialectical materialist method and its application to the sciences of nature and society: ‘The materialist conception of history has first of all [sic] a methodological significance.’ The philosophical relation of Lenin to Plekhanov is such that it is the pupil who, after blindly adopting all the master’s fundamental teachings, then goes on without hesitation to take them to their logical conclusions. Later on Plekhanov together with his pupil Axelrod made an orthodox ‘revision’ of his philosophical views ‘in the sense of getting somewhat nearer to Kantian philosophy’. But it is historically false not only for Bolsheviks but also for left Mensheviks like Schifrin to describe this evolution as a result of the political ‘deviation to social-patriotism’ which they both committed during the war. (See the critical study on ‘Soviet Marxism’ mentioned above, p. 120 and note 17.) The truth of the matter is that much earlier, especially in the first (1902) and second (1905) editions of his translation of Engels’s Ludwig Feuerbach, Plekhanov came far nearer than Lenin ever did to the theory of epistemology held by some modern natural scientists and which was tinged with Kantianism. See for this the two versions of Plekhanov’s ‘theory of hieroglyphics’ cited in note 82 of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (Collected Works, vol. 14, P. 378). The author of this note, L. Rudas, slavishly repeats the position which Lenin had previously adopted for tactical reasons and he describes the second of these two formulations as still being a ‘correction’ of the first ‘erroneous’ one. However, a scientific comparison of these two formulations shows that in the Leninist sense of the word Plekhanov is equally ‘agnostic’ on both occasions; in 1903 he claims that things in themselves have ‘no form’ apart from their effects on us, and in 192o he characterizes our sensations as ‘a kind of hieroglyphics’ that do not resemble occurrences but which ‘quite correctly reproduce both occurrences themselves and — most importantly — the relations that exist between them’. The one advantage of the later over the earlier version is that it ‘makes no terminological concessions to its philosophical opponents’ and so the new version does not exhibit so bluntly the complete misinterpretation of the epistemological problematic that lies at the basis of the whole theory of hieroglyphics. I have discussed this in more detail in my Auseinandersetzung mit Kautsky pp. 111 ff.
33. See in particular the last section of Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, where Engels states explicitly that his and Marx’s dialectical materialist viewpoint ‘renders all philosophy both unnecessary and impossible’, in both history and nature. See also the general statements in the introduction to Anti-Dühring, where he states that ‘any particular science of the general totality is unnecessary’ for modern ‘essentially dialectical’ materialism which assigns every particular branch of knowledge the task of making dear its own place in the whole system of things and of the knowledge of things.
34. Foreword to the second (188 5) edition of Anti-Dühring.
35. See, as one example among many, Lenin’s peculiar ‘philosophical’ commentary on HeImholtz’s Handbuch der physiologischen Optik in which on one and the same page sensations are described as ‘symbols of the relations of the external world without any similarity or likeness to what they describe’ and then as ‘effects of the observed or represented object on our nervous system and on our consciousness’. Lenin says of the first statement ‘This is agnosticism!’ and of the second ‘This is materialism!’ He does not realize that there is no contradiction between these two statements of Helmholtz’s, since an ‘effect’ does not need to have any similarity or likeness with its cause. The alleged ‘inconsistency’ in this natural scientist’s representation has been introduced by the ‘philosophical’ critic; what he wants is not science but only a .consistent’ avowal of one or other metaphysical position (Collected Works, vol. 14, pp. 232ff.).
36. Lenin, in applying his judicial procedure, has an uncritical approach to the natural-scientific materialism of the second half of the nineteenth century which is highly abstract and without the slightest trace of a dialectic; it is not even openly stated. An example of this uncritical approach and of the enormous difference in this respect between Lenin’s narrow ‘philosophical’ application of materialism and concrete historical materialism can be found by comparing the final section of Lenin’s work on ‘Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mach’ (op. cit., pp. 346-56) with the critical appreciation of Haeckel’s Weltratsel (Riddle of the Universe) by the German left radical Franz Mehring, Neue Zeit, XVIII, I, pp. 417ff. Lenin’s work adopts a totally inadequate materialist standpoint and this is strikingly indicated by the sentence of Mehring’s Lenin himself cites (OP. cit., p. 355): ‘Haeckel’s work, both in its less good and its very good aspects, is eminently adapted to help clarify the apparently rather confused views prevailing in the party as to the significance for it of historical materialism, on the one hand, and historical materialism, on the other.’ There is another equally telling passage which goes: ‘Whoever wants to grasp for themselves how this limited natural-scientific materialism is incapable of coping with social matters; whoever wants to realize how fully natural-scientific materialism must develop into historical materialism, if it is really to become an irresistible analytic weapon in the great struggle for human liberation, must read Haeckel’s book’ (Mehring, op. cit., pp. 418, 419). in this connection one might compare the telling criticism which Engels made in the manuscripts of the Dialectics of Nature against Haeckel, the materialist scientist, with both Mehring and Lenin who regard him in a positive light (Marx-Engels Archiv, II, especially pp. 117, 234 (Promammale Haeckel'!) 259 and 260). Lenin talks quite positively of the famous scientist Haeckel (without quotation marks) in contrast to the ‘famous philosopher Mach’ (with quotation marks) and of Haeckel’s ‘all-powerful materialism’.
37. On the different versions of the programme see Internationale Pressekorrespondenz (in German), 1924, no. 136, p. 1796, and Inprecorr, 1928, no. 92., P. 1750; see also Bukharin’s speeches on the programme at the Fifth and Sixth Congresses of the Communist International, in Fifth Congress of the Communist International, published by the Communist Party of Great Britain, pp. 131ff., and Inprecorr, 1928, no. 59, P. 1034.
38. See Trotsky’s article on the 25th Anniversary of Neue Zeit, Neue Zeit. XXVI, I, pp. 7ff. Further striking proofs of the contradictory evolutions of Marxist ideology and of the real movement in Russia, in both its early and subsequent phases of development are to be found in Schifrin, ‘On the Genesis of Socio-Economic Ideologies in Russian Economics’ (Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 55, pp. 720ff.) and in the outstanding introduction by the editor Kurt Mandelbaum to the German edition of Marx and Engels’s Letters to Nikolaion (Leipzig, 1929), pp. v-xxxiv.
39. Cf. my article ‘Lenin and the Comintern’ mentioned above, note 15.
40. op. cit., pp. 149E. Schifrin’s italics.