[Marxism] Re: [Marxism-Thaxis] Frederick Choate on L.I. Akselrod and Abram Deborin

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Wed Nov 9 08:18:52 MST 2005

BTW, from looking at Frederick Chaote's website
on L.I. Akselrod, I noticed that one of her downloadable
papers, "Spinoza and Materialism," appears in
English translation. This paper can be downloaded
from http://www.sovlit.org/lia/Texts/LIA_Spinoza1925.pdf.

Also, in English is her paper, "From My Memories of 
G. V. Plekhanov," an account of Plekhanov who
had been her political and philosophical mentor.

The paper on Spinoza is interesting IMO because on
the one hand her account of Spinoza's thought is
patterned after Plekhanov's treatment.  Plekhanov
was among other things a noted Spinoza scholar
and as such he had treated Spinoza as having
been a precursor of dialectical materialism.
Indeed, he emphasized this point to such a
degree that he had even once characerized
Spinoza as "Marx without a beard."  Likewise,
Akselrod follows her mentor in treating Spinoza
as a precursor of dialectical materialism but
she gives special emphasis to Spinoza's
determinism, his critique of teleology and
his mechanism.  This is noteworthy since
Akselrod was one of the leading Mechanists
in the 1920s debates over dialectical materialism.
In her paper, she sought to trace out how Spinoza's
ideas led in the 18th century to the mechanistic
materialisms of La Mettrie and d'Holboch,
and how their materialisms led to the
materialism of Feuerbach and then to
the dialectical materialism of Marx
& Engels.

Her basic viewpoint can be inferred from
the two closing paragraphs of her
Spinoza essay.  There she wrote:

"The appraisal here given of the founders of 
idealism and materialism does not require 
extensive commentary. The essence of classical 
idealism, the transcendental ideas of Plato and 
the transcendental forms of Aristotle, are scornfully 
likened to old wives' tales. The philosophical doctrines 
of the creator of idealism are compared to belief in 
'the miracles of the Blessed Virgin and all the Saints.' 
On the other hand, our thinker regards the founders 
of materialism — Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius 
— as his authorities. It is from them that Spinoza traces 
his philosophical lineage." 

"The unity of the universe 
is the central doctrine of Spinoza's system. The basic 
propositions which follow from this universal principle 
are, in essence: (1) the rejection of the act of creation, 
of creator, and of transcendental teleology; 
(2) the recognition of investigation of mechanical 
causality as the only and universal method. These 
basic propositions, which permeate Spinoza's 
whole system, testify to its kinship to the old 
materialism as well as to the new 
— to dialectical materialism."

More information about the Marxism mailing list