[Marxism] [marxism-thaxis] Alexander Bogdanov and Russian Machism

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Fri Dec 23 09:04:47 MST 2016

 An exchange with McKenzie Wark on my FB wall.---------------------------------------------------------------------------McKenzie Wark:   The post above frames Bogdanov's argument in Lenin's terms, which distorts it. What Bogdanov thought he was doing is providing a Marxist explanation for where the categories of 'materialism' and 'idealism' come from in the first place. This necessarily entails a refusal of the dogmatic 'materialism' of Plekhanov and Lenin. One need not agree with Bogdanov on this, but one cannot even think it without some distance from the polemical distortions of Plekhanov and Lenin. Jim Farmelant:     Bogdanov also took Ernst Mach to task for not fully overcoming the dualism between subjective and objective perspectives. So for Bogdanov, Mach's empiriocriticism, tended to be oriented towards contemplation rather than action. It sought a pure description of the world as it is, rather than attempting to change the world. To m mind, Bogdanov's proposed revisions of Machism, brought his own philosophical perspective closer to American pragmatism.  Jim Farmelant:     And yes, for Bogdanov, the emergence of the distinction between the physical and mental realms was to be understood historically. McKenzie Wark:   Jim Farmelant the parallel to pragmatism is indeed an interesting one.Jim Farmelanthttp://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelanthttp://www.foxymath.com Learn or Review Basic Math 
Jim Farmelanthttp://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelanthttp://www.foxymath.com Learn or Review Basic Math

---------- Original Message ----------
From: "Jim Farmelant" <farmelantj at juno.com>
To: <marxism-thaxis at lists.riseup.net>, "Marxmail" <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Subject: [marxism-thaxis] Alexander Bogdanov and Russian Machism
Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2016 05:23:37 -0500

 In the early 20th century, the Russian Machists were mostly (though not exclusively) Bolsheviks like Alexander Bogdanov, Vladimir Bazrov, and Anatoli Lunacharsky. Bogdanov was a very interesting figure who wrote prolifically on a wide variety of subjects. I think its too bad that he was expelled from the Bolshevik faction in 1908, since he was a lively and interesting thinker, who instance, created what he called 'tektology' which was an early version of general systems theory. In the years after the October Revolution, he was a founder of the Proletkult which had an influential role in the cultural life of the Soviet Union during the 1920's (lots of people who became leading cultural figures like film maker Sergei Eisenstein, passed through that organization during those years).
Concerning the Lenin/Bogdanov debate, much can be said. Lenin was, I think correct, in linking the Machists's positions to Berkeleyian idealism. Indeed, the British logical positivist, A.J. Ayer, (logical positivism being essentially an updated version of Machism) in his book Language, Truth and Logic emphasized that the positivists were intellectual descendants of Berkeley. And indeed, in one of his autobiographies, Ayer explicitly conceded that Lenin was correct in seeing Machism as rooted directly in Berkeleyian idealism.
I think that Lenin was correct in making the case for realism, but on the other hand, I think that the Russian Machists were on to something too. They perceived correctly, IMO, the inadequacies of dialectical materialism as it had been handed down by Engels and Plekhanov. And most of the most important and innovative work that was done in the philosophy of science during the 20th century was rooted either directly or indirectly in Machism. The expulsion of Machist thinking from Bolshevik and hence later Soviet philosophy was ultimately, IMO, quite detrimental to the development of Soviet philosophical thought, since that largely cut off Soviet philosophy from philosophical developments in the West.
Another interesting debate was the debate in the Soviet Union between the so-called Mechanists and the Deborinists which took place during the 1920s. To some extent some of the issues from the earlier debate between Lenin and the Machists got revisited, except that this time around both sides insisted that they were orthodox Leninists.
Jim Farmelanthttp://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelanthttp://www.foxymath.com Learn or Review Basic Math 

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