ENGELS & DIAMAT

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Sun Nov 26 09:10:47 MST 1995


Why do I bother?  I should leave these hackneyed old debates
alone, but I still hold out the vain hope that something
interesting will get discussed in this forum before I finally give
up and unsubscribe.  Very well, I'm making one last-ditch effort
to contribute something productive.  I'm putting my un-queer
shoulder to the wheel.

I hope it's obvious by now I'm no purveyor of Marxist-Leninist
orthodoxy, but I get miffed by nonsense like the following:

>It was Engels misinterpretations AFTER MARX'S DEATH which
>triggered my initial contribution to this thread.  They laid the
>foundation for Lysenkoism (proven to be "dialectical materialist"
>by that most supreme of Leninist authorities, J.V. Stalin) and a
>lot other really ridiculous garbage such as the harassing of
>Shostakovich, etc.

Engels did not lay the foundations of Lysenkoism or the
persecution of artists.  This is childish silliness.  Engels's
dialectics of nature has nothing to do with Lysenkoism.  It is
impossible to deduce matters of empirical fact from general
philosophical categories, as everyone has known since Kant.
Engels knew this as well, and he admonished against deducing
empirical realities from abstract philosophical concepts as much
as Marx did.  I shall dig up a quote or two if you need proof.

You are aware, too, I hope, of the fact that Engels's speculations
were only published posthumously as DIALECTICS OF NATURE.  Too bad
for Shostakovitch that Engels didn't strangle Stalin in his cradle
or burn his own unpublished manuscripts.

Lysenko, by the way, ascended to power not only on the basis of
the cynical use of diamat mumbo-jumbo but on the basis of naked
pragmatism, i.e. his claims to produce results favorable to Soviet
agriculture.  Naked pragmatism under the fig-leaf of dialectical
materialism was a characteristic feature of Stalin's regime.  It
is silly to take the ideology at face value.  Also, Stalin wasn't
too bright.  Legend has it that his party philosophy tutor, the
Deborinite Jan Sten, remarked that Stalin was the dumbest student
he ever had.

If you were not on the list a year or two ago, you missed another
debate on this worn-out topic, and particularly my lengthy posts
reviewing HEGEL, MARX, AND DIALECTIC by Richard Norman and Sean
Sayers.  I'm not going to upload this stuff again but I assume it
is archived somewhere.  Briefly, Sayers defends with the most
confused logic a certain Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy and is too
obtuse to acknowledge that Norman is defending the rational core
of Engels's dialectical notions (his anti-reductionism) while
clearing away his confused formulations.  I believe Norman's
approach is the correct one.

Finally, on the Marx-Engels relationship.  Because the
stereotypical image of Marx-Engels portrayed for decades in Soviet
catechisms of Marxism-Leninism needed to be wiped away to get back
to the real Marx, it was also necessary to examine the real,
concrete relationship of Marx and Engels and not just take Engels
at face value as an unproblematic exponent of Marx, especially
because the reconstruction of the deeper dimensions of Marx's
thinking from the unpublished as well as published works gives us
a deeper picture of Marx than the official Soviet version.
However, this tendency has gone so far that Engels is simply
discarded as some sort of fungus or excrescence defiling the
pristine nature of Marx.  I got this sense from THE CAMBRIDGE
COMPANION TO MARX.  Well, I think we need a companion to Engels,
too, because I don't think he has been studied thoroughly enough.


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