V. I.   Lenin


Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy

( Chapter Six: Empirio-Criticism and Historical Materialism )

3. Suvorov’s “Foundations Of Social Philosophy”

The Studiesin” the Philosophy of Marxism, the concluding article in which is the one by Comrade S. Suvorov mentioned above, by very reason of the collective nature of the book   constitutes an unusually potent bouquet. When you have at one time and side by side the utterances of Bazarov,[2] who says that according to Engels “sense-perception is the reality existing outside us,” of Berman, who declares the dialectics of Marx and Engels to be mysticism, of Lunacharsky, who goes to the length of religion, of Yushkevich, who introduces “the Logos into the irrational stream of experience,” of Bogdanov, who calls idealism the philosophy of Marxism, of Helfond, who purges J. Dietzgen of materialism, and lastly, of S. Suvorov with his article “Foundations of Social Philosophy”—you at once get the “aroma” of the new alignment. Quantity has passed into quality. The “seekers,” who had heretofore been seeking separately in individual articles and books, have come out with a veritable pronunciamento. Individual disagreements among them are obliterated by the very fact of their collective appearance against (and not “in”) the philosophy of Marxism, and the reactionary features of Machism as a current become manifest.

Under these circumstances, Suvorov’s article is all the more interesting for the fact that the author is neither an empirio-monist nor an empirio-criticist, but simply a “realist.” What relates him, therefore, to the rest of the company is not what distinguishes Bazarov, Yushkevich and Bogdanov as philosophers, but what they all have in common against dialectical materialism. A comparison of the sociological arguments of this “realist” with the arguments of the empirio-monist will help us to depict their common tendency.

Suvorov writes: “In the gradation of the laws that regulate the world process, the particular and complex become reduced to the general and simple, and all of them are subordinate to the universal law of development—the law of the economy of forces. The essence of this law is that every system of forces is the more capable of conservation and development the less its expenditure, the greater its accumulation and the more effectively expenditure serves accumulation. The forms of mobile equilibrium, which long ago evoked the idea of objective expediency (the solar system, the cycle of terrestrial phenomena, the process of life), arise and develop by virtue of the conservation   and accumulation of the energy inherent in them—by virtue of their intrinsic economy. The law of economy of forces is the unifying and regulating principle of all development—inorganic, biological and social” (p. 293, author’s italics).

With what remarkable ease do our “positivists” and “realists” turn out “universal laws”! What a pity these laws are no whit better than those turned out as easily and swiftly by Eugen Dühring. Suvorov’s “universal law” is just as empty and bombastic a phrase as Dühring’s universal laws. Try to apply this law to the first of the three fields mentioned by the author—inorganic development. You will see that no “economy of forces” apart from the law of the conservation and transformation of energy can be applied here, let alone applied “universally.” And the author had already disposed of the law of the “conservation of energy,” had already mentioned it (p. 292) as a separate law.[1] [1] It is characteristic that Suvorov calls the discovery of the law of the conservation and transformation of energy[3] “the establishment of the basic principles of energetics” (p. 292). Has our would-be Marxist “realist” ever heard of the fact that the vulgar materialists, Büchner and Co., and the dialectical materialist, Engels, regarded this law as the establishment of the basic principles of materialism ? Has our “realist” ever reflected on the meaning of this difference? He has not: he has merely followed the fashion, repeated Ostwald, and that is all. That is just the trouble: “realists” like this succumb to fashion, while Engels, for instance, assimilated the, to him, new term, energy, and began to employ it in 1885 (Preface to the 2nd ed. of Anti-Dühring) and in 1888 (Ludwig Feuerbach), but to employ it equally with the concepts “force” and “motion” and along with them. Engels was able to enrich his materialism by adopting a new terminology. The “realists” and other muddleheads seized upon the new term without noticing the difference between materialism and energetics! —Lenin What then remained in the field of inorganic development apart from this law? Where are the additions or complications, or new discoveries, or new facts which entitled the author to modify (“perfect”) the law of the conservation and transformation of energy into the law of the “economy of forces”? There are no such facts or discoveries; Suvorov does not even hint at them. He simply—to make it look impressive, as Turgenev’s Bazarov— used to say—flourished his pen and forth came a new “universal   law” of “real-monistic philosophy” (p. 292). That’s the stuff we are made of! How are we worse than Dühring?

Take the second field of development—the biological. In this field, where the development of organisms takes place by the struggle for existence and selection, is it the law of the economy of forces or the “law” of the wastage of forces that is universal? But never mind! “Real-monistic philosophy” can interpret the “meaning” of a universal law in one field in one way and in another field in another way, for instance, as the development of higher organisms from lower. What does it matter if the universal law is thus transformed into an empty phrase—the principle of “monism” is preserved. And in the third field (the social), the “universal law” can be interpreted in a third sense—as the development of productive forces. That is why it is a “universal law”—so that it can be made to cover anything you please.

Although social science is still young, it already possesses both a solid foundation and definite generalisations; in the nineteenth century it reached a theoretical level—and this constitutes Marx’s chief merit. He elevated social science to the level of a social theory Engels said that Marx transformed socialism from a utopia into a science, but this is not enough for Suvorov. It will sound more impressive if we distinguish theory from science (was there a social science before Marx?)—and no harm is done if the distinction is absurd!.

“ . . . by establishing the fundamental law of social dynamics according to which the evolution of productive forces is the determining principle of all economic and social development. But the development of productive forces corresponds to the growth of the productivity of labour, to the relative reduction in expenditure and the increase in the accumulation of energy [see how fertile the “real-monistic philosophy” is: a new, energeticist, foundation for Marxism has been created!]... this is the economic principle. Thus, Marx made the principle of the economy of forces the foundation of the social theory. . . .”

This “thus” is truly superb! Because Marx has a political economy, let us therefore chew the word “economy,” and call the cud “real-monistic philosophy”!

No, Marx did not make any principle of the economy of forces the basis of his theory. These are absurdities invented by people who covet the laurels of Eugen Dühring. Marx gave an absolutely precise definition of the concept growth of productive forces, and he studied the concrete process of this growth. But Suvorov invented a new term to designate the concept analysed by Marx; and his invention was a very unhappy one and only confused matters. For Suvorov did not explain what is meant by the “economy of forces,” how it can be measured, how this concept can be applied, precise and definite facts it embraces;—and this cannot be explained, because it is a muddle. Listen to this:

“ . . . This law of social economy is not only the principle of the internal unity of social science [can you make anything of this, reader?], but also the connecting link between social theory and the general theory of being” (p. 294).

Well, well, here we have “the general theory of being” once more discovered by S. Suvorov, after it has already been discovered many times and in the most varied forms by numerous representatives of scholastic philosophy. We congratulate the Russian Machians on this new “general theory of being”! Let us hope that their next collective work will be entirely devoted to the demonstration and development of this great discovery!

The way our representative of realistic, or real-monistic, philosophy expounds Marx’s theory will be seen from the following example: “In general, the productive forces of men form a genetic gradation [ugh!] and consist of their labour energy, harnessed elemental forces, culturally modihed nature and the instruments of labour which make up the technique of production. . . . In relation to the process of labour these forces perform a purely economic function; they economise labour energy and increase the productivity of its expenditure” (p. 298). Productive forces perform an economic function in relation to the process of labour! This is just as though one were to say that vital forces perform a vital function in relation to the process of life. This is not expounding Marx; this is clogging up Marxism with an incredible clutter of words.

It is impossible to enumerate all the clutter contained in Suvorov’s article. “The socialisation of a class is expressed in the growth of its collective power over both people and their property” (p. 313). “ . . . The class struggle aims at establishing forms of equilibrium between social forces” (p. 322). Social dissension, enmity and struggle are essentially negative, anti-social phenomena. “Social progress, in its basic content, is the growth of social relations, of the social connections between people” (p. 328). One could fill volumes with collections of such banalities—and the representatives of bourgeois sociology are filling volumes with them. But to pass them off as the philosophy of Marxism—that is going too far! If Suvorov’s article were an experiment in popularising Marxism, one would not judge it very severely. Everyone would admit that the author’s intentions were of the best but that the experiment was unsuccessful. And that would be the end of it. But when a group of Machians present us with such stuff and call it the Foundations of Social Philosophy, and when we see the same methods of “developing” Marxism employed in Bogdanov’s philosophical books, we arrive at the inevitable conclusion that there is an intimate connection between reactionary epistemology and reactionary efforts in sociology.


[1] THIS FOOTNOTE has been moved into BODY OF DOCUMENT.

[2] Bazarov, V. (Rudnev, V. A.), 1874-1939—philosopher and economist. From 1896 onwards took part in the Social-Democratic movement. In 1905-07 collaborated on several Bolshevik publications. In the period of reaction (1907-10) drew away from Bolshevism; advocated “god-building” and empirlo-criticism; was one of the leading representatives of the Machist revision of Marxism.

[3] The discovery of the law of the conservation and transformation of energy, led up to by the whole development of natural science, especially contributed to by the work of Lomonosov, occurred in the forties of the nineteenth century (the works of Robert Mayer, James Joule and Hermann Helmholtz). The word energy in its modern sense was introduced in 1853 by William Rankin, but it only came into general use in the seventies and eighties. Most physicists were at first critical of the new law, but its correctness was speedily proved in all spheres of natural science. Bagels considered this law one of the most important achievements of the nineteenth century and he looked on it as a universal law of nature expressing in the language of physics the unity of the material world. “The unity of all motion in nature,” he wrote, “is no longer a philosophical assertion, but a natural scientific fact” (Dialectic of Nature, p. 264).

Some scientists cast doubt on the universal nature of the law of the conservation and transformation of energy and tried to interpret it in an idealist spirit. Thus, Mach refused to regard it as a universal law of nature and considered that it amounted merely to an acknowledgement of the causal dependence of phenomena. Wilhelm Ostwalff regarded it as the sole universal law of nature and he tried to deny the objective reality of matter, to discard the concept of matter and to prove that energy exists without matter, reducing all phenomena of nature, society and thought to energy. A. Bogdanov tried to depict social changes as an increase or decrease of energy.

Lenin criticised “energeticism” as one of the manifestations of “physical idealism” and he showed the untenability in principle of attempts to transfer the laws of natural science to social phenomena. The further development of science, and study of the phenomena of the micro-world, confirmed the universal character of the law of the conservation and transformation of energy; the relativity theory established the universal relationship between energy and mass.

  2. How Bogdanov Corrects and “Develops” Marx | 4. Parties in Philosophy and Philosophical Blockheads  

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