Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Remarks on Books:

G. V. Plekhanov.
Fundamental Questions of Marxism.
St. Ptsbrg, 1908


Written not earlier than May 1908.
Published in part in 1933
in Lenin Miscellany XXV.
Published in full for the
first time.
Published according
to the original.



ST. PTSBRG; 1908

[23]... The idealists first convert thought into
an independent essence, independent of man
(“subject for itself”), and then declare that in it,
in this essence, the contradiction between being
and thought is resolved; precisely because it,
essence independent of matter, possesses a separate,
independent being. And the contradiction is in
fact resolved in it, for what is this essence after
all? Thought. And this thought exists—is—in-
dependently of anything else. But this solution of
the contradiction is a purely formal solution.
It is attained only because,—as we have already

stated above—one of its elements is eliminated:
that is, being independent of thought. Being proves


to be a simple property of thought, and when we
say that a given object exists, it means only that
it exists in thought....


[24]...To be does not mean to exist in thought.
In this respect Feuerbach’s philosophy is far clearer
than the philosophy of Dietzgen.
“The proof that

something exists,” Feuerbach remarks, “has no
other meaning than that something exists not
in thought alone.

[28-29]...The materialist explanation of history
was primarily of methodological
. Engels understood this per-

fectly when he wrote: “we need not so much bare
results as study (das Studium); results are nothing
without the development leading up to them....”[2]


[29-30]...Generally speaking, one of the greatest

services rendered by Marx and Engels to material-
ism is their elaboration of a correct meth-
. Concentrating on the struggle against the

speculative element in Hegelian philo-
sophy, Feuerbach did not appreciate its dialec-
method and made little use of it. He says:
“True dialectics is by no means a monologue of
a solitary thinker with himself; it is a dialogue
between I and You.”[3] But, first, in Hegel, too,
dialectics does not signify “a monologue of a solitary
thinker with himself”; secondly, Feuerbach’s re-
mark correctly defines the starting-point
of philosophy, but not its meth-
. This deficiency was made good by Marx
and Engels, who understood that it would be
wrong, in combating Hegel’s speculative philos-
ophy, to ignore its dialectics....


[31]...Many people confuse dialectics with the
theory of development, and it is in fact such
a theory
. But dialectics differs substantially from

the vulgar “theory” of evolution, which is wholly
constructed on the principle that neither
nature nor history makes leaps
and that all changes in the world

take place only gradually. Hegel


had already pointed out that the theory of develop-
ment understood in this way is ridiculous and

[33]...In general, the right to dialectical

thought is confirmed by him[4] from the
dialectical properties of being.
Here too being determines thought....


[39]...Thus, the features of the geographical
environment determine the development of the
productive forces;
the development of the produc-
tive forces in turn determines the development of
economic relations and, then, all other social


[42]...Each given stage of development of the
productive forces has its corresponding definite
type of weapons, military art, and,
finally, of international—more exactly:
inter-social, i.e., also, incidentally, inter-
tribal—law. Hunting tribes cannot
create large-scale political organisations precisely
because the low level of their productive forces
compels them, in the ancient Russian
expression, to wander separately, in
small social groups, in search of the means of

[46-47]...According to Marx, the geographical
environment influences man through the
production relations arising in
the given locality on the basis
of the given productive forces,
the primary condition for the
development of which is this
environment’s features


[65-66]...The character of the “economic struc-
ture” and the direction in which it changes do not
depend on man’s will, but on the state of the pro-
ductive forces and on the changes that arise in
production relations and become necessary to
society due to the continued development of these
forces. Engels explains this as follows: “Men make
their history themselves, but not as yet with
a collective will according to a collective plan or
even in a definite, delimited given society. Their
aspirations clash, and for that very reason all
such societies are governed by necessity,
the complement and form of appearance of which

is accident.” Here human activity itself is
determined not as free, but as necessary,
i.e., as in accordance with law, i.e.,
as being capable of becoming
an object of scientific investi-

gation. Thus, historical materialism, while
not ceasing to point out that circumstances are
changed by people, also gives us an opportunity
for the first time of looking upon the
process of this change from the
standpoint of science.
And that is
why we are fully entitled to say that the material-

ist explanation of history provides the necessary
prolegomena for any theory of
human society that desires to
come forward as science

[68].. .In primitive society which knew no divi-
sion into classes, man’s productive activity
directly influences his outlook on the world
and his aesthetic taste....


[81-82]...If we were to state briefly the view
of Marx and Engels on the relation between the
now famous “basis” and the no less famous

superstructure,” the result would be
the following:

1) The state of the productive

2)The economic relations deter-
mined by it;

3) The socio - political system which
has grown up on the economic “basis” in question;

4) The psychology of social man
as determined in part directly by the economy and
in part by the socio-political system which has
grown up on it;

5) Different ideologies reflecting
the properties of this psychology....

[98]...Let us take as an example our agrarian
problem as it stands today. To the intelligent
Constitutional Democratic landowner, “the
compulsory alienation of land” may seem to be
more or less, i.e., in inverse proportion to the
amount of “fair compensation,” a sad historical
necessity. But to the peasant, who is eager
to come by “a bit of land,” it is only this “fair
compensation” that will seem to be a more or less
sad necessity, while “compulsory alienation” is
bound to appear to him to be an expression of his

free will and the most valuable guarantee of his

In saying this, we touch perhaps on the most
important point in the doctrine of freedom, a point
not mentioned by Engels, of course, only because
it is self-explanatory to one who has passed through
the Hegelian school....

Feuerbach and Dietzgen. 24[5]



[1] Werke. X, 187.Lenin

[2] Nachlass, I, 477.—Lenin

[3] Werke, II, 345.—Lenin

[4] EngelsEd.

[5] The reference is to page 24 of Plekhanov’s book (see p. 403 of this volume).—Ed.


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