Robert M. Young
Source: Robert M. Young Online Writings, at The Human Nature Review;
Transcribed: for marxists.org in May, 2002.
'The Problem of Lysenkoism' by Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins (In: Hilary and Steven Rose (eds.), The Radicalisation of Science, Macmillan pb, l976, pp. 32-64) is the first study of this issue (which I have seen) published in English which is illuminating for Marxists 1.That is, it is the first analysis to break through the crude use/abuse model which has characterised the writings on the subject in both East and West. It looks deeper than the liberal-to-reactionary scientific self-consciousness which sees the history of Lysenkoism as a cautionary tale about the intrusion of the alien values of politics and ideology into the domain of value-neutral science. Hitherto everything I have read on the subject has taken this self-congratulatory line, e.g., Zirkle's American Cold War Death of a Science in Russia, Medvedev's brave Soviet liberal Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko, and Joravsky's American functionalist The Lysenko Affair (though thoroughly researched and immensely informative). Although Lewontin & Levins don't mention it, I would add Graham's Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union., which has a chapter on genetics which was written before Joravsky's book appeared and draws parallel conclusions. This orthodoxy has lately been joined by Louis Althusser who uses the Lysenko affair as a stick with which to beat the abuses of Stalin in the Soviet union and in the French Communist Party (PCF), which supported both Lysenko (1948-52) and the Zhdanovist movement for 'proletarian science'. These authors emerge from their studies with a common lesson: avoid the fatal admixture of science and ideology.
Lewontin & Levins have introduced a discordant note into this scientistic chorus and have begun the serious analysis of Lysenkoism from the point of view of political economy, ideology and the problems of building socialism. (I tried in 1971 to undercut the prevailing liberal consensus in an essay on Joravsky's book for the New York Review of Books. Having commissioned it, the editor rejected it, among other reasons, for not placing primary emphasis on the abuses of power under Stalin as an explanation of Lysenkoism, i.e., for not accepting the liberal account.)
They begin by setting aside the available points of view, including those who reduce Lysenkoism to the personal power and patronage of Stalin as well as the view of ultra-Maoists who see Lysenkoism as a triumph of dialectical materialism over the international scientific orthodoxy.2 They provide an admirably wide framework for the analysis: 'Lysenkoism, like all non-trivial historical phenomena, results from a conjunction of ideological, material and political circumstances, and at the same time is the cause of important changes in those circumstances... Of course it is true that authoritarian political structures in the Soviet Union and bureaucratisation of the Communist Party had a powerful effect on the history of the Lysenkoist movement. Of course it is the case that the methods and conclusions of science contain deep ideological commitments that need to be re-examined. But there are other factors as well that were part of the material and social conditions of the Soviet Union and which were integral in the Lysenkoist movement' (pp. 32-3). They begin, that is, by declaring an intention to give due weight to traditional power-political factors and to integrate these with ideological aspects of science. But they seek to go further and to root the science in social, political and economic history. It is the bringing together into one argument of these aspects of the historical phenomenon of Lysenkoism which makes their analysis so refreshing and their perspective so promising. In what follows I want to summarise their argument and to suggest ways of extending it in the directions they have indicated. (See below– Appendix – for a summary of the life and work of T. D. Lysenko, couched in the rhetoric of western red-baiting.)
Their own interest in the issue has three aspects, each of which is potentially served by a study of Lysenkoism:
(1) the attractions of a case study towards a materialist history science – an approach which is still in its infancy in spite of the pioneering work of Hessen and Bernal (there is more happening in this sphere than they seem to know about or their editors acknowledge);
(2) the problem of the relationship between scientific methodology and the requirements of a science aimed at urgent practical social needs (this issue has world-wide ramifications, e.g., in China, Tanzania, Mozambique, Vietnam, Cuba);
(3) 'As working scientists in the field of evolutionary genetics and ecology, we have been attempting with some success to guide our own research by a conscious application of Marxist philosophy. We therefore cannot accept the view that philosophy must (or can) be excluded from science, and deplore the anti-ideological technocratic ideology of Soviet liberals. At the same time, we cannot dismiss the obviously pernicious use of philosophy by Lysenko and his supporters simply as an aberration, a misapplication, or a distortion dating from the era that is often brushed aside as 'the cult of personality' (with or without naming the personage in question). Nor is it sufficient to note that Marxism has had its signal successes despite Lysenko, with its pioneering work in the origin of life among its achievements. Unless Marxism examines its failures, they will be repeated' (p. 34). That kind of candour and commitment to integration of theory and practice is refreshing.
They go on to provide a very illuminating overview of Lysenkoism under the following headings: its philosophical and scientific claims, the conditions creating it, and its apogee and decline. The concluding sections consider two issues: The first is, 'Did Lysenkoism affect Soviet agriculture?' They provide statistics on wheat yields which show that Lysenkoism does not seem to have affected that crucial crop adversely. On the other hand, one of the most absurd of Lysenko's procedures, 'cluster planting', is estimated to have wasted one billion roubles. Also when Khrushchev was dismissed in 1964, one of the major charges against him was the stagnation of agriculture since 1958, in particular the disastrous results of his Virgin Lands proposal of 1954, which was supported by a scientific memorandum by Academician T. D. Lysenko, who remained its chief scientific adviser.3
These were some of the ramifications in politics. Looking to science itself Lewontin and Levins do not detail the devastation of the content and personnel of biology, medicine and science in general. When I was in the Soviet Union in 1971, I met a number of refugees from biology who had found a haven in the history of science. They described the worst effects of shambolic curricula and of censorship in scientific publishing. There were no genetics textbooks published between 1938 and the early 1960s, and no genetics at all was taught to generations of medical students. Imagine trying to practice modern medicine with that gap in one's knowledge. One form of 'stupidity' in the period was the inability to memorize and regurgitate Lysenkoist nonsense. I remember one vivid account of a biologist who failed his exams on this topic. On the other hand, there were holes in the net. The original Watson-Crick article on DNA did get published in an obscure work on nucleotide chemistry - which immediately sold out.
Returning to the second of their concluding questions, they ask, 'Can there be a Marxist science?' and reply: 'Lysenkoism is held up by bourgeois commentators as the supreme demonstration that conscious ideology cannot inform scientific practice and that "ideology has no place in science". On the other hand, some writers are even now maintaining a Lysenkoist position because they believe that the principles of dialectical materialism contradict the claims of genetics. Both of these claims stem from a vulgarisation of Marxist philosophy through deliberate hostility in the one case or ignorance in the other. There is nothing in Marx, Lenin or Mao that is, or can be, in contradiction with the particular physical facts and processes of a particular set of phenomena in the objective world.
'The error of the Lysenkoist claim arises from attempting to apply a dialectical analysis of physical problems from the wrong end. Dialectical materialism is not, and never has been, a programmatic method for the solution of particular physical problems. Rather, dialectical analysis provides us with an overview and a set of warning signs against particular forms of dogmatism and narrowness of thought. It tells us: "remember, that history may leave an important trace"; "Remember that being and becoming are dual aspects of nature" "Remember that conditions change and that the conditions necessary to the initiation of some processes may be destroyed by the process itself"; Remember to pay attention to real objects in space and time and not lose them utterly in idealised abstractions"; "Remember that qualitative effects of context and interaction may be lost when phenomena are isolated", and above all else, "Remember that all the other caveats are only reminders and warning signs whose application to different circumstances of the real world is contingent" '(pp. 59-60).
Although helpful and charmingly put, I think this position is too modest. Of course dialectical materialism (diamat) is not the key to empirical discoveries any more than were Descartes' 'clear and distinct ideas; a basis for deductions to empirical findings. On the other hand, dialectical analysis does provide more than an overview and a set of cautionary reminders. It is a philosophy of nature, persons and society with labour at the heart of its ontology, while the conception of dialectical processes (interpenetrations and mutual constitutiveness rather than simple causalities and mechanical interactions) is an alternative world view to that of the positivism of the integrated conceptions of capitalism and its science and technology. It is in this sense that Lewontin and Levins' analysis is only a beginning, albeit a very useful one.
We have to go on and enter fully into the ongoing debates about Marxism, science and ideology, scientificity, historical materialism, and the relations among science, technology and the mode of production. If we are to be serious and fully Marxist about science, we have to work out a view and practices which treat science in terms of the contradictions between the forces of production and the relations of production. This work has hardly begun., though there are those (traditional, vulgar Marxists) who think that the answers are known and need only to be applied. Lewontin and Levins are not of that persuasion, but their list of nostrums reveals that they, like most of the rest of us in the radical science movement, have no very clear idea about how to develop an historical materialist theory and practice in science.
They have a section on 'The Ideological and Social Implications of Genetics’, which begins, 'It is essential to distinguish between what we might call the "minimal theoretical structure" of a science, which is dependent upon unspoken ideological assumptions, and a kind of ideological superstructure that is built upon but is not logically entailed by the minimal structure (p. 47). We want to go on from here to study carefully and critically the writings of Haldane and Bernal. Compare, for example, the first and third editions of Bernal’s Science in History and then look at the second edition of 1957, where he is half way to the bottom of a very graceful and self-forgiving climb-down from strong support for Lysenkoism. ON the other hand, genetics was constituted at all levels by fatalistic, biologistic, competitive, individualistic, elitist assumptions (which is not to say that its findings were ’false'). Much of the Lysenkoist rhetoric about western genetics as a social rationalisation was a fair cop.
Here are a couple of bits quoted by Medvedev: 'Weissmannism-Morganism serves today in the arsenal of contemporary imperialism as a means of providing a "scientific base" for its reactionary politics.' It disarms practice and orients man toward resignation to the allegedly eternal laws of nature, toward passivity, toward an aimless search for hidden treasure and expectation of lucky accidents... This "theory" leads to a passive contemplation of supposedly eternal phenomena of nature, to a passive expectation of accidental variation' (pp. 117-121 Columbia edn.). A paper published in this period was entitled 'Mendelist-Morganist Genetics in Defence of Malthusianism'. It may sound quaint and shrill until we reflect on the unbroken history from Malthus to the present of using the struggle for resources as a rationalisation for hierarchical and authoritarian social structures. As soon as there was a science of biology (term coined 1809) it took a central place in that history: social Darwinism, imperialism, racism, IQ, Nazism, and, of course, the current issues of XYY chromosomes and of sociobiology. It was as ideologically interesting and relevant for the Soviets to criticise biologism in the West as it is for us to look closely at the capital (pun intended) made by western ideologues out of exposing the scandal of Lysenkoism, e.g., Darlington, Zirkle, Huxley. It is also worth recalling that the Lysenkoist rhetoric against bourgeois scientific and agricultural workers was perfectly paralleled in exactly the same period (1948-52) by American McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunting directed against intellectuals and cultural workers, thousands of whom lost their chosen livelihoods (Symonds, p. 27; cf. Hellman).
I am suggesting that there are six domains of writing which constitute a single problem of study for serious Marxists: bourgeois and Soviet biology, the generalisations seen to flow from them in the two camps, and the ideological critiques which each makes of the other's putatively 'ideological distortions' of science. The problem for study is the intertwining of these aspects of inheritance, which are seen as scientific and ideological on all sides.
Going further, these debates were as active in Russia and the USSR as they were in the West. We must look just as closely at their debates about the mechanism of evolution (e.g., Mikulak's work) as Lewontin & Levins advocate we look at the internal scientific debates in the current period (and for which they give very helpful references). It is worth pointing out that throughout the period Darwin's mechanism of natural selection was not an agreed orthodoxy in the West. Nordenskiold's standard History of Biology considered it discredited in 1928 (p. 476), while the founding work of the modern era, Julian Huxley's Evolution: The Modern Synthesis ,appeared in 1942. The Soviets had other things on their plate in 1942 and – thanks to the West – continued to do so for some time. I’m not defending Lysenkoism or claiming that Soviet science was backward. In fact, before the advent of Lysenkoism it was very advanced. I'm just saying that debates on the mechanism of evolution remained open for longer than people who know little history of science tend to be aware of.
Lysenkoism (as Joravsky convincingly shows) was not derived from Lamarckian ideas of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. But it was compatible with them, while they were very attractive in some respects to Soviet creators of a new humanity. So it is very relevant that a young Bolshevik named Stalin had written in 1906 that neo-Lamarckianism was supplanting neo-Darwinism and that this proved once more that the Engelsian law of the dialectical transformation of quality was correct (Coulter, p. l50). Lysenkoist abandonment of natural selection began before this was unearthed and published in 1946, but the synthesis of Lysenko-Lamarck-Stalin's endorsement proved significant (Joravsky, p. 391 nl44). In his triumphant 1948 speech Lysenko frequently identified his views with the Lamarckian tradition (which had been made a 'bogey' by neo-Darwinists), for example, 'the well-known Lamarckian propositions, which recognize the active role of external conditions in the formation of the living body and the inheritance of character acquired by plants and animals in the process of their development is possible and necessary' (Safonov, p. 523). Lest we feel complacent about such alliances and patronage (or the lack of it), we should reflect on the history of these complex issues in the West from the treatment of Mendel to that of Velikovsky.
Lewontin and Levins also have a section on 'The Reaction of the Peasants to Collectivisation' which I would like to underline. If there was ever a case of a society evoking the science it needs it was the situation in Soviet agriculture in the late 1920s. Lysenko was not primarily a geneticist but an agrobiologist – someone who was attempting to improve crop yields through a variety of techniques and nostrums known collectively as 'vernalisation' (e.g., soaking and then freezing them before planting so that they will sprout more quickly) and falling under a general rubric of influencing the organism by influencing its environment – hence the affinity with Lamarckian attitudes about nature.4 But why was there such tremendous pressure in this area of applied science? Not only was there an acute problem of feeding the growing urban proletariat, but there was also – and of greater long-term significance – a need for agricultural surpluses to export in order to provide the capital for primitive accumulation and the development of heavy industry. Stalin spoke of the necessity to 'impose something like a "tribute" on the peasantry to support the country's industrialisation' (Sweezy, p. l3). The resistance of sections of the agricultural population in the face of this policy led eventually to forced collectivisation. Because of the internal situation, the failure of socialist revolutions abroad, the consequent embattled isolation of the Soviet Union and the urgent need to build socialism in one country, miracles were needed in agriculture.
E. H. Carr has pointed out that the general sense of urgency on the subject of generating grain surpluses from 1927 was heightened by the international crisis and the war scare of that year (resulting from disaster in China and the breaking off of relations with Britain). Attention became focused on the need for rapid industrialisation and for development of the heavy industries which were the basis for military strength (Pollitt ms., p. 45n). Thus, on the issue of agricultural yields depended 'the very survival of the revolution and the very possibility of building socialism' (Dobb, 1967, p. l41). In some way the political and economic constraints on the extraction of the agricultural surplus had to be overcome (Pollitt ms., pp. 44-5).5
It is clear from the documents that fatalistic versus voluntaristic approaches to nature – especially to biology – lay at the heart of the debates on planning. It was a controversy about whether or not Malthusian constraints could be overcome by revolutionary struggle, and it was expressed in biologistic terms of 'geneticists' versus 'teleologists'. 'The "genetic" versus "teleological" discussion contained within it, of course, the seeds of the ancient and infinitely wide debate as to the circumstances in which human will could or could not conquer "objective" obstacles' (Pollitt ms., p. 30, citing Dobb, 1967, pp. l61-163).6 The geneticists emphasized the constraints imposed on planned economic development by the mode of production at the moment of plan implementation, while the teleologists stressed the freedom conferred upon the planner by the very process of planned development itself (Pollitt ms., p. 29). One of those stressing the constraints on planning imposed by the existing mode of production, the 'geneticist' Groman, wrote, 'Even the greatest of all revolutions – the October revolution – cannot change economic forms overnight'. But Stalin declared against this assumption in a speech entitled 'On the Grain Front' delivered to students of the Institute of Red Professors of the Communist Academy and the Sverdlov University in 1 May 1928. Pollitt calls this 'the crucial politico-economic document of the period'. Stalin addressed himself to the fact that while crop area and gross production had reached the pre-war level, only half of the pre-war amounts were available for market and only 5% available for export. The answer was that many of the peasants were eating the surplus. The small scale peasant farmers had traditionally consumed 85% or more of their production, and they were producing over 80% of the nation's grain – and eating better (pp. 33-4). Stalin set his face toward eliminating the 'genetic' constraints on the extraction of the agricultural surplus at virtually any cost so that the capital generated from export could finance the growth of heavy industry (pp. 44-5). His resolution of this debate led to the forced collectivisation of agriculture, a programme which Carr calls 'probably the most significant, and certainly the most revolutionary, decision taken by the regime in the first fifty years of its existence'.
The other side of the historical significance of these events is reflected in Sweezy's argument that 'the forced requisitioning of 1927-1928 followed by the forced collectivization of 1928-1929 effectively destroyed the [worker-peasant] alliance and barred the road to the socialist development of Soviet society' (Sweezy, p.11). By 1932, 60% of peasants were collectivised. The slaughter of people by the authorities, and the killing of stock and the sequestration and destruction of crops in protest, were the greatest willed destruction, within a country's own borders, of modern times. That's the context of Lysenkoist efforts to improve crop yields.
Turning now to the question of Lysenko's peasant background, we find another extremely moving and illuminating issue. In the same way as the peasant farmers were essential but resistant, the bourgeois experts posed a problem. In order for the fledgling regime to have any hope of survival, Lenin had early made a decision to compromise with the bourgeois experts of the tsarist regime, including bureaucrats, scientists and technologists. There weren't, after all, that many about, since plans for Russian industrialisation had only been coherently conceived by Witte in 1900, by which time Russia was producing just 5% of the world's manufactured goods (von Laue, p. 270).
We marvel at the position and power attained by the ignorant, blustering and opportunist Lysenko but may not notice that he was also devoting all his energies to the revolution. This doesn't mean that it was right to give him his head in all matters agronomic (much less biological and medical), but we should see that power in the light of the loyalties of the other available personnel. Lewontin & Levins write, 'The suspicion of the more academic "pure" scientists, including most geneticists, arose in part from their actual histories. Most of the senior scientists of 1930 had been members of the intellectual middle classes of pre-revolutionary Russia. Many had favoured the February revolution but had strongly opposed the Bolsheviks. Men like [the eminent biologist] Vavilov, who was enthusiastic about the socialist revolution from its early days and who displayed a great enthusiasm for the possibilities of science and agriculture in the new society, were no exception. Nevertheless, most agricultural specialists and scientists were kept on in responsible positions because the state seemed to have no choice. Not only in science, but in all branches of technology and management, unsympathetic managers and technicians had to be employed in socialist enterprises if there was not to be a complete breakdown. Soviet authorities were conscious of the difficulties of such a procedure and the position of such pre-revolutionary holdovers was problematical.
'In contrast, Lysenko represented the Russian equivalent of the "horse-back plant breeder", coming from peasant origins and receiving the bulk of his technical training after the revolution. Over and over again the polemic of Lysenkoist and anti-Lysenkoist contrasts are the "priests" of "aristocratic and lily-fingered" science with the "muzhik's son" who is "illiterate" and "ungrammatical". This contest between the effete middle-class intellectuals, and the close-to-the-soil practical agronomists was subtly extended to include a conflict between theory and practice, a vulgarisation of Marxism. In every aspect the conflict in agriculture was a revolutionary conflict, posing the detached, elite, theoretical, pure scientific, educated values of the old middle classes against the engaged, enthusiastic, practical, applied, self-taught values of the new holders of power. That is why Lysenkoism was an attempt at a cultural revolution and not simply an "affair" ' (pp. 50-51).
This change in science was part of a general policy, including collectivisation, of 'revolution from above'. Proletarian writers were promoted over fellow travellers, teleological planners over geneticists, red specialists over bourgeois specialists (Cohen, p. 333, citing Joravsky's Soviet Marxism and Natural Science). That is, people who sought autonomy from political control were replaced by people who did not, and Lysenko did not (Symonds, p. 9). For all its odiousness, Stalinism had within it three congruent struggles which are central to the construction of socialism: the rejection of bourgeois economistic fatalism (which was at the centre of Marx's Capital and rightly at the heart of socialist planning), the rejection of biologistic fatalism, and the removal of the recalcitrant experts whose scientism retarded socialism. In this sense, Lysenkoism points to a problem which must be faced by any revolutionary movement which is attempting to socialise knowledge and dismantle the hierarchical division of labour (which I would not, of course, claim the Soviet authorities were centrally doing). It went terrifyingly wrong (and even that phrase borders on obscene understatement),7 but it merits the closest scrutiny, for its aims were a far cry from the mere boosting of sycophants. Just as the experiences of the Spanish anarchists should be mined for important historical lessons, the writings of Joravsky and Graham invite re-sifting in the service of socialist struggle.
An analogous story can be told about Soviet xenophobia. Some of the bases for this in the ideological aspects of western biology have already been mentioned. With their characteristic gentle perceptiveness, Lewontin & Levins write, 'It would not be correct to interpret the anti-foreign hysteria of the late pre-war and early post-war periods as a simple revival of Russian nationalism. Rather, it represented a new, typically socialist form of xenophobia derived from a distorted appreciation of real problems. Scientists in the newly post colonial countries are very aware of the need for intellectual independence. They recognised that the Western hegemony of science is an instrument of domination. They are aware of the dangers of an excessive regard for established centres of science which leads to the illegitimate transfer of techniques, reinforces the hierarchical, elitist social structure of science, and fosters the ideology of neutral technocracy. In this context, the lesson of socialist xenophobia is not that socialist scientists should return to the fold of the international (largely bourgeois) community of science as the only alternative to a Lysenkoist rampage. Rather, it leads to the demand for a programme of active evaluation and selection of those aspects of foreign science which can be incorporated into the construction of socialist science and a militant resistance to scientific colonialism. This requires a total rejection of the simplistic bureaucratic dogmatic Marxism which sees only the unity of phenomena and therefore equates the philosophy, scientific content, social context and political ideology in foreign science without seeing the heterogeneity and contradictions in it. Ideologically, it means a reaffirmation of dialectical analysis, and this in turn depends on free discussion without administrative fiat' (pp. 53-4). It must not be forgotten that bourgeois ideology in all its forms, capitalist economic strangulation, repeated – and on the last occasion massive – invasion, the with holding of a Second Front, nuclear blackmail and the Cold War gave the Soviet Union a legitimate sense of xenophobia. Coupled with the failure of communist movements abroad, the doctrine of an embattled socialism in one country, followed by offensive and defensive imperialism, is at least unsurprising.
Inside the Soviet Union a great transformation was going on. The voluntarism of the dedicated, hard-working Stakhanovites in coal mining and industrial production invited parallel achievements in altering nature.8 The Lysenkoists were known as 'agricultural Stakhanovites' and constituted a very special and privileged social stratum – cadres of agricultural production in state farms and breeding stations. Lysenkoism became 'the systematic form of the ideology of this social stratum' (Lecourt, p. 76). Michurin and Lysenko saw plant experimentation as conscious transformation of nature. Lysenko recited to the Soviet public these words of the man whose name was given to the agro-biological movement – Michurinism: 'It is possible, with man's intervention, to force any form of animal or plant to change more quickly and in a direction desirable to man. There opens before man a broad field of activity of the greatest value to him.' By the time of Lysenko's ascendancy in 1948, the slogan 'the transformation of nature' became the basis of a whole programme (Graham, 1971, pp. 234, 235, 237).9
Just how far this went is clear from a remarkable contemporary document which is by turns ludicrous and chilling. Land in Bloom by V. Safonov is a popular history of agrobiology from Linnaeus to Lysenko which won the Stalin Prize in 1949 (a copy turned up in a Communist Party book sale in 1977 – I've never seen it mentioned in the literature).10 It is said that an inspiring slogan of the Chinese revolution (also of 1949) was 'Throw off Nature's insolent yoke!' Remarks on the new Soviet agrobiology strike the same note:
It was as if the fetters that had hound the ancient science of life had been broken The profound and exact understanding of living phenomena took the place of lifeless dogmas, reservations and biased interpretations. And so irrefutable was the effective power of this understanding that all the best representatives of biology, irrespective of the opinions they had formerly held, became convinced that the old views could he adhered to no longer.
This is what happened under our eyes. we are proudly conscious of the fact that it could have happened in no other country but ours.
A revolution in the world-wide development of biology has been brought about. We are witnesses of it.
The storm will subside and the new knowledge will then stand out, cast in beautiful and perfect mold. It will appear majestically calm; and the patina of time will also cover the struggle and victory of those fearless innovators, the scientists of our day
We, the Soviet people of the Stalin epoch, have seen how, in one of the biggest ideological battles fought in the history of natural science, a science of unprecedented might was born, and how this might endows man with fabulous power over nature. And a obstacles that only yesterday had been proclaimed fatally insurmountable, fall before it.
It is the science of life which teaches man how to transform the surrounding world and to re-create living nature. It is soviet, Michurin agrobiology. Its features are unexampled. It is the science of the people (Safonov, p. l3).
The combination of the rhetoric of class struggle, sycophancy and xenophobia is a common theme in the representation of the crucial 1948 Session of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences at which Lysenko achieved the peak of his power:
Partisanship in philosophy is the chief orienting factor... Only on the basis of the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin can science be fully reconstructed.... Man is a part of nature, but he must not merely outwardly contemplate this nature.... The philosophy of dlalectical materialism is an instrument for changing this objective world; It teaches how to influence this nature and to change it; but the proletariat alone 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."
Every Michurinist applies these splendid words directly to himself and to his work to the struggle he is waging against the advocates of pseudoscientific formal genetics, the offspring of slavish subservience to Western ideological biology, of cosmopolitan worshipping of the idol "world science". (Safonov, pp. 529-530).
It is difficult to imagine that there is an honest Soviet scientist today who does not realize the objective significance and ultimate goal of the reactionary, thoroughly idealistic theory of formal genetics that had been imported into our country by the servile worshipers of things foreign (p. 539).
The final passage conveys the ghastly apotheosis of the unification of undemocratic centralism and a new, covert elitism with the desire to place science in the service of the people in transforming living nature:
The President of the Academy said: "Progressive biological science owes it to the geniuses of mankind, Lenin and Stalin that the teaching of I. V. Michurin has been added to the treasure house of our knowledge, has become part of the gold fund of our science."
He concluded his speech with a tribute to the Michurin science, the science of the transformation of living nature for the benefit of the Soviet people, with a tribute to the Party of Lenin and Stalin which revealed Michurin to the world and created in our country all the conditions for the efflorescence of advanced, materialist science
And when he uttered his final words: "Glory to the great friend and protagonist of science, our leader and teacher, Comrade Stalin!" the thousand or so people who filled that vast hall rose like one man and stood for a long time clapping, the sound of applause now rising and now subsiding, only to break out with renewed vigour.
In that same month, August 1948, the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, at a three-day enlarged session, discussed the results of the session of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the USSR: and the supreme scientific body in our country arrived at the conclusion that the development of Michurin science must become the pivot of all the natural sciences.
As a result, the work of our universities, of the vast network of scientific institutes research laboratories and plant-breeding stations that stretches over our country, was quickly reorganized. An unprecedented wave of enthusiasm swept through the ranks of our agrobiologists, soil scientists, agronomists, zoo technicians, academicians and advanced kolkhozniks [collective farm-workers]. The great festival that had been spoken about at the session appeared to have arrived... (pp. 541 -542).
Not a small group of scientists, but the entire country was promoting Michurin science, the science of man’s power over the land and of the transformation of the land for the benefit of the people.
It was a revolution in science (p. 542).
I hope that I've said enough to make plausible the claim that in order to gain the benefits promised by Lewontin and Levins' opening up of this issue, we must go a long way further into the history of Lysenkoism as social relations. In particular, working scientists who want to theorise these issues must look as deeply into the historical, ideological and Marxist literature as they do into the putatively 'scientific'. On the historical front, I made the following list in the midst of my own attempts to make some sense of it: (I) revolution from above, (2) the perceived need for rapid industrialisation, (3) collectivisation, (4) cultural revolution, (5) need to overcome the attitudes and wrecking of kulaks and bourgeois experts, (6) 'on the grain front', (7) war scare of 1927, (8) cold war, (9) xenophobia. I leave this list raw and without further explication in order to highlight the stark unfamiliarity of the sorts of issues which we need to learn to see as relevant to a Marxist understanding of this episode in the history of science as ideology and political economy.
On the history of science front, we need to look much more deeply into the issues as seen at the time: scientific debates on Darwinism, Lamarckianism, natural selection, Mendelism/ Morganism and into the inextricably interwoven debates on social Darwinism, race, intelligence, imperialism: the second aspect of the ideology of nature. A Marxist history of science is not merely a review article pushed farther back in time; it is a different kind of history. We have our own reasons for looking at the continuing history of sociobiology and our own motives for considering the ongoing debates on the meaning and mechanisms of evolution and why planners and ideologues should be interested in them. We need to reconnect with the history of the debate over scarcity and social conflict in which Marx and Engels played – and continue to play – a central critical role. It is a broadly-based and ongoing interaction of theory, practice and rationalisation over the limits nature may or may not set to human equality and achievement and how to conceive of and work on the relevant 'realities'.
The aspect we don't need to be told any more about is the abuse of power in a bureaucratic state, though I would argue that orthodox Marxists are exceedingly slow to draw the conclusions that emerge from the history of democratic centralism.
If we could fight off the complacent liberals – East and West – who use Lysenkoism as a self-congratulatory object lesson to reinforce their own elitism and false consciousness about the autonomy of the content of science, and if we could fight off the scientism of both vulgar and 'rigorous', theoreticist, structuralist Marxists, we could use Lysenkoism to learn more and more about the single domain of enquiry which is artificially analysed as
science and pseudoscience
science and ideology
science and society
science and economy
science and politics
science and power
If we could win those fights, then the integration of these domains with Marxist exegetics and with struggles in our own situations would be less mystified, would be enriched, and the appeal of a pluralistic conception of revolutionary struggle would be increased. The forces and issues raised by Lysenkoism do not teach us how different our science is but how like the interpenetrations constituting Lysenkoism are the sciences in our own scientistic society.11 Along with Fidel Castro's critical and self-critical '26th of July' (1970) speech, it also shows how complicated, refractory and daunting are bourgeois hegemony and its metaphysical citadel, conceptions of nature. (In that speech Castro shows in detail and very evocatively just how tangled is the task of dismantling one socio-economic order in order to build another.) Finally, Lysenkoism provides a very striking example of how an epoch calls up the science it requires – how base, superstructure and mediations interact and interpenetrate even in a society which has the strictest controls on intellectual (including scientific) – production.
I once tried to give a paper at a conference in Moscow which mentioned ways of learning from the Lysenko period as part of an argument about science and mediation. I was not allowed to finish, even though I had made special arrangements to make sure I had enough time and had practised the talk with a stopwatch. In the question period a very assertive person said, quite dogmatically, 'There are no mediations'. I thought him a very vulgar Marxist, but he came up to me afterwards and said that his bombastic intervention was a sick joke send-up of the setting and the fact that I had been cut off. Then, just as he was turning to leave, he said, 'I'm a Yugoslav, you see'. (In other words, there are no mediations in the Soviet Union.)
The situation in the Soviet Union had dictated that the pure and applied sciences in the biological and agricultural spheres would reflect the needs of industry. The relationship was a crude, coerced one-to-one correspondence. At the other extreme lies the conception of the relative autonomy of science and the scientific mandarinate – a position shared by Vavilov, the Royal Society, its counterparts in other Western countries and by current theoreticist Marxists. We must somehow elaborate theory and practices of a mediated relationship which struggles toward the production and reproduction of socialist social relations. The study of the Lysenko episode through socialist eyes is very likely to help us in that work.
After I had drafted the foregoing commentary on Lewontin and Levins' essay, an important translation appeared which moves the argument along in significant ways: Dominique Lecourt's Proletarian Science? The Case of Lysenko . I shall try to provide a succinct evaluation and to connect it with the project outlined above. Lecourt offers a sympathetic exposition and critique of the political economy and ideology of the episode, which is particularly relevant to the critique of technicism and scientism within Marxism. More specifically, he explores the role of the ontological interpretations of dialectical materialism which lead from Engels' Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science (1878, from which his Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is drawn) and his notes compiled as Dialectics of Nature (1873-1886) via Plekhanov to Stalinist versions of vulgar Marxism.
The following excerpts are offered to whet the reader's appetite:
This was perhaps the ultimate hidden motor of Lysenkoism, what gave it its strength and guaranteed its support: it had appeared at the right moment in response to a problem and a demand produced by a "technicist" economic conception and practice of the construction of socialism (p. 75).
This ensemble was not just the fruit of terror and corruption as Joravsky thinks, for example: it was the product of a determinate political line which, having posed the peasant question in unilaterally "technical" terms, had as a result encouraged a new type of social differentiation in the countryside between the "ordinary" kolkhozniks and the experts and technicians whose ideology crystallized around two successive slogans of Stalin's: "technique decides everything", and then ''cadres decide everything". The "agricultural" form of this ideology was "Lysenkoism" (p. 77),
This is all relevant to the critiques of Marxist economism and scientism. But the debate on which the book bears most directly is that of how a society constructs its science and the relations of intellectual formations – including the deepest metaphysical assumptions of science – to the mode of production and the history of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production (which is a project for investigation).
As early as 1950 the French debate on Lysenkoism threw up the following profound characterisation under the title, 'Science, a Historically Relative Ideology' by J. T. Desanti: 'That there is a bourgeois science and a fundamentally contradictory proletarian science means above all that science too is a matter of class struggle, a party matter.’ And he asked: 'If science is the product of a class, how is one to understand the objectivity of its content? How is one to understand the undoubted unity of its development?' Answer: 'Science is the fruit of human labour and in this labour man determines nature as it is in itself. To transform the thing in itself into a thing for us means to attack brute nature with tools forged in contact with it and to learn by this labour to master it. Now, this transformation is not the work of man in isolation; it uses tools, it is achieved in labour. Hence it is the fruit of the whole society: the way it is achieved reflects the state of the productive forces that sustain the whole social edifice; and hence also the interests of the class whose social activity promotes the productive forces and sustains the form of organisation of labour. Hence the content of science must remain the dialectical unity of the two terms of this transformation: human labour on the one hand nature on the other. This unity is precisely what Lenin calls the "thing for us" or, in other words, the sector of nature already dominated for human practice. This dialectical relation must also be found in the development of science. The development always has a social content: as such it is always relative to the state of the productive forces, always linked to class struggles (often by remote links), always expressive of the interests and consciousness of a class. But this development thereby expresses the degree of mastery and domination that a given society has achieved over nature. It thus contains and uses, even as it extends it, the sector of nature already dominated. This explains how science can be one in its development and is yet linked by a necessary bond to class struggles; this explains how the content of science can be objective and yet express the viewpoint of the rising or ruling class.’
'This text is undoubtedly the most systematic justification for the philosophical basis of Lysenkoism. It has the exceptional interest that it confronts the crucial philosophical questions posed by the theory of the "two sciences" without side-stepping: an imprudence from which the majority of Soviet philosophers were retreating at the same moment' (pp. 24n-25n).
Between that formulation and Lecourt's rejection of 'The theory of the "Two Sciences" ' in chapter five lie the issues which Marxists must confront about science. Lecourt sets up the problem so that the only theory of the two sciences on offer is a crude one following from what he calls 'the ontological version of dialectical materialism' (p. l17), and he convincingly rejects that version (p. 112). But he ultimately releases his grip on the metaphysical issues about labour, practice and the labour process and reverts to the issues as represented by the writers on Lysenkoism whose views were rejected at the beginning of my commentary on Lewontin & Levins. The analysis reverts to the mediations of Stalinist power:
'I want to argue that, behind the mask of the generalization of Lysenkoism, proposed as ideology to all intellectual workers, order and register were being shifted. It was no longer a question of "scientific" or "philosophical" theory; in fact what was happening was the consecration of a state ideological system: a state ideology in which the "theory " of the two sciences is the crucial component – at once privileged instrument, functional model and theoretical "touchstone".
'In short, we can say of the final avatar of Lysenkoism, the one in which it found its final form and status, what we have said about the earlier ones: that an event seized on it from the outside to assign it a role in the Soviet social formation.
'Or else, if we wish to give these remarks the spice of paradox, we can say that the 1948 Session only officially consecrated the success of Lysenko's theories – brushing aside all the objections and taking all the risks – because it was no longer a question either of Lysenko or his theories but of something quite different which had constantly been practised previously in partial forms and finally achieved its general and systematic form at that date: a declared, obligatory state ideology which imposed on all intellectuals the Stalinist version of dialectical materialism beneath the rule of the supposed antagonism of "bourgeois science" and "proletarian science" ' (pp. 122-123).
Lecourt is, of course, correct about those historical events, as the above quotations from Safonov's Land in Bloom, among numerous accounts, make clear. But in reverting to that aspect, he declines to address important issues raised for the construction of progressive struggle in scientific theory and practice. There is a whole tradition of socialist struggle in science, technology and medicine (I'm thinking at the moment of medical programmes in Tanzania, Vietnam and China and research in China and Cuba) which has attempted to break new ground. In the domain of theory, these issues have been formulated by a whole tradition which does not succumb to the parameters which Lecourt ultimately settles for (I'm thinking of Lukács, Korsch, Gramsci, Marcuse, Williams, Thompson and other writers listed in the RSJ reading lists on 'Science, Ideology and the Labour Process' and on 'Marxism and the Critique of Scientism' [RSJ 6/7, pp. 144-50]).
The challenge is to transform and deepen studies such as those of Lewontin & Levins and Lecourt in the service of the understanding and transformation of the relations between modern societies and their intellectual formations conceived as labour process and practice, that is, in terms which do not lead down vulgar-Marxist, theoreticist or idealist alleys. An historical epistemology for socialist praxis which neither reduces the relations of production to the forces of production (as in technicism) nor debases the base as merely the sphere of production. The ultimately determining element – 'the last instance' – was considered to be much richer than that, even by Engels: 'According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of social life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted'.l3 It is that rich conception to which we need to relate the understanding of science as social relations.
1. One earlier study, a review by Gary Werskey, was along promising lines while the translation of Dominique Lecourt's book, which appeared after Lewontin & Levins' essay, moves the debate along considerably. I have added a short commentary on it at the end of my remarks on Lewontin & Levins.
2. Some Maoist neo-Lysenkoist groups: Canadian Communist Movement, Necessity for Change Institute of Ideological Studies (Montreal and Dublin), and the journal Serve the People. The works of Lysenko and Michurin have been sold in the past few years by an English group which came to be called the English Communist Movement, now the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist).
3. Joravsky, 1970, p. l76; see also R. & Z. Medvedev, Khrushchev: The Years in Power.
4. Lecourt, unlike Joravsky, gives a sympathetic account of Lysenko's practical work and its generalisation as 'the criterion of practice'. On vernalisation, he writes, 'The term "vernalisation" (yarovizatsiya) is indisputably Lysenko's. The reality of the technique it designated initially predates Lysenko, as we shall see. It should also be noted that later on, Lysenko used the term in a much looser sense to designate any technique which brought a thermal factor into play in what he called the training of plants' (p. 39n).
5. See also Carr, 1970, vol. 1, ch. 5 for a wider perspective on agriculture Carr & Davies, 1974, vol. l, sect. A for the period 1926-1929; Ploss, 1965 and Volin, 1970, chs. l0 seq. brings the story up to Khrushchev including his relations with Lysenko's policies, esp. pp. 552-554.
6. See also Carr, 1970, vol. l, ch. 10, esp. pp. 527sqq.
7. See Solzhenitsyn, esp. pp. 57, 599; Joravsky, 1970, 'Appendix A: Repressed Specialists', pp. 317-328.
8. On Stakhanovism, see Dobb, 1966, pp. 468-481.
9. An analogy may help to reduce our sense that the immense expenditure on Lysenko's unproven and inefficient techniques was merely bizarre The pressing needs of a society can lead it to invest vast resources in a tremendously wasteful and unpromising method if its ruling class wants the desired product badly enough. The diffusion method used in the USA during World War Two to separate the isotopes of uranium (which differed in weight by just three subatomic particles) was incredibly inefficient and required the building of vast hydroelectric facilities at Mussel Shoals, just as the installation at Los Alamos and the overall dimensions of the Manhattan Project were profligate beyond previous dreams. But the authorities deemed the prize worth the effort and expenditure and the gamble worth taking. Improving crop-yields and generating a marketable surplus was far more obviously a matter of national survival to the Soviet Union than the possession of an atom bomb was to America (which is not to say that food can't become as powerful a weapon, as recent events have shown).
10. The following is rubber-stamped on the title page: ’"Russia Today Book Club" Not for Sale to the Public'.
11. For an interesting example of the lengths to which the mandarins of bourgeois science are prepared to go in attempting to demarcate science from its social and ideological constituents (thereby preserving existing arrangements) see Sir Andrew Huxley's Presidential Address to the British Association, 1977, and the ensuing exchange between him and me: Times Higher Education Supplement 2 Sept. 1977, pp. 4-6; 23 Sept., p. 5, 7 Oct., p. 27, 4 Nov., p. 27; see also his letters to New Scientist 29 Sept., p. 819 and Nature 29 Sept., p. 366. Sir Andrew is a Nobel Laureate, Fellow of the Royal Society and Royal Society Research Professor. He is going to bat for Jensen, Burt, Shockley and other biological fatalists and is using the Lysenko affair as a basis for mocking the Left.
12. We hope to publish a considered essay on it and related matters in a future issue of RSJ.
13. Stedman Jones, 1973, p. 31. It is a paradox about Engels that he developed the theoretical basis for vulgar Marxism and extreme versions of dialectical materialism at the same time that he wrote a number of very helpful reflective letters on the need for a rich and more mediated conception of the relations between determination in the last instance by the mode of production and social, cultural and intellectual phenomena See Marx & Engels, 1965, pp. 415-425, 458-62, 466-68; Young, 1973; Hall, 1974, 1977; Williams, 1977, esp. ch. on 'Ideology' and Part II on 'Cultural Theory'.
Obituary: Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko (The Times 24.11.1976)
Professor T. D. Lysenko, the Russian geneticist hailed during the Stalinist era as having produced theories vital to Soviet agriculture, but later denounced as a fraud, died on November 20, (aged 78).
Lysenko was born at Karlovka in the Poltava province of the Ukraine in 1898, the song of a peasant. After graduation in 1921 from the Uman School of Horticulture he went to work at the Belaya Tserkov Selection Station. In 1925 he graduated from the Kiev Agricultural Institute and moved to the Experimental Selection Station in Gandzha – now Kirovabad. In 1929 he became Senior Specialist in the Physiology Section of the Ukranian Institute of Selection and Genetics in Odessa. By 1936 he had become its director.
At the institute he carried out some research on plant physiology which attracted little attention in the scientific world until about 1931 when he published his first works on the phenomenon of vernalization. It had been known for some time that winter varieties of wheat and other plants, which normally fail to bear ears and ripen their grain when sown in spring, will do so if they are exposed to low temperatures, just above freezing point, for varying periods immediately after sprouting. Lysenko extended the knowledge of this phenomenon and built up from it both an elaborate hypothesis on development in plants, which came to be known as the theory of phasic development, and an agricultural method which enabled winter varieties of cereals and other plants to be treated with low temperatures and sown as spring crops. This technique came to be known as the method of vernalization, though why such importance has been attached to the conversion of winter to spring forms, when quite satisfactory spring forms of most crop plants already exist, has never been adequately explained. Be this as it may, much effort and many millions of roubles were expended in applying vernalization to the cereal crops of the Soviet Union. Official accounts of the success of these experiments vary, claims having been made of vast increases in grain yield. Later more critical reports from official sources and from foreign visitors suggest that, except in exceptional circumstances, little advantage has accrued and the yields were in fact often impaired.
Lysenko, however, was undismayed by his critics. In fact he even went as far as to extend his theory. The conversion of winter plants to spring or vice versa could, he claimed, become hereditarily established if carried out under suitable conditions, though the exact conditions were never defined in unambiguous terms.
Here then was a new theory of heredity – or an old one in a new guise. For Lamarck's theory of inheritance amounted to just this – that attributes acquired during the life time of an individual are transmitted to its progeny. Though thousands of experiments carried out by geneticists all over the world have rarely if ever demonstrated any such transmission, Lysenko's views on heredity proved popular with farmers and country folk, who have ever had such ideas close to their hearts, and, what is equally important, to the administrators and politicians; for Lysenko's ideas conformed more closely with Marxist principles of equality than did those of the geneticists who believed, it was said, on an aristocracy based on genes, hence in racialism, fascism, imperialism, colonialism and other dreadful things. Lysenko's ideas also fitted well with those of I. V. Michurin, the veteran fruit breeder who was also an idol of the Soviet People.
However, some of the more enlightened biologists in the Soviet Union attacked Lysenko and his ideas in the early days, one of the most influential being the critic N. I. Vavilov, well known internationally for his studies on the origins of cultivated plants. Between the years 1934, when Lysenko's views on inheritance began to be widely known, and 1948 the voices of the critics were nevertheless gradually silenced. Lysenko was awarded the Order of Lenin and two Stalin prizes, and was nominated Vice Chairman of the Supreme Soviet; in 1938 he was appointed President of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science and in 1940 assumed the Directorship of the Institute of Genetics of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
Many other honours and appointments followed. The climax of his success came when, on August 26 1948, the Praesidium of the USSR Academy of Science passed a resolution virtually outlawing any biological work that was not based on the teachings of Michurin and Lysenko. Most of his remaining critics recanted at this same meeting. Others were removed from their official positions and some were arrested. This fate had already overtaken N. I. Vavilov in 1940 and nothing more was heard of him until his death in September, 1942. From this time until the death of Stalin in 1953 Lysenko ruled virtually supreme and his influence was felt not only in livestock breeding, animal husbandry and forestry but also in many fields far removed from plant physiology and genetics.
The period in question saw many further developments of Lysenko's theory. Plants of the same species were supposed not to compete with one another, and foresters, as well as farmers, were advised to grow their plants or trees in clusters for mutual aid. Plants were believed to 'assimilate' the environmental condition in which they were grown and intricate systems of 'training' were devised in order to influence the hereditary properties of young seedlings. One of the systems was to graft the seedlings on to another plant belonging to a different variety, species, or even genus and so the old belief in graft hybrids, current in earlier centuries, was revived. The fact that many of them had been shown by cell studies to be chimeras, or cell mixtures, rather than true hybrids, was conveniently ignored by Lysenko, who had a singular capacity for overlooking facts that did not suit him.
(After Stalin's death Lysenko was subject to criticism, investigation, and eventually he was denounced as a fraud by Khrushchev, who ascribed no small part in the responsibility for the Soviet agricultural crisis to Lysenko's influence.)
Nevertheless, Lysenko was to find favour again, and at that with Khrushchev, for his researches into composting and breeding dairy cows with high butter fat, themes both dear to Khrushchev who wanted to raise the USSR's milk output. He regained a substantial measure of his old authority and was only finally forced to quit the Institute of Genetics with the ousting of Khrushchev himself.
This is an inclusive bibliography of all the works in English which I consider relevant and have consulted or which I have been told are relevant (but it makes no attempt at comprehensiveness – see Graham, Zirkle, Joravsky for that, though they are also patchy and even silent on some topics). I am very unlikely to pursue the issues in this context and want to socialise the bibliographical information I've gathered from various sources over the years. Sources are a very serious problem for Marxists who try to work out a different perspective on issues in areas where they are not expert and/or don't speak the language(s). Noam Chomsky has shown, however, that it can be done in his essay on how Hugh Thomas and others treated the role of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. The expert, by the way, has completely rewritten the book, partly as a result of Chomsky's critical reorientation of the issue. (All works published in London unless otherwise specified.)
Thanks for extra items to Gary Werskey, Anthea Symonds, Dominique Lecourt, David Joravsky, and Colin Beardon, to Philip Boys and David Murray for their criticisms, to Brian Pollitt for guidance about the Soviet debates in the 1920s, and to the following for helping to formulate my thinking on this topic for the unpublished essay which was a precursor to this one: Brian Turner, Ingrid Lorch Turner, Margot Waddell, Gary Werskey, Jerry Ravetz and Mikulas Teich.
Louis Althusser, 'A Critical Viewpoint on Rectification of Errors: Lysenko: Unfinished History', Marxism Today 21 no. 2 (Feb. 1977), 53-57 (originally published as the Introduction to Dominique Lecourt, Lysenko: Histoire réele d’une science proletarienne, Paris, Maspero, 1976, see trans. below).
Anon., The Situation in Biological Science: Proceedings of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the USSR, Session July 31st - August 7th, 1948, Verbatim Report, Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1949.
Anon., 'Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko' (Obituary), The Times 24.11.1976.
Colin Beardon, 'Lysenko: A Theoretical and Historical Analysis', Wivenhoe Park, Essex University Communist Party, 1976; revised as 'Notes on the History of Lysenkoism', typescript ms, October 1977.
J. D. Bernal, Science in Soviet Russia, 1942.
J. D. Bernal, 'The Biological Controversy in the Soviet Union and its Implications', Mod. Quart. 4 (Summer 1949), 203-217.
J. D. Bernal, 'The Abdication of Science', Mod. Quart 8 no. 1 (1952-53), 44-50
J. D. Bernal, Science in History, (1954), 2nd ed., Watts, 1957; 3rd ed.,1965, also Penguin pb.
P. D Brian, The Situation in Biological Science II', Mod Quart. 4 (Autumn 1949),295-301.
E. H. Carr, Socialism in One Country, 1924-1926, 3 vols., Macmillan, 1958-64; Penguin pb, 1970-72.
E. H. Carr, 'Revolution from Above: the Road to Collectivization', in his October Revolution: Before and After, N. Y., Knopf, 1969, pp. 95-109.
E. H. Carr and R. W. Davis, Foundations of a Planned Economy, 1926-1929, 2 vols., Macmillan, 1969, 1971; Penguin pb, 1974, 1976
Fidel Castro, 'This Shame Will Be Welcome . . .' a speech on 26 July 1970, with an introduction by Lee Lockwood, New York Review of Books 15 no. 5 (24 Sept.. 1970), 18-33.
Noam Chomsky, 'Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship', in his American Power and the New Mandarins, Penguin pb, 1969, pp. 23-129.
Fernando Claudin, The Communist Movement: from Comintern to Cominform (1970), Penguin pb, 1975.
Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938, Wildwood House, 1974; also pb; esp. chs. 8-10.
Commission of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) (eds.), 'The Bolshevik Party in the Struggle for the Collectivization of Agriculture (1930-34)', ch. 11 of History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). Short Course, N. Y., International Publishers pb, 1939, pp. 300-330: see also later editions, esp. ch. on ’Dlalectical and Historical Materialism'.
R. C. Cook, 'Lysenko's Marxist Genetics', J. Heredity 40 (1949), 169-202.
Jeff Coulter, 'Marxism and the Engels Paradox', Socialist Register 1971, Merlin, pp. 129-156.
C. D. Darlington, The Conflict of Science and Society, Watts, 1948; reprinted Bull Atomic Sci. 7 (1948), 9-12.
C. D. Darlington, 'The New Soviet Genetics', in C. .D. Darlington and K. Mather, Genes, Plants and People: Essays on Genetics, Allen & Unwin, 1950, pp 174-187.
C. D. Darlington, Genetics and Man, Allen & Unwin, 1964; Penguin pb, 1966
C. D. Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society, Allen & Unwin 1969.
C. D. Darlington, 'The Genetics of Society', Past & Present 43 (May 1969), 1-33
C. D. Darlington, 'T. D. Lysenko' (Obituary), Nature 266 (17 Mar. 1977), 287-288.
R. G. Davies, 'Genetics in the USSR’, Mod. Quart. 2 (Autumn 1947), 336-346.
Maurice Dobb, Soviet Economic Development since 1917 (1948), 6th ed., Routledge pb, 1966, esp. chs 8-11 on industrialisation, agriculture and collectivisation.
Maurice Dobb, 'The Discussions of the 1920s about the Building of Socialism', Annali dell'lnstituto Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 1967, pp. 136-166.
Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature (1873-1886) 3rd ed., preface and notes by J. B. S. Haldane, N. Y., International Publishers pb, 1940; pb, 1971; also Moscow: Progress, 1964.
Frederick Engels, Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science (1878) 3rd ed. (1894), Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1954.
Lewis S Feuer, 'Dialectical Materialism and Soviet Science', Philos. Sci. 16 (1949), 105-124.
David Footman, Civil War in Russia, Faber & Faber, 1961.
J. L. Fyfe, 'The Soviet Genetics Controversy', Mod. Quart. 2 (Autumn 1947), 347-351
J. L. Fyfe, 'The Situation in Biological Science’, Mod Quart. 4 (Autumn 1949), 291-295 (cf. Brian).
J. L. Fyfe, Lysenko is Right, Lawrence & Wishart, 1950.
Loren R. Graham, The Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Communist Party, 1927-1932, Princeton, 1967.
Loren R. Graham, Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union, Allen Lane, 1971, esp. ch I, 'Dialectical Materialism: The Soviet Marxist Philosophy of Science’, pp. 24-68; ch 6, 'Genetics', pp. 195-256; Appendices I and II, 'Lysenko and Zhadanov', pp. 443-450, 'H. J. Muller on Lenin and Genetics', pp. 451-469.
Alfred de Grazia, The Velikovsky Affair, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1969.
F. Le Gros Clark, 'On Soviet Genetics', Mod. Quart. 3 (Winter 1947-48), 93.
Richard Gunn, 'Debate on the Dialectics of Nature II - "Is Nature Dialectical?"', Marxism Today 21 no. 2 (Feb. 1977), 45-52 (cf. Hoffman).
J. B. S. Haldane, 'A Dialectical Account of Evolution', Science & Society 1 (1937), 473-486..
J. B. S. Haldane, Heredity and Politics, N. Y., 1938.
J. B. S. Haldane, 'Lysenko and Genetics', Science & Society 4 (1940), 433-437.
J. B. S. Haldane, 'The Lysenko Controversy', The Listener, 9 Dec. 1948.
J. B. S. Haldane, 'In Defence of Genetics', Mod. Quart. 4 (Summer 1949), 14-20 .
Stuart Hall, 'Marx's Notes on Method: A "Reading" of the "1857 Introduction" ', Working Papers in Cultural Studies 6 (Autumn 1974), 132-170 (see Marx, 1857-58).
Stuart Hall, 'Re-Thinking the "Base-and-Superstructure" Metaphor', in Jon Bloomfield (ed.), The Communist University of London: Papers on Class, Hegemony and Party, Lawrence & Wishart pb, 1977, pp. 43-72.
Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time, N.Y., Little, Brown, 1976; also Bantam pb.
John Hoffman, Marxism and the Theory of Praxis: A Critique of Some New Versions of Old Fallacies, Lawrence & Wishart, 1975.
John Hoffman, 'Debate on Dialectics of Nature I - The Dialectics of Nature: "the Natural-Historical Foundation of Our Outlook"’, Marxism Today 21 no. l (Jan. 1977), 11-18 (cf. Gunn).
P. S. Hudson and R. H. Richens, The New Genetics in the Soviet Union, Cambridge, Imperial Bureau of Plant Breeding and Genetics, 1946.
Julian Huxley, Evolution: The Modern Synthesis, Allen & Unwin, 1942.
Julian Huxley, Soviet Genetics and World Science: Lysenko and the Meaning of Heredity, Chatto & Windus, 1949.
Julian Huxley, 'Soviet Genetics: the Real Issue', Nature 163 (1949), 935-942, 974-982 (cf. acid comments on Huxley, in Safanov, pp. 395-398).
David Joravsky, Soviet Marxism and Natural Science, 1917-1932, Routledge, 1961.
David Joravsky, The Lysenko Affair, Harvard, 1970.
David Joravsky, 'Cracked Wheat' (review of Medvedev on Lysenko), New York Review of Books 14 (29 Jan. 1970), 48-52.
Z. A. Jordan, The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism: A Philosophical and Sociological Analysis, Macmillan, 1967.
J. Langdon-Davies, Russia Puts the Clock Back, Gollancz, 1949 .
Theodore H. von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia, N. Y., Columbia, 1963; Atheneum pb, 1968.
Dominique Lecourt, Proletarian Science? The Case of Lysenko, Introduction by Louis Althusser (1976), New Left Books, 1977.
Les Levidow, 'A Marxist Critique of the IQ Debate’, Rad. Sci. J. 6/7 (1978), 13-72.
Les Levidow, 'Towards a Materialist Critique of Ideology: the IQ Debate as a Case Study', typescript of talk given at Radical Philosophy Conference, Brighton, Jan. 1978.
Moshe Lewin, Lenin's Last Struggle (1967),Wildwood House pb; N.Y., Vintage pb, 1970.
T. D. Lysenko Soviet Biology: A Report to the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Moscow, i948, Birch Books, 1948; N.Y., International Publishers, 1948, entitled The Science of Biology Today (see also Anon.).
T. D. Lysenko, Agrobiology, Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1954.
S. M. Manton, The Soviet Union Today: A Scientist's Impression, Lawrence & Wishart, 1952.
Herbert Marcuse, Soviet Marxism: A Critical Analysis, Routledge, 1958; Penguin pb, 1971.
Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft) (1857-58), Penguin pb, 1973 ('1857 Introduction' discussed in Hall, 1974).
Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. l, Penguin pb, 1976.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in one volume, Lawrence & Wishart pb, 1968.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (1955), 2nd ed., Moscow, Progress, 1965.
Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Macmillan, 1972; Nottingham, Spokesman pb.
Zhores A. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko, N.Y., Columbia, 1969; Anchor pb, 1971.
Roy and Zhores Medvedev, Khrushchev: The Years in Power, Oxford, 1977.
Ronald L. Meek, 'Malthus - Yesterday and Today', Science & Society 18 (1954), 21-51 (taken largely from his Introduction to Marx and Engels on Malthus, N. Y., International Publishers pb, 1954.
I. V. Michurin, Selected Works, Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1949.
Alan G. Morton, Soviet Genetics, Lawrence & Wishart, 1951.
H. S. Muller, 'It Still Isn't a Science', Bull Atomic Scientists 12 (1948), 369-71 (The May and Aug. issues are largely devoted to the Lysenko controversy; see also Sat. Rev. Lit. for articles by Muller - 4 and 11 Dec. 1948 and 16 Apr. 1949.)
Erik Nordenskiold, The History of Biology: A Survey, N. Y., Knopf, 1928.
A. P. Ogurstov, 'Perspectives on Practice as a Philosophical Category', Soviet Stud. Philos. 7 (Summer 1968), 264-5.
[N. W. Pirie], Report on the Lysenko Controversy, Association of Scientific Workers pamphlet, 1951.
Sidney Ploss, Conflict and Decision-Making in Soviet Russia: A Case Study of Agricultural Policy, 1953-1963, Princeton pb, 1965.
Brian Pollitt, Typescript draft on economic debates in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, making analogies to Cuba in the 1960s, MS 1970 or 1971.
Brian Pollitt, 'Some Notes on Soviet Economic Debate in the 1920s', Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 129, Oct., 1971.
James A. Rogers, 'Darwinism, Scientism and Nihilism', Russian Rev. 19 (1960), 10-23.
James A. Rogers, 'Charles Darwin and Russian Scientists', Russian Rev. 19 (1960), 371-383.
Nathan Rosenberg, 'Marx as a Student of Technology', Monthly Rev. 28 no. 3 (Jul/Aug. 1976), 56-77.
Nathan Rosenberg, 'Karl Marx on the Economic Role of Science', J. Pol. Econ. 82 (1974), 713-728.
D. M. Ross, Review of Julian Huxley's Soviet Genetics and World Science, Mod. Quart. (Autumn 1950), 371-376.
Alfred Schmidt, The Concept of Nature in Marx (1962), New Left Books, 1972.
George Bernard Shaw, 'The Lysenko Muddle', Labour Monthly, Jan. 1949.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (1973), Collins/Harvill Press, 1974; also Fontana pb.
Joseph V. Stalin, 'On the Grain Front' (1928), in his Problems of Leninism, Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1953, pp. 247-259.
Gareth Stedman Jones, 'Engels and the End of Classical German Philosophy', New Left Rev. 79 (May/June 1973), 17-36.
Gareth Stedman Jones, ’Engels and the Genesis of Marxism’, New Left Rev. 106 (Nov/Dec 1977), 79-104.
V. N. Stoletov, The Fundamentals of Michurin Biology, Moscow, Foreign Languages, 1953.
Paul M. Sweezy, 'Bettleheim on Revolution from Above: the USSR in the 1920s' Monthly Rev. 29 no. 5 (Oct. 1977),1-18.
Anthea Symonds, 'Lysenko - An Attempted Scientific Revolution', B.Sc. Dissertation, University of Bath School of Humanities and Social Sciences, June 1976, pp. 50.
Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (1961), revised ed., Penguin pb, 1977
US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service The Central Nervous System and Behaviour. Translations from the Russian Medical Literature, Bethesda, Maryland, Russian Scientific Translation Program, National Institutes of Health, 1950, esp. articles on philosophy of biology and theory in genetics by Frolov, Nuzhdin, Petrov, Turbin and Zhukov-Verezhnikov.
Lazar Volin, A Survey of Soviet Russian Agriculture, Washington DC, 1951.
Lazar Volin, A Century of Russian Agriculture. from Alexander II to Khrushchev, Harvard, 1970.
Alexander Vucinich, Science in Russian Culture, 1861-1917, Stanford, 1970.
Gary Werskey, 'Science and Ideology in the Soviet Union' (essay review of Joravsky's he Lysenko Affair), Brit. J. Hist. Sci. 8 (1975), 240-244.
Gary Werskey, 'On the Reception of Science at the Cross Roads in England' in N. I. Bukharin et. al., Science at the Cross Roads: Papers Presented to the International Congress of the History of Science and Technology . . . by the Delegates of the USSR (1931), 2nd ed., Cass, 1971, esp. essays by Bukharin, Hessen, Colman, Rubenstein and Zavadovsky (the last re: evolution and the rest re: conceptions of science, technology and society).
Gustav Wetter, Dialectical Materialism. A Historical and Systematic Study of Philosophy in the Soviet Union (1952), revised ed. Routledge, 1958.
Gustav Wetter, 'Ideology and Science in the Soviet Union: Recent Developments', in Richard Pipes (ed.), The Russian Intelligentsia, N. Y., Columbia, 1961, pp. 141-163 (originally appeared in Summer 1960 issue of Daedalus).
Sarah S. White, The Reception in Russia of Darwinian Doctrines Concerning Evolution PhD Dissertation, Imperial College of Science and Technology, London University, 1968.
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, Oxford pb, 1977.
Robert M. Young, 'Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory', Past & Present 43 (May 1969), 109-145.
Robert M. Young, 'Evolutionary Biology and Ideology: Then and Now', Science Studies 1 (1971), 177-206; reprinted with revisions in Watson Fuller (ed.), The Biological Revolution: Social Good or Social Evil?, N. Y., Anchor pb, 1972, pp. 241-282.
Robert M. Young, 'Evolutionary Biology and Ideology', Proceedings of XIIIth International Congress of the History of Science, Moscow, August 18-24, 19 71, Moscow: Editions 'Naouka', 1974, Sect. I, pp. 215-222.
Robert M. Young, 'The Historiographic and Ideological Contexts of the Nineteenth Century Debate on Man's Place in Nature', in M. Teich & R. M. Young (eds.), Changing Perspectives in the History of Science: Essays in Honour of Joseph Needham, Heinemann Educational, 1973; Dordrecht, Holland, D. Reidel, 1973, pp. 344-438.
Robert M. Young, 'Who Cares about Objectivity? – and Why', revised typescript of talk at Imperial College of Science and Technology in series on 'Science, Technology and Ideology' Nov. 1976.
Robert M. Young 'Marxism and Science', revised typescript of talk at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts in series on 'Marxism and Culture: the Politics of Form, Nov. 1976.
Robert M Young, 'Sociobiology of the Struggle for Existence versus the Struggle for Socialism’, revised typescript of talk at the Communist University of London course on ‘Science and Ideology’, July 1977.
Robert M. Young, 'Science, the Labour Process and Everyday Life', revised typescript of talk at North East London Polytechnic, Nov. 1977.
Edward Yoxen, The Social Impact of Molecular Biology, PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1978.
Conway Zirkle (ed.), Death of a Science in Russia: the Fate of Genetics as Described in Pravda and Elsewhere. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1949.
Conway Zirkle, Evolutionism, Marxian Biology and the Social Scene, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania, 1959.
Reprinted from Radical Science Journal No. 6/7: 81-105, 1978.
Copyright: The Author
Address for Correspondence: 26 Freegrove Road, London N7 9RQ; email@example.com