[Marxism] What did Lenin learn from Hegel?

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Sun Jul 20 12:23:52 MDT 2008

Ruthless Critic of All that Exists wrote:
> It's my understanding that in the early years of the 20th century
> Lenin invested time and effort into reading Hegel and was deeply
> influenced.
> Now, I had always thought that Marx had "corrected" Hegel (stood Hegel
> on his head), and all that was important in Hegel was, therefore,
> already in Marx.
> I tried reading Hegel a couple of years ago and found it hard going
> and not very useful, it seemed to me, for political purposes....
> So, my question is: why did Lenin turn to Hegel? And what (if
> anything) did he find in Hegel that he didn't find in Marx?
> Thanks,
> RC

Well, the simple answer is that he was stuck in Zurich and had a lot of 
time on his hands. The longer answer probably has a lot to do with the 
dominance of "neo-Kantianism" in European universities, and its 
influence on socialism through Eduard Bernstein; of course Lenin had 
attacked the early positivists in *Materialism and Empirio-Criticism*, 
but neo-Kantianism has a strong normative component that criticisms of 
positivist epistemology wouldn't address -- Lenin's reading of Hegel is 
converse to that, a dialectical materialism that reads real norms right 
into the physical world. Lukacs' Communist work is an academic 
elaboration of Lenin's ideas that preserves significantly more ideal 
structure and goes further towards integrating a Hegelian epistemology 
with Marxist social critique.

If you didn't know, you can read the *Philosophical Noteboks* at the MIA:


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