Dialectical Materialism again - reply to Mark Lause

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 27 16:46:09 MDT 2003

Mark Lause writes:

>Actually, I think "historical materialism" was not intended to be a
>full-blown world view.  It arguably extended the approach of earlier
>writers like Vico.  In contrast, the concept of "dialectical materialism"
>represented the entrenched doctrines of the German social democracy, then
>the Soviet regime.

As far as the Soviet regime is concerned, this is inaccurate.  Soviet
philosophy manuals considered "historical materialism" or "Marxist
sociology" (used interchangeably) as a subset of "dialectical materialism."

Perhaps the best source on the way the Soviet CP codified Marxism is the
manual by a group from the Academy of Sciences of the USSR led by F.V.
Konstantinov, The Fundamentals of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy, Progress
Publishers, Moscow.  IMHO, people new to Marxism can only BENEFIT from a
*careful* reading of this manual.  The English version has 480 pages.  (It
would be nice to post the English version online, if it's not already in the
excellent Marxists Internet Archive, www.marxists.org.)

A lot of people are used to sneering at the Soviet manuals without ever
having taken the time to read them.  IMO, there was a serious effort in
putting them together.  (Yeah, I know, I know, a lot of Soviet bunk too,
some of it pretty subtle, and the style is stiff in parts.  But that's why I
say that the reading must be *careful*.)

Schematically speaking, the Soviet CP "divided" Marxism (the Weltanschaung
of the working class) in the following departments (if Melvin P. were here,
he could correct me):

1. Philosophy (the manual referred above)
1.1. Dialectical Materialism
1.1.1. Ontology (Everything that exists is 'material' or a manifestation of
'mater'.  Mater moves and it moves dialectically.)
1.1.2. Epistemology or theory of cognition (The way humans get to know the
universe is by trying to appropriate it and that happens dialectically.)
1.1.3. Logic or theory of the forms of thought (The dialectics of the
knowing subject maps the objective dialectics of the universe.)
1.1.4. Ethics
1.1.5. Aesthetics
1.2. Historical Materialism (The form dialectical materialism takes when it
deals with societies.)

2. Political Economy (There was a manual also by the Academy of Sciences,
led by Nikitin?)
2.1. Critique of capitalism
2.1.1. General "laws" and liberal capitalism
2.1.2. Imperialism (higher and last stage of capitalism)
2.2. The ineffable "political economy of socialism"

3. Scientific Communism (The Academy of Sciences manual was written by a
group led by Afanasiev, if my memory is correct)

The hint for this division was taken from Lenin's pamphlet on the three
sources and parts of Marxism and an article that he wrote for some
encyclopedia.  The latter is a biography of Karl Marx and an exposition of
his theories.  This article is truly impressive.  Lenin summarized the whole
of Capital in a few pages.  Absolutely remarkable!  If my memory is right,
these documents were written circa 1914.


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