Dialectical Materialism again - reply to Mark Lause

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Sun Jul 27 14:54:02 MDT 2003

Mark, you wrote:

Since Marx wrote in German, I'm doubtful that he ever wrote about "the
materialist conception of history," "the materialist approach to
history," "the materialist outlook on history" either.  I'm not sure,
but it seems likely that those who sought to translate his meaning into
English found "historical materialism" a more legitimate translation of
"materialist concept of history" than "dialectical materialism."


If Marx writes "materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung" you cannot translate
this as "historical materialism", that would be "historische Materialismus".
Take it from me, I read Marx in German and I have translated German-English
texts professionally.

In general, Marx rejected formulating any "doctrines" as regards scientific
matters. After writing the Communist Manifesto, which stated the political
position of the Communists, he did formulate political principles in regard
to the Communist League and also for the First International, but these did
not constitute a scientific doctrine.

Many quotes can be found attesting to Marx's disgust with people who tried
to knock up his ideas into a quick "philosophical system" or "philosophy of
history", because, he felt, this was usually a ploy or excuse for not
actually studying the historical and political facts. I have no time for
this now, but if you want to make a serious case, I am happy to prove my

But, as a concession to you, Marx and Engels could not very well escape from
having their ideas turned into a new world view and a new doctrine, because,
insofar as they sought political influence and sought to beat other
competitors for ideological hegemony in the labour movement, they had to
propagandise their ideas, including among ordinary workers who had no
ability to evaluate complex scientific questions, and wanted a broad
perspective to orient themselves. Many of these workers did not have a high
reading ability, did not have access to all relevant literature, and were
often under the influence of christian religion.


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