G.V. Plekhanov

The Development of the Monist View of History

Chapter V
Modern Materialism
(Part 3)

The father of modern dialectical materialism is made responsible for a view of the history of human thought which would be nothing else than a repetition of the metaphysical reflections of Helvetius. Marx’s view of the history of, say, philosophy is often understood approximately as follows: if Kant occupied himself with questions of transcendental aesthetics, if he talked of the categories of mind or of the antinomies of reason, these were only empty phrases. In reality he wasn’t at all interested in either aesthetics, or antinomies, or categories. All he wanted was one thing: to provide the class to which he belonged, i.e., the German petty bourgeoisie, with as many savoury dishes and “beautiful slaves” as possible. Categories and antinomies seemed to him an excellent means of securing this, and so he began to “breed” them.

Need I assure the reader that such. an impression is absolute nonsense? When Marx says that a given theory corresponds to such and such a period of the economic development of society, he does not in the least intend to say thereby that the thinking representatives of the class which ruled during this period deliberately adapted their views to the interests of. their more or less wealthy, more or less generous benefactors.

There have always and everywhere been sycophants, of course, but it is not they who have advanced the human intellect. And those who really moved it forward were concerned for the truth, and not for the interests of the great ones in this world. [50]

“Upon the different forms of property,” says Marx, “upon the social conditions of existence, rises an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life. The entire class creates and forms. them out of its material foundations and out of the corresponding social relations.” [21*]

The process by which the ideological superstructure arises takes place unnoticed by people. They regard that superstructure, not as the temporary product of temporary relations, but as something natural and essentially obligatory. Individuals whose views and feelings have been formed under the. influence of education and environment may be filled with the most sincere, most devoted attitude to the views and forms of social existence which arose historically on the basis of more or less narrow class interests. The same applies to whole parties. The French democrats of 1848 expressed the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie. The petty bourgeoisie naturally strove to defend. its class interests. But

“one must not form the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within the frame of which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are in-deed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between ,the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.” [51]

Marx says this in his book on the coup d’état of Napoleon III. [22*] In another of his works he perhaps still better elucidates for us the psychological dialectics of classes. He is speaking of the emancipatory role which sometimes individual classes have to play.

“No class in civil society can play this part unless it calls forth a phase of enthusiasm in its own ranks and those of the masses: a phase when it fraternizes and intermingles with society in general, is identified with society, is felt and recognized to be the universal representative of society, and when its own demands and rights are really the demands and rights of society itself, and it is in truth the social head and. the social heart. Only in the name of society and its rights in general can a particular class vindicate its general domination. The position of liberator cannot be taken by storm, simply through revolutionary energy and intellectual self-confidence. If the emancipation of a particular class is to be identified with the revolution of a people, if one social class is to be treated as the whole social order, then, on the other hand, all the deficiencies of society must be concentrated in another class; a definite class must be the universal stumbling-block, the embodiment of universal fetters ... If one class is to be the liberating class par excellence, then another class must contrariwise be the obvious subjugator. The general negative significance of the French aristocracy and clergy determined the general positive significance of the bourgeoisie, the class immediately confronting and opposing them.” [52]

After this preliminary explanation, it will no longer be difficult to clear up for oneself Marx’s view on ideology of the highest order, as for example philosophy and art. But, to make it still clearer, we shall compare it with the view of H. Taine:

“In order to understand a work of art, an artist, a group of artists,” says this writer, “one must picture to oneself exactly the general condition of minds and manners of their age. There lies the ultimate explanation, there is to be found the first cause which determines all the rest. This truth is confirmed by experience. In fact, if we trace the main epochs of the history of art, we shall find that the arts appear and disappear together with certain conditions of minds and manners with which they are connected. Thus, Greek tragedy – the tragedy of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides – appears together with the victory, of the Greeks over the Persians, in the heroic epoch of the little city republics, at the moment of that great effort thanks to which they won their independence and established their hegemony in the civilized world. That tragedy disappears, together with that independence and that energy, when the degeneration of characters and the Macedonian conquest hand over Greece to the power of foreigners.

“In exactly the same way Gothic architecture develops together with the final establishment of the feudal order, in the semi-renaissance of the eleventh century, at a tine when society, freed from Northmen and robbers, begins to settle down. It disappears at the time when this military regime of small independent baron’s is disintegrating, towards the end of the fifteenth century, together with all the manners which followed from it, in consequence of the coming into existence of the new monarchies.

“Similarly Dutch art flourishes at that glorious moment when, thanks to its stubbornness and its valour, Holland finally throws off the Spanish yoke, fights successfully against England, and becomes the wealthiest, freest, most industrious, most prosperous state in Europe. It declines at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when Holland falls to a secondary role, yielding the first to England, and becomes simply a bank, a commercial house, maintained in the greatest order, peaceful and well-kept, in which man may live at his ease like a sagacious bourgeois, with no great ambitions or great emotions. Finally, just in the same way does French tragedy appear at the time when, under Louis XIV, the firmly established monarchy brings with it the rule of decorum, court life, the brilliance and elegance of the domestic aristocracy; and disappears when noble society and court manners are abolished by the Revolution ... Just as naturalists study the physical temperature in order to understand the appearance of this or that plant, maize or oats, aloes or pine, in exactly the same way must one study the moral temperature in order to explain the appearance of this or that form of art: pagan sculpture or realistic painting, mystic architecture or classical literature, voluptuous music or idealistic poetry. The works of the human spirit, like the works of living Nature, are explained only by their environment.” [53]

Any follower of Marx will unquestionably agree with all this: yes, any work of art, like any philosophical system, can be explained by the state of minds and manners of the particular age. But what. explains this general state of minds and manners? The followers of Marx think that it is explained by the social order, the qualities of the social environment. “When a great change takes place in the condition of humanity, it brings by degrees a corresponding change in human conceptions,” says the same Taine. [54] That, too, is correct. The only question is, what is it that causes changes in the position of social man, i.e., in the social order? It is only on this question that “economic materialists” differ from Taine.

For Taine the task of history, as of science, is in the last resort a “psychological task.” According to him, the general state of minds and manners creates not only the different forms of art, literature and philosophy but also the industry of the given people and all its social institutions. And this means that social environment has its ultimate cause in “the state of minds and manners.”

Thus it turns out that the psychology of social man is determined by his position, and his position by his psychology. This is once again the antinomy we know so well, with which the writers of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century failed to grapple. Taine did not resolve this antinomy. He only gave, in a number of remarkable works, numerous brilliant illustrations of its first proposition – the thesis that the state of mind and manners is determined by the social environment.

Taine’s contemporaries in France, who contested his aesthetic theory, put forward the antithesis that the qualities of the social environment are determined by the state of minds and manners. [55] This kind of discussion could be carried on until the second advent, not only without resolving the fateful antinomy, but even without noticing its existence.

It is only the historical theory of Marx that resolves the antinomy and thereby brings the argument to a satisfactory conclusion or, at any rate, provides the possibility of concluding it satisfactorily, if people have ears to hear and a brain wherewith to think.

The qualities of the social environment are determined by the state of the productive forces in every given age. Once the state of the productive forces is determined, the qualities of the social environment are also deter-mined, and so is the psychology corresponding to it, and the interaction between the environment on the one side and minds and manners on the other. Brunetière is quite right when he says that we not only adapt our-selves to our environment, but also adapt it to our needs. You will ask, but whence come the needs which do not correspond with the qualities of the environment around us? They arise in us – and, in saying this, we have in view not only the material but also all the so-called spiritual needs of men – thanks to that same historical movement, that same development of the productive forces, owing to which every particular social order sooner or later proves to be unsatisfactory, out of date, requiring radical reconstruction, and maybe fit only for the scrap-heap. We have already pointed earlier to the example of legal institutions to show how the psychology of men may outdistance the particular forms of their social life.

We are sure that, on reading these lines, many readers – even those favourably inclined towards us – have remembered a mass of examples and of historical phenomena which apparently cannot in any way be explained from our point of view. And the readers are already prepared to tell us: “You are right, but not entirely; equally right, but also not entirely, are the people who hold views opposite to yours; both you and they see only half the truth.” But wait, reader, don’t seek salvation in eclecticism without grasping all that the modern monist, i.e., materialist, view of history can give you. Up to this point our propositions, of necessity, were very abstract. But we already know that there is no abstract truth, truth is always concrete. We must give our propositions a more concrete shape.

As almost every society is subjected to the influence of its neighbours, it may be said that for every society there exists, in its turn, a certain social historical environment which influences its development. The sum of influences experienced by every given society at the hands of its neighbours can never be equal to the sum of the influences experienced at the same time by another society. Therefore every society lives in its own particular historical environment, which may be, and very often is, in reality very similar to the historical environment surrounding other nations and peoples, but can never be, and never is, identical with it. This introduces an extremely powerful element of diversity into that process of social development which, from our previous abstract point of view, seemed most schematic.

For example, the clan is a form of community characteristic of all human societies at a particular stage of their development. But the influence of the historical environment very greatly varies the destinies of the clan in different tribes. It attaches to the clan itself a particular, so to speak individual, character, it retards or accelerates its disintegration, and in particular it diversifies the process of that disintegration. But diversity in the process of the disintegration of the clan determines the diversity of those forms of community which succeed clan life. Up to now we have been saying that the development of the productive forces leads to the appearance of private property and to the disappearance of primitive communism. Now we must say that the character of the private property which arises on the ruins of primitive communism is diversified by the influence of the historical environment which surrounds each particular society.

“The careful study of the Asiatic, particularly Indian, forms of communal property would show how from different forms of primitive communal property there follow different forms of its disintegration. Thus, for example, different original types of Roman and German private property could be traced back to different forms of the Indian communal property.” [56]

The influence of the historical environment of a given society tells, of course, on the development of its ideologies as well. Do foreign influences weaken, and if so to what extent do they weaken, the dependence of this development on the economic structure of society?

Compare the Aeneid with the Odyssey, or the French classical tragedy with the classical tragedy of the Greeks. Compare the Russian tragedy of the eighteenth century with classical French tragedy. What will you see? The Aeneid is only an imitation of the Odyssey, the classical tragedy of the French is only art imitation of Greek tragedy; the Russian tragedy of the eighteenth century has been composed, although by unskilful hands, after the image and likeness of the French. Everywhere there has been imitation; but the imitator is separated from his model by all that distance which exists between the society which gave him, the imitator, birth and the society in which the model lived. And note that we are speaking, not of the greater or lesser perfection of finish, but of what constitutes the soul of the work of art in question. Whom does the Achilles of Racine resemble – a Greek who has just emerged from a state of barbarism, or a marquis – talon rouge – of the seventeenth century? The personages of the Aeneid, it has been observed, were Romans of the time of Augustus. True, the characters of the Russian so-called tragedies of the eighteenth century can hardly be described as giving us a picture of the Russian people of the time, but their very worthlessness bears witness to the state of Russian society: they bring out before us its immaturity. [23*]

Another example. Locke undoubtedly was the teacher of the vast majority of the French philosophers of the eighteenth century (Helvetius called him the greatest metaphysician of all ages and peoples). Yet, between Locke and his French pupils there is precisely that same distance which separated English society at the time of the “Glorious Revolution” from French society as it was several decades before the “Great Rebellion” of the French people. [24*]

A third example. The “true Socialists” of Germany in the 40s imported their ideas direct from France. Yet nevertheless these ideas, one may say, had already at the frontier stamped on them the Mark of the society in which they were destined to spread.

Thus the influence of the literature of one country on the literature of another is directly proportional to the similarity of the social relations of these countries. It does not exist at all when that similarity is equal to zero. As an example, the African Negroes up to the present time have not experienced the least influence of the European literatures. This influence is one-sided when one people through its backwardness can give nothing to another, either in the sense of form or in the sense of content. As an example, the French literature of last century, influencing Russian literature, did not itself experience the least Russian influence. Finally, this influence is reciprocal when, in consequence of the similarity of social life, and consequently of cultural development, each of the two peoples making the exchange can borrow something from the other. As an example, French literature, influencing English, experienced the influence of the latter in its turn.

The pseudo-classical French literature [25*] was very much to the liking, at one time, of the English aristocracy. But the English imitators could never equal their French models. This was because all the efforts of the English aristocrats could not transport into England those relations of society in which the French pseudo-classical literature flourished.

The French philosophers were filled with admiration for the philosophy of Locke; but they went much further than their teacher. This was because the class which they represented had gone in France, fighting against the old regime, much further than the class of English society whose aspirations were expressed in the philosophical works of Locke.

When, as in modern Europe, we have an entire system of societies, which influenced one another extremely powerfully, the development of ideology in each of these societies becomes just as increasingly complex ,as its economic development becomes more and more complex, under the influence of constant trade with other countries.

We have in these conditions one literature, as it were, common to all civilized mankind. But just as a zoological genus is subdivided into species, so this world literature is subdivided into the literatures of the individual nations. Every literary movement, every philosophical idea assumes its own distinctive features, sometimes quite a new significance with every particular civilized nation. [26*] When Hume visited France, the French “philosophers” greeted him as their fellow-thinker. But on one occasion, when dining with Holbach, this undoubted fellow-thinker of the French philosophers began talking about “natural religion.” “As regards atheists,” he said, “I do not admit their existence: I have never met a single one.” “You have not had much luck up to now,” retorted the author of the System of Nature. “Here, for a start, you can see seventeen atheists seated at table.” The same Hume had a decisive influence on Kant, whom he, as the latter himself admitted, awakened from his dogmatic drowsiness. But the philosophy of Kant differs considerably from the philosophy of Hume. The very same fund of ideas led to the militant atheism of the French materialists, to the religious indifferentism of Hume and to the “practical” religion of Kant. The reason was that the religious question in England at that time did not play the same part as it was playing in France, and in France not the same as in Germany. And this difference in the significance of the religious question was caused by the fact that in each of these three countries the social forces were not in the same mutual relationship as in each of the others. Similar in their nature, but dissimilar in their degree of development, the elements of society combined differently in the different European countries, with the result that in each of them there was a very particular “state of minds and manners”, which expressed itself in the national literature, philosophy, art, etc. In consequence of this, one and the same question might excite Frenchmen to passion and leave the English cold; one and the same argument might be treated by a progressive German with respect, while a progressive French-man would regard it with bitter hatred. To what did German philosophy owe its colossal successes? To German realities, answers Hegel: the French have no time to occupy themselves with philosophy, life pushes them into the practical sphere (zum Praktischen), while German realities are more reasonable, and the Germans may perfect theory in peace and quiet (beim Theoretischen stehen bleiben). As a matter of fact, this imaginary reasonableness of German realities reduced itself to the poverty of German social and political life, which left educated Germans at that time no other choice than to serve as officials of unattractive “realities” (to adapt themselves to the “Practical”) or to seek consolation in theory, and to concentrate in this sphere all the strength of their passion, all the energy of their thought. But if the more advanced countries, going away into the “Practical,” had not pushed forward the theoretical reasoning of the Germans, if they had not awakened the latter from their “dogmatic drowsiness,” never would that negative quality – the poverty of social and political life – have given birth to such a colossal positive result as the brilliant flowering of German philosophy.

Goethe makes Mephistopheles say: “Vernunft wird Unsinn, Wohltat – Plage.” (“Reason has become unreason and right wrong.” – Ed.) In its application to the history of German philosophy, one may almost venture such a paradox: nonsense gave birth to reason, poverty proved a benefaction.

But I think we may finish this part of our exposition. Let us recapitulate what has been said in it.

Interaction exists in international life just as it does in the internal life of peoples; it is quite natural and unquestionably inevitable; nevertheless by itself it explains nothing. In order to understand interaction, one must ascertain the attributes of the interacting forces, and these attributes cannot find their ultimate explanation in the fact of interaction, however much they may change thanks to that fact. In the case we have taken, the qualities of the interacting forces, the attributes of the social organisms influencing one another, are explained in the long run by the cause we already know: the economic structure of these organisms, which is determined by the state of their productive forces.

Now the historical philosophy we are setting forth has assumed, we hope, a somewhat more concrete shape. But it is still abstract, it is still far from “real life.” We have to make yet a further step towards the latter.

At first we spoke of “society”: then we went on to the interaction of societies. But societies, after all, are not homogeneous in their composition: we already know that the break-up of primitive communism leads to inequality, to the origin of classes which have different and often quite opposed interests. We already know that classes carry on between themselves an almost uninterrupted, now hidden, now open, now chronic, now acute struggle. And this struggle exercises a vast and in the highest degree important influence on the development of ideology. It may be said without exaggeration that we shall understand nothing of this development without taking into account the class struggle.

“Do you wish to discover, if one may put it that way, the true cause of the tragedy of Voltaire?” asks Brunetière. “Look for it, first, in the personality of Voltaire, and particularly in the necessity which hung over him of doing something different from what Racine and Quinault had already done, yet at the same time of following in their footsteps. Of the romantic drama, the drama of Hugo and Dumas, I will permit myself to say that its definition is fully comprised in the definition of the drama of Voltaire. If romanticism did not want to do this or that on the stage, it was because it wanted to do the opposite of classicism ... In literature as in art, after the influence of the individual, the most important influence is that of some works on others. Sometimes we strive to compete with our predecessors in their own field, and in that way certain methods become stable, schools are established, traditions formed. Or some-times we try to act otherwise than they did, and then development proceeds in contradiction to tradition, new schools appear, methods are transformed.” [57]

Leaving aside for the time being the question of the role of the individual, we shall remark that it has long been time to ponder over “the influence of some works on others.” In absolutely all ideologies development takes place in the way indicated by Brunetière. The ideologists of one epoch either move in the tracks of their predecessors, developing their thoughts, applying their methods and only allowing themselves to “compete” with their forerunners, or else they revolt against the old ideas and methods, enter into contradiction to them. Organic epochs, Saint-Simon would have said, are replaced by critical epochs. The latter are particularly noteworthy.

Take any question, like for example that of money. For the Mercantilists money was wealth par excellence: they attributed to money an exaggerated, almost exceptional importance. The people who revolted against the Mercantilists, entering into “contradiction” to them, not only corrected their exceptionalism but themselves, at least the most headstrong among them, fell into exceptionalism, and precisely into the opposite extreme: they said that money is simply a symbol, which in itself has absolutely no value. That was the view of money held, for example, by Hume. If the view of the Mercantilists can be explained by the immaturity of commodity production and circulation in their day, it would be strange to explain the views of their opponents simply by the fact that commodity production and circulation had developed very strongly. For that subsequent development did not for a moment actually transform money into a mere symbol, deprived of internal value. Whence did the exceptionalism of Hume’s view, then, originate? It originated in the fact of struggle, in “contradiction” to the Mercantilists. He wanted to “do the opposite” to the Mercantilists, just as the Romantics “wanted to do the opposite” to the classics. Therefore one may say, just as Brunetière says of the romantic drama, that Hume’s view of money is completely included in the view of the Mercantilists, being its opposite.

Another example. The philosophers of the eighteenth century resolutely and sharply struggle against any kind of mysticism. The French Utopians are all more or less imbued with religious feeling. What brought about this return of mysticism? Did such men as the author of The New Christianity [27*] have less “lumières” than the Encyclopaedists? No, they had no less lumières, and, generally speaking, their views were very closely linked with the views of the Encyclopaedists: they were descended from the latter in the direct line. But they entered into “contradiction” to the Encyclopaedists on some questions – particularly, that is, on the question of the organization of society – and there appeared in them the striving to “do the opposite” to the Encyclopaedists. Their attitude to religion was simply the opposite of the attitude to it taken up by the “philosophers”; their view of religion was already included in the view of the latter.

Take, finally, the history of philosophy. Materialism triumphed in France during the second half of the eighteenth century; under its banner marched the extreme section of the French tiers État (Third Estate. – Ed.). In England in the seventeenth century materialism was the passion of the defenders of the old regime, the aristocrats, the supporters of absolutism. The reason, here too, is clear. Those to whom the English aristocrats of the Restoration were “in contradiction” were extreme religious fanatics; in order “to do the opposite” to what they were doing, the reactionaries had to go as far as materialism. In France of the eighteenth century things were exactly opposite: the defenders of the old order stood for religion, and it was the extreme revolutionaries who arrived at materialism. The history of human thought is full of such examples, and all of them confirm one and the same thing: in order to understand thestate of mindsof each particular critical epoch, in order to explain why during this epoch precisely these, and not those, teachings gain the upper hand, we must as a preliminary study thestate of mindsin the preceding epoch, and discover what teachings and tendencies were then dominant. Without this we shall not understand at all the intellectual condition of the epoch concerned, however well we get to know its economy.

But even this must not be understood in abstract fashion, as the Russian “intelligentsia” is accustomed to understand everything. The ideologists of one epoch never wage against their predecessors a struggle sur toute la ligne, on all questions of human knowledge and social relations. The French Utopians of the nineteenth century were completely at one with the Encyclopaedists on a number of anthropological views; the English aristocrats of the Restoration were quite at one with the Puritans, whom they so hated, on a number of questions, such as civil law, etc. The territory of psychology is sub-divided into provinces, the provinces into counties, the counties into rural districts and communities, and the communities represent unions of individuals (i.e., of individual questions). When a “contradiction” arises, when struggle blazes up, its passion seizes, as a rule, only upon individual provinces – if not individual counties – and only its reflection falls upon the neighbouring areas. First of all that province to which hegemony belonged in the preceding epoch is subjected to attack. It is only gradually that the “miseries of war” spread to its nearest neighbours and most faithful allies of the province which has been attacked. Therefore we must add that, in ascertaining the character of any particular critical epoch, it is necessary to discover not only the general features of the psychology of the previous organic period, but also the individual peculiarities of that psychology. During one period of history hegemony belongs to religion, during another to politics, and so forth. This circumstance inevitably reflects itself in the character of the corresponding critical epochs, each of which, according to circumstances, either continues formally to recognize the old hegemony, introducing a new, opposite content into the dominating conceptions (as, for example, the first English Revolution), or else completely rejects them, and hegemony passes to new provinces of thought (as, for example, the French literature of the Enlightenment). If we remember that these disputes over the hegemony of individual psychological provinces also extend to their neighbours, and moreover extend to a different degree and in a different direction in each individual case, we shall understand to what an extent here, as everywhere, one cannot confine oneself to abstract proposition.

“All that may be so,” retort our opponents. “But we don’t see what the class struggle has got to do with all this, and we strongly suspect that, having begun with a toast to its health, you’re now finishing with one for rest to its soul. You yourself now recognize that the movements of human thought are subjected to certain specific laws, which have nothing in common with the laws of economics or with that development of the productive forces which you have talked about till we are sick of hearing it.”

We hasten to reply that in the development of human thought, or, to speak more exactly, in the co-ordination of human conceptions and notions there are specific laws – this, so far as we know, not a single one of the “economic” materialists has ever denied. None of them has ever identified, for example, the laws of logic with the laws of the circulation of commodities. But nevertheless not one of this variety of materialists has found it possible to seek in the laws of thought the ultimate cause, the prime mover of the intellectual development of humanity. And it is precisely this which distinguishes, and advantageously distinguishes, “economic materialists” from idealists, and particularly from eclectics.

Once the stomach has been supplied with a certain quantity of food, it sets about its work in accordance with the general laws of stomachic digestion. But can one, with the help of these laws, reply to the question of why savoury and nourishing food descends every day into your stomach, while in mine it is a rare visitor? Do these laws explain why some eat too much, while others starve? It would seem that the explanation must be sought in some other sphere, in the working of some other kind of laws. The same is the case with the mind of man. Once it has been placed in a definite situation, once its environment supplies it with certain impressions, it co-ordinates them according to certain general laws (more-over here, too, the results are varied in the extreme by the variety of impressions received). But what places it in that situation? What determines the influx and the character of new impressions? That is the question which cannot be answered by any laws of thought.

Furthermore, imagine that a resilient ball falls from a high tower. Its movement takes place according to a universally known and very simple law of mechanics. But suddenly the ball strikes an inclined plane. Its movement is changed in accordance with another, also very simple and universally known mechanical law. As a result, we have a broken line of movement, of which one can and must say that it owes its origin to the joint action of the two laws which have been mentioned. But where did the inclined plane which the ball struck come from? This is not explained either by the first or the second law, or yet by their joint action. Exactly the same is the case with human thought. Whence came the circumstances thanks to which its movements were subjected to the combined action of such and such laws? This is not explained either by its individual laws or by their combined action.

The circumstances which condition the movement of thought must be looked for where the writers of the French Enlightenment sought far them. But nowadays we no longer halt at that “limit” which they could not cross. We not only say that man with all his thoughts and feelings is the product of his social environment; we try to understand the genesis of that environment. We say that its qualities are determined by such and such reasons, lying outside man and hitherto independent of his will. The multiform changes in the actual mutual relations of men necessarily bring in their train changes in the “state of minds,” in the mutual relations of ideas, feelings, beliefs. Ideas, feelings and beliefs are co-ordinated according to their own particular laws. But these laws are brought into play by external circumstances which have nothing in common with these laws. Where Brunetière sees only the influence of some literary works on others, we see in addition the mutual influences of social groups, strata and classes, influences that lie more deeply. Where he simply says: contradiction appeared, men wanted to do the opposite of what their predecessors had been doing, we add: and the reason why they wanted it was because a new contradiction had appeared in their actual relations, because a new social stratum or class had come forward, which could no longer live as the people had lived in former days.

While Brunetière only knows that the Romantics wished to contradict the classics, Brandes tries to explain their propensity to “contradiction” by the position of the class in society to which they belonged. Remember, for example, what he says of the reason for the romantic mood of the French youth during the period of the Restoration and under Louis Philippe.

When Marx says: “If one class is to be the liberating class par excellence, then another class must contrariwise be the obvious subjugator,” [28*] he also is pointing to a particular, and moreover very important, law of development of social thought. But this law operates, and can operate, only in societies which are divided into classes; it does not operate, and cannot operate, in primitive societies where there are neither classes nor their struggle.

Let us consider the operation of this law. When a certain class is the enslaver of all in the eyes of the rest of the population, then the ideas which prevail in the ranks of that class naturally present themselves to the population also as ideas worthy only of slave-owners. The social consciousness enters into “contradiction” to them: it is attracted by opposite ideas. But we have already said that this kind of struggle is never carried on all along the line: there always remain a certain number of ideas which are equally recognized both by the revolutionaries and by the defenders of the old order. The strongest attack,. however, is made on the ideas which serve to express the most injurious sides of the dying order at the given time. It is on those sides of ideology that the revolutionaries experience an irrepressible desire to “contradict” their predecessors. But in relation to other ideas, even though they did grow up on the basis of old social relations, they often remain quite indifferent, and sometimes by tradition continue to cling to them. Thus the French materialists, while waging war on the philosophical and political ideas of the old regime (i.e., against the clergy and the aristocratic monarchy), left almost untouched the old traditions in literature. True, here also the aesthetic theories of Diderot were the expression of the new social relations. But the struggle in this sphere was very weak, because the main forces had been concentrated on another field. [58] Here the standard of revolt was raised only later and, moreover, by people who, warmly sympathizing with the old regime overthrown by the revolution, ought, it would seem, to have sympathized with the literary views which were formed in the golden age of that regime. But even this seeming peculiarity is explained by the principle of “contradiction.” How can you expect, for example, that Chateaubriand should sympathize with the old aesthetic theory, when Voltaire – the hateful and harmful Voltaire – was one of its representatives?

Der Widerspruch ist das Fortleitende” (“Contradiction leads the way forward.” – Ed.), says Hegel. The history of ideologies seems once more to demonstrate that the old “metaphysician” was not mistaken. It also demonstrates apparently the passing of quantitative changes into qualitative. But we ask the reader not to be upset by this, and to hear us out to the end.

Up to now we have been saying that once the productive forces of society have been determined, its structure also has been determined and, consequently, its psychology as well. On this foundation the idea might be attributed to us that from the economic state of a given society one can with precision form a conclusion as to the make-up of its ideas. But this is not the case, because the ideologies of every particular age are always most closely connected – whether positively or negatively – with the ideologies of the preceding age. The “state of minds” of any given age can be understood only in connection with the state of the minds of the previous epoch, Of course, not a single class will find itself captivated by ideas which contradict its aspirations. Every class excellently, even though unconsciously, always adapts its “ideals” to its economic needs. But this adaptation can take place in various ways, and why it takes place in this way, not in that, is explained not by the situation of the given class taken in isolation, but by all the particular features of the relations between this class and its antagonist (or antagonists). With the appearance of classes, contradiction becomes not only a motive force, but also a formative principle. [59]

But what then is the role of the individual in the history of ideology? Brunetière attributes to the individual a vast importance, independent of his environment. Guyau asserts that a genius always creates something new. [60]

We shall say that in the sphere of social ideas a genius outdistances his contemporaries, in the sense that he grasps earlier than they do the meaning of new social relations which are coming into existence. Consequently it is impossible in this case even to speak of the genius being independent of his environment. In the sphere of natural science a genius discovers laws the operation of which does not, of course, depend upon social relations. But the role of the social environment in the history of any great discovery is manifested, first of all, in the accumulation of that store of knowledge without which not a single genius will do anything at all and, secondly, in turning the attention of the genius in this or that direction. [61] In the sphere of art the genius gives the best possible expression of the prevailing aesthetic tendencies of the given society, or given class in society. [62] Lastly, in all these three spheres the influence of social environment shows itself in the affording of a lesser or greater possibility of development for the genius and capacities of individual persons.

Of course we shall never be able to explain the entire individuality of a genius by the influence of his environment; but this does not prove anything by itself.

Ballistics can explain the movement of a shell fired from a gun. It can foresee its motion: But it will never be able to tell you exactly into how many pieces the given shell will burst, and where precisely each separate fragment will fly. However this does not in any way weaken the authenticity of the conclusions at which ballistics arrives. We do not need to take up an idealist (or eclectic) point of view in ballistics: mechanical explanations are quite enough for us, although who can deny that these explanations do leave in obscurity for us the “individual” destinies, size and form of the particular fragments?

A strange irony of fate! That same principle of contradiction against which our subjectivists go to war with such fire, as an empty invention of the “metaphysician” Hegel, seems to be bringing us closer to nos chers amis les ennemis. If Hume denies the inner value of money for the sake of contradicting the Mercantilists; if the Romantics created their drama only in order “to do the opposite” to what the classics did; then there is no objective truth, there is only that which is true for me, for Mr. Mikhailovsky, for Prince Meshchersky [29*] and so forth. Truth is subjective, all is true that satisfies our need of cognition.

No, that is not so! The principle of contradiction does not destroy objective truth,. but only leads us to it. Of course, the path along which it forces mankind to move is not at all a straight line. But in mechanics, too, cases are known when what is lost in distance is gained in speed: a body moving along a cycloid sometimes moves more quickly from one point to another, lying below it, than if it had moved along a straight line. “Contradiction” appears where, and only where, there is struggle, where there is movement; and where there is movement, thought goes forward, even though by roundabout ways. Contradiction to the Mercantilists brought Hume to a mistaken view of money. But the movement of social life, and consequently of human thought too, did not stop at the point which it reached at the time of Hume. It placed us in a state of “contradiction” to Hume, and this contradiction resulted in a correct view of money. And this correct view, being the result of the examination of reality from all sides, is now objective truth, which no further contradictions will eliminate. It was the author of the Comments on Mill [30*] who said with enthusiasm:

What Life once has taken
Fate cannot snatch from us
... [31*]

In the case of knowledge, this is unquestionably true. No fate is now strong enough to take from us the discoveries of Copernicus, or the discovery of the transformation of energy, or the discovery of the mutability of species, or the discoveries of the genius Marx.

Social relations change, and with them change scientific theories. As a result of these changes there appears, finally, the examination of reality from all sides, and consequently objective truth. Xenophon had economic views which were different from those of Jean Baptiste Say. The views of Say would certainly have seemed rubbish to Xenophon; Say proclaimed the views of Xenophon to be rubbish. But we know now whence came the views of Xenophon, whence came the views of Say, whence came their one-sidedness. And this knowledge is now objective truth, and no “fate” will move us any more from this correct point of view, discovered at last.

“But human thought, surely, is not going to stop at what you call the discovery or the discoveries of Marx?” Of course not, gentlemen! It will make new discoveries, which will supplement and confirm this theory of Marx, just as new discoveries in astronomy have supplemented and confirmed the discovery of Copernicus.

The “subjective method” in sociology is the greatest nonsense. But every nonsense has its sufficient cause, and we, the modest followers of a great man, can say – not without pride – that we know the sufficient cause of that nonsense. Here it is:

The “subjective method” was first discovered not by Mr. Mikhailovsky and not even by the “angel of the school,” i.e., not by the author of the Historical Letters. It was held by Bruno Bauer and his followers – that same Bruno Bauer who gave birth to the author of the Historical Letters, that same author who gave birth to Mr. Mikhailovsky and his brethren.

“The objectivity of the historian is, like every objectivity, nothing more than mere chatter. And not at all in the sense that objectivity is an unattainable ideal. To objectivity, i.e., to the view characteristic of the majority, to the world outlook of the mass, the historian can only lower himself. And once he does this, he ceases to be a creator, he is working for piece-rate, he is becoming the hireling of his time.” [63]

These lines belong to Szeliga, who was a fanatical follower of Bruno Bauer, and whom Marx and Engels held up to such biting ridicule in their book The Holy Family. Substitute “sociologist” for “historian” in these lines, substitute for the “artistic creation” of history the creation of social “ideals,” and you will get the “subjective method in sociology.”

Try and imagine the psychology of the idealist. For him the “opinions” of men are the fundamental, ultimate cause of social phenomena. It seems to him that, according to the evidence of history, very frequently the most stupid opinions were put into effect in social relations.

“Why then,” he meditates, “should not my opinion too be realized, since, thank God, it is far from being stupid. Once a definite ideal exists, there exists, at all events, the possibility of social transformations which are desirable from the standpoint of that ideal. As for testing that ideal by means of some objective standard, it is impossible, because such a standard does not exist: after all, the opinions of the majority cannot serve as a measure of the truth.”

And so there is a possibility of certain transformations because my ideals call for them, because I consider these transformations useful. And I consider them useful be-cause I want to do so. Once I exclude the objective standard, I have no other criterion than my own desires. Don’t interfere with my will! -that is the ultimate argument of subjectivism. The subjective method is the reductio ad absurdum of idealism, and certainly of eclecticism too, as all the mistakes of the “respectable gentlemen” of philosophy, eaten out of hearth and home by that parasite, fall on the latter’s head.

From the point of. view of Marx it is impossible. to counterpose the “subjective” views of the individual to the views of “the mob,” “the majority,” etc., as to something objective. The mob consists of men, and the views of men are always “subjective,” since views of one kind or another are one of the qualities of the subject. What are objective are not the views of the “mob” but the relations, in nature or in society, which are expressed in those views. The criterion of truth lies not in me, but in the relations which exist outside me. Those views are true which correctly present those relations; those views are mistaken which distort them. That theory of natural science is true which correctly grasps the mutual relations between the phenomena of nature; that historical description is true which correctly depicts the social relations existing in the epoch described. Where the historian has to describe the struggle of opposite social forces, he will inevitably sympathize with one or another, if only he himself has not become a dry pedant. In this respect he will be subjective, independently of whether he sympathizes with the minority or the majority. But such subjectivism will not prevent him from being a perfectly objective historian if he does not only begin distorting those real economic relations on the basis of which there grew up the struggling social forces. The follower of the “subjective” method, however, forgets these real relations, and therefore he can produce nothing but his precious sympathy or his terrible antipathy, and therefore he makes a big noise, reproaching his opponents for insulting morality, every time he is told that that’s not enough. He feels that he cannot penetrate into the secret of real social relations, and therefore every allusion to their objective force seems to him an insult, a taunt at his own impotence. He strives to drown these relations in the waters of his own moral indignation.

From the point of view of Marx it turns out, consequently, that ideals are of all kinds: base and lofty, true and false. That ideal is true which corresponds to economic reality. The subjectivists who hear this will say that if I begin adapting my ideals to reality, I shall become a miserable lickspittle of “the jubilant idlers.” But they will say this only because, in their capacity of metaphysicians, they don’t understand the dual, antagonistic character of all reality. “The jubilant crowd of idlersare relying on reality which is already passing away, under which a new reality is being born, the reality of the future, to serve which means to promote the triumph of “the great cause of love.”

The reader now sees whether that conception of the Marxists, according to which they attribute no importance to ideals, corresponds to “reality.” This picture of them proves to be the exact opposite ofreality.” If one is to speak in the sense of “ideals,” one must say that the theory of Marx is the most idealistic theory which has ever existed in the history of human thought. And this is equally true in respect both of its purely scientific tasks and of its practical aims.

“What would you have us do, if Mr. Marx does not understand the significance of consciousness of self and its strength? What would you have us do, if he values so low the recognized truth of self-consciousness?”

These words were written as long ago as 1847 by one of the followers of Bruno Bauer [64]; and although nowadays they do not speak in the language of the 40s, the gentry who reproach Marx with ignoring the element of thought and feeling in history have even now not gone any further than Opitz. All of them are still convinced that Marx values very low the force of human self-consciousness; all of them in various ways assert one and the same thing. [65] In reality Marx considered the explanation of human “self-consciousness” to be the most important task of social science.

He said:

“The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing (Gegenstand), reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object (Objekt) or of contemplation (Anschauung), but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in contradistinction to materialism, was developed by idealism – but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does. not know real, sensuous activity as such.” [32*]

Have you tried ,to understand, gentlemen, the meaning of these words of Marx? We shall tell you what they mean.

Holbach, Helvetius and their followers bent all their efforts on proving the possibility of a materialist explanation of nature. Even the denial of innate ideas did not lead these materialists further than the. examination of man as a member of the animal kingdom, as matière sensible. They did not attempt to explain the history of man from their point of view, and if they did (Helvetius) their attempts ended in failure. But man becomes a “subjectonly in history, because only in the latter is his self-consciousness developed. To confine oneself to examining man as a member of the animal kingdom means to confine oneself to examining him as an “object,” to leave out of account his historical development, his social “practice,” concrete human activity. But to leave all this out of account means to make materialism “dry, gloomy, melancholy” (Goethe). More than that, it means making materialism – as we have already shown earlier – fatalistic, condemning man to complete subordination to blind matter. Marx noticed this failing of French materialism, and even of Feuerbach’s, and set himself the task of correcting it. His “economic” materialism is the reply to the question of how the “concrete activity” of man develops, how in virtue of it there develops his self-consciousness, how the subjective side of history comes about. When this question is answered even in part, materialism will cease to be dry, gloomy, melancholy, and it will cease to yield idealism first place in explaining the active side of human existence. Then it will free itself of its characteristic fatalism.

Sensitive but weak-headed people are indignant with the theory of Marx because they take its first word to be its last. Marx says: in explaining the subject, let us see into what mutual relations people enter under the influence of objective necessity. Once these relations are known, it will be possible to ascertain how human self-consciousness develops under their influence. Objective reality will help us to clarify the subjective side of history. And this is the point at which the sensitive but weak-headed people usually interrupt Marx. It is here that is usually repeated something astonishingly like the conversation between Chatsky [33*] and Famusov. “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production ...” “Oh, good heavens, he’s a fatalist!...” “On the economic foundation rise ideological superstructures....” “What is he saying? And he talks as he writes! He simply does not recognize-the role of the individual in history!...” “But hear me out, if only for once; from what I said earlier, it follows that ...” “I won’t listen, send him for trial! Send him for moral trial by actively progressive personalities, under open observation by subjective sociology!”

Chatsky was rescued, as you know, by the appearance of Skalozub. [34*] In the arguments between the Russian followers of Marx and their strict subjective judges, matters have hitherto taken another turn. Skalozub gagged the mouth of Chatskys, and then the Famusovs of subjective sociology took the fingers out of their ears and said, with a full consciousness of their superiority: “There you are, they’ve only said two words. Their views have remained completely unclarified.” [35*]


50. This did not prevent them from sometimes fearing the strong. Thus, for example, Kant said of himself: “No one will force me to say that which is against my beliefs; but I will not venture to say all I believe.”

51. Proving that the conditions of life (les circonstances) influence the organization of animals, Lamarck makes an observation which it will be useful to recall here in order to avoid misunderstandings. “It is true, if this statement were to be taken literally, I should be convicted of an error; for whatever the environment may do, it does not work any direct modification whatever in the shape and organization of animals.” Thanks to considerable changes in that environment, however, new requirements, different from those previously existing, make their appearance. If these new requirements last a long time, they lead to the appearance of new habits. “Now, if a new environment ... induces new habits in these animals, that is to say, leads them to new activities which have become habitual, the result will be the use of some one part in preference to some other part, and in some cases the total disuse of some part no longer necessary.” The increasing of use or its absence will not remain without influence on the structure of organs, and consequently of the whole organism. (Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy, Vol.I, ch.VII, in Elliot’s translation, London 1914, pp.107-08. – Tr.)

In the same way must also be understood the influence of economic requirements, and of others following from them, on the psychology of a people. Here there takes place a slow process of adaptation by exercise or non-exercise; while our opponents of “economic” materialism imagine that, in Marx’s opinion, people when they experience new requirements immediately and deliberately change their views. Naturally this seems to them a piece of stupidity. But it is they themselves who invented this stupidity: Marx says nothing of the kind. Generally speaking, the objections of these thinkers remind us of the following triumphant refutation of Darwin by a certain clergyman: “Darwin says throw a hen into the water and she will grow webbed feet. I assert that the hen will simply drown.”

52. Contribution to the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 1844).

53. Philosophie de l’art (12me edition), Paris 1872, pp.13-17.

54. Philosophie de l’art dans les Pays-Bas, Paris 1869, p.96.

55. “Nous subissons l’influence du milieu politique ou historique, nous subissons l’influence du milieu social, nous subissons aussi l’influence du milieu physique. Mais il ne faut pas oublier que si nous la subissons, nous pouvons pourtant aussi lui résister et vous savez sans doute qu’il y en a de mémorables exemples ... Si nous subissons l’influence du milieu, ou pouvoir que nous avons aussi, c’est de ne pas nous laissez faire, ou pour dire encore quelque chose de plus, c’est de conformer, c’est d’adapter le milieu lui-même, à nos propres convenances.” (F. Brunetière, L’évolution de la critique depuis la renaissance jusqu’à nos jours, Paris 1890, pp.260-61.) – (“We experience the influence of the political or historical environment, we experience the influence of the social environment, we also experience the influence of the physical environment. But it must not be forgotten that, if we experience it, we can however also resist it, and you know doubtless that there are memorable examples of this ... If we experience the influence of environment, a power which we also have is not to let ourselves be swayed, or to say more, it is the power of making the environment conform, of adapting it to our own convenience.” – Ed.)

56. Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, Anmerkung, p.10.

57. Loc cit., pp.262-63.

58. In Germany the struggle between literary views, as is known, went on with much greater energy, but here the attention of the innovators was not distracted by political struggle.

59. One might ask, what relation to the class struggle has the history of such an art as, shall we say, architecture? Yet it too is closely connected with that struggle. See E. Corroyer, L’architecture gothique (Paris 1891), particularly Part IV: L’architecture civile.

60. “Il introduit dans le monde des idées et des sentiments, des types nouveaux.” (“He introduces into the world new ideas, sentiments, types. – Ed.) L’art au point de vue sociologique, Paris 1889, p.31.

61. However, it is only in the formal sense that this influence is of a dual nature. Every given store of knowledge has been accumulated just because social needs impelled people to its accumulation, turned their attention in the appropriate direction.

62. And to what extent the aesthetic inclinations and judgements of any given class depend on its economic situation was well known to the author of Aesthetic Relations of Art and Reality. (Chernyshevsky – Ed.) The beautiful is life, he said, and explained his thought by such considerations as the following.

“Among the common people, the ‘good life,’ ‘life as it should be,’ means having enough to eat, living in a good house, having enough sleep; but at the same time, the peasant’s conception of life always contains the concept – work: it is impossible to live without work; indeed, life would be dull without it. As a consequence of a life of sufficiency, accompanied by hard but not exhausting work, the peasant lad or maiden will have a very fresh complexion – and rosy cheeks – the first attribute of beauty according to the conceptions of the common people. Working hard, and therefore being sturdily built, the peasant girl, if she gets enough to eat, will be buxom – this too is an essential attribute of the village beauty: rural people regard the ‘ethereal’ society beauty as decidedly ‘plain,’ and are even disgusted by her, because they are accustomed to regard ‘skinniness’ as the result of illness or of a ‘sad lot.’ Work, however, does not allow one to get fat: if a peasant girl is fat, it is regarded as a kind of malady, they say she is ‘flabby,’ and the people regard obesity, as a defect. The village beauty cannot have small hands and feet, because she works hard – and these attributes of beauty are not mentioned in our songs In short, in the descriptions of feminine beauty in our folk songs you will not find a single attribute of beauty that does not express robust health and a balanced constitution, which are always the result of a life of sufficiency, and constant real hard, but not exhausting, work. The society beauty is entirely different. For a number of generations her ancestors have lived without performing physical work; with a life of idleness, little blood flows to the limbs; with every new generation the muscles of the arms and legs grow feebler, the bones become thinner. An inevitable consequence of all this are small hands and feet – they are the symptoms of the only kind of life the upper classes of society think is possible – life without physical work. If a society lady has big hands and feet, it is either regarded as a defect, or as a sign that she does not come from a good, ancient family ... True, good health can never lose its value for a man, for even in a life of sufficiency and luxury, bad health is a drawback; hence, rosy cheeks and the freshness of good health are still attractive also for society people; but sickliness, frailty, lassitude and languor also have the virtue of beauty in their eyes as long as it seems to be the consequence of a life of idleness and luxury. Pallid cheeks, languor and sickliness have still another significance for society people: peasants seek rest and tranquillity, but those who belong to educated society, who do not suffer from material want and physical fatigue, but often suffer from ennui resulting from idleness and the absence of material cares, seek the ‘thrills, excitement and passions,’ which lend colour, diversity and attraction to an otherwise dull and colourless society life. But thrills and ardent passions soon wear a person out; how can one fail to be charmed by a beauty’s languor and paleness when they are a sign that she has lived a ‘fast life.’” (N.G. Chernyshevsky, Selected Philosophical Essays, Moscow 1953, pp.287-88.)

63. Die Organisation der Arbeit der Menschheit and die Kunst der Geschichtsschreibung Schlosser’s, Gervinus’s, Dahlmann’s and Bruno Bauer’s, Charlottenburg 1846, p.6.

64. Theodor Opitz, Die Helden der Masse. Charakteristiken, Grünberg, 1848, pp.6-7. We very much advise Mr. Mikhailovsky to read this work. He will find in it many of his own original ideas.

65. But no, not all: no one has yet conceived of beating Marx by pointing out that “man consists of soul and body.” Mr. Kareyev is doubly original, (1) no one, before him has argued with Marx in this way, (2) no one after him, probably, will argue with Marx thus: From this footnote Mr. V.V. will see that we, too, can pay our tribute of respect to his “professor.”



Editorial Notes

21*. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol.1, Moscow 1955, p.272.

22*. Quotation from Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Cf. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol.I, Moscow 1958, p.272.

23*. The reference is to the tragedies of Sumarokov, Knyazhnin, Kherkasov and other Russian dramatists of the 18th century.

24*. The Glorious Revolution – the English revolution of 1688-1689; the Great Rebellion – the French revolution at the end of the 18th century.

25*. All editions contain the mistake: “Pseudo-classical English literature.”

26*. This sentence is to be found only in the first Russian edition.

27*. The New Christianity was written by Saint-Simon.

28*. Quotation from the Introduction to the Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

29*. Meshchersky, Vladimir Petrovich (1839-1914), conservative publicist and writer, extreme monarchist.

30*. N.G. Chernyshevsky.

31*. Quoted from Nekrasov’s poem New Year.

32*. Quotation from Marx’s First Thesis on Feuerbach. Cf. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol.II, Moscow 1958, S.403.

33*. Chatsky – a character in Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe. Chatsky personifies the progressive section of Russian noble youth in the first quarter of the 19th century. He is a man of lofty ideals and advanced views.

34*. Skalozub – a character in Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe, an ignorant and presumptuous officer, enemy of free thinking.

35*. In the new edition Plekhanov intended to make clear this passage, which had been intentionally obscured because of the censorship. Among the additions preserved in the archives which he did not make use of, the following remark applies to this passage: “Skalozub is the censorship. Make clear from the history of Beltov himself, Sbornik, Novoye Slovo and Nachalo.” This list includes editions which suffered from persecution by the censorship: the book of Beltov (Plekhanov) The Development of the Monist View of History, the first edition of which was quickly sold out and besides confiscated from libraries, could not be republished for ten years, until 1905; the Marxist symposium Material for a Characterization of Our Economic Development, printed in 1895, was held up for a year and a half by the censorship and then the whole edition was burned, except for a few copies which were fortuitously preserved; the magazine Novoye Slovo (New Word) was suppressed in December 1897; the magazine Nachalo (Beginning), its successor in 1899, was prohibited at the fifth issue. Thus, Marxists were almost without any legal publication while the Narodniks enjoyed almost entire liberty in this respect.


Last updated on 23.12.2004