[Marxism] Roland Boer, St. Augustine and Uncle Joe

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 18 17:55:43 MDT 2016

This is an excerpt from Roland Boer's article "A Materialist Doctrine of 
Good and Evil: Stalin's Revision of Marxist Anthropology". I can only 
conclude that when the Isaac Deutscher Prize jury awarded him the annual 
prize in 2014, they were suffering a collective psychotic break. I say 
this as someone who studied St. Augustine as a religion major a lifetime 
ago. For me, the rewards of theology are vanishingly thin. How this guy 
could have conned a jury into giving him good money (although not very 
much obviously) for this kind of mumbo-jumbo will be one of our epoch's 
enduring mysteries, more difficult to fathom in some way than the hero 
worship so much of the left is bestowing upon Vladimir Putin.


It may initially seem strange to mention the Latin debate between 
Augustine and Pelagius, for Stalin was raised within and studied at some 
length (1895-1899) the Russian Orthodox tradition. However, it will 
become apparent as my argument unfolds that he develops a unique 
counter-tradition that cannot be explained by mere dependence. He begins 
with a position that follows what may be called a dominant Pelagian 
Marxist approach to the transformation of human nature, albeit mediated 
through an Orthodox framework. This is the focus of the first section 
below. Later, he comes to the stark awareness of the persistence and 
reality of evil, which I argue is an Augustinian irruption into both the 
Marxist tradition and the Orthodox mediation of the extremes of the 
Latin theological tradition. The result is a distinctly new departure. 
He draws together Augustinian and Pelagian approaches, which was 
characteristic of the Orthodox position outlined above. But unlike that 
position with its synergeia, he exacerbates the tension between them in 
a dialectical intensification. In other words, his position was enabled 
by the Orthodox mediation, but the stark opposition could happen only by 
appropriating the Latin opposition, marked by the names of Augustine and 


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