I. V. Michurin Reference Archive

Answers to the Questions of the Editorial Board of the Journal For the Marxist-Leninist Natural Science!

Source: I. V. Michurin: Selected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1949.
First Published: Proceedings of the Michurin Plant-Breeding and Genetics Station, Vol. II, 1934
Online Version: Sally Ryan for the I. V. Michurin Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2002.

Question One. My evaluation of the present state of science in the Western countries and in the U.S.S.R. is as follows: The economic crisis that has spread all over the Western countries and has shaken the entire basis of capitalism could not but affect the field of the natural sciences as well.

If in the Western countries during the period preceding the crisis very little was done as concerns the production of new improved fruit-plant varieties, all the more now, under the conditions of the most severe crisis, no work whatever is to be expected in that direction.

Both in the foreign press and in our Soviet press, my work has been frequently compared with that of the American fruit grower Luther Burbank. I consider this comparison a wrong one. My methods of work are different from those of Burbank, as it was already pointed out long before the Revolution by those American professors who used to visit my nursery systematically every year. The same is also true as regards the organization of work of other private workers in this field in Western countries as well as of the state experiment stations, among which hardly any can he found that would work exclusively on originating new improved fruit-plant varieties.

On examining catalogues of horticultural plants either of the American or of the West-European fruit-trade firms it can be seen that over a period of several decades there were hardly ten new varieties accepted for sale. The question arises, where are those many thousands of new varieties claimed to have been originated both by Burbank and by all the other foreign fruit-plant breeders, about whose work so much and so frequently has been written in the foreign press and in our Soviet press as well? Apparently much of what has been described either existed only in the authors' imagination or proved to he unsuitable for practical purposes. This is only to be expected because the conditions of life under the capitalist system weigh upon the actions of workers in every field in the Western countries. Almost any activity in those conditions is confined to making profit; moreover, a small group belonging to the ruling class appropriates almost all the products of the labour of the working masses.

An entirely different state of affairs is to be found in the U.S.S.R. under the Soviet Government, after the beneficial abolition of classes. Here in the U.S.S.R. everything is based on the aspiration to increase by all means the prosperity of the working people. Thus, in our country such great attention has been drawn to the development of fruit growing that in the nearest future vast territories of our Union will be occupied by wide uninterrupted stretches of orchards-fields each having a total area of several thousand hectares. This unprecedented impetus towards the development of fruit growing in the U.S.S.R. could be brought about only by the October Revolution that released the hitherto fettered productive potencies of the earth and gave the power to the proletariat--the most progressive class of the socialist society.

How magnificent and alluring are the prospects of development of scientific research in the U.S.S.R. can be illustrated sufficiently well by just one typical fact: before the Revolution I worked all alone without receiving a single kopek for the development of my enterprise from the autocratic tsarist government, while at present a number of institutions have been established on the basis of the results of my fifty-nine years' work. These are the plant-breeding and genetic research station named after me, a horticultural college, a research institute, a school for fruit growing and a state orchard farm of five thousand hectares.

Owing to the generous help of the Soviet Government the very pace at which my work progresses has changed so profoundly that during the single year of 1932 I succeeded in performing the same amount of work as during the whole of the preceding decade.

After the Second Five-Year Plan is fulfilled the tempo of work on improving fruit-plant varieties and on producing new varieties will be still further accelerated. In addition to all that, I should like to call attention to the fact that the unexpected occurrence of new elements in the chemical composition of the flesh of certain hybrid apples--elements that are normally never present in the flesh of the different pure apple species--makes it possible to presume that in the course of the future large-scale hybridization work, such varieties will be obtained the fruits of which will prove to be useful in curing certain human diseases.

Question Two. My views on the interrelations between natural science as a whole and my specific branch of it on the one hand and philosophy on the other hand are as follows.

Science, and its concrete branch--natural science--in particular, is inseverably bound up with philosophy; but since man's world outlook manifests itself in philosophy, the latter is, therefore, a weapon in the class struggle.

Partisanship in philosophy is the chief orientating factor. The structure of things determines the structure of ideas. The progressive class, as the proletariat has proved itself to be, is the vehicle of a more progressive ideology; this class is creating a unified and consistent Marxist philosophy. By its very nature, natural science is materialistic, materialism and its roots lie in Nature. Natural science spontaneously gravitates towards dialectics. To understand the problems of natural science properly one must understand the only true philosophy--the philosophy of dialectical materialism.

Question Three. Only on the basis of the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin can science be fully reconstructed. The objective world--Nature--is primary; man is part of Nature, but he must not merely outwardly contemplate this Nature he can, as Karl Marx said, change it. The philosophy of dialectical materialism is an instrument for changing this objective world; it teaches how to actively influence Nature and how to change it; but only the proletariat is capable of consistently and actively influencing and changing Nature--this is what the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin--those unexcelled titanic minds--tell us.

The practice of socialist construction in the U.S.S.R. has raised a series of new colossal tasks that only the proletariat is capable of fulfilling. The proletariat has proved this by its deeds. The Soviet scientists have to face the most urgent problems raised by the construction of industrial plants, state farms, collective farms on an enormous scale. These problems could be solved only in the land where Socialism is being built and only with the aid of the philosophy of dialectical materialism elaborated by Lenin on the basis of the principles of Marx and Engels.

Question Four. What is my opinion of the possibility of applying materialistic dialectics to horticultural science and in what ways can this be done?

I must say that I have spent all my life in the orchard and on the garden beds. During my life I have made a great many observations and studies of plant life. I have discovered hosts of new facts that still await their theoretical significance to be investigated by science. Those facts must certainly be thoroughly elucidated and investigated in detail from the theoretical standpoint. Here is where the help of materialistic dialectics as the only true philosophy of consistent materialism is needed.

Quesion Five. What are the principal theoretical problems as regards the improvement of the qualities of new fruit-plant varieties that require the most urgent investigation?

In my opinion the most urgent is the problem of accelerating the initiation of fruiting--making fruit trees begin to bear at an earlier age. Next comes the problem of creating new plant species more useful to man by means of interspecific hybridization. Then, I repeat again, a problem of major importance which should be tackled not by individual scientists, but by the united efforts of all scientists is the finding of ways and methods of introducing into the chemical composition of the fruit's flesh chemical elements hitherto unusual in the plant, but that are of great value to man.