Lenin As Philosopher

By Anton Pannekoek

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(1873 - 1960)

Antonie “Anton” Pannekoek (2 January 1873 – 28 April 1960) was a Dutch astronomer, philosopher, Marxist theorist, and socialist revolutionary. He was one of the main theorists of council communism (Dutch: radencommunisme). (From: Wikipedia.org.)

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10 Chapters | 40,517 Words | 255,088 Characters

The Russian Revolution was fought under the banner of Marxism. In the years of propaganda before the First World War the Bolshevist Party came forward as the champion of Marxist ideas and tactics. It worked along with the radical tendencies in the socialist parties of Western Europe, which were also steeped in Marxian theory, whereas the Menshevist Party corresponded rather to the reformist tendencies over here. In theoretical controversies the Bolshevist authors, besides the so-called Austrian and Dutch schools of Marxism, came forward as the defenders of rigid Marxist doctrines. In the Revolution the Bolshevists, who now had adopted the name of Communist Party, could win because they put up as the leading principle of their fight the clas... (From: Marxists.org.)
The evolution of Marx’s ideas into what is now called Marxism can be understood only in connection with the social and political developments of the period in which they arose. It was the time when industrial capitalism made its entry into Germany. This brought about a growing opposition to the existing aristocratic absolutism. The ascending bourgeois class needed freedom of trade and commerce, favorable legislation, a government sympathetic to its interests, freedom of press and assembly, in order to secure its needs and desires in an unhampered fight. Instead it found itself confronted with a hostile regime, an omnipotent police, and a press censorship which suppressed every criticism of the reactionary government. The struggle betw... (From: Marxists.org.)
Returning now to the political scene out of which Marxism emerged, it must be noted that the German revolution of 1848 did not bring full political power to the bourgeoisie. But after 1850 capitalism developed strongly in France and Germany. In Prussia the Progressive Party began its fight for parliamentarism, whose inner weakness became evident later when the government through military actions met the demands of the bourgeoisie for a strong national State. Movements for national unity dominated the political scene of Central Europe. Everywhere, with the exception of England where it already held power, the rising bourgeoisie struggled against the feudal absolutist conditions. The struggle of a new class for power in State and society is ... (From: Marxists.org.)
Middle-class materialism, when it came up in Western Europe in connection with the fight of the middle class for emancipation, was inevitable in practice; but as theory it was a retrogression compared with Historical Materialism. Marx and Engels were so far ahead that they saw it only as a backsliding into obsolete ideas of the 18th-century enlightenment. Because they saw so very clearly the weaknesses of the bourgeois political fight in Germany – while underrating the vitality of the capitalist system – they did not give much attention to the accompanying theory. Only occasionally they directed at it some contemptuous words, to refute any identification of the two kinds of materialism. During their entire lifetime their attenti... (From: Marxists.org.)
In the later part of the 19th century, middle-class society [1] turned away more and more from materialism. The bourgeoisie, through the development of capitalism, asserted its social mastery; but the rise of the working-class movements proclaiming as its aim the annihilation of capitalism, led to misgivings as to the durability of the existing social system. World and future appeared full of unsolvable problems. Since the visible, material forces threatened mischief, the ruling class, to quiet its apprehensions and assure its self-reliance, turned to the belief in the superior rule of spiritual powers. Mysticism and religion gained the upper hand, and still more so in the 20th century, after the First World War. Natural scientists form a ... (From: Marxists.org.)
The title of Lenin’s work Materialism and Empirio-Criticism imposes the necessity to treat here the Zürich philosopher Richard Avenarius, because empirio-criticism was the name he gave to his doctrine, in many parts touching upon Mach’s views. In his chief work Kritik der reinen Erfahrung (Criticism of pure experience) he starts from simple experience, considers carefully what is certain about it, and then tests critically what man derived and assumed about the world and himself, what is tenable and justifiable in it and what is not. In the natural world view, he explains, I find the following things. I find myself with thoughts and feelings within a surrounding world; to these surroundings belong fellow-men acting and spe... (From: Marxists.org.)
How Mach’s idea could acquire importance in the Russian socialist movement, may be understood from social conditions. The young Russian intelligentsia, owing to the barbarous pre-capitalist conditions, had not yet, as in Western Europe, found its social function in the service of a bourgeoisie. So it had to aspire for the downfall of Czarism, and to join the socialist party. At the same time it stood in spiritual intercourse with the Western intellectuals and so took part in the spiritual trends of the Western world. Thus it was inevitable that efforts should be made to combine them with Marxism. Of course Lenin had to oppose these tendencies. Marxian theory, indeed, can gain nothing essential from Mach. Insofar as a better understan... (From: Marxists.org.)
The concordance of Lenin and Plechanov in their basic philosophical views and their common divergence from Marxism points to their common origin out of the Russian social conditions. The name and garb of a doctrine or theory depend on its spiritual descent; they indicate the earlier thinker to whom we feel most indebted and whom we think we follow. The real content, however, depends on its material origin and is determined by the social conditions under which it developed and has to work. Marxism itself says that the main social ideas and spiritual trends express the aims of the classes, i.e. the needs of social development, and change with the class struggles themselves. So they cannot be understood isolated from society and class struggle... (From: Marxists.org.)
The publication first of a German, then of an English translation of Lenin’s work shows that it was meant to play a wider role than its function in the old Russian party conflict. It is presented now to the younger generation of socialists and communists in order to influence the international workers’ movement. So we ask what can the workers in capitalist countries learn from it? Of the refuted philosophical ideas it gives a distorted view; and under the name of Marxism another theory, middle class materialism is expounded. It does not aim at bringing the reader to a clear independent judgment in philosophical questions; it intends to instruct him that the Party is right, and that he has to trust and to follow the party leaders... (From: Marxists.org.)
hr class="infobot" size="1" noshade="noshade" /> Some additional remarks to Anton Pannekoek’s recent criticism of Lenin’s book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism Leninism Ges West There is a striking contrast between the impression produced in the minds of West-European revolutionaries by those short pamphlets of Lenin and Trotsky which appeared in poorly translated and poorly printed editions during the final stage and the aftermath of the war, and the response called forth in Europe and U.S.A. by the belated appearance, in 1927, of the first extra-Russian versions of Lenin’s philosophical work of 1908, on Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Those earlier pamphlets on The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tas... (From: Marxists.org.)

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