Historical Materialism, Scientific socialism, Philosophy of praxis
Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky
Gorojovsky at SPAMarnet.com.ar
Sat Dec 23 10:47:30 MST 2000
En relación a Why "Historical Materialism"?,
el 23 Dec 00, a las 13:09, Hinrich Kuhls dijo:
> Why do comrades on this list always talk of historical materialism when
> providing a synonym for Marxism, but almost never of scientific socialism?
_Most_, not "all", comrades. I, for one, will hardly -if ever- equate Marxism
with historical materialism, and (due to different, precise reasons related
with political action in Argentina) I don't talk of scientific socialism
either. If forced to use a paraphrasis, I staunchly stick to Gramsci's
"philosophy of praxis", which was more than a device to fool the prison guards.
There is what I believe to be a good deal of reasons to oppose, as moments
along the road to the completion of the Marxist philosophy, the "historical
materialism" best represented by the _German Ideology_ (1) to the mature
"dialectical materialism" of Marx and Engels at their full (2).
In my humble opinion, this opposition lurks behind the struggles that were
sparked immediately after the Russian Revolution put the Socialist ideas to the
proof of reality. One would be tempted to (over)generalize "a la grande
maniere" and claim that what happened during these 70 years is closely related
to the division between historical materialism and dialectical materialism, a
division which goes far beyond philosophy as a disembodied parcel of mental
So that I am not in favour of calling Marxism a "historic materialism". There
is no Marxism without historic materialism, but Marxism is far more,
qualitatively far more, than that.
Now, on to "scientific socialism". The phrase was coined in opposition to the
diverse variants of "utopic socialism", and stressed the fact that while the
latter, in all their worth (which was great indeed) could not show a clear road
to the full realization of the ideals, or give a grounded explanation of the
necessity of socialism, Marxism did. In this sense, Marxism was indeed
But in my own country, this phrase had the bad luck of being used by the anti-
national Socialists who bred on the ideas of Juan B. Justo, who opposed "creole
politics" (that is, the politics of the actual, flesh and blood country) to
"scientific politics" (that is, the politics of "illustrated" mostly middle
class and harmless citizens of Buenos Aires City who took to this kind of
socialism in order to get a better place under the Sun of the prosperous
semicolony of the first third of the 20th. Century). This distinction, which in
the end boiled down to a racist derision of native, Creole or Indian,
Argentineans, by the massively immigratory electoral base of the Socialist
Party of Juan B. Justo, took a sinister hue when, in 1955, "scientific
socialists" supported the most brutal measures of the gorilla regime imposed
after Perón was overthrown. May I recall that Américo Ghioldi, the most pure
form of "scientific socialist", was Ambassador of the Videla regime in
So that neither "historic materialism" nor "scientific socialism" for this guy.
Hugs, and merry Solstice for all (and merry Xmas or merry Chanuka for those who
don't frown at these simple things of life, sorry if I am unfair to believers
in other Gods...)
(1) "...the close relationship that exists between, on one side, any form
of thought and, on the ohter side, the social reality within which these forms
develop and, particularly in modern societies the division of labor and the
realm of economic life" (Goldmann, Lucien. Marxisme et sciences humaines.
Paris, Gallimard, 1970. pp.155-156)
(2) While including as its kernel the basic idea of historic materialism,
dialectical materialism (first exposed, at least partially, on Marx's _Theses
on Feuerbach_) step ahead, far beyond this basic starting point which Marx
shared with Feuerbach (the rejection of Feuerbach to Marx's proposition to step
ahead in the same direction he and Engels had already begun to walk along
triggered the necessity to criticize "historic materialism"). Dialectical
materialism also includes the notions of "1. (...) close unity between mind and
action, of the practical -that is, directly or indirectly integrated into the
praxis- character of any human fact or manifestation (...), 2. the collective,
transindividual subject (...), (3) the inseparability of the theoretical and
the appraising (_le valorisant_), (4) the complete or partial identity of
subject and object of knowledge and action, (...) (5) the notion of Totality"
(Goldmann, op. cit., 164-165)
(3) Dialectic materialism giving "Marxist" shape to bureaucratic ideology. I
am not precisely one to minimize the harshness of the conditions under which
this first experiment in the production of a new humanity was forced to work,
much to the contrary, particularly AFTER the disaster of the early 90s. But it
would be silly not to try to understand what went wrong _within our own
praxis_, understanding the Stalinist praxis as what it was, a parcel of the
praxis of the global collective of struggle for socialism..
> Does the answer to this question imply rewriting the whole history of
> Marxism, or to put it more precisely: the history of both t
he fight against the
> trivialization of scientific socialism and the fight for its reconstruction?
> At 23:39 22.12.00 -0500, you wrote:
> >It is one thing to have been Hegel in the period between 1770 and
> >1831. It is entirely another thing to do a Hegel in the twenty-first century.
> >What's the point of returning to objective idealism _after_ the emergence of
> >Marxism (= historical materialism, not a contemplative materialism)?
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar
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