Marxism and Human Liberation

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Marxism and Human Liberation

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MARXISM AND HUMAN LIBERATION

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MARXISM AND HUMAN LIBERATION ESSAYS ON HISTORY, CULTURE AND REVOLUTION /

BY GEORG LUKACS

Edited and with an Introduction by E. SAN J UAN, JR.

A DEL T A B O O K

1?73

A DELTA BOOK Published by DELL PUBLISHING CO., INC. l Dag Hammarskfold Plaza New York, N.Y. 10017 Copyright © 1 973 by E. San Juan, Jr. ' All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in connection with reviews written specifically for inclusion in a magazine or newspaper. Delta® TM 7551 1 8, Dell Publishing Co., Inc. Designed by Judith Lerner Printed in the United States of America Second Printing

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to acknowledge kind permission to reprint the selections included in this book, as follows: m

"The Old Culture and the New Culture" originally published Telos, No. 5, Spring i970. Used by permission of Telos.

"\Vhat Is Orthodox M arxism ?" translated by Michael H arrington, originally published in The New International. Used by permission of Michael H arrington. "Technology and Social Relations" originally published in New Lefr Review. Used by permission of New Lefr Review. "Reflections on the Cult of Stalin" originally published in Survey, No. 47. Used by permission of Survey, published by Oxford Uni­ versity Press. "Reflections on the Sino-Soviet Dispute" translated by Lee Bax­ andall. Used by permission of the translator. "Lenin:

Theoretician

of Practice"

translated by

Mari

Kuttna­

Winton, originally published in The New Hungarian Quarterly, No. 40. Used by permission of The New Hungarian Quarterly. "Idea and Form in Literature" originally published in Masses and Mainstream, December i949. Used by permission of New Outlook, Publishers and Distributors. "Walter Scott and the Historical Novel" originally published International

Literature

m

( now defunct ) . Used by permission of

Foreign Literature Magazine. "Dostoevsky" translated by Rene Wellek, from DOSTOEVSKY: A COLLECTION OF CRITICAL ES SAYS edited by Rene Wellek, v

238920

ACKNO \VLEDGMENTS

copyright© i962. Used by permission of Prentice-Hall, Inc., Engle­ wood Cliffs, New Jersey. "Solzhenitsyn and the New Realism" from SOLZHENITSYN by Georg Lukacs. Translation copyright© i970 by The M erlin Press. Used by permission of The M IT Press, Cambridge, M assachusetts and The Merlin Press, Ltd., London, England. "Lessing's Minna Von Bamhelri-i" originally published in Interna­ tional Social Science Iournal, Vol. XIX, i 967. Used by permission of Unesco. "Existentialism" from PHILOSOPHY FOR THE FUTURE: THE QUEST OF MODERN MATERIALISM by R. W. Sellars, V. J. McGill & M. Farber. Copyright i949 by The Macmillan Company. Used by permission of the publisher. "On the

Responsibility of

Intellectuals"

translated

by

Severin

Schurger, originally published in Telos, No. 2, Spring i969. Used by permission of Telos. "The Ideology of Modernism" from REALISM IN OUR TIME by Georg Lukacs, translated from the German by John and Necke M ander. English translation under title "The Meaning of Contem­ porary Realism," copyright � i962 by The Merlin Press, Ltd. Re­ printed by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers and Merlin Press, Ltd. "The Twin Crises" originally published in New Left Review. Used by permission of New Left Review.

vi

Contents

Introduction PART 1

ix

THEORY AND PRACTICE

1

The Old Culture and the New Culture What Is Orthodox Marxism? Technology and Social Relations Reflections on the Cult of Stalin Reflections on the Sino-Soviet Dispute Lenin-Theoretician of Practice PART

rr

AESTHETICS AND LITERARY CRITICISM

Idea and Form in Literature Walter Scott and the Historical Novel Dostoevsky Solzhenitsyn and the New Realism Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm PART rn

PROBLE MS AND PERSPECTIVES

Existentialism On the Responsibility of Intellectuals The Ideology of Modernism The Twin Crises Selected Bibliography

Lukacs' Writings in English Translation Studies and Critiq ues of Lukacs vii

109 132 179 i98 224

Introduction

Since the publication of the American editions of The Histori­ cal Novel ( i963) and Studies in European Realism ( i964), the name of Georg Lukacs ceased to be unknown, especially due to the accelerating interest in Marxism in the English­ speaking world. Thomas Mann considered Lukacs the most important literary critic of his day, while Jean-Paul Sartre con­ siders him a significant modem philosopher. Eminent American and English critics like Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Herbert Read, George Steiner, Roy Pascal and others, invariably ac­ knowledge Lukacs to be the most important Marxist philoso­ pher and literary critic in the first half of the twentieth century. For those still unacquainted with Lukacs and his ideas, this collection of his essays has been designed as a Lukacs reader, and seeks to represent his thinking in as many fields as pos­ sible, subject to the accessibility of English translations. Georg Lukacs was born in Budapest, Hungary on April i3, i885. In his youth he was exposed to the dominant intellectual currents of his time: neo-Kantianism, romantic vitalism, and the theories expounded in the works of Dilthey, Simmel, and Max Weber. In i902 he joined the Revolutionary Socialist Students of Budapest club where he absorbed anarcho-syndi­ calist ideas and further nourished his speculative idealism. In i907, at the University of Berlin, he completed his doctoral dissertation on the metaphysics of tragedy. In igo8 he pub­ lished his first major work, the two-volume A modern drama fejlodesenek tortenete (History of the Evolution of the Modern Drama). 1

See Howe, Kazin, Read, Steiner and Kettle in the Bibliography. ix

INTRODUCTION

Meanwhile Lukacs began studying the writings of Marx and Engels, in particular the first volume of Capital. A work from this early period, Die Seele und die Farnum, i911 (The Soul and the Forms), however, characteristically addressed itself to an inquiry about what aesthetic forms are appropriate for the expression of a wide spectrum of contemporary thought and feeling. In i916 Lukacs published Die Theorie des Romans (The Theory of the Novel) in which he tried to apply a form of neo-Kantianism, given a historical dimension, in the investiga­ tion of specific aesthetic problems. However, he continued to pursue a mode of thinking which could be called phenomeno­ logical idealism-the theory that cognition of ultimate reality proceeds through an act of immediate mental intuition. In cer­ tain aspects of his early writings, Lukacs worked within the framework of the Hegelian assumption of a self-activating proc­ ess inherent in the dialectical motion of the Spirit unfolding in history. Moving away from an implicit allegiance to the German philosopher Dilthey, whose "hermeneutic" or interpretive method was still essentially neo-Kantian in its concern with meaning or signification, Lukacs reached the Hegelian stand­ point of objective idealism-that is, the Spirit realized itself progressively by objectifying itself in the accumulating his­ torical experience of mankind. By way of Dilthey's emphasis on human culture (Geistes­ wissenschaft ) as a realm independent from natural science, Lukacs attained an all-encompassing historical outlook which surpassed his early fascination with neo-Kantianism, Sorel, aestheticism, and Kierkeg_aard's irrationalism-the cultural milieu at the turn of the century. Lukacs' primary revolt was against positivism, an offshoot of the Kantian agnosticism re­ garding the nature of ultimate reality, and its bifurcation of reality into the irreconcilable spheres of fact and of value. Events soon persuaded Lukacs that the separation of the world of the intellect from the political world was unworkable and problematic. Out of disillusionment during World War I, followed by the hope created by _the i917 October Revolution, x

INTRODUCTION

Lukacs joined the Communist Party of Hungary in December i9 18, after the bourgeois democratic revolution that November. The eventual collapse of this government led to the establish­ ment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in March i919, and Lukacs was appointed Deputy People's Commissar for Public Education in the Bela Kun government. The short-lived Soviet ended on August I, i919, and Lukacs fled to exile, first in Austria then in Germany and Russia.2 This political involvement demonstrated to Lukacs that man need not only passively reflect on happenings or material cir­ cumstances before him, he can also transfo1m them. For the Hegelian, the essential nature of man is unfolded in the totality of history-the dynamic objectification of the World­ Spirit. Lukacs' commitment to Marxism, however, stood Hegel on his feet and conceived man not only as the interpreter but also the maker of history-to paraphrase Marx's eleventh thesis on Feuerbach. The peculiar synthesis of Hegel and Marx in Lukacs' dialec­ tic is explored in the series of essays he wrote while in exile in Vienna, later collected in History and Class Consciousness ( i923). Here he argued that the proletariat performs the role of the Hegelian World-Spirit-the proletariat's class conscious­ ness included the knowledge of the concrete totality of society and with it the practice required of it as a historic agency of progressive change. By making the proletariat the identical subject-object in history by virtue of its class consciousness, Lukacs effected the "materialization" of Hegelian philosophy, unifying theory and practice, consciousness and reality. He accomplished this of . course by way of Marx and Lenin. In reducing Marxism solely to the dialectical method, however, Lukacs was condemned 2 See R. L. Tokes, Bela Kun and the Hungarian Soviet Republic ( New York: Frederick Praeger, i967) and Victor Zitta, Georg Lukacs' Marxism: Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution ( The Hague: Nijhoff, i964). For the i956 Hungarian uprising, see F. A. Vali, Rift and Revolt in Hungary ( Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, i961) and T. Aczel and T. Meray, The Revolt of the Mind ( New York, Frederick Praeger, i959).

xi

INTRODUCTION

by the Third International (Comintern) in 1924 for being a "revisionist" and by the Soviets for rejecting Engels and sub­ stituting Hegelian idealism. From then on, Lukacs has been identified with the Hegelianized brand of Marxism which he tried later on to correct by tactical repudiations and recanta­ tions, especially in the autobiographical piece of 1933, "My Road to Marx," and recently in the 1967 preface to the new edition of History and Class Consciousness. Between 1923 and 1929, Lukacs wrote occasional essays on such figures as Lenin and Moses Hess. He then sponsored the 1929 Blum Theses, advocating a democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants for Hungary, as a transitional stage to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Severely censured by the Comintern for this proposal, Lukacs retired to Moscow and undertook research at the Marx-Engels Institute. While working in Moscow in 1930 Lukacs had the oppor­ tunity to read Marx's i844 Economic and Philosophical Manu­ scripts. This enabled him, he claims, to purge himself of the residual idealistic prejudices of his early writings, in particular the utopian messianism of his youth and the ultra-left sub­ jectivist activism of the period in which he wrote History and Class Consciousness. After a brief sojourn in Germany, Lukacs returned to Moscow and stayed in the Soviet Union from 1933 to 1944- He returned to Hungary at the end of the war. The climax of Lukacs' political career came with the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, heralded by the liberalization of the regime in the wake of Khrushchev's February 1956 speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Co�munist Party of the Soviet Union attacking Stalin. Lukacs served as Minister of Culture in lmre Nagy's short-lived government. When the revolution was suppressed, Lukacs was deported to Rumania but was allowed to return to Budapest in April 1957· Since the publication of History and Class Consciousness in 1923 up to 1965, Lukacs had been co�tinually denounced and abused by doctrinaire Party functionaries. He was ex­ pelled from his chair at the University of Budapest and from the Communist Party for his participation in the Hungarian xii

INTRODUCTION

revolt. In i958, the leading Party philosopher Bela Fogarasi attacked Lukacs for playing down materialism and miscon­ struing Hegel's concept of labor which implies the spiritual self-development of the Absolute Idea.3 By ignoring the fact that the dialectical method can be based on either materialism or idealism, Lukacs-according to Fogarasi-consistently re­ fused to assume a working-class or socialist position and thus often regressed to his early bourgeois-idealist deviation. There is enough convincing evidence to support this accu­ sation, as George Lichtheim suggests in his recent appraisal of Lukacs.4 In i938 Lukacs completed a book on Hegel (pub­ lished in i948 ) in which he argued the case of a direct influ­ ence of Hegel on Marx. This sustained passion for Hegel, however, is qualified by Lukacs' attack against idealism mani­ festing itself in existentialism and in other irrationalist meta­ physical ideologies (see the selections "Existentialism" "On the Responsibility of Intellectuals," and "The Ideology of Modernism"). What accounts for Lukacs' constant invocation of the dia­ lectical method as the kernel of Marxism-Leninism and his consistent efforts to elucidate problems in terms of "totality" and "mediation" is the major preoccupation of his life which underlies all his writings, namely, the struggle to unify theory and practice, man and the world. In the i967 preface to History and Class Consciousness, Lukacs expressed his lifelong pre­ occupation with the need to combine intense political activism and his ethical interests. Ethics founded on praxis, political action and ultimately economics determined his quest for a world outlook-Marxism-to resolve the capitalist predicament of alienation, economic crisis and exploitation. Lukacs explains in the i967 preface how his utopian mes­ sianism and radical sectarianism were tempered by the realistic demands of his function in the Soviet Republic of Hungary 3

See Fogarasi, Revai, Horvath and Hobsbawm in the Bibliography. Lichtheim's "immanent criticism" may be supplemented by other negative commentaries: see Deutscher, Demetz, Nichols and Sontag in the B ibliography. 4

xiii

INTRODUCTION

in i919 and the practical exigencies of Party work. Soon he discovered that to overcome the purely contemplative nature of bourgeois thought, it was necessary to affirm the "ontological objectivity of nature" upon which real praxis, social labor, is based. Lacking this materialist grounding, one relapses into idealistic scholasticism. Affirming the fundamental Marxist category of labor as the mediator of interaction between society and nature, Lukacs goes on to rectify his mistake: Marx's great insight that "even production for the sake of production means nothing more than the development of the productive energies of man, and hence the develop­ ment of the wealth of human nature as an end in itself" lies outside the terrain which History and Class Conscious­ ness is able to explore. Capitalist exploitation thus loses its objective revolutionary aspect and there is a failure to grasp the fact that "although this evolution of the species Man is accomplished at first at the expense of the majority of individual human beings and of certain human classes, it finally overcomes this antagonism and coincides with the evolution of the particular individual. Thus the higher development of individuality is only purchased by a historical process in which individuals are sacrificed." In consequence, my account of the contradictions of capital­ ism as well as of the revolutionization of the proletariat is unintentionally colored by an overriding subjectivism.5 The primary motivation of all Lukacs' writings can be de­ scribed as the need to transcend and resolve the subject-object dualism (illustrated in the opposing schools of idealism and materialism) in concrete social practice-the revolutionary struggle of the proletar1at. In renouncing positivism, scientism and mechanistic materialism, Lukacs formulated a theory of history intended to solve the essentially moral problem of the relation of theory to practice. Such a theory of history is fundamentally Marxist in identifying the stages of social devel5

History and Class Consciousness ( London edition), pp. xvii -xviii.

xiv

INTRODUCTION

opment based on the mode of production and in defining the proletariat as the historic agency of historical development in the capitalist era. The understanding of history as man's self-creation, of the socio-historical process as the embodiment of theory and prac­ tice fused together, informs Lukacs' culminating achievement, Die Eigenart des Asthetischen, 1963 (The Specific Nature of the Aesthetic). Art is for Lukacs the specific product of the aesthetic mode of perception arising from man's practical interaction with objective reality. In the i844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx had already pointed out that art testifies to man's successful striving to objectify the senses and to release them from direct dependence on reality.6 From this insight that artistic creation is part of the process whereby man transforms his world and himself through his own physi­ cal-mental labor, Lukacs elaborates the view that art reflects the concrete totality of the world by connecting its essential features \vith man's socially conditioned, developing species­ needs. What distinguishes art from the two other forms of human response to the world, religion and science, is the principle of mimesis that makes the work of art autonomous and anthro­ pocentric. The work of art is autonomous because it imposes a distance between the reality it reflects and the shaped struc­ ture or form of its reflection. What constitutes form is the human content of the work of art derived from within man and from nature. The work of art is anthropocentric because in reflecting the concrete structures of reality, the sensuous material world of nature and society, it expresses the totality of the relationship of man, nature and society in the given historical period. Using the concept of mimesis to indicate the universal appeal of art as reflection of reality, Lukacs defines art as 6 Page 140 and following, in t he volume edited by D. J. Struik ( New York: International Publishers, 1964). •

xv

INTRODUCTION

the identical subject-object of the artistic process. While capturing the essential characteristics of the socio-historical world, art articulates the self-consciousness of the human spe­ cies. Founded on the sensory apperception of the world, the work of art achieves typicality in harmonizing the facts of immediate experience within the limits of organic form. The artist who shapes significant form, fashions a mirror image of an objective realm of values. Contrary to the view that Lukacs aesthetics opens the way to an anarchic plurality of forms and a value-free eclecticism patterned after Aristotle, it must be stressed that Lukacs' belief in realism as the only valid principle and style of artistic composition is based on the cardinal Marxian tenet of laws governing the historical development of society.7 If in realism there is a plausible and sensitive embodiment of the most decisive tendencies and crucial issues of the times in the characters and their actions, this will reflect the int�rlocked forces in the class struggle as well as the negative and positive forces of any socio-historical event. Whether it be bourgeois critical realism-Balzac, Tolstoy, Mann-or socialist realism­ Gorky, Solzhenitsyn-it achieves a balance between the sur­ fac;e density of appearances ("photographic naturalism") and the abstract subjectivity of man as portrayed in expressionist literature and its devices of allegory, myth and symbolism. In other words, historical materialism underlies Lukacs' convic­ tion that realism truthfully represents the inner contradictions of any society. It will be clear on further examination how Lukacs' con­ ception of mimesis and realism logically follow from his ad­ herence to the primacy of the dialectical method, just as his critique of Stalin's bureaucratic sectarianism springs from Lukacs' concern that mediating factors between consciousness and reality should not be obscured but must instead be incor­ porated and clarified in the synthesis of knowledge and action. 7 This is clearly insisted upon in some of Lukacs' other essays; see for example, "Propaganda or Partisanship?," "On Socialist Realism" and "Introduction to a Monograph on Aesthetic�. "

xvi

INTRODUCTION

The single most attractive quality that pervades most of Lukacs' writings-except the obviously polemical and pro­ grammatic-is the open-minded and discriminating response to a wide variety of artistic tastes, canons and standards which he examines within the framework of his unshakable adherence to .Marxism-Leninism. 8 For example, Lukacs feels that Kafka and Brecht, of whom he is highly critical, have something constructive and positive to offer-Kafka in his satire on capitalist-bourgeois alienation and Brecht in his powerful de­ lineation of man's place in world history. Lukacs also thinks that Proust, Thomas Wolfe, Dostoevsky, O'Neill and other modernists have merit insofar as they artistically reveal the profound human problems of their age and, through their own creations, brought another level of human consciousness to bear upon the historical process. For Lukacs, the real vocation of all the arts is "the under­ standing and explanation of the great human problems of any period. " And for him the main business of the critic is to elucidate "the relation between ideology (in the sense of Weltanschauung ) and artistic creation. " 9 Of course such prob­ lems are to be conceived in the .Marxist perspective which illumines the direction of the revolutionary transformation of society in any given historical epoch. But Lukacs chooses not to argue from any dogmatic "Party-minded" position and is willing to engage any man in constructive dialogue, in system­ atic and thorough discussion of man's most urgent con­ temporary dilemmas. The main trend in the world today, as Mao Tse-tung puts it, is the triumph of the proletarian revolution in the capitalist countries and the victory of the national-liberation struggle of oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The 8 In addition to "The Twin Crises," see the following interviews: "Stalinism and A rt," "Interview with Stephen Spender" and "At Home with Gy orgy Lukacs." 9 See in particular his essays "Art and Objective Truth" and "Marx and Engels on Aesthetics," in Writer and Critic and Other Essays.

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INTRODUCTION

writings of Georg Lukacs, who died in Budapest on June 4, 1971, reflect this trend in the world. Critics have invariably pointed out the universal relevance and immediacy of his thought vis-a-vis worldwide issues. The French philosopher Lucien Goldmann has convincingly argued that Lukacs' think­ ing in the twenties expressed practically all the major themes and problems that later manifested themselves in existential­ ism (Sartre, Merleau-Ponty), phenomenology, sociology of knowledge (Mannheim), critical theory (Marcuse, Adorno), structuralism, Christian-Marxist dialogue, New Left, Hegelian radicalism and futurist or utopian extrapolations. It is important to note that the central question of Marx's derivation from Hegelian philosophy, which today preoccupies scholars and revolutionary thinkers throughout the world, was first formu­ lated and explored by Lukacs in his 1923 work History and Class Consciousness. There is no question that Lukacs' influ­ ence has been profound and extensive, assuming complex dialectical forms in the realms of philosophy, literary criticism, aesthetics and ideological speculation. For more than half a century, Lukacs' seminal thought continuously generated anal­ yses of man's concrete historical reality which endeavor to synthesize what is generally recognized as the classic human­ ist-rationalist heritage of Western civilization with the clearly realizable prospects for material and spiritual liberation offered by socialism. Whether one agrees with Lukacs' views or not, there is no doubt that with the passage of time Lukacs will indeed prove to be one of the most brilliant and influential figures in the intellectual life of the twentieth century.

xviii

PART I

T H E ORY AND P R AC T I CE

The Old Culture and the New Culture Originally published as "Alte und neue Kultur," in Kommunismus, I, 1920; English translation by Paul Breines, published in 1970.

early essay, Lukacs develops the Marxist critique of culture as an ideological superstructure de­ termined by the economic base or man's mode of production in a given socio-economic formation. Cul­ ture is defined as whatever can be dispensed with in relation to the immediate maintenance of life. Culture is possible, says Lukacs, only when production is a unified and self-contained process whose conditions depend upon the human possibilities and capabilities of the producer. Since capitalism reduces everything to the level of commodity, destroying the inner purpose or aim of any work produced by men, culture in capitalist society degenerates to mere fashion: produc­ tion for an anarchic market. A current of utopian idealism runs through this work which has caused Professor Paul Breines to regard it as a fertile matrix for New Left themes, as discussed in his introduction to this translation. IN THIS

I

The development of society is a unified process. This means that a certain phase of development cannot take place in any area of social life without exerting an impact on all other

3

THEORY

AND

PRACTICE

areas. Through this unity and coherence of social development it is possible to grasp and achieve an understanding of the same process from the standpoint of one social phenomenon or another. Thus, one can speak of culture in its apparent iso­ lation from other social phenomena, for when we correctly grasp the culture of any period, we grasp with it the root of the whole development of the period, just as when we begin with an analysis of the economic relations. In bemoaning the collapse of the capitalist order the bour­ geoisie most often claims that its real concern is with the perishing of culture; it formulates its defense of its class inter­ ests as if the basis of these interests were the eternal values of culture. In contra�t, the starting point of the following set of ideas is the view that the culture of the capitalist epoch had collapsed in itself and prior to the occurrence of economic and political breakdown. Therefore, in opposition to the anxieties [of the bou�geoisie], it is a pressing necessity, pre­ cisely in the interests of culture, in the interest of opening the way to the new culture, to bring the long death process of capitalist society to its completion. If one views the culture of two epochs scientifically the key question is: what are the sociological and economic conditions for the existence of culture? The answers to the question with which one would then ultimately have to begin arise out of these relationships between culture and its social precon­ ditions: what actually is culture? Briefly condensed: the concept of culture (in opposition to civilization) comprises the ensemble of valuable products and abilities which are dispensable in relation to the immediate maintenance of life. For example, the internal and external beauty of a house belongs to the concept of culture in contrast to its durability and protectiveness. So when we ask: what is the social possi­ bility of culture? we have to answer: it is available to those societies in which the primary necessities of life can be met in such a way that in meeting them one does not have to engage in the strenuous labor that consumes all his energy; . where, in other words, free energies are at the disposal of culture. 4 '

THE OLD CULTU"RE AND THE NEW CULTURE

Every old culture was thus the culture of the ruling classes; only they were in a position to place all their valuable abilities in the service of culture, independently of concern for sub­ sistence. Here, as everywhere, capitalism has revolutionized the whole social order. In surpassing the privileges of feudal estates, it also surpassed the cultural privileges of estate society. Specifically, capitalism drove the ruling class itself, the bour­ geoisie, into the service of production.1 The essential differen­ tiating feature of capitalism, in contrast to earlier social orders, is that in it the exploiting class itself is subjugated to the process of production; the ruling class is forced to devote its energies to the struggle for profit just as the proletariat is forced to devote itself to subsistence. (For example, compare the factory director in capitalism to the lord in the period of serfdom.) This claim is apparently contradicted by the pleth­ ora of idlers produced and supported by the capitalist class. Yet our attention should not be diverted from the essence by superficial appearances, for when it comes to culture only the best forces of the ruling class are considered. In precapitalist periods these forces were situated in relations which enabled them to put their abilities in the service of culture while capitalism, in contrast, has made precisely these forces into slaves of production exactly as it has the workers, even though, in material terms, each evaluates the slavery entirely dif­ ferently. Liberation from capitalism means liberation from the rule of the economy. Civilization creates the rule of man over nature but in the process man himself falls under the rule of the very means that enabled him to dominate nature. Capitalism is the zenith of this domination; within it there is no class which, by virtue of its position in production, is called upon to create culture. The destruction of capitalism, i.e., communist society, grasps just these points of the question: communism aims at creating a social order in which everyone is able to live in a way that in precapitalist eras was possible only for the ruling classes and which in capitalism is possible for no class. 1

Engels, Zur Wohnungsfrage.

5

THEORY AND PRACTICE

It is at that point that the history of mankind will actually begin. Just as history in the old sense began with civilization, and men's struggle with nature was placed in the "prehistoric" epoch, so will the history writing of the coming epoch begin the real history of mankind with developed communism. The rule of civilization will then be known as the second "pre­ historic" period.

The most decisive feature of capitalist society, then, is that economic life ceased to be a means to social life: it placed itself at the center, became an end in itself, the goal of all social activity. The first and most important result was that the life of society was transformed into a grand exchange relationship; society itself became a huge market. In the indi­ vidual life experiences this condition expresses itself in the commodity form which clothes every product of the capitalist epoch as well as all the energies of the producers and creators. Everything ceases to be valuable for itself or by virtue of its inner (e.g. , artistic, ethical) value; a thing has value only as a ware bought and sold on the market. No deep analysis is needed to show how destructive this has been of every and all culture. Just as man's independence from the worries of sub­ sistence, that is, the free use of his powers as an end in itself, is the human and social precondition for culture, so all that culture produces can possess real cultural value only when it is valuable for itself. The moment cultural productions become commodities, when they are placed in relationships which transform them into commodities, their autonomy-the pos­ sibility of culture-ceases. Capitalism has attacked the social possibility of culture at its roots at still another point: its relationship to the production of cultural products. We have seen that from the standpoint of the product culture is not possible when the product does not carry its aim within itself. Now, from the standpoint of the relation between the product and its producer, culture is possible only when production is a unified and se1f-contained 6

THE OLD CULTURE AND THE NEW CULTURE

process; a process whose conditions depend upon the human possibilities and capabilities of the producer. The most char­ acteristic example of such a process is the art work in which the whole genesis of the work is exclusively the result of the artist's labor and each element of the work is conditioned by his individual qualities. In the precapitalist eras this artistic spirit dominated the whole industry. At least in regard to the human character of the process, the printing of a book was as little separated from its writing as the painting of a picture was from the preparation of a table. Capitalist production, however, not only wrests property in the means of production from workers but, as a result of the always expanding and increasingly specialized division of labor, it so fragments and divides the developmental process of the product that no part is in itself meaningful or self-contained. No individual worker's labor is in immediate and perceptible linkage with the finished product: the latter has meaning only for the abstract calcula­ tion of the capitalists, that is, only as a commodity. The inhumanity of this relationship is intensified by the expansion of mc;.i.chine production. For in the division of labor which arose out of manufacturing, where the preparation of the product was highly divided and dismembered, the quality of individual parts was nevertheless decisively conditioned and shaped by the physical and spiritual capacities of the worker, whereas in the developed machine industry every link between the product and producer is abolished. This is so to the point that the pro�uction is exclusively conditioned by the machine: man serves the rrwchine, he adapts to it; production becomes totally independent of the human possibilities and capabilities of the worker.2 Next to the culture-destroying forces-which so far we have 2 Many place this process in t he context of the technical division of labor of mechan ized industry and pose t he question as if such a situation must continue to exist even after the collapse of capitalism. This issue cannot be fu lly discussed here. Suffice it to say that Marx viewed it dif­ ferently. He perceived that t he "efficiency of labor within the factory and the d ivision of labor wit hin society" stand in inverse relation to each other and t hat in a society where one is developed the other regresses and vice versa. ( Karl Marx, Elend der Philosophie. )

7

THEORY AND PRACTICE

observed only from the standpoint of the individual, isolated product and producer-other similar forces are also operative in capitalism. We notice the most important of these when we grasp the relationship of the products to each other. The culture of precapitalist periods was possible because the indi­ vidual cultural products stood in a continuous relation to one another: one developed further the problems raised by its predecessor, etc. Thus the whole culture revealed a certain continuity of gradual and organic development; thus it was possible that in any area a coherent, plain and yet original culture arose, a culture whose level went far beyond that of the highest achievement of isolated, individual capacities. By revolutionizing the process of production, by making the revo­ lutionary character of production permanent through the an­ archy of production, capitalism dissolved the continuous and organic aspects of the old culture. For culture, the revolution­ ization of production means, on the one hand, that the produc­ tion process continuously introduces factors that decisively influence the course and art of production without, however, relating in any way to the essence of the product-a work as an end in itself. (Thus, for example, the purity of materials vanishes from industry and architecture.) On the other hand -as a result of production for the market without which the capitalist revolutionization of production would be unthink­ able-the novel, the sensational and the conspicuous elements assume an importance irrespective of whether they enhance or detract from the true, inner value of the product. The cultural reflection of this revolutionary process is the phe­ nomenon known as fashion, which denotes a concept essentially different from that of culture. The dominance of fashion means that the form and quality of the product placed on the market is altered in short periods of time independently of the beauty or purpose of such alterations. It is of the essence of the market that new things must be produced within definite periods of time, things which must differ radically from those which preceded, and which cannot build upon the previously col­ lected experiences of production. As a result of the speed of 8

THE OLD CULTURE

AND

THE NEW CULTURE

development they cannot be gathered and digested; or, no one wants to base himself on them since the very essence of fashion requires complete deviation from what preceded. Thus every organic development vanishes and in its place steps a directionless hither-thither and an empty but loud dilettantism.

3

The roots of the·crisis of capitalist culture reach still deeper than this. The foundation of its perpetual crisis and internal collapse is the fact that ideology on the one hand and the production and social order on the other enter into irreconcil­ able contradiction. As a necessary result of capitalism's an­ archy of production, the bourgeois class, when struggling for power and when first in power, could have but one ideology: that of individual freedom. The crisis of capitalist culture must appear the moment this ideology is in contradiction with the bourgeois social order. As long as the advancing bourgeois class-in the eighteenth century, for example-directed this ideology against the constraints of feudal estate society, it was an adequate expression of the given state of class struggle. Thus the bourgeoisie in this period was actually able to have a genuine culture. But as the bourgeoisie came to power (beginning with the French Revolution) it could no longer seriously carry through its own ideology; it could not apply the idea of individual freedom to the whole society without the self-negation of the soc'ial order that brought this ideology into being in the first place. Briefly: it was impossible for the bourgeois class to apply its own idea of freedom to the pro­ letariat. The unsurpassable dualism of this situation is the following: the bourgeoisie must either deny this ideology or must employ it as a veil covering those actions which contradict it. In the first case the result would be a total ideallessness, a moral chaos, since by virtue of its position in the production system the bourgeoisie is not capable of producing an ideology other than that of individual freedom. In the second case, the

9

THEORY AND PRACTICE

bourgeoisie faces the moral crisis of an internal lie: it is forced to act against its own ideology. This crisis is intensified by the fact that the principle of freedom itself ends up in irremediable contradiction. We cannot enter here into an analysis of the era of finance capital. We need only mention the fact that the immense "organized­ ness" of production which emerges from this stage of capital­ ism (cartels, trusts) stands in complete contradiction with the dominant idea of early capitalism: free competition. Ii:i the process of social development this idea loses all basis in reality. As the upper sectors of the bourgeoisie, following the essence of finance capital, became natural allies of their former enemies -the agrarian-feudal classes-so did these sectors of the bour­ geoisie look to their new allies for a new ideology. But this attempt to bring ideology back into harmony with the produc­ tion system has to fail: the real foundation of conservative ideologies-the feudal estate divisions and the corresponding production order-was decisively eradicated precisely by cap­ italism's revolutionization of production (which reached its peak in the era of finance capital). Feudalism once possessed a culture of great value and achievement. But this was in a period when feudal estate society prevailed; when the whole of society and production was ruled according to its principles. With the victory of capitalism this social formation was annihilated. The fact that a substantial portion of economic and social power remained in the hands of the once ruling estates did not halt the process by which these estates were capitalized-i.e., assumed capitalist form. The result, for the feudal sectors, was the same contradiction of ideology and production order as emerged for the bourgeoisie, although the expression of this contradiction differed. Thus as the bour­ geoisie in the age of finance capital sought the waters of renewal, it looked to a wellspring that it had itself filled with sand. From the standpoint of culture this opposition between ideology and production order means the following: the foun· dation of the greatness of old cultures (Greek, Renaissance)

10

THE OLD CULTURE AND THE NEW CULTURE

consisted in the fact that ideology and production order were in harmony; the products of culture could organically develop out of the soil of social being. If the greatest cultural works were some distance from the inner world of the average man, there was nevertheless a contact and coherence between them. But more important than the position of cultural products within social life was the fact that the harmony of ideology and the production order made possible the obvious harmony between ideology and the then existing "way of life" [ Lebens­ filhrung] . (That each specific human "way of life" depends on its position in production requires no detailed discussion.) In every social order, however, where the "way of life" and its ideological expression are in natural self-evident harmony, it is then possible for the forms assumed by ideology to find organic expression in the products of culture. This organic unity is possible only under certain conditions. For the relative autonomy of ideological elements from their economic founda­ tions means that as forms ( i.e., according to their formal values and formal validity) these ideological elements are inde­ pendent of the "givens" that are formed by them; the forms of human expression are, in other words, independent of that which is presented to them by the economic and social order prevailing at the time. The material that is formed by these forms can be nothing else but social reality itself. Thus when a fundamental opposition emerges between ideology and the economic order, this opposition appears as follows in relation to our problem : the form and content of cultural expressions enter into contradiction with each other. At this point the organic unity of individual works-the harmonious, joy-impart­ ing essence of particular works-no longer signifies an or­ ganic cultural unity for those living within the culture. For this reason, the culture of capitalism, to the extent that it truly existed, could consist in nothing but the ruthless critique of the capitalist epoch. This critique frequently reached a high level (Zola, Ibsen) but the more honest and valuable it was, the more it had to lose the simple and natural harmony and beauty of the old culture: culture in the true and 11

THEORY AND PRACTICE

literal sense of the word. The contradiction between ideology and productive order, between the form and content of culture appear in all areas of human expression, in the entire realm of cultural material. In this way capitalism-to mention but one very evident example-necessarily produces out of itself, out of its freedom ideology, the idea of man as an end in himself. And it can safely be said that this great idea never received such pure, clear and conscious expression as in the immediately precapitalist years-the period of classical German idealism. Yet no social order has so thoroughly trampled on this idea as capitalism. For example, the commodification of everything did not remain limited to the transformation of all products into commodities; it also passed over into human relations­ one thinks of marriage. Now within this context the inner necessity of the direction of ideology and culture requires that all cultural products proclaim man as an end in himself. On the other hand, the material-that which is formed by the ideological-cultural forms-is a living negat?-on of this very idea. The best poetry of capitalism, for example, could thus not be a simple reflection of its period-as was, for example, Greek poetry whose eternal beauty sprang precisely from this naturally uncritical mirroring-but only a critique of the exist­ ing order. 4

We now turn to the meaning of the communist transforma­ tion of society from the standpoint of culture. It means above all the end of the domination of the economy over the totality of life. It thereby means an end to the impossible and dis­ cordant relation between man and his labor, in which man is subjugated to the means of production and not the other way around. In the last analysis the communist social order means the Aufhebung of the economy as an end in itself. But because the structure of capitalism has so deeply penetrated the menta] world of everyone living within it, this side of the transforma­ tion is only faintly perceived. This is all the more true because 12

THE OLD CULTURE AND THE NEW CULTURE

this side of the transformation, the Aufhebung of the economy as an end in itself, cannot express itself in the surface appear­ ances of life after the seizure of power. Domination over the economy-that is what the socialist economy is-means the Aufhebung of the autonomy of the economy. Previously au­ tonomous, a process with its own laws that are only perceived by human reason but cannot be directed by it,3 the economy now becomes part of state administration, part of a planned process, no longer dominated by its own laws. Yet the final moving force of this unified social process can no longer be of an economic nature. Indeed, appearances also seem to contradict this claim. For it is clear that the reorganization of production is theoretically and practically impossible on other than economic grounds, with economic organs, and economic thought. Beyond this, it goes without saying that, correspond­ ing to the essence of class struggle in the phase of the dictator­ ship of the proletariat-which means the highpoint of class struggle-questions of economic struggle, of reorganizing the economy, are questions that stand in the forefront. But this in no way means that the basic foundation of this process is also of an economic nature. The functional change which the proletarian dictatorship brings to every realm also enters here. During capitalism every ideological moment was only the "superstructure" of the revolutionary process which ultimately led to the collapse of capitalism. Now, in the proletarian dictatorship, this relationship is reversed. I do not mean that the reorganization of the economy becomes merely "super­ structural" (this expression was not the most adequate even in relation to ideology, since it led to countless mis­ understandings), but simply that the priority of the economy dissolves. What speaks against this claim on the surface, 3 T his situation is reflected in the emergence of the school· of "political economy" as an independent science. Preceding its emergence, economic science in the modem sense was impossible; and when the autonomy of the economy is ended, "political economy" as an independent science also dissolves. It is t hus pure capitalist ideology to view t he laws of political economy as eternal, natural laws.

13

THEORY AND PRACTICE

speaks for it if only we take a slightly dialectical view of the situation. In the crisis of capitalist society the ideological component always stood in the foreground of social consciousness. This was not accidental but a result of the necessity that the basic motor forces of development could never entirely enter the consciousness of the masses moved by these forces. The socialist "critique" had an unveiling character in relation to these crises and revolutions: it pointed to the real, fundamental moving forces-the economic process. Thus nothing is more natural than that the standpoint which previously functioned as critique should remain in the foreground with the collapse of capitalism. The question is only whether this functional change has not negated and superseded that which in the earlier function of the socialist critique and historical material­ ism had the character of "final" motive. That such a negation and supersession does occur is natural in light of what pre­ ceded it. For the economic motive can only be the final motive in the case of a disorganization of the whole productive system. Only the moving forces of disorganized production can func­ tion as natural forces, as blind forces, and only as such can they be the final movers of everything; every ideological element either adapts itself to this process ( i.e., becomes superstructural) or vainly opposes it. Thus in capitalism every noneconomic factor is purely ideological. The only exception is the socialist critique of the whole of capitalist society, since it is neither a positive nor negative ideological retinue of indi­ vidual processes but an unveiling of the whole; it is simul­ taneously an unveiling of the totality of the economic process and an effective action toward its transformation. But what is transformed is not only economic disorganization but the accompanying autonomy of economic life, in other words, life under the hegemony of economic motives. When economic life is organized in the direction of socialism, those elements which previously were accoute1ments at best now come to the fore: the inner and outer life of man is dominated by human and no longer by economic motives and impulses.

THE OLD CUL'JURE AND THE NEW CUL'JURE

As we have seen, it is not surprising that the transformation of economic life is more vividly in the forefront of revolutionary consciousness than is that ideological moment through which it is ultimately moved. The process of functional change neces­ sarily enters the consciousness of the proletariat only with its victory. Indeed, among the masses of the proletariat this new consciousness is no more than the continuation of conscious class struggle: previously the essence of class consciousness consisted in the entrance of economic interests into conscious­ ness. The mere transition to the work of socialist construction -whose end result is the functional change analyzed here­ does not touch the proletariat's consciousness of immediate class interests; it is, so to speak, "subconscious" ( unter dem Beu;usstsein ) . Only full class consciousness-which, beyond immediate interests, is conscious of the proletariat's world­ historic mission-brings the functional change into the con­ sciousness of the proletariat.4 This functional change introduces the possibility of a new culture. For just as civilization means man's external domina­ tion of his environment, so is culture man's internal domination of his environment. As civilization creates the means of the domination of nature, so through proletarian culture the means are created for the domination of society. For civilization, and its most developed form, capitalism, has brought to its peak man's slavery to social production, to the economy. And the sociological precondition of culture is man as an end in himself. This precondition, which was present for the ruling classes in precapitalist societies and which capitalism removed from everyone, is created for all with the final phase of proletarian victory. The transformation, this radical reformation of the whole social structure, affects all those phenomena whose cul­ ture-destroying effects we analyzed above. With the socialist organization of the economy, its revolu­ tionary character ceases. In place of the anarchic succession ( resulting from conjuncture), which we characterized by the 4 Cf. Georg Lukacs, "Klassenbewusstsein," Kommunismus, 1 41 is.

THEORY AND PRACTICE

term fashion, there enters organic continuum, genuine develop­ ment: each individual moment follows necessarily out of the substantive preconditions of the preceding moment-and thereby each moment carries with it the solution to the previ­ ously insoluble problems while simultaneously placing a new problem before the moment to follow. The necessary cultural result of such an organic development, one which flows from the essence of things ( and not from conjuncture), is that the level of culture can again supersede the capacities of single isolated individuals. The linkage to another's work, the con­ tinuation of another's work-the second sociological precondi­ tion of culture-again becomes possible. In addition, both cultural products and human relations lose their commodity character. The Aufhebung of commodity relations enables men and cultural products, which under capitalism functioned entirely or primarily within economic relations, to recover their autonomous character. But the possibility of culture, as is well known, requires that an always greater number of forms of human expression becomes more deeply and sharply auton­ omous or, what amounts to the same thing: that they are determined to serve the human essence of man. For the "being ends in themselves" of culture and man are not exclusive but, on the contrary, reciprocally serve and deepen each other. When a particular product ( house, furniture, etc.) is produced not as a commodity but in such a way that its own possibilities of beauty attain the highest possible fulfillment, this means the same as saying: the house or piece of furniture is in the service of man's "humanness" [des Menschseins des Menschen] ; it complies with his demands. Cultural products are no longer produced through an economic process that operates inde­ pendently of each man-a process in which products are abstract commodities and men are mere buyers and sellers. At the same time, the unhealthy specialization of capitalism has to stop. And, in fact, the moment man's interests in pro­ duction are ruled no longer by the abstract effort of buying or selling on the market, but by the unified process of produc­ tion and enjoyment of the now autonomous product-a process 16

THE OLD CULTIJRE AND THE NEW CULTURE

that encompasses the totality of man-at that moment speciali­ zation also undergoes a functional change. In the proletarian society, specialization loses not only its class character but also its alien character in relation to the essence of human life. With the emergence of the product as an end in itself, it will naturally fit into the totality and the final questions of human life. With the Aufhebun g of human isolation and of anarchic individual­ ism, human society will form an organic whole; its parts­ individual members and products-will support and magnify each other in the service of the common goal-the idea of further human development.

5

By posing this goal we reach the essence of the question. If the goal of the new society consisted in the enhancement of mere satisfaction, of man's well-bein g, none of the functional changes would enter the picture; that is, their meaning would be scarcely noticeable. In this case the task of the proletarian state could be fulfilled in the organization of production and distribution, and economic life-with quite different aims, of course-would continue to dominate the human principle. In this case the new development would naturally reach its goals more rapidly and unilaterally: the ends would be achieved with the correct a nd just organization of production and dis­ tribution. Actually, h9wever, in reaching this point the pro­ letarian state has only established the indispensable precondi­ tions for the achievement of its goals. Humanity must still struggle for their realization. The reorganization of the economy is an inescapable require­ ment in the setting of final goals. And this is so not only for the above sociological reasons; that is, it is not as if only contented men are capable of receiving culture. The reason an economic reorganization is absolutely necessary is that be­ cause of the unique structure of human consciousness, imme­ diate evils and miseries-even as they are on a much lower 17

THEORY AND PRACTICE

level than the ultimate questions of human existence-never­ theless, and with only few exceptions, block the ultimate questions from consciousness; the immediate evils and miseries are not by themselves capable of bringing to consciousness the final questions of existence. We can clarify this with a very simple example: someone is racking his brain over a complex scientific problem but during his work he contracts an unre­ lenting toothache. Clearly, in most cases he would be unable to remain in the stream of his thought and work until the immediate pain is relieved. The annihilation of capitalism, the new socialist reconstruction of the economy means the healing of all toothaches for the whole of humanity. Everything which prevents men from dealing with the truly essential problems vanishes from human consciousness: consciousness now stands open to the essential. This example also reveals the limits of the economic transformation. Obviously the toothache must be relieved in order for the work of the mind to be resumed. But it is equally obvious that this work does not resume automatically with the elimination of the pain. For this a new spurt of energy, a new state of mind, a new vitality is required. When all economic misery and pain has vanished, laboring · humanity has not yet reached its goal: it has only created the possibility of beginning to move toward its real goals with renewed vigor. Now, culture is the form of the idea of man's humanness. And culture is thus created by men, not by ex­ ternal conditions. Every transformation of society is therefore only the framework, , only the possibility of free human self­ management and spontaneous creativity. Sociological research must be limited, then, to analysis of the framework. What the culture of proletarian society will be-that is, what it will be substantively, how it will be essen­ tially constituted-is exclusively determined by the powers of the proletariat as they become free. In relation to this process any attempt to say anything in advance would be laughable. Sociological analysis is in a position to do no more than to have shown that this possibility is created by proletarian society and that only the possibility is created. Further details would 18

THE OLD CULTURE AND THE NEW CULTURE

pass beyond the frame of what is presently possible in the way of scientific research; at best one can speak of those cultural values from the old society which may be appropriate to the essence of the new framework and thus which can be adopted and developed further by it. For example, the idea of man as an end in himself-the fundament of the new culture -is the legacy of classical nineteenth-century idealism. The real contribution of the capitalist epoch to the construction of the future consists in its creating the possibilities of its own collapse and in its ruins, even creates the possibilities of the construction of the future. As capitalism produces the eco­ nomic preconditions of its own annihilation, and as it produces the intellectual weapons for the proletarian critique that helps annihilate it (e.g., the relation of Marx to Ricardo), so in philosophy from Kant to Hegel has capitalism produced the idea of a new society whose task is to bring about the destruc­ tion of capitalism.

19

What Is Orthodox M arxism? Originally published as "Was ist orthodoxer Marxismus?" in Geschichte Klassenbewusstsein, Studien iiber marxistische D ialektik, Berlin; Der Malik Verlag, 1923; English translation by Michael Harrington, published 1957.

of fundamental Marxist principles from Lukacs' controversial work History and Class Consciousness ( i923 ) provides a clear orientation to many if not all of his theories and analyses of art, politics and culture. Following the Marxist principle that the "relations of production of a given society form a whole," Lukacs argues that the key to a historical understanding of society depends upon the dialectical method which forms the core of "orthodox Marxism." THIS EXPOSITION

Up until now the philosophers have merely interpreted the world in various fashions; today, the point is to change it. This question, actually a simple one, has become the object of wide discussion, in the bourgeois as well as in the work­ ers' milieu. It has become the scientific fashion to ridicule all pretension of faith in a Marxist orthodoxy. For there is little agreement in the "socialist" camp as to what constitutes the quintessence of Marxism, and what theses one can attack, or even reject, without surrendering the title to "orthodox Marx­ ism. " As a result, it has come to seem more and more non-

20

WHAT IS

ORTHODOX

MAR.XISM?

scientific to make scholastic exegeses of old books as in the tradition of Biblical scholarship, books which the modern criticism has "gone beyond." I t is considered wrong to seek in these texts, and only there, the source of truth. The tendency is to turn toward the study of the "facts," and this "without any prejudices." If these two approaches were the real alternatives, then the best response would be a simple smile of pity. But the ques­ tion isn't as easy as all that, and never has been. Admit for the sake of argument that all of the particular affirmations of Marx have been shown to be factually inaccurate by modern scholarship. A serious Marxist can recognize all this new evidence, reject all of the particular theses of Marx and yet not be forced for an instant to renounce his Marxist orthodoxy. For orthodox Marxism does not mean an uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx's research, it is not the exegeses of a "sacred book" or "faith" in this or that thesis. In Marxism, orthodoxy refers solely and exclusively to the question of method. It implies the scientific conviction that the Marxist dialectic is the right method of investigation, and that this method cannot be developed, perfected, or made more pro­ found except in the tradition of its founders. Further, Marxist orthodoxy understands that all attempts to go beyond this method, or to "improve" it, necessarily trivialize it and end up in eclecticism. I

The materialist dialectic is a revolutionary dialectic. This is so crucial for its understanding that, if we want to pose the issue sharply, we must confront this essential point even before we can treat of the dialectic method itself. The prob­ lem is that of theory and practice. But we cannot limit it to the sense. of Marx's first critique of Hegel that "the theory becomes a material force when it takes hold among the masses. " More than that, we must study each element, each determination of the theory which makes it a vehicle for 21

THEORY AND PRACTICE

revolution; we cannot concern ourselves only with the way in which it penetrates the masses. In short, we must develop the practical essence from the point of view of the theory and the relation which it establishes with its object. Otherwise, this "taking hold of the masses" would be an empty idea. It could then be that the masses are moved by a range of motives and are impelled toward various ends-and that the theory has only an accidental relation to the movement, that it is only the form under which the consciousness of the socially necessary or contingent action develops, and that without the theory the action would be essentially and actu­ ally related to the consciousness. Marx, in the passage quoted from, clearly expressed the conditions under which a relation between theory and prac­ tice is possible. "It is not enough that the thought tends toward reality," he wrote, "the reality itself must move in the direction of the thought. " Or, in another context, "It will be demonstrated that the world has had for a long time the dream of a thing which it has failed to possess in reality solely because it lacks the consciousness." Only such a relation between consciousness and reality makes possible the unity of theory and "praxis." It is only when consciousness coincides with the decisive course which the historical process must take toward its proper end (an end which is constituted by human freedom but which does not depend upon arbitrary human freedom, an end which is not an invention of the human spirit), that theory can serve its historic role and make this course actually possible. When one confronts a situation where the exact knowledge of society becomes, for a class, the immediate condition of its self-affi1mation in struggle; when, for this class, self-consciousness means simultaneously the accurate consciousness of all society; when this class is, by its con­ sciousness, both the subject and object of consciousness; then the theory is in an immediate, direct and adequate relation with the process of the social revolution, then the unity of theory and practice, that precondition of the revolutionary function of the theory, becomes possible. 22

WHAT

IS ORTHODOX MARXISM?

Such a situation has emerged with the appearance of the proletariat in history. "When the proletariat," writes Marx, "announces the dissolution of the existing social order, it reveals the secret of its proper existence, which itself con­ stitutes the effective dissolution of this social order. " The theory which makes this statement is not related to the rev­ olution in a more or less contingent way, it is not bound loosely to it, or through a "misunderstanding." Rather, it is, in its very essence, nothing more than the thinking expression of the revolutionary process itself. Each stage of this process is fixed deeply in theory so as to become, by its generalization, communicable, useful, susceptible to development. And just as it is the consciousness of a necessary development, so it becomes at the same time the necessary precondition of the development which must follow. The clarification of this function of the theory opens up the way to a knowledge of its very essence: that is, of the dialectic method. Ignoring this simple and decisive point has i ntroduced a tremendous confusion into the discussion of the dialectic. For whether one criticizes Engels' formulations in Anti-Duhring (crucial for the further development of theory), or whether one conceives the book as incomplete, even as inadequate, or considers it as a classic, it must be generally recognized that it is deficient in precisely this as­ pect. In effect, Engels conceptualizes the dialectic by oppos­ ing _it to the "metaphysical" conceptualization. He emphasizes with penetration the fact that, in the dialectic method, the rigidity of concepts (and of the objects which correspond to them) is dissolved, that the dialectic is the continuous process of the continuous transformation of one determination into another, resolving contraries which pass into each other. And he argues that, consequently, the unilateral, rigid cau­ sality must be replaced by reciprocal action. But the most essential interaction, the dialectical relation of subject and object in the process of history, is not even mentioned, not to say placed in the very center of the methodological con­ sideration where it belongs. Abstracted from this determina­ tion the dialectic method, in spite of any affirmation in the

THEORY AND PRACTICE

last instance of "fluid" concepts, ceased to be a revolutionary method. The difference between the dialectic and "meta­ physics" should not then be sought in the fact that all meta­ physical studies require the object of investigation to be untouched and unchanging, and that the conception conse­ quently remains "contemplative" ( anschauende ) and cannot become practical, but in the fact that for the dialectic the central problem is the transformation of reality. If one neglects this central function of the theory, then the advantage of a "fluid" conception becomes problematic, a purely "scientific" affair. The method can be accepted or rejected in accord with the state of science, but without changing one's attitude toward the question of whether reality is changeable or immutable. The impenetrability of reality, its "fatal" and unchanging character, its conformity to law in the sense of bourgeois, contemplative materialism and its classical economics, this can even be reinforced as it was among those Machians who were adepts at Marxism. The fact that Mach's thought could produce voluntarism-equally bourgeois-does not contradict this point. Fatalism and vol­ untarism are only contradictory in a nondialectic, nonhistoric perspective. In the dialectic conception of history, these are polarities united by a single bond, they are the simple play of purely intellectual reflections which express the antagonism of the capitalist order and its inability of resolving its own problems on its own terms. This is why all attempts to deepen the dialectic method in a "critical" manner necessarily end up as a degradation. In effect, the methodological point of departure for the "critical" position consists precisely in separating method and reality, thought and being. In this separation, this point of view sees a valuable progress, the attainment of an authentically scien­ tific science which is opposed to the gross and noncritical method of Marxism. These people are free, of course, to make their point. But then it must be recognized that they are not moving in the direction which leads to the very es­ sence of the dialectic method. 24

WHAT IS

ORTHODOX MARXISM?

Marx and Engels have expressed this unambiguously. Engels wrote, "By this, the dialectic was reduced to the science of general laws of movement, laws of the exterior world as well as of human thought-to two series of laws . . . identical in substance." And Marx put it even more precisely, "As in all social and historical sciences, one must always real­ ize when considering the movement of economic categories, that the categories express the · forms and conditions of existence. . . ." 1 When this sense of the dialectic is obscured, then it necessarily ·appears as a useless supplement, an orna­ ment to the "sociology" or the "economics" of Marxism. It seems to be an obstacle to the "sober and impartial" study of the "facts," as an empty construction by means of which Marxism does violence to the facts. Bernstein has expressed this objection to the dialectic method in the most precise and clear fashion, in the name of his "impartiality," a concept untroubled by any philosophic comprehension. Still he shows us the very real political and economic consequences which he deduces from this desire to liberate method from the "dialectic trap" of Hegelianism; he indicates where his ap­ proach leads. For Bernstein demonstrates that one must sep­ arate the dialectic from historical materialism if one wishes to originate a serious theory of the opportunities of "evo­ lution" without revolution, of a transition to socialism with­ out struggle.

1 Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Econom y . This limita­ t ion of the method to the historical and social reality is extremely im­ portant. The m isunderstandings which Engels' treatment of the matter have produced developed because Engels-following Hegel-understood the dialectic as applying to the understanding of nature. But the decisive determinations of the dialectic-the reciprocal action of object and sub­ ject, the unity of theory and "praxis,'' the historic modification of the substratum of categories as the foundation of modifications in thought, . etc., are not found in the natural sciences. Unfortunately, this is not the place to discuss this question in detail.

25

THEORY AND PRACTICE

2

But this immediately raises a question: what is the meaning from the point of view of method of these facts which are so adored in revisionist literature? In what measure can one see in them the factors for the orientation of the revolutionary proletariat? Obviously, all knowledge of reality starts with facts. But then the problem is: which data (and in which methodological context must it be placed) should be con­ sidered relevant for our understanding? A narrow empiricism denies that a fact does not really become a fact except in the course of an elaboration according to a method. It finds in each bit of data, in each statistic, in each factum brutus of the economic life, an important fact. It does not under­ stand that the simplest enumeration of "facts, " an ordering of them completely devoid of commentary, is already an inter­ pretation, that at this stage the facts are already examined from a point of view, a method, that they have been ab­ stracted from the living context in which they were found and introduced into a theory. The opportunists are more re­ fined despite their repugnance to theory. They do not deny all this, but rather base themselves upon the method of natural science, the manner in which it investigates the "pure" fact through observation, abstraction and experimentation, its ability to discover interrelations. And they oppose this as an ideal of knowledge to the violent constructions of the dialectic. The insidious character of such a method is that capitalism itself, in the course of its development, produces a social structure which meets it halfway. And here, we must have recourse to the dialectic method so that we will not be taken in by this social illusion, so that we will be able to go behind the facade and discover the real essence of the matter. The "pure" facts of the natural sciences come into being in the following manner: a phenomenon is transported from life into a context which permits us to study the laws which it 26

WHAT IS ORTHODOX

MARXISM?

obeys without the disturbing intervention of other phenom­ ena (this is done either actually, or in the mind); this pro­ cedure is then reinforced by the fact that the phenomena are reduced to their quantitative essence, to their numerical ex­ pression and relations. And what the opportunists do not understand is that it is of the very essence of capitalism to produce phenomena in such a way. Marx described a "process of abstraction" from existence in his treatment of labor, but he did not forget to insist vigorously that in this case he was dealing with a characteristic of capitalist society: "Thus, the most general abstractions do not commonly develop except in the course of the richest, most concrete evolution where one feature seems to be jointly possessed by many things, and is common to all of them. Then it ceases to be thought of uniquely, under its particular form. " This tendency of capitalist evolution has now developed considerably. The fetishistic character of economic forms, the reification of all human relations, the increasing extension of a division of labor which, with an abstract rationality, atomizes the proc­ ess of production without regard for the human capacities and potentialities of the actual producers, etc., this process transforms the phenomena of society and with them our perceptions of them. Now "isolated" facts appear, there are groups of isolated facts and specific sectors which have their own laws (economic theory, law, etc.), and these seem to have paved the way, in their very immediate reality, for this kind of scientifiG study. Thus, it appears to be "scientific" to raise to the level of science a tendency which is inherent in the facts themselves. But the dialectic insists upon the concrete unity of the whole in opposition to all of these isolated facts and partial systems, it unmasks this illusion of appearances which is necessarily produced by capitalism. The unscientific nature of this seemingly scientific method resides in the fact that it does not perceive the historical char­ acter of the facts which it uses as its basis, indeed that it ignores this historical character. But wc do not have here simply that source of error which Engels called to our atten-

27

THEORY AND PRACTICE

tion. The essence of this source of error is located in the fact that statistics, and the "exact" economic theory which are built upon them, lag behind actual developments. "For con­ temporary history, one will often be forced to treat the most decisive factor as constant, assuming that the economic sit­ uation which is found at the beginning of the period contin­ ues throughout the period without variation, or else take notice of such changes in this situation as arise out of pat­ ently manifest events themselves and are, therefore, quite obvious." 2 But in the fact that capitalist society meets the natural sciences halfway, that it is the social precondition of its exactitude, in this state of affairs, there is something com­ pletely problematic. If, then, the internal structure of "facts" and their relations is essentially known in a historic manner, if they are seen as implicated in a process of uninterrupted revolution, we must ask where the greatest inexactitude lies. Is it when the "facts" are perceived under a form of objec­ tivity wherein they are dominated by laws which I know with a methodological certainty (or at least, probability) are not valid for these facts? Or is it when I consciously recog­ nize the consequences of this situation and therefore adopt a critical attitude toward the certitude which is achieved, concentrating upon the moments in which this historic char­ acter, this decisive modification, actually manifests itself? Thus, the historical character of the "facts" which science believes it perceives in their "purity" is fatal to this illusion. As products of historical evolution, these facts are not only involved in continual change. More than that, they are­ precisely in the structure of their objectivity-the product of a specific historic epoch: that of capitalism. Consequently, a "science" which takes the immediacy of the facts as its basis, which sees this form of their objectivity as the point of departure for scientific conceptualization, places itself Introduction to the Class Struggles in France. But one should not th at exactness in the natural sciences presupposes precisely this . methodological exigency has already been ,constancy,, of elements. This posed by Galileo. 2

�orget

28

WHAT

IS

ORTHODOX l\IARXISl\I?

simply and dogmatically upon the terrain of capitalist society. Essentially, it accepts uncritically the structure of the object as it is given, and it takes its laws as the immutable funda ­ ment of "science." To move from such "facts" to facts in the true sense of the word, one must penetrate behind the historic conditioning of the facts; one cannot accept them as given and immediate. In short, the facts must be submitted to a historical dialectical treatment, for as Marx has noted, "The finished form which economic relations manifest upon their surface in their actual existence, and consequently the representations of them out of which the bearers and agents of these relations seek to develop a clear idea of them, these are quite different from the inner form which is essential but hidden, they are dif­ ferent from the concept which really corresponds to the form." 3 If the facts are to be known accurately, we must understand the difference between their immedia!e appear­ ance and inner core ( Kern ) with clarity and precision; we must distinguish between the representation of the fact, and the concept of it. This distinction is the first precondition of scientific study which, as Marx pointed out, "would be superfluous if the phenomenal manifestation and the essence of things were immediately identical." Thus, we must go behind the immediate appearance of facts and discover the core, the essence. In doing so, we will understand their ap­ pearance as the necessary form which their inner core takes­ necessary because of the historic character of facts, because they are posed on the terrain of capitalist society. This double determination which simultaneously recognizes and goes be­ yond the immediate fact, this is precisely the dialectical relation. The internal structure of Capital thus causes precisely the 3 Capital, III, i . This distinction ( which is analyzed into the dialectical moments of appearance, manifestation and reali ty ) comes from Hegel's Logic. Unfortunately, we cannot develop l1ere how basic this distinction is to the ideas of The Capital. The distinction between representation and concept also comes from Hegel.

29

THEORY AND PRACTICE

greatest difficulty to the superficial reader who uncritically accepts the categories of thought proper to capitalist devel­ opment. On the one hand the exposition pushes the capitalist character of the economic forms to its extreme limit and constitutes a perspective in which these categories are pure and describe a society which "corresponds to theory," indeed, a society completely capitalist, composed only of proletarians and capitalists. But on the other hand, as soon as this con­ ception is worked out, as soon as the world of phenomena seems to be crystallized theoretically, this result itself dis­ solves into a simple appearance, it is seen as a simple inverted selection of a group of facts which are themselves inverted, a selection which is nothing but "the conscious expression of the apparent movement." Only in this context can one integrate the different facts of social life (inasmuch as they are elements of a historic be­ coming) into a totality, only in this way does the knowledge of facts become the knowledge of reality. This knowledge begins with simple determinations which are pure, immediate and natural (to the capitalist world). It goes from them to a knowledge of the concrete totality as the conceptual repro­ duction of reality. This concrete totality is, of course, never immediately apparent. "The concrete is concrete," Marx writes, "because it is the synthesis of many determinations, i.e., the unity of diverse elements." But at this point, idealism falls into the error of confusing the conceptual reproduction of reality with the structural process of reality itself. For "in our thought, reality appears as a process of s ynthesis, as a result, and not as a starting point, although it is the real starting point and, therefore, also the starting point of observation and conception." On the other hand, vulgar materialism-even when, as in the case of Bernstein and others, it is most modern in form-is content to reproduce the most immediate and simple determinations of social life. It feels that it is particularly "exact" in accepting these determinations without any serious analysis, without relating them to the con­ crete totality,. it takes the facts in an abstract isolation and at-

WHAT IS ORTHODOX

MARXISM?

tempts to explain them by abstract scientific laws which are not a part of the concrete totality. "The crudity and shortcomings of this conception," wrote Marx, "lie in the tendency to see but an accidental, reflexive connection in that which is really an organic union." 4 The conceptual grossness and emptiness of such an ap­ proach is located, above all, in the fact that it obscures the historic and transitory character of capitalist society. In it, its determinations appear as timeless and eternal categories common to all social orders. This was apparent i n its most obvious form in bourgeois economics, but vulgar Marxism soon took the same path. The dialectic method, with its methodological dominance of the totality over the particular aspect was destroyed, the part no longer found its concep­ tion and reality in the whole but, on the contrary, the whole was eliminated from investigation as an unscientific element (or was reduced to a simple "idea,'' to a sum of the parts). And as soon as this was done, the reflexive relations of iso­ lated elements appeared to be the eternal law of all human society. Marx's formulation that "the relations of prc,duction of a given society form a whole" is, in opposition to this ap­ proach, the methodological point of departure, it is the key to the historical understanding of social relations. All isolated and partial categories can be conceived (in their isolation) as having always been present during the evolution of human society. (If one doesn't find them i n a particular social form, then that is the exception that proves the rule.) Thus, the real stages of social evolution are unclear and ambiguous when they are viewed as changes which take place among isolated, partial elements. And they are most clear when seen i n terms of the change in function of the various elements in the whole process of history, in the al terations of their rela­ tions to the totality of society.

4 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The category of t he reflexive connection also comes from Hegel's Logic.

31

THEORY AND PRACTICE

3

This dialectical conception of reality seems to be far distant from the immediate reality, it appears to construct its rela­ tions in a nonscientific fashion. Yet it is, in fact, the only method of conceptually knowing and reproducing reality. The concrete totality is thus the fundamental category of reality.5 The correctness of this perspective becomes apparent when we place the real, material substratum of our method­ capitalist society with its internal antagonism between the forces and relations of production-at the very center of our study. The method of the natural sciences, the ideal method of all reflexive science and of all revisionism, does not recog­ nize contradiction and antagonism in its object. If it neverthe­ less encounters a contradiction between different theories, it conceives this situation as a consequence of the incomplete­ ness of knowledge which has been achieved. Thus, theories which seem to be in contradiction are thought to have the limits of their validity established by that fact, and they are modified and subsumed under more general theories in which these contradictions decisively disappear. But in the case of the social reality, these contradictions are not a result of insufficient scientific comprehension. They belong rather to the very essence of reality, to the essence of capitalist society. And they will not be subsumed under the knowledge 9 f the totality so as to suppress the contradiction. On the contrary, they will be understood as a neeessary development out of the antagonistic capitalist order of production. Thus, when theory (taken as the knowledge of the whole) opens up the way to a resolution of the contradictions, it does so by showing real tendencies of social development 5 For t hose readers who are particularly interested in t his methodo­ logical point, it should be noted t hat in Hegel's Logic t he relation be­ tween t he whole and the parts constitutes the dialectic passage from existence to reality. And it should be emphasized t hat the problem which we have discussed, t hat of t he relation between t he interior and t he exterior, is for Hegel also a problem of totality.

32

WHAT

IS

ORTHODOX

MAHXISM?

which must actually resolve these contradictions which emerge in the course of social evolution. In this perspective, the opposition between the "critical" methods (or vulgar materialism, Machism, etc. ) is a social problem. The method of the natural sciences can only serve the progress of science when it is applied to nature. But used to understand the evolution of society, it is an i nstrument of the ideological struggle of the bourgeoisie. It is vital for the bourgeoisie to conceive of its own order of production in terms of categories which have a timeless validity; it must see capitalism as destined to an eternal existence because of the laws of nature and reason. Conversely, it judges the con­ tradictions which are inevitably imposed upon its thought as surface facts and not as phenomena which belong to the very essence of capitalism. The method of classical economy is a product of this ideological function of bourgeois thought. And its limitations as a scientific approach are a consequence of the social reality, of the antagonistic character of capitalist production. If a thinker of the stature of a Ricardo denied the "necessity of the expansion of the market corresponding to the augmenta­ tion of production and the increase of capital, " he did so (unconsciously, to be sure) in order to escape recognizing the necessity of crises. For these crises reveal in the most obvious and fundamental fashion the basic antagonism of capitalist production and the fact that "the bourgeois mode of production implie� a limitation of the free development of the productive forces. " But then Ricardo's error in good faith became the consciously misleading analysis of bourgeois society put forward by the vulgar economists. Vulgar Marxism came to the very same pass-whether it was trying to eliminate the dialectic method from proletarian science in a systematic fashion, or was affirming the dialectic "critically. " Thus, to cite a grotesque case, Max Adler at­ tempted to separate the dialectic as method, as the movement of thought, from the dialectic of being, as a metaphysic. At the very summit of his "critique," he comes up with the dia33

THEORY AND PRACTICE

lectic in so far as it is "a matter of positive science, " which "one thinks of in the first place when one speaks of a real dialectic in Marxism. " Then he terms this dialectic more accurately as an "antagonism . . . which simply demonstrates that an opposition exists between the egoistic interest of the individual and the social forms in which he finds himself." By this stroke, the objective economic antagonism which ex­ presses itself in the class struggle is dissolved into a conflict between the individual and society. On such a basis, one can­ not understand the necessity of the emergence, internal prob. lems and decline of capitalist society. The end result is, willy­ nilly, a Kantian philosophy of history. And conversely, this approach makes the structure of bourgeois society universal, the form of society in general, because the central problem which Max Adler attacks, that of the "dialectic, or rather the antagonism," is none other than a typical ideological form of the capitalist social order. Thus it matters little in the final analysis whether the eternalization of capitalism takes place in terms of economics or of philosophy, whether it is done naively and with innocence or with extreme critical refinement. In this perspective, the rej ection or destruction of the dialectic method means that history loses its intelligibility. This doesn't imply, of course, that an exact description of certain personalities, or historic epochs, is impossible outside of the dialectic method. It does mean that one cannot under­ stand history as a unitary process without the dialectic method. (This impossibility is expressed in bourgeois science. On the one hand, there are the abstract and sociological construc­ tions of historical development of the type of Spencer or Auguste Comte whose internal contradictions have been ex­ posed by modern bourgeois historians, particularly by Rickert. And on the other hand, there are the exigencies of a "phi­ losophy of history" whose very relation to historical reality appears as a methodologically insoluble problem. ) This opposition between a particular aspect of history and history conceived as a unitary process is not a simple matter of differing scope, as for example it is in the case of the 34

WHAT IS ORTHODOX MARXISM?

difference between particular and universal history. Rather it involves methodological contradiction, it counterposes points of view. The problem of the unitary understanding of the historic process is necessarily posed at the very center of the study of each epoch, of each partial sector of history, etc. And it is here that the decisive importance of the dialectic conception of reality reveals itself for we see that it is pos­ sible to describe a historical event with essential accuracy without being able to understand the event as it actually happened, without comprehending its real function in the historic whole, in the unity of the historic process. A typical example of such a development is that of Sismondi's treat­ ment of the problem of crisis. He understands the immanent evolutionary tendencies of production as well as of distribu­ tion, he makes a penetrating critique of capitalism. And yet, he is ultimately stranded. For he remains nevertheless a prisoner of capitalist objectivity and must conceive of the two immanent tendencies as independent of each other. "He does not understand that the relations of distribution are nothing but the relations of production sub alia specie." And thus, he is the victim of the same fate which overtook the false dialectic of Proudhon : "He transforms the different par­ tial elements of society into so many societies in themselves. " We repeat: the category of totality does not suppress the constituent elements and dissolve them into an undifferen­ tiated unity, into an identity. The manifest form of their independence, of their autonomy (an autonomy which they possess in the order of capitalist production) will seem to be a pure appearance only if they are not conceived of dialectically, as the dynamic moments of a whole which is, itself, equally dialectic and dynamic. "The result which we move toward," wrote Marx, "is not that we say that produc­ tion, exchange and consumption are identical, but rather that they are the members which form a totality, the difference at the center of a unity. . . . A certain form of production thus determines certain forms of consumption, distribution and exchange and certain mutual relations between these 35

THEORY AND PRACTICE

There is a reciprocal influence between different aspects these different aspects at the same time as the problem is one of an organic totality." But then, we cannot stop at the category of reciprocal action. For one can think of reciprocal action as the simple, reciprocal causal action of two objects which are otherwise unchange­ able, and not advance a single step toward the understanding of social reality. This is the case with the univocal causality of vulgar materialism (or the functional relations of Machism, etc.). There is, for example, a reciprocal action when a bil­ liard ball at rest is pushed by another ball into movement. The first is placed in movement; the second modifies its direction because of the contact, etc. . . . But the reciprocal action of which we speak goes far beyond such a case, beyond that which takes place between objects which are otherwise unchanging. And to do so, we must speak in terms of a relation to the whole. This relation to the whole becomes the deter­ mination which conditions the fo1m of objectivity of each object, and every relevant and essential change manifests itself in terms of a change in relation to the whole and, through this, as a change in the form of objectivity itself.6 Marx made this point in many places. Let me cite only one of the best known texts: "A Negro is a Negro, but only under certain conditions does he become a slave. A machine to weave cotton is a machine to weave cotton; but only under certain conditions is it capital. Separated from these condi­ tions, it is as little capital as gold is, in itself, money or sugar is the price of sugar." Consequently, the forms of objectivity of all social phenomena change constantly. The intelligibility of an object develops in terms of the object's function in the whole, and only the conception of totality makes it possible for us to comprehend this reality as a social process. It is only .

6

.

.

.

The particularly refined opportunism of Cunow reveals itself in that changes the concept of the whole ( of the ensemble, of the totality ) mto that of the sum, thus suppressing all dialectic relation, and that he does this despite his well-rounded knowledge of the Marxist texts. See his Marxist Theory of History, Society and the State.

?e

WHAT

IS

ORTHODOX

MARXISM?

in this context that the fetishistic forms necessarily engen­ dered by capitalism dissolve and become the mere appear­ ances which they are ( even though they are necessary ap­ pearances). Thus, the reflexive relation of fetishistic forms, their "conformity to law," develops necessarily within capi­ talist society and conceals the real relation between objects. These relations we now understand as the necessary repre­ sentation of the object made by those who participate in cap­ italist production. They are, then, an object of understanding, but known only under fetishistic forms; they reveal, hot the capitalist order itself, but the ideology of the dominant class. Only when this veil of fetishistic categories has been ripped aside can one come to historical understanding. For the func­ tion of these fetishistic forms is to make capitalist society appear suprahistoric, and a real knowledge of the objec­ tive character of phenomenon, a knowledge of their historic character and actual function in the totality of society, forms an undivided act of the understanding. But the pseudoscien­ tific method shatters this unity. Thus, the distinction between constant and variable capital, crucial for economics, became possible through the dialectic method. Classical economics was unable to go beyond the distinction between fixed and circulating capital. This was not accidental. For "variable capital is nothing but a particular form of the historic ap­ pearance of the means of subsistence, that is of the labor which the worker rt1quires for his maintenance and reproduc­ tion and which he must produce and reproduce in all systems of social production. This labor is only returned to the worker under the form of payment for his work, while his own prod­ uct is always alienated from him under the form of capital. . . . The commodity form of the product and the money form of the sale hid this transaction." Thus, the fetishistic forms hide relationships, they envelop all of capitalist phenomena so as to mask their transitory, his­ toric character. This is possible because the forms of objectivity under which capitalist society necessarily and immediately 37

THEORY AND PRACTICE

appears to the man living in . it do conceal economic cat­ egories, their own essence as a form of objectivity, the fact that it is a category expressing relations between men. Con­ sequently, the forms of objectivity appear as things and as relations between things. And at the same time that the dia­ lectic unmasks the eternal appearance of these categories, it also reveals their "rei£ed" character in order to open up the way to a knowledge of reality. Economics, writes Engels in his Commentary on the Critique of Political Economy, "does not treat of things, but of the relations between persons and, in the last instances, between classes; but these relations are always bound to things and appear as things." It is in this context that the total character of the dialectic method manifests itself as a knowledge of the reality of his­ toric process. It might seem that this dialectic relation of part to whole is a simple reflexive determination in which the actual categories of social reality are no more present than in bourgeois economics. It might seem that the superiority of dialectics over bourgeois economics is only methodological. But the real difference is more profound, it is a matter of principle. Each economic category reveals a determined rela­ tion between men at a specific level of historic evolution, a relation which is made conscious and developed as an idea. Consequently, the movement of human society itself can be known in its inner meaning as the product of men themselves, as the result of forces which emerge out of their relations and escape their control. The categories of economics then become dialectic and dynamic in a double sense. They are in a vital interaction with one another as "purely economic" categories and aid us to understand various sections of social evolution. But also, since they have their origins in human relations, since they function in the process of the transformation of human relations, they lay bare the process of evolution in the reciprocal, action which they themselves have with the actual substratum of their operation. This is to say that the production and reproduction of a specific economic totality which science must understand

WHAT

IS

ORTHODOX

MARXISM?

necessarily transforms itself in the course of the production and reproduction of a given, whole society (transcending "pure" economics, but without invoking any transcendental force). Marx often insisted upon this point. For example: "The capitalist process of production considered in its con­ tinuity, or as a process of reproduction, does not only pro­ duce merchandise, or even surplus value; it produces and reproduces the social relation between capitalist and em­ ployee." To pose one's self, to produce and reproduce one's self­ this is, precisely, what reality consists of. Hegel recognized this, expressing it almost as Marx did, but abstractly, in a way that could lead to misunderstanding. "That which is real is necessary in itself," he wrote in the Philosophy of Right. "Necessity here means that the totality is divided into the distinctions of concepts, and that this division reveals a solid, resistant determination (Bestimmtheit ) and not a deadly so­ lidity; it reveals that which continually reconstitutes itself in the midst of dissolution." But here, even as we remark the closeness of historical materialism and Hegel's philosophy­ both conceiving theory as the self-knowledge of reality-we must be concerned with the decisive difference between the two theories. This is found in the treatment of the problem of reality and of the unity of the historic process. Marx reproached Hegel (and even more his successors who turned back to Fichte and Kant) for not having really sur­ mounted the duality of, thought and being, of theory and prac­ tice, of subject and object. He argued that Hegel had not gone beyond Kant on this decisive point, that his dialectic was a simple appearance and not the actual, interior dialectic of the historic process. He held that Hegel's knowledge of mat­ ter was in the sub;ect and not the self-acknowledgment of matter, as in society. "Already in Hegel's case," the crucial section of his critique notes, "the absolute spirit has its con­ tent in the masses, but its expression is restricted to philos­ ophy. This is why philosophy seems to be the organ through which the absolute spirit makes history, emerging into con39

THEOHY AND PRACTICE

sciousness after the unfolding of the movement, after the fact. The participation o f philosophy in history is thus limited to a consciousness after the event, for the absolute spirit ac­ complishes the real movement unconsciously. Thus, philos­ ophy comes post festum. Thus, Hegel does not allow the "absolute spirit," as absolute spirit, to make history, except in appearance. For in effect, the absolute spirit does not be­ come conscious of itself as creator of the world until after the event, and its making of history o nly exists in the con­ sciousness, in the opinion and representation of the philos­ ophers, in the speculative imagination." This conceptual my­ thology was definitely eliminated by the critical activity of the young Marx. It is not accidental that Marx arrived at his o wn view in the course o f opposing a movement which was already re­ coiling from Hegel, which was going back to Kant. This movement seized upon all o f the obscurities and internal ambiguities of Hegel in order to eliminate all the revolution­ ary elements from his thought; it harmonized the vestiges of the contemplative duality of thought and being, the concep­ tual mythology, with the completely reactionary philosophy of Germany at that time. By becoming a partisan of the progressive in the Hegelian method, Marx not only separated himself from these successors of Hegel-he created a schism in the Hegelian philosophy itself. For Marx took the historic tendency which he found in Hegel to its limits. He trans­ formed all social phenomena, all aspects of social man, into historic problems, he showed the real substratum of historic evolution and developed a fertile metho d in the doing. Marx applied the measure which he had discovered and methodically developed to the Hegelian philosophy, and he found it wanting. Indeed, the myth-making vestiges of "eternal values" which he eliminated from the dialectic were similar to the philosophic elements which Hegel himself fought ceaselessly throughout his life, and against which he had marshalled his entire philosophic method, with its process and concrete reality, it dialectic and history. In this context,

\

WHAT IS ORTHODOX

MARXISM?

the Marxist critique of Hegel is thus the direct continuation of Hegel's own critique of Kant and Fichte.7 Thus, the dialectic method of Marx is the continuation of that which Hegel sought but did not attain. While, on the other hand, the dead body of the Hegelian texts has become the prey of the philologists . and makers of systems. But the point of rupture between Marx and Hegel is the question of reality. Hegel was unable to see the real motor force of history. In part, this was the case because these forces were not sufficiently visible during the period of the genesi� of his philosophy. Consequently, ?e did not recognize that the people and their consciousness were the effective bearers of historic development; he did not see the real sub­ stratum, in all its variousness, but instead put forward the mythology of the "Spirit of the people." Yet Hegel failed for another reason: that, despite all his tremendous efforts to the contrary, he remained caught in Platonic and Kantian forms of thought continuing the duality of thought and being, of form and matter. Even though he was the discoverer of the significance of the concrete reality, even though he sought to go beyond all abstractions, matter nevertheless remained for him ( and in this, he was quite Platonic) sullied by the "stain of being specific " ( Makel der Bestimmtheit ) . Because of these contradictory tendencies, Hegel was un­ able to clarify his own system. Often, he juxtaposes conIt is not surprising that Cunow attempts to correct Marx by reference to a Kant-oriented Hegel on the very point where Marx surpassed Hegel radically . He opposes the Hegelian state ( as an eternal value ) to the purely historic conception of the state in Marx, and claims that the "faults" of the Hegelian state-its function as an instrument of class oppression-are only " historic things" and do not determine its essence and direction. For Cunow, Marx is here a retrogression from Hegel because he con­ siders the question "from a political, and not a sociological, point of view." Thus, there is no such thing as goin g beyond Hegel for the opportunists. If they do not go back to the vulgar materialism of Kant, then they use the reactionary content of the Hegelian philosophy of the state in order to eliminate the revolutionary dialectic of Marxism and thus eternalize bourgeois society. 7

41

THEORY AND PRACTICE

traries without mediation, they are presented contradictorily and without any possibility of internal reciprocity. And con­ sequently, his system looks to the past as much as toward the future. 8 It is thus hardly surprising that bourgeois science very early borrowed from Hegel. And were it not for the Marxists, the very core of Hegel's thought, its revolutionary content, would have been obscured. Conceptual mythologies always signify that some funda­ mental fact of man's existence has eluded him, a fact so basic that its consequences cannot be repressed. This inability to penetrate the object then results in an appeal to transcen­ dental motor forces which construct and structure reality, the relations between objects, our relations with them and the modification of the historic process, in a mythological fashion. The recognition that "the production and reproduction of real life is, in the last instant, the determining element in history," meant that Marx and Engels had, for the first time, found the possibility of liquidating all mythology, that they had reached solid ground for the accomplishment of this task. The absolute spirit of Hegel was thus the last of those grandiose mytholog­ ical forms in which the totality and its movement expressed itself in a way that was unconscious of its true essence. Thus, that reason "which had always existed, but not always under a reasonable form" achieved its "reasonable" form in historical materialism through the discovery of its basic substratum. And the program of the Hegelian philosophy of history was achieved through the destruction of Hegelianism. For in op­ position to nature in which, as Hegel emphasizes, "change is circular, a repetition," change in history is not simply pro­ duced "on the surface, but in the concept." And the concept itself is corrected by the change of history. 8 The position of Hegel vis-a-vis the nationa l economy is quite charac­ teristic of this fact ( cf. Philosophy of Right ) . He recognizes clearly that the fundamental methodological problem is that of contingency and necessity ( as, in a way, Engels did ) , but he is unable to comprehend the funda­ mental meaning of the material substratum of the economy, the relation of men to each other. This remains for him a "swarm of anarchic wills," and laws resemble a "planetary system."

42

WHAT

IS ORTHODOX MAR."