V. I.   Lenin

Socialism Demolished Again[6]

Published: Published in March 1914 in the journal Sovremenny Mir No. 3. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the text in the journal.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 187-208.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Less than a decade separates us from the turbulent period of 1905, and yet the change that has taken place in Russia in this short time seems tremendous. Russia seems all at once to have changed from a patriarchal into a modern capitalist country. Leo Tolstoy, the ideologist of the old Russia, expressed this in a characteristic and rueful tirade when he complained that the Russian people “have learnt with astonishing rapidity to make revolutions and parliaments”.[7]

Naturally, Russia’s “sadden” transformation into a bourgeois country in a matter of five or ten years in the twentieth century was possible only because the entire second half of the preceding century had been a stage in the transition from the feudal to the bourgeois system.

It is interesting to note how this change affected the attitude towards Marxism of our official, university science of political economy. In the good old days, only government professors of the extreme right engaged in the business of “demolishing” Marx. Liberal-Narodnik professorial scholarship as a whole treated Marx with respect, “recognised” the labour theory of value, and thereby created the na\"ive illusion among “Left Narodniks” that in Russia there was no soil for a bourgeoisie.

Today, there has “suddenly” sprung up in this country a host of liberal and progressive “Marxophobes”, among them men like Mr. Tugan-Baranovsky,[1] or Mr. Struve, etc. All of them have disclosed the true content and significance of liberal-Narodnik “respect” for Marx. In word, their respect has remained, but in deed, their long-standing inability to understand materialist dialectics and the theory of the class struggle has inevitably led them to renounce the theory of labour value.

Until 1905 the bourgeoisie saw no other enemy titan the feudalists and the “bureaucrats”; that is why they tried to be sympathetic towards the theory espoused by the European proletariat, and tried not to see the “enemy on the left”. After 1905, a counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie a in Russia, and professorial, liberal scholarship; without the slightest loss of prestige in “society”, seriously proceeded to demolish Marx.

We propose to acquaint the reader with the latest scholarly work of one of these “serious” scholars.


Last year V. P. Ryabushinsky published Part I of Mr. Pyotr Struve’s work The Economy and Prices (M. 1913). The celebrated “alliance between science and industry”, which was first marked by Mr. Ryabushinsky’s publication of Mr. Struve’s discourse on “Great Russia”; has gained strength and attained full stature. From a simple alliance between science and industry there has now emerged an alliance between science, industry and the authorities, for Mr. Struve submitted his research as a treatise for a scientific degree, which has been conferred on him.

In his preface Mr. Struve assures us that he planned this work about fifteen years ago. Consequently, we have every reason to expect a piece of serious and solid research.

The author himself holds a very high opinion of his work, in which he promises to “revise” (“critically”, of course) “certain traditional problems and principles of political economy”. The revision also involves the significance of price “as the fundamental concept of political economy”.

This revision will lead to the posing of new methodological problems for our science in the spirit of consistent empiricism, based on strictly evolved, precise concepts and clear distinctions.”

This sentence, taken from the concluding lines of Mr. Struve’s “work”, contains the leit-motif, as it were, of his treatise. The author’s programme is “consistent empiricism” (this is how any fashionable philosopher starts in our day, no matter what sanctimonious humbug his theory may lead up to) and the “strict evolution of precise concepts and clear   distinctions”, the familiar motive of the celebrated “criticism”, which so often amounts to nothing more than verbal scholasticism....

Mr. Struve wants to see “consistent empiricism” particularly in that part of his book, by far the larger, in which he gives “sketches and materials on the historical phenomenology of price” (this takes up nearly the whole of Section 2 of Part I). And by “strict evolution of precise concepts and clear distinctions” he means his disquisition, in Section 1 and in the Introduction, on “some fundamental philosophical motives in the development of economic thinking”, on “the economy and society”, etc.

We shall first deal with these fundamental theoretical reflections of Mr. Struve’s.


The normative, ethical conception of worth (tsennost) [value (stoimost); Mr. Struve persistently uses the wrong term “worth” instead of “value”, although the incorrectness of this was proved to him long ago] that still prevails also among the canonists, is not so far removed as it may seem from the conception of worth as the intrinsic ‘basis’ or ‘law’ of price. Indeed, we see that the ‘bonitas intrinseca’ ‘valor’, and ‘pretium natura&lwhatthe;e[2] of the canonists is transformed into the ‘intrinsic value’, or ‘natural value’, or ‘natural price’, i. e., the objective = worth[3] of the later economists” (XXV).

Here we see Mr. Struve’s main idea (or rather his main ideophobia) and the typical methods of this author. To discredit the scientific law of value, Mr. Struve tries hard to identify it with the “ethical” law of the canonists. Mr. Struve, of course, cannot produce a shred of evidence to support this. Considering that he writes “we see” in a footnote referring to a passage (and an irrelevant one at that) in the work of a   Russian Kantian of 1810, one can imagine what difficulty our scholar had in his search for proofs!

Mr. Struve cannot but know that in the Middle Ages all scientific laws, not only the law of value, were understood in a religious and ethical sense. Even the laws of natural science were interpreted by the canonists in the same way. Therefore, the identification of the canonists’ law of price with that of the representatives of classical political economy simply cannot be taken seriously. This “idea” of Mr. Struve’s could hardly be called an idea; it is simply ideophobia covered up with a purely childish trick.

Mr. Struve continues:

The ‘law of worth’ becomes the ‘idée fixe’ of political economy, And in this sphere the ‘universalist’ (‘realistic’) thought motive stands out most clearly in the works of an author who blends it with the greatest sweep of general-philosophical conception of economic science, namely, Marx. in his works this motive is combined with a materialist world outlook that is all the more valuable for not being elaborated in detail. He turned labour value, not only into a law, but also into the ‘substance’ of price. We have shown more than once in our works the way in which this mechanically naturalist and at the same time ‘realistic’ conception of worth vainly tries to embrace the world of empirical phenomena of economic life and culminates in a colossal and hopeless contradiction.”

This is a striking illustration of Mr. Struve’s “scientific” method! This is his method of annihilating Marx! A couple of pseudo-scientific terms, a hint at thought motives, and a reference to a short magazine article in Zhizn[8] in 1900—that is all he can boast of. That is not much, Professor!

In his brief magazine articles Mr. Struve failed to prove that there was any kind of contradiction, let alone a “colossal” one, between Vol. I and Vol. III of Marx’s Capital, between the labour theory of value and the formation of average price on the basis of the law of value.

The medieval “distinction” between nominalism and realism and the contraposition of universalism and singularism, which Mr. Struve juggles with, add nothing whatever to our understanding of Marx’s theory, to criticism of it, or to the clarification of Mr. Struve’s own theory (or what he   claims to be his own theory). It is juggling, scientific junk, but not science. Of course, in the controversy between medieval nominalists and realists there is some analogy with the controversy between materialists and idealists, but analogies and historical continuity can be established between very many other theories, not only into the Middle Ages, but also into ancient times. To study seriously the links between the controversies of at least the Middle Ages and the history of materialism, special research would be required. Our author’s book, however, contains no trace whatever of a serious study of the subject. He flits from subject to subject, hints at a thousand questions without examining a single one, and with a boldness that is amusing enunciates the most emphatic conclusions.

He himself is compelled to admit in the passage we have quoted that Marx blended his philosophy and political economy into an integral materialist world outlook, and that Marx’s general philosophical conception is the broadest!

This is no trifling admission. A person who is compelled to make such an admission and who talks about a critical revision of political-economy and about its new methodological tasks, is in duty bound seriously to examine all the components of Marx’s “integral” materialist world outlook. But Mr. Struve does not even attempt to do that. He confines himself to a few slighting remarks against “metaphysical materialism”. Who does not know that, from the point of view of the fashionable theories of agnosticism (Kantianism, positivism, Machism, and so forth), both consistent materialism and consistent philosophical idealism are “metaphysics”? In making remarks of this kind, Mr. Struve merely hints at his own philosophical world outlook, which has nothing integral about it. But the task of examining and studying Marx’s integral materialist world outlook cannot be dismissed with remarks of this kind. To attempt to do so is merely to issue oneself with a testimonium paupertatis.


On the other hand, the attempt to identify Marxism with the scholastic doctrine of original sin is such a gem in Mr. Struve’s scientific treatise that we cannot refrain from   examining it in greater detail. We ask our readers’ forgiveness in advance for quoting long passages, but one must be accurate here in order to pin down more firmly the methods used by modern liberal-professorial science.

It is quite clear to me,” writes Mr. Struve, “that many centuries ago Marx’s theory of labour worth, in its logical structure, had its extremely close analogy and prototype in the ‘realistically’ grounded scholastic doctrine of original sin.... Just as according to Marx empirical ‘prices’ are governed by the law of worth, and owe their existence to the substance of worth, so to speak, so, according to scholasticism, the empirical actions of men are determined by original sin.

Here are some analogies.

Marx: ‘The matter will be most readily pictured by regarding this whole mass of commodities, produced by one branch of industry, as one commodity, and the sum of the prices of the many identical commodities as one price. Then, whatever has been said of a single commodity applies literally to the mass of commodities of an entire branch of production available in the market. The requirement that the individual value of a commodity should correspond to its social value is now realised, or further determined, in that the mass contains social labour necessary for its production, and that the value of this mass is equal to its market value.’[9]

Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must say that all men who are born of Adam may be regarded as one man, since they are identical in the nature which they inherited from their progenitor, just as, for example, all men who live in one county are regarded as one body, and the whole county as one man’....”

Quite enough, is it not? Mr. Struve assures us that this is “not playing at striking [!?] analogies or witticising”. Perhaps. But it is undoubtedly playing at vulgar analogies, or rather, simply clowning. If people who regard themselves as liberal and progressive scholars are capable of tolerating such heroes of buffoonery in their midst; if these heroes are granted scientific degrees,and are allowed to instruct the young, then that only shows for the hundredth and thousandth time what the “law” of the bourgeois era is: the more   insolently and shamelessly you make mock of science in the effort to demolish Marx; the greater is your merit.

Mr. Struve had to resort to clownish antics in order to cover up his sheer inability to refute Marx. That the whole mass of commodities of a given branch of industry is exchanged for the sum of commodities of another branch, is an indisputable fact. That all “empiricists” determine average price by taking the whole mass of commodities and dividing the aggregate price by the number of individual commodities, is also a fact; Statistics, for which Mr. Struve has such a liking (and which, as we shall see below, he only “hints at” instead of trying to study), prove to us at every turn that Marx’s method is constantly employed. But what do professional “socialistophobes” care? The thing is to take a kick at Marx; all the rest will take care of itself.

The nature of the philosophical authorities who give Mr. Struve their benediction in his noble occupation can be seen, among other things, from the following words uttered by our professor:

In this work [that of summing-up the ideas of the nineteenth century] impartial posterity should assign a prominent place to the great French metaphysician Renouvier, to whom many of the critical and positive ideas of our times can be traced” (43).

Renouvier was the head of the French school of “neo-critical idealism”, “an obscurantist of the first water”, as he was called by the empirio-critic (i. e., anti-materialist philosopher) Willy (see my remarks on Renouvier in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy. Moscow, 1909, p. 247).[4] Renouvier wrote the word “law” with a capital L and simply converted it into a basis for religion.

See by what methods Mr. Struve demolishes Marx’s “integral [as he himself admits] materialist world out look”; he puts Marx on the same footing as a medieval theologian on the sole grounds that Marx takes the aggregate prices of commodities of a single branch of production, while the medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, takes all men who descend from the first man Adam, and uses this as a basis for his doctrine of original sin. At the same time   Marx is demolished in the name of the “great” Renouvier who preached philosophical idealism in the nineteenth century and used the concept of “law” as a basis for religion!

O Mr. Struve! O disciple of the “great” Renouvier! O teacher charged with the enlightenment of Russian youth!


In the vast reconstruction,” writes Mr. Struve, “which the edifice of political economy, as based on the idea of natural law, underwent after the onslaught of historism, both mystical and materialist, that idea was an utter failure. Its basic inner contradiction manifested itself. The latter revealed itself perhaps most glaringly in that form of ‘natural’ political economy which became the theoretical foundation of bourgeois economic liberalism.... Indeed, if natural law reigns in economic life, there can be no facts in that life which are out of harmony with natural law, or contradict it. And yet liberal ‘natural’ political economy constantly fought, in books and in life, against such facts.... After the bankruptcy of bourgeois liberal political economy it became almost indecent to speak of ‘natural law’. On the one band, it was obviously unscientific to single out from an integral and, in principle, uniform social economic process certain individual aspects, relations and phenomena, as ‘natural’, and p lace them in a special category of phenomena. On the other hand, the proclamation of ‘natural law’, which even in economic liberalism rested on an unconscious ethical motive, was ethically discredited because it was regarded as a method that justified or perpetuated certain, social relations and forms that were only of temporary significance, because it was regarded as a ‘bourgeois’ apologia” (56–57).

This is how the author disposes of the idea of natural law. And this has been written by a man who is compelled to admit that “the materialist Marx extended a hand to the materialist Petty across the whole of the eighteenth century” (56), and that “Petty is the most striking and most out standing exponent of the powerful current which at the time flowed from natural to social science” (50).

It is common knowledge that a powerful current flowed from natural to social science not only in Petty’s time, but in Marx’s time as well. And this current remains just as powerful, if not more so, in the twentieth century too. How can one raise the question of this “current” and speak of the materialism of Petty and Marx in a work that claims to be scientific, and is meant to study “the philosophical   motives of economic thinking”, without saying anything whatever about the philosophical premises and deductions of natural science?

But that is precisely Mr. Struve’s manner: to raise, or rather, touch upon, a thousand and one questions, to “hold forth” on everything, to present everything as being weighed and considered, but to give nothing except a hash of quotations and running comments.

It is a downright falsehood to say that the idea of natural law is bankrupt in political economy, and that it is “indecent to speak of it”. On the contrary. It is the “current from natural to social science” that has been reinforcing this idea and made it inevitable. It is “materialist historism” that conclusively substantiated this idea, after stripping it of its metaphysical (in the Marxist sense of this term, i. e., anti-dialectical) absurdities and defects. To say that the “natural law” of the classics is “ethically discredited” as being a bourgeois apologia, is sheer nonsense. It means distorting both. the classics and “materialist historism” in the most flagrant manner. For the classics sought and discovered a number of capitalism’s “natural laws”, but they failed to understand its transitory character, failed to perceive the class struggle within it. Both these faults were remedied by materialist historism and “ethical derogation” has nothing to do with it.

By employing exaggeratedly “strong” language (“indecent” to speak about “natural law”), Mr. Struve is trying in vain to conceal his dread of science, a dread of scientific analysis of the modern economy, so characteristic of the bourgeoisie. Lordly scepticism is characteristic of them, as it is of all declining classes, but the idea of a natural law governing the functioning and development of society is not declining, but is steadily gaining ground.


We shall now examine the “strictly evolved, precise concepts and clear distinctions” which Mr. Struve promised to provide for the “formulation of new methodological problems” of political economy.

We define economy,” we read on page 5, “as the subjective teleological entity of rational economic activity or economic management.”

This sounds “awfully learned”, but it is really a mere juggling with words. Economy is defined as economic management! A statement of the obvious.... The “subjective entity of economic management” may be found in dreams and fantastic novels.

Afraid to say the production of material products (“meta-physical materialism”!), Mr. Struve gives us a gewgaw, not a definition. By eliminating every element and symptom of social relationships, Mr. Struve has “invented”, as if on purpose, an “economy” that political economy has never studied, and can never study.

Here are the “three main types of economic systems” that he then goes onto enumerate: 1) the sum total of parallel economic units; 2) the system of interacting economies, and 3) “community-economy” as the “subjective teleological entity”. The first type covers, if you please, economies that are not interlinked and do not interact (an attempt to revive Robinson Crusoe!); the second refers to slavery, serfdom, capitalism, and simple commodity production; the third refers to communism, “which was practised in the Jesuit state in Paraguay to the extent that it is at all practicable”. This masterly classification, in which no trace of historical reality is discernible, is supplemented by the distinction drawn between economic and social systems.

Economic categories, Mr. Struve tells us edifyingly, “express the economic relation in which every subject engaged in economy stands to the surrounding world”; inter-economic categories “express phenomena that spring from the interaction of the autonomous economies”; social categories “spring from the social inequality among interacting people engaged in economy”.

Thus, the economic system of slavery, serfdom and capitalism may be logically, economically and historically detached from social inequality! This is what emerges from Mr. Struve’s clumsy efforts to introduce new definitions and distinctions. “Arguing in the abstract, the sum total of parallel economic units is compatible with relations of equality and inequality. It may be a peasant democracy or a feudal society.”

This is how our author reasons. From the point of view of theory—logic, economics and history—his reasoning is utterly absurd. By stretching the concept of the “sum total of parallel economic units” to cover almost everything, he reveals how meaningless that concept is. Peasant democracy, feudalism, and proprietors living side by side (on one floor, on one landing, in a St. Petersburg apartment house), are all the “sum total of parallel economic units”! The author has already forgotten that, in his system, this sum total is sup posed to characterise one of the three main types of economic systems. Mr. Struve’s “scientific” definitions and distinctions are mere gibberish.

This crude and trivial quibbling, however, this flouting of logic and history has a “meaning” of its own. That “meaning” is bourgeois despair and “don’t-care-a-damn attitude” (if one can thus translate the French expression “je m’en fiche”). Despair of ever being able to give a scientific analysis of the present, a denial of science, a tendency to despise all generalisations, to hide from all the “laws” of historical development, and make the trees screen the wood—such is the class idea underlying the fashionable bourgeois scepticism, the dead and deadening scholasticism, which we find in Mr. Struve’s book. “Social inequality” should not be attributed to ,the economic system; it is impossible to do that (because the bourgeoisie does not wish it)—that is Mr. Struve’s “theory”; Let political economy indulge in truisms, scholastics and the senseless pursuit of trivial facts (examples of which will be found below), and let the question of “social inequalities” recede into the safer sphere of sociological and legal arguments. These unpleasant questions can more easily be “ducked” in that sphere.

Economic reality glaringly reveals the class division of society as the basis of the economic system of both capitalism and feudalism. From the moment political economy made its appearance, science has concentrated its attention on explaining this class division. Classical political economy took a number of steps along this road, and Marx took a step further. Today’s bourgeoisie is so scared by this step, so disturbed by the “laws” of modern economic evolution, which are all the obvious and too formidable, that the bourgeois and their ideologists are prepared to throw all   the classics and all the laws overboard, so long as they can relegate all these social inequalities, or whatever you call them ... to the archives of jurisprudence.


Mr. Struve would particularly like to relegate the concept of value to the archives. “Worth,” he writes, “as something distinct from price, independent of it and yet determining it, is a phantom” (96). “The category of objective worth is merely, so to speak, the metaphysical doubling of the category of price” (97).

To demolish socialism, Mr. Struve has chosen the most ... radical, the easiest, and at the same time the most flimsy method, that of repudiating science altogether. Here the lordly scepticism of the blasé and frightened bourgeois reaches its nec plus ultra. Like the advocate in Dostoyevsky’s novel who, in defending his client charged with murder for the purpose of robbery, went to the length of saying that there had been neither robbery nor murder, Mr. Struve “refutes” Marx’s theory of value simply by asserting that value is a phantom.

At present it is no longer necessary to refute it [the theory of objective value]; it need only be described in the way we have done here and in our ‘Introduction’ to show that it does not and cannot exist in scientific theory” (97).

Now how can one help calling this most “radical” method most flimsy? For thousands of years mankind has been aware of the operation of an objective law in the phenomenon of exchange, has been trying to understand it and express it with the utmost precision, has been testing its explanations by millions and billions of day-by-day observations of economic life; and suddenly, a fashionable representative of a fashionable occupation—that of collecting quotations (I almost said collecting postage stamps)—comes along and “does away with all this”: “worth is a phantom”.

Not for nothing has it been said that were the truths of mathematics to affect the interests of men (or rather, the interests of classes in their struggle), those truths would be heatedly challenged. No great brains are needed to challenge the incontestible truths of economic science. Just a word   inserted about value being a phantom, something independent of price—and the trick is done!

It does not matter that such an insertion is ridiculous. Price is a manifestation of the law of value. Value is the law of price, i. e., the generalised expression of the phenomenon of price. To speak of “independence” here is a mockery of science, which in all fields of knowledge reveals the operation of fundamental laws in a seeming chaos of phenomena.

Take, for example, the law of the variation of species and of the formation of higher species from lower ones. It would be very cheap to designate as a phantom the generalisations of natural science, the already discovered laws (accepted by all despite the host of seeming contraventions and deviations shown in the medley of individual cases), and the search for corrections and supplements to them. In the field of natural science, anyone who said that the laws governing phenomena in the natural world were phantoms Would be put into a lunatic asylum, or simply laughed out of court. In the field of economic science, however, a man who struts about ... stark naked ... is readily appointed professor, for he is really quite fitted to stultify the minds of the pampered sons of the bourgeoisie.

Price is a fact. We will put it this way: price is the concept of the real exchange relations between wealth in the process of exchange; it is a realised exchange relation.

Worth is a norm. We will put it this way: worth is the concept of the ideal, or what ought to be the interrelation between wealth in the process of exchange” (88).

How characteristic of Mr. Struve is this negligent, ostentatiously off-hand remark: “We will put it this way”. Deliberately ponderous, and, juggling with abstruse terms and new-fangled formulations, Mr. Struve suddenly adopts the feuilleton tone .... Indeed, it would be difficult to proclaim value a phantom without adopting a feuilleton tone.

If price is a “realised exchange relation”, then it may be asked: relation between what? Obviously, between the economic units engaged in the process of exchange. If this “exchange relation” does not arise accidentally, as an isolated case and for a brief period, but repeats itself with invariable regularity, everywhere, and every day, then it is obvious that this “exchange relation” links the sum total   of economic units in a single economic system; obviously, there is a firmly established division of labour between these economic units.

Thus, all Mr. Struve’s wily reasoning about “inter-economic” relations, which are alleged to be separable from social relations, are already collapsing like a house of cards. Mr. Struve has driven the concept of commodity production out of the door only to let it steal in through the window. Mr. Struve’s famous “empiricism” consists in expelling from science generalisations that are unpleasant to the bourgeoisie, but which nevertheless have to be recognised unofficially, so to speak.

If price is an exchange relation, then one must inevitably understand the difference between an individual exchange relation and a constant one, between an accidental and mass relation, between a momentary relation and one that embraces a long period of time. If that is the case—and it certainly is—we must as inevitably work upward from the accidental and the individual to the constant and wide spread: from price to value. Mr. Struve’s attempts to proclaim value as something which “should be”, to identify it with ethics, or with the doctrine of the canonists, and so forth, collapse like a house of cards.

By saying that the recognition of value as a phantom is “empiricism” and that the striving (which can be traced “from Aristotle” to Marx—p. 91—and it should be added: through the whole of classical political economy!)—the striving to discover the law of the formation of and change in prices is “metaphysics”, Mr. Struve repeats the method of the latest philosophical reactionaries, who by “metaphysics” mean the materialism of natural science in general, and by “empiricism” mean taking a step towards religion. Expelling laws from science means, in fact, smuggling in the laws of religion. In vain does Mr. Struve imagine that his “little stratagems” can deceive anybody with reference to this simple and undoubted fact.


As we have seen, Mr. Struve has evaded a pitched battle with the Marxists and taken shelter behind scepticism in general. But he has made up for this by the zeal with which   he has scattered remarks against Marxism throughout his book, in the hope of catching his readers after they have been stunned by the mass of random and disjointed quotations flung at them.

For example, he quotes a brief passage from Saint-Simon, mentions a series of books on Saint-Simon (this copying from German bibliographies is systematically practised by our “scholar”, evidently as the surest road ... to a scientific degree), and quotes lengthy passages from Renouvier about Saint-Simon.

What is the conclusion to be drawn from this?

It is the following: “Paradoxical as it may seem, it is simply an incontrovertible. historical fact that the higher form of socialism, so-called scientific socialism, is the offspring of the liaison between revolutionary and reactionary thought” (51–52). For the path to scientific socialism can be traced through Saint-Simon, and “Saint-Simon was a disciple of both eighteenth century Enlightenment, and of the reactionaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries” (53). “This should always be borne in mind: historical materialism is essentially the product of the reaction against the spirit of the eighteenth century. First, it is the reaction of the organic view against rationalism; secondly, it is the reaction of economism against politicism. Moreover, in his religious period, Saint-Simon represented the reaction of emotion and religion against the ideas of law and human justice” (54–55). To seal this, Mr. Struve repeats: “Marxism is the formula of the French theocratical school, and of the historical counter-revolutionary reaction in general, translated into the language of positivism, atheism and radicalism. Dismissing reason, Marx remained a revolutionary and a socialist” (55)....

If Marx succeeded in assimilating arid further developing; on the one hand, “the spirit of the eighteenth century” in its struggle against the feudal and clerical powers of the Middle Ages, and on the other hand, the economism, and historism (and also the dialectics) of the philosophers and historians of the early nineteenth century, it only proves the depth and power of Marxism, and only confirms the opinions of those who regard Marxism as the last word in science. With a clarity that left no room for misunderstanding   Marx always pointed out that the doctrines of the reactionaries—historians and philosophers—contained profound ideas about the operation of definite laws and the class struggle in the march of political events.

But Mr. Struve performs capers and declares that Marxism is the offspring of reaction, although he immediately adds that Marxism can be traced, not to Saint-Simon the clericalist, but to Saint-Simon the historian and economist!

It appears that, by means of a catch-phrase, and without saying a single serious word about the contribution made by Saint-Simon to social science after the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and before Marx, our author has leaped over the whole of social science in general.

Inasmuch as this science was built up, first, by the classical economists, who discovered the law of value and the fundamental division of society into classes; inasmuch as important contributions to this science were made, in con junction with the classical economists, by the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century in its struggle against feudalism and clericalism; inasmuch as this science was promoted by the historians and philosophers of the early nineteenth century who, notwithstanding their reactionary views, still further explained the class struggle, developed the dialectical method and applied it, or began to apply it, in social life—Marxism, which made tremendous advances along precisely this path, marks the highest development of Europe’s entire historical, economic and philosophical science. Such is the logical deduction. But Mr. Struve’s deduction says: Marxism is therefore not worth refuting, the laws of value, and so forth, are not even worth discussing, and Marxism is the offspring of reaction!

Does Mr. Struve really think that he can deceive his readers and disguise his obscurantism with such crude methods?


Obviously, Mr. Struve’s scientific treatise would not have been a scientific treatise submitted for a scientific degree if it did not set out to “prove” that socialism is impracticable.

Perhaps you think this is going too far? Is it possible, in a work dealing with the question of price and economy as well as “certain philosophical motives” of political economy, to “prove” that socialism is impracticable Without even attempting to study the historical tendencies of capitalism?

Oh, for Mr. Struve there is nothing easier! Listen:

In the final analysis, economic liberalism envisages complete identity—on the basis of the operation of ‘natural law’—between the rational and what ought to be, and the natural and necessary in the socio-economic process, its complete rationalisation.... Socialism, in its most perfect form of historical, or what is called scientific socialism, while rejecting ‘natural law’, at the same time accepts this fundamental idea of economic liberalism. It also assumes that harmony is possible between a rational structure and the natural course of things, and that the complete rationalisation of the socio-economic process is possible” (p. 58). Then come a few off-hand phrases about this “belief” (p. 59) and the following ponderous scientific deduction (p. 60). (Paragraph 7, Chapter 2, Section I of Part I of Mr. Struve’s “work”):

Comparing the socialist and liberal ideal with the world of reality, scientifically empirical research must admit that the belief contained in these ideals is groundless. In the formal sense, both these ideals are equally impracticable, equally utopian.”

When reading things like this, one can scarcely believe the evidence of one’s eyes. What a degree of senile decay and prostitution has been reached by present-day professorial science! Mr. Struve knows perfectly fell that scientific socialism is based on the fact of capitalism’s socialisation of production. This fact is borne out by a host of phenomena to be observed all over the world. And there is a wealth of “empirical” evidence pointing to the degree and rapidity with which these phenomena are developing.

But our scholar, who evades the question of the socialisation of production and does not touch upon a single sphere of these innumerable facts in his “scientifically empirical research”, declares, on the basis of a few meaningless phrases about liberalism and rationalisation, that the question is scientifically solved!

It is not true to say that liberalism envisages complete rationalisation. It is not true to say that Marxism repudiates “natural law”. The entire phrase, “complete rationalisation”, is false and meaningless; it is all a shoddy evasion, a stupid game in pursuit of a single purpose: to evade an issue that has been clearly and precisely formulated by scientific socialism; to stun young students with claptrap about socialism being impracticable.


The bulk of Mr. Struve’s treatise, much more than a half, is devoted to “sketches and materials on the historical phenomenology of price”.

This is where our ardent advocate of “consistent empiricism”, who declares value to be a phantom and has studied prices as facts, can really show his mettle!

Price statistics in the last few years have made great advances. An enormous amount of material has been collected in all countries. Quite a few books have been published on the history of prices. If our strict scholar does not even condescend to refute Marx’s theory of value, why could he not at least analyse some of the fundamental problems of this theory with the aid of the “empirical” material furnished by the history and statistics of prices? Thousands of commodities and hundreds of sections or periods of the history of their prices can be found, where the influence of all extraneous factors can be eliminated—with the exception of the labour “factor”—and where precise data is available on the amount of labour consumed in the production of a given commodity. Why could not our advocate of “consistent empiricism”, in a work of “scientific research” on prices, even touch upon these data in the section dealing with the “historical phenomenology of price”?

Why? Obviously because Mr; Struve was only too well aware of the hopelessness of his case, of the impossibility of refuting the theory of objective, labour value, and instinctively felt that he must steer clear of all scientific research.

The hundreds of pages of Mr. Struve’s treatise devoted to “sketches and materials on the historical phenomenology of price” are an exceptionally remarkable illustration of   how present-day bourgeois scientists steer clear of science. What will you not find in these pages! Comments on fixed and free prices; several observations on the Polynesians; excerpts from the market regulations issued by (ah, what erudition!) King Andrianampoinimerina, unifier of Madagascar, in 178?–1810; several clauses of the Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon (about 2100 B. C.) concerning a surgeon’s fee for, performing an operation; several passages, mostly in Latin and highly scholarly, concerning the scheduling of the purchase price of women in ancient German codes; the translation of seven passages referring to commercial law from the works of the holy lawgivers of India, Mann and Yajna Valmiki[5] ; the protection of purchasers in Roman law, and so on and so forth, right up to Hellenic examples of the police regulation of prices in Rome and the Christianisation of Roman police law in the legislation of the Carolings.

We may expect that Mr. V. P. Ryabushinsky, who published Mr. Struve’s treatise, will immortalise his own fame as a patron and the fame of Mr. Struve as a serious scholar, by publishing another hundred or so of volumes of sketches and materials on the historical methodology of prices describing, let us say,the bazaars of all times and all nations, with illustrations in the text and with comments by Mr. Struve wrenched from the best German bibliographies. Consistent empiricism will triumph, while the phantoms of various “laws” of political economy will vanish like smoke.


In the old pre-revolutionary Russia, scholars and scientists were divided into two big camps: those who made up to the government, and those who were independent; by the former were meant hired hacks and those who wrote to order.

This crude division, which corresponded to patriarchal, semi-Asiatic relations, is undoubtedly now obsolete and   should be relegated to the archives. Russia is rapidly be coming Europeanised. Our bourgeoisie is almost quite mature, and in some ways overripe. Its scholars and scientists are “independent” of the government; they are incapable of writing to order; they earnestly and conscientiously study problems from a point of view and by methods which they sincerely and conscientiously believe to coincide with the interests of “captains” of our commerce and industry like Mr. V. P. Ryabushinsky. To earn the reputation of a serious scientist or scholar and to obtain official recognition of one’s works in our times, when such advances have been made in everything, one must prove with the aid of a couple of “Kantian-style” definitions that socialism is impracticable; one must demolish Marxism by explaining to one’s readers and listeners that it is not worth refuting, and by quoting a thousand names and titles of books by European professors; one must throw by the board all scientific laws in general, to make room for religious laws; one must pile up a mountain of highly scientific lumber and rubbish with which to stuff the heads of young students.

It does not matter if the result is far more crude than that coming from the bourgeois scientists and scholars of Germany. The important thing is that Russia, after all, has definitely taken the path of Europeanisation.


[1] See pp. 144–47 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Intrinsic utility; price, worth; and natural price.—Ed.

[3] Incidentally, in admitting that the “later” (compared with the medieval canonists) economists have in mind “precisely objective “worth”, Mr. Struve immediately reveals the incorrectness, of his own subjectivist insistence on the word “worth” as against “objective” “value”. —Lenin

[4] See present edition, Vol. 14, p. 211.—Ed.

[5] Mr. S. F. Oldenburg, politely replying to Mr. Struve’s enquiry, writes that “the law hooks on the questions that you [Mr. Struve] touch upon evidently closely reflect actual life”. (Footnote 51b, §8, Subsection II, Chapter 2, Section II, Part I of Mr  Struve’s work.) —Lenin

[6] The article “Socialism Demolished Again” was published in the journal Sovremenny Mir No. 3, in March 1914.

Sovremenny Mir (Contemporary World)—a literary, scientific and political monthly published in St. Petersburg from October 1906 to 1918. Its chief contributors were Mensheviks, including Plekhanov. Bolsheviks contributed to the journal during the bloc with the Plekhanovites and at the beginning of 1914. During World War I (1914–18) it became the organ of the social-chauvinists.

[7] Leo Tolstoy speaks of this in his preface to N. Orlov’s picture album “Russian Muzhiks”, 1909.

[8] Zhizn (Life)—a literary, scientific and political journal published in St. Petersburg from 1897 to 1901. Among its contributors were “legal Marxists” (M. I. Tugan-Baranovsky and P. B. Struve), and leading writers and critics (Gorky, Chekhov, Veresayev, Skitalets, Bunin, and Solovyov [Andreyevich]). Karl Marx’s Wages, Price and Profit was published in this journal, as well as Lenin’s articles “Capitalism in Agriculture (Kautsky’s Book and Mr. Bulgakov’s Article)” and “Reply to Mr. P. Nezhdanov”. (See present edition, Vol. 4.)

[9] See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 179.

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