Lenin Collected Works: Volume 38: Preface by Progress Publishers

Lenin Collected Works:
Volume 38

Preface by Progress Publishers

Volume 38 of the Fourth Edition of the Collected Works of V. I. Lenin comprises résumés and excerpts from books, plus his critical remarks and evaluations concerning various aspects of Marxist philosophy; it also includes notes, fragments and other philosophical material.

The volume includes Lenin’s philosophical writings first published in Lenin Miscellanies IX and XII in 1929-30, and then, from 1933 to 1947, published repeatedly as a separate book under the title of Philosophical Notebooks. This material comprises the contents of ten notebooks, eight of which, relating to 1914-15, were entitled by Lenin Notebooks on Philosophy. In addition, the volume includes comments on books dealing with problems of philosophy and the natural sciences made by Lenin as separate notes in other notebooks containing preparatory material, as well as excerpts from books by various authors, with notes and under lineation by Lenin.

Unlike previous editions of Philosophical Notebooks, this volume contains Lenin’s comments and markings in G. V. Plekhanov’s pamphlet Fundamental Questions of Marxism and in V. Shulyatikov’s book The Justification of Capitalism in West-European Philosophy, from Descartes to E. Mach, markings and underlinings on those pages of A. Deborin’s article “Dialectical Materialism” which were not included in earlier editions; comments in G. V. Plekhanov’s book N. G. Chernyshevsky, including markings, which in the course of work on this edition were proved to have been made by Lenin; and a number of notes on books and reviews of books on philosophy and the natural sciences. Published in this volume for the first time is a note which Lenin wrote late in 1904 on a review of The Wonders of Life and The Riddle of the Universe, two works by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel.

A large number of the items included in Philosophical Notebooks relate to 1914-16. It is no coincidence that Lenin devoted so much attention to philosophy, and above all, to Marxist dialectics, precisely during the First World War, a period in which all the contradictions of capitalism became extremely acute and a revolutionary crisis matured. Only materialist dialectics provided the basis for making a Marxist analysis of the contradictions of imperialism, revealing the imperialist character of the First World War, exposing the opportunism and social-chauvinism of the leaders of the Second International and working out the strategy and tactics of struggle of the proletariat. All the works of Lenin written during that period—the classical treatise Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Socialism and War, The United States of Europe Slogan, The Junius Pamphlet, Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination and other writings—are inseparable from Philosophical Notebooks. The creative elaboration of Marxist philosophy, the Marxist dialectical method, and a profound scientific analysis of the new historical period were the basis for Lenin’s great discoveries, which equipped the proletariat with a new theory of socialist revolution. Philosophical Notebooks is inspired by a creative approach to Marxist philosophy, which is indissolubly bound up with reality, the struggle of the working class and the policy of the Party.

The volume opens with Lenin’s conspectus of The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism by Marx and Engels. The conspectus written in 1895 traces the formation of the philosophical and political world outlook of Marx and Engels. Lenin quotes and marks those passages in the book which show how Marx approached “the concept of the social relations of production” (p. 30 of this volume) and which characterise “Marx’s view—already almost fully developed--concerning the revolutionary role of the proletariat” (p. 26). Lenin gives prominence to Marx and Engels’ criticism of the subjective sociology of Brunn and Edgar Bauer and their followers and their idealist views on the role of “critical-minded people.” Lenin stresses the theses advanced by the founders of scientific communism: that the real and actual makers of history are the people, the working masses; and that “with the thoroughness of the historical action, the size of the mass who perform it will therefore increase” (p. 32). These theses are organically linked with the struggle waged by Lenin at that time against idealist Narodnik views on “heroes” and “the crowd,” against attempts to provide a theoretical basis for the cult of the individual. Lenin made a detailed résumé of the chapter of the book in which Marx thoroughly characterises the significance of l7th-l8th century English and French materialism.

Philosophical Notebooks pays great attention to German classical philosophy, one of the sources of Marxism. In a summary of Ludwig Feuerbach’s book, Lectures on the Essence of Religion, which he wrote apparently in 1909, Lenin emphasises Feuerbach’s contributions as a materialist and atheist. He also points out those propositions in the Lectures expressing the, materialist conjectures contained in Feuerbach’s views on society. On the other hand, Lenin reveals the weaknesses and limitations of Feuerbach’s materialism, noting that “both the anthropological principle and naturalism are only inexact, weak descriptions of m a t e r i a l i s m” (p. 82). In comparing Marx and Engels’ works of the same period with Lectures on the Essence of Religion, which Feuerbach delivered in 1848-49 and which were published in 1851, Lenin writes: “How far, even at t h i s time (1848-1851), h a d Feuerbach l a g g e d  b e h i n d  M a r x (The Communist Manifesto, 1847, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, etc.) and Engels (1845: Lage)” (p. 77).

In elaborating the theory of materialist dialectics, Lenin paid special attention to the study and critical analysis of Hegel’s philosophical legacy. His résumés of Hegel’s The Science of Logic, Lectures on the History of Philosophy and Lectures on the Philosophy of History occupy a central place in Philosophical Notebooks.

Lenin sharply criticises Hegel’s idealism and the mysticism of his ideas. But Lenin also reveals the significance of Hegelian dialectics and points out the necessity for evaluating it from a materialist standpoint. “Hegel’s logic,” wrote V. I. Lenin, “cannot be applied in its given form, it cannot be taken as given. One must s e p a r a t e  o u t from it the logical (epistemological) nuances, after purifying them from Ideenmystik. . .” (p. 266). In summarising Hegel’s writings, Lenin formulates a series of highly important propositions on the essence of materialist dialectics.

The brilliant article “On the Question of Dialectics,” written in 1915, is related to Lenin’s summary of Hegel’s works. Though small in size, this article is a crystallisation of unsurpassed depth and richness of thought of all the important and essential elements in materialist dialectics.

Lenin’s résumés of Lassalle’s The Philosophy of Heraclitus the Obscure of Ephesus, Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Feuerbach’s Exposition, Analysis and Critique of the Philosophy of Leibnitz trace the historical preparation of materialist dialectics. Lenin examines the history of philosophy from Heraclitus and Democritus to Marx and Engels, and presents a profound Marxist evaluation of the work of outstanding thinkers. He reveals the progressive contribution which they made to the development of philosophical thought, and at the same time, discloses the historical limitations of their views.

In his comments on books concerned with the natural sciences, as well as elsewhere in the volume, Lenin criticises attempts to reconcile a scientific explanation of nature with a religious world outlook, the vacillations of natural scientists—spontaneous materialists—between materialism and idealism, and their inability to distinguish between mechanistic and dialectical materialism. He inveighs against a contemptuous attitude toward philosophy and philosophical generalisations and demonstrates the vast importance of materialist dialectics for the natural sciences and for philosophical generalisations based on the discoveries of modern science.

The last section of Philosophical Notebooks is made up of markings and comments by Lenin in books on philosophy (by G. V. Plekhanov, V. M. Shulyatikov, A. M. Deborin and other authors), which show how scathingly Lenin criticised distortions of dialectical and historical materialism. This criticism is a vivid example of the uncompromising struggle by Lenin against vulgar materialism and the slightest deviations from Marxist philosophy.

The remarks made by Lenin in Plekhanov’s book on Chernyshevsky are of considerable interest. They are evidence of his great attention to the history of Russian social thought and his high opinion of its progressive, materialist traditions. Lenin stresses the revolutionary democracy and materialism of Chernyshevsky and his determined struggle against idealism. In pointing out the shortcomings of Plekhanov’s book and Plekhanov’s failure to see the class content of Chernyshevsky’s activity, Lenin writes: “Because of the theoretical difference between the idealist and materialist views of history, Plekhanov overlooked the practical-political and class difference between the liberal and the democrat” (p. 546).

In Philosophical Notebooks, Lenin consistently upholds the principle of partisanship in philosophy, and demonstrates the organic connection between dialectical materialism and revolutionary practice.

Philosophical Notebooks contains invaluable ideological richness, and is of immense theoretical and political significance. In it Lenin elaborates dialectical and historical materialism, the history of philosophy, focussing his attention on the problems of materialist dialectics. Along with his basic philosophical work, Materialism and Empirio-criticism, Philosophical Notebooks is an outstanding achievement of Lenin’s creative genius.

Lenin’s excerpts and comments provide a definition of dialectics as the science of the most general laws of development and cognition of the objective world. Of exceptional importance is his proposition on the identity of dialectics, logic and the theory of knowledge. He pointed out that the fundamental failure of metaphysical materialism was its inability to apply dialectics to the process and development of cognition; dialectics, he stressed, is the theory of knowledge of Marxism. In his Philosophical Notebooks Lenin advanced Marxist dialectics still further by elaborating the question of the dialectical process of cognition and the dictum that the dialectical way of cognising objective reality consists in the transition from living perception to abstract thought and from this to practice.

In elaborating materialist dialectics, Lenin concentrated on the problem of contradictions. It is in Philosophical Notebooks that he explains that the doctrine of the unity and struggle of opposites is the essence and core of dialectics, that the struggle of opposites is the source of development. “The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts ... is the e s s e n c e (one of the ‘essentials,’ one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics” (p. 359).

It may be presumed that the preparatory material of Notebooks on Philosophy is evidence of Lenin’s intention to write a special work on materialist dialectics, a task which he had no opportunity to fulfil. Although the material in Philosophical Notebooks does not constitute a complete work written by Lenin for publication, it is an important contribution to the development of dialectical materialism. The study of the great ideological content of Philosophical Notebooks is of tremendous importance for a thorough grasp of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, the theoretical foundation of scientific communism.

* *


The summaries as well as the rest of this volume are given chiefly in chronological order. Remarks made in books have also been arranged chronologically in a separate section.

All of Lenin’s underlineation has been reproduced in type. Words underscored by a wavy or a straight thin line have been set in italics; those underscored by two lines—in spaced italics; those underscored by three straight thin lines—in boldface, etc.

The text of this edition has been checked with Lenin’s manuscripts; quotations have been verified with original sources.

Notes, an index of the sources mentioned by Lenin, name and subject indexes are appended.

Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U.

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