Lenin & Hegel

V600A8E6 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu V600A8E6 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu
Wed Nov 22 00:09:19 MST 1995

On Wed, 22 Nov 1995, Alex Trotter wrote:

> Shawgi Tell,
> Was Lenin perfect and without limitations? 

C'mon Alex, who the hell said or suggested that Lenin was perfect?  
Besides, such a question is a false one.

> The Lenin we've been most 
> accustomed to certainly was (you know, the one multiplied endlessly in 
> reinforced concrete). To say that he "sharpened" his understanding is in 
> fact to say that he transcended his own limitations. And the improvement 
> from *Materialism and Empirio-Criticism* (1908) to the notebooks on Hegel 
> (1914-15) is a big one indeed.

Alex, you wrongly presuppose that his earlier level of knowledge was a 
significant limitation.  By the way, not even bourgeois dictionaries 
define "sharpen" and "transcend" in similar terms.  They are not 

> 	Are you sure that Vladimir Ilich never adopted the copy theory of 
> mechanical materialism? Thus: "The recognition of theory as a copy, as an 
> approximate copy of objective reality, is materialism" and "...the 
> materialist regards sensation, perception, idea, and the mind of man 
> generally, as an image of objective reality" (1908). 

I never said that he did not adopt a "copy theory" of epistemology.  This 
quote from Lenin is scientifically correct.  There is nothing wrong with 
it.  It is true.  Can you find anything in Lenin which suggests that he 
viewed knowledge construction as a linear process.  Epistemologically, 
did he ever view people as blank, passive slates on to which sensations were 
merely deposited?  NO! NO! NO!  This quote from Lenin is not proof of an 
anti-dialectical view of knowledge construction.  Consciousness is a 
social product.  Sensation is merely the first and necessary step in the 
knowledge construction process, a process facilitated and mediated by 
social relations.  His point in this quote was to re-emphasize the role 
and significance of objectivity, that all our ideas ORIGINATE in material 

> *Materialism...*, 
> written as a polemic against the influence of Mach's Austrian positivism 
> on an influential faction of the Bolsheviks known as the "God-builders" 
> (A.A. Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, and Maxim Gorky--a lively bunch!), was 
> indebted to Plekhanov's Feuerbachian materialism and rhetoric of 
> Enlightenment. 

That's right.  Lenin didn't just make this up.  He, like Marx, 
appropriated and improved the work of his historical predecessors.  This is 
where we must all begin, including today.  True, the enlightenment did 
contain rhetoric, but it also represented numerous revolutionary forces.  
It must be viewed historically, contextually.  We must see it as a 
necessary positive development, a building block, a precondition for 
further, future developments.  I know it is fashionable to be 
anti-enlightenment in these super-reactionary times.

> Later, Lenin referred to Plekhanov as a "vulgar 
> materialist" who did not fully understand Hegel (the core work, *Science 
> of Logic*) and therefore dialectics.  

True.  Plekhanov was a "vulgar materialist."  This does not mean he had 
nothing of value to contribute (like I said in my initial post, even New 
Left idealogues had something valuable to contribute). You should also 
recall the crucial distinction, introduced by Marx, between VULGAR 
thinkers and BASE thinkers.  The latter are, among other things, 
intellectually dishonest and lacking in professional integrity.  VULGAR 
refers to superficiality, shallowness.  Thus, Lenin did not mean that 
Plekhanov was inherently corrupt, just limited to a surface understanding 
of Hegel.

> 	One other thing: if such figures as C.L.R. James, Karl Korsch, 
> and Henri Lefebvre were "revisionists" and "New Left ideologues," what 
> the hell does that mean? Just about everyone who came after Marx was a 
> revisionist in some sense, and that includes Lenin (I mean revisionist in 
> the broad sense, not Eduard Bernstein's movement or the word 
> *revisionist* used as a maoist swear word). And "New Left"? People whose 
> careers date back to the 1930s are "New Left ideologues"? Please explain.

What you are saying is false.  First, Marxism-leninism is a constantly 
and inherently developing revolutionary theory and philosophy.  It is always 
improving.  This is not the same thing as revisionism.  This is key 
Alex!  The New Left idealogues mentioned above all blunted the 
revolutionary potential of Marxism-Leninism in one way or another.  
Again, as I've said twice before, these revisionists did advance 
some knowledge of value, however.  No doubt though, all were heavily 
influenced by the glacier-sized slandering of Stalin by the 
bourgeoisie.  (Watch it!  Don't put words in my mouth.)  If there is 
anything the reactionary bourgeoisie hate more than dialectical 
materialism, it is Stalin.

Not everyone who came after Marx was a revisionist.  Many remained and 
remain firmly committed to his essentially correct and increasingly 
relevant views.  The bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie have forever 
attempted to fixate the myth that Lenin or Engels were somehow 
radically different from each other and Marx.  What dogshit!  Look, Lenin 
did not revise Marx. He necessarily relied on and used Marx, just like 
numerous other revolutionaries, particularly anti-colonial, 
anti-imperialist revolutionaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

If you or anyone else is interested in incisive accounts and critiques of 
New Left ideology, feel free to contact me.

I hope this helps.

Shawgi Tell
University at Buffalo
Graduate School of Education

     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list