Alliance (Marxist-Leninist): Ultra-Leftism in Linguistics and the Communist Academy

1_Rouble_1947_Front

The usual picture of J.V. Stalin built up by the bourgeois is usually in the absence of facts. The paradigm built up is internally inconsistent. With respect to science, Stalin both destroyed true biological science by a rigid “Marxist” dogmatism; and he simultaneously destroyed linguistics, the latter because he could not bear to be challenged. However, Stalin’s polemics in linguistics was really an attack upon mechanical application of “Marxist” doctrine. On this there can be no doubt, as this attack is printed widely, and the bourgeoisie have to acknowledge Stalin’s written words. So, to bourgeois academics – How can these statements be both simultaneously true?

Another mutually contradictory view, is that V.I.Lenin and Stalin threw out: “old, established mores of pre-socialist society”; ie. they were philosophical and cultural barbarians towards previous bourgeois advances. Though supposedly, at the same time Stalin actively retarded developments, as he was enslaved by his “monkish” training as a boy.

Actually, ample data tells us that both Lenin and Stain thought, like Marx and Engels, that it was important to extract the best of bourgeois culture (in art and science) and build upon it to develop socialism :

“The old utopian socialists imagined that socialism could be built by men of a new type, that first they would train good, pure and splendidly educated people and these would build socialism. We always laughed at this .. it was playing with puppets, it was socialism as an amusement for your ladies, but not serious politics. We want to build socialism with the aid of those men and women who grew up under capitalism were depraved and corrupted by capitalism, but were steeled for the struggle.. We have bourgeois experts and nothing else. We have no other bricks with which to build.. The masses.. took power.. that is only half the task, but it is the greater half.. The working people are united in such a way as to crush capitalism by the weight of their mass unity. The masses did it. But it is not enough to crush capitalism. We must take the entire culture that capitalism left behind, and build socialism with it. We must take all its science, technology and art. Without these we shall be unable to build communist society. But this science technology and art are in the hands of and in the heads of the experts.. We will convince the bourgeois specialist that they have no alternative, that there will be return to the old society, and that they can do their work only in conjunction with the Communists who are working at their side.. whose object is to ensure that the fruits of bourgeois science and technology, the fruits of thousands of years of civilisation shall be enjoyed not by a handful of persons for the propose of distinguishing themselves and amassing wealth, but by literally all the working people.”

V.Lenin ” From The Achievements and Difficulties of the Soviet Government.” In “On the Intelligentsia”, Moscow, 1983, p.184-196. Collected Works 29: p 68-76.

As usual bourgeois scholars miss the boat by not caring to see the raging class struggle going on in the USSR. Instead all bad things are ascribed to Stalin’s “madness,” or “cruelties.” What is the truth about the views of Stalin upon how science should develop? Some aspects of Lenin and Stalin’s attitude to science are examined in this article.

The conventional wisdom is that Stalin imposed a dogmatic “Communist structured proletarian science.” But in fact Stalin stopped the building of a “Pure Communist” rival to the “Bourgeois” Academy of Sciences:

“Founded in June 1918, the Socialist (later Communist Academy) of Science ultimately developed a small section in the Natural Sciences, and more than one commentator saw it as a rival to the “bourgeois” Academy of Sciences It was never able to compete successfully with the older academy in the natural sciences. In the social sciences it enjoyed a period of flowering in the 20’s, and produced some of the best Marxist scholarship of Soviet history. In a sense, it succeeded too well in this area, since Stalin did not like independent minded marxists offering views on social issues, that might challenge his own. Stalin abolished the Communist Academy in 1936 at the beginning of his mass purges.”

Loren R Graham: “Science In Russia and The Soviet Union”, Cambridge, Mass. 1993, p. 86.

The main academic historian of Soviet science, Loren Graham, alleges that this was because Stalin:

“Did not like independent minded Marxists offering views on social issues that might challenge his own.”

p.86, Ibid, Graham.

But the Communist Academy had developed an anti-Marxist line that was openly (and not by subterfuge as suggested by so much bourgeois literature) fought by Stalin. The direct evidence for this is the attack that Stalin launched upon the Linguistic School, that centred upon the Theories of Marr. Stalin’s attitude to this and the timing of his critique of Marr, are a valuable source of evidence on his reasoning upon science. We examine this in detail below.

The Communist Academy of the Social Science was founded in 1918. E.A.Preobrazhenskii, was a key advocate of The Communist Academy and proclaimed:

“Marxism in Russia is the official ideology of the victorious proletariat; the Socialist Academy is the highest scientific institute of Marxist thought.. It recognises only the branches of socialist science which are anchored in Marxism… the theory of historical materialism is more important for the social sciences than the laws of Kepler and Newton are for physics.”

Cited, Alexander Vucinich, “Empire of Knowledge. The Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1917-1970).” Berkeley, California, 1984. p.81.

The Communist Academy was charged to form views of science and society consistent with Marxism-Leninism. But in reality the Communist Academy became little more than a:

“Library and a debating club, meeting infrequently and suffering from ambivalent goals and internal fragmentation.”

Vucinich, p.81-2.

But, in 1923, it became rather more energized, under the increasing class battles taking place with the various anti-Marxist-Leninist Left Opposition factions. It undertook to:

“Criticise the leading scientists who either displayed philosophical aloofness or opposed Marxist thought. The distinguished members of the Academy of Sciences served as particularly attractive targets for denunciatory attacks.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83.

This new approach was consistently an Ultra-Leftist one. This was to take the form of attacks on scientists, not for their science but for their politics. This line was explicitly advocated by L.Trotsky, and a group around N.Bukharin and Preobrazhenskii. It was a line that neither Lenin nor Stalin had adopted, and in fact attacked.

The most prestigious members of the Academy of Sciences at this stage were definitely anti-Marxist, and included V.I.Vernadskii and I.P.Pavlov. Both had expressed their anti-Marxism. The Communist Academy attacked them, and the Academy of Sciences as an institution itself:

“V.I.Vernadskii was accused of flirting with Bergsonian Vitalism and of challenging the notion of the material unity of the universe, firmly built into Marxist ontology.. The famed neurophysiologist I.P.Pavlov was the target of numerous innuendoes depicting him as the mastermind of recurring efforts to make the study of conditioned reflexes the only basis of scientific sociology and social psychology.. M.N.Pokrovskii, President of the Communist Academy made no effort to disguise his view of the Academy of Sciences as a sanctuary of bourgeois thought and an institutional antitheses to Marxist plans for organised research.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83

Most bourgeois tendencies allege that an Ultra-Left line towards science (i.e. anti-science line based purely on some alleged “Communist expediency”) was adopted by Stalin. But, the leading intellectual force of the Communist Academy, (as well as Preobrazenskii) was NOT Stalin, but in fact, Leon Trotsky:

“The Communist academy provided a forum for a group of Marxist theorists led by Leon Trotsky, who contended that the excessive worship of Pavlov’s theories worked against the burgeoning efforts to effect a fruitful synthesis of Marxism and Freudianism. Pavlov’s publicly expressed aversion to the use of revolutionary methods as a tool of resolving socials conflict was directed against the political strategy of the Bolshevik party. N.I.Bukharin, a member of the Communist Academy wrote a lengthy article refuting Pavlov’s claims that the October Revolution was a historical anomaly.”

p. 83, Vucinich, Ibid.

Despite this, the Bolshevik Government, (in both the Lenin and Stalin years) protected and aided both Vernadskii and Pavlov in their research. Pavlov in particular was greatly aided in his researches by both Lenin and Stalin after him. Lenin promulgated through the Council of People’s Commissars, a Decree ensuring that Pavlov would receive adequate state support for his work:

“Of tremendous importance to the working people of the world.”

(V.I.Lenin “Concerning The Conditions Ensuring the research Work of Academician I.P.Pavlov and His Associates.” In “On the Intelligentsia.” Ibid, p. 269. From CW Vol 32.p.69).

It is true that Pavlov’s research saw the legitimacy of environmental and organismal interaction, and this was congenial to Marxism-Leninism. But it does not alter the fact that a gifted researcher, though a self proclaimed and openly anti-Marxist, was given full rein to pursue science.

But even the members of the Communist Academy had great difficulty in agreeing how to view modern science from a Marxist perspective. There were two camps. The “Mechanists” led by L.I.Aksel’rod and A.K.Timiriazev and the self styled “Dialecticians”, led by A.M. Deborin. The battle between these two wings drew Stalin’s attention, and that of Vernadskii. The latter was an old “relic” of a scientist, actively still studying. He saw the two orientations from his view of science. He:

“Concluded that the philosophical stance of the (so called) mechanists was more realistic and more in tune with the spirit of twentieth century science. The mechanist orientation he said, was more satisfactory because it was further removed from Hegelian idealism and was closer to 18th Century materialism, which was based on the achievements and the logic of science and did not try to impose its authority on science.”

P. 151, Vucinich.

But Vernadskii was attacked on the grounds that his philosophy contradicted dialectical materialism. This attack was led by Deborin. As Vucinich says:

“That Vernadskii survived the attacks led by Deborin was proof of the willingness of the authorities to tolerate selected established scholars, in the natural sciences, despite demonstrative refusals to make dialectical materialism part of their thinking.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.152.

Deborin and his backer, Bukharin made other assertions. These included an attack upon Lenin, that alleged that Lenin was a man of action and not one of theory. Stalin identified the views of the Deborin group as an expression of “Menshevizing Idealism.” If that is so, there is a greater significance in Deborin’s attacks on Vernadskii. Not for the first time, it became obvious that simply using the terms Dialectical Materialism in an analysis did not make it dialectical, nor yet materialist! Obviously, Stalin cannot have supported attacks launched upon Vernadskii.

The CC of the CPSU(B), at that time still under the control of Marxist-Leninists, openly counter-attacked against Deborin in the theoretical journal : “Under the Banner of Marxism”:

“The organ defended the “general party line” and fought the two categories of philosophical deviationism:
‘the mechanical revision of Marxism, as the main danger at the present time, and the idealistic distortions of Marxism by the Deborin group.’
Deborin quickly admitted his errors.. particularly his ‘unsupportable’ assertion that while Plekhanov was primarily a theorist, Lenin was first of all ‘ a practical person, a revolutionary, and a leader.'”

Vucinich, Ibid, p. 151.

Deborin and his ally N.I.Bukharin then tried to make amends for their false characterisation of Lenin as being a man of action, and not a theorist. For instance at the 10th anniversary of Lenin’s death in 1923, both gave major eulogies of Lenin stressing his theoretical acumen. For Bukharin, this was the first time he had publicly credited Lenin for his theoretical contributions.

Despite this, the Communist Academy, continued to develop an Ultra-leftist line on several issues. M.B.Mitin later became a key proponent of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the main protagonist in the Biology Debates of a crude Reductionist Marxism. But at this earlier stage, Mitin became a leading “interpreter” of the relevance of dialectics to natural science. The thrust he used was to emphasise Lenin’s view in “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” that “too much mathematics” was equivalent to “formalism.” (Vucinich, Ibid, p. 154).

Here a new tactic was used. Later it became a more conscious strategy – one of hiding behind a Personalty Cult. Here the Cult was that of Lenin, later this would be of Stalin. This tactic would be to enshrine a view, and take it completely out of context to justify its application to unwarranted situations. For clearly Lenin, the author of “Empirio-criticism”; had not had any fundamental objections to mathematicians!

BUT, IF IT IS TRUE THAT THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY WAS AN ULTRA-LEFTIST ORGANISATION, AIMED ULTIMATELY AT DISCREDITING MARXISM-LENINISM, WHAT PROOF IS THERE OF THIS ASSERTION? WHAT WAS STALIN’S ATTITUDE TO THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY?

Luckily, we do have a very good “Test Case.” Firstly in 1938 the Communist Academy was closed, this of itself suggests a lack of support from the Politburo. But the real “test case” actually developed as an Ultra-Leftist line, emanating from within the Communist Academy. This specific Test Case, is the school of linguistics, built up within the Communist academy. Stalin critiqued it in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics.” Stalin’s text is very far from a doctrinaire and shrill attack on a “Classless” science. In fact the pamphlet is a sharp attack on the mindless, mechanical and formal introduction of Class issues into a scientific debate on the origins of languages.

This trend had been started by N.Ia.Marr (also translated as N.Y.Marr), who was a member of the Academy of Science from 1912-1934 when he died. In 1930 he became a party member and in 1931 became a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and achieved the Lenin medal for achievement in science.

“Because of certain rudimentary similarities between his views and Marxist theory, Communist scholars were quickly accustomed to treating his theory as Marxist linguistics. Marxists were attracted to his Japhetic theory, which sought a common base for Caucasian and Semitic languages, and for all languages of the world – the ideas of common origins and evolutionary unilinearity having been firmly built into Marr’s thought and into Stalin’s internationalism of the 1930’s.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.185.

This development was fostered and directly supported by the Communist Academy. Its President, Pokrovskii ensured that N.Ia Marr was made a member of the Communist Academy and became head of the subsection “of materialistic linguistics.” Pokrovskii’s commitment was emphatic:

“As stated correctly by a Leningrad comrade, Marr’s theory must recognise Marxism as its general philosophical and sociological base and Marxism must recognise the Japhetic theory as its special linguistic division.”

Cited, Vucinich A, Ibid. p.186.

WHAT WAS MARR’S THEORY, AND WHAT DID STALIN THINK OF IT? IN EXAMINING MARR, WE HERE TEST TWO OVERALL ASSUMPTIONS.

FIRSTLY How “rigid” was Stalin on his application of principles of dialectical materialism to a general scientific problem?
SECONDLY, how “rigid” was Stalin in conceding that in science there has to be back and forth, debate, full intellectual cut and thrust?

The discourse “Concerning Problems in Linguistics,” was written in the form of questions from “younger comrades’, and Stalin’s responses. Stalin had been approached by students to enter the debate.

As regards the behaviour of debate and academic back and forth by scientists in science, Stalin was quite clear. It must be remembered that this work was originally published in Pravda in 1950. This timing is significant, for it came after T.D.Lysenko effectively and exclusively ruled the roost in genetics. In other words, Stalin’s words in linguistics, are pertinent to understanding how he may, or may not have supported Lysenko:

“Question: Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion on problems of linguistics?

Answer: Yes it did. It has been brought out in the first place that in linguistic bodies, both in the center and in the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet Linguistics, even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called “new doctrine” in linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their posts or demoted for being critical of N.Y.Marr’s heritage or expressing the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified acceptance of N.Y.Marr’s theories.”

“It is generally recognised that no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism, But this generally recognised rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a closed group of infallible leaders, who having secured themselves against any possible criticism became a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased.”

Stalin, J.V. “Concerning Marxism in Linguistics”, Contained in Stalin, J.V. “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Foreign languages Press, Peking, 1972, p.29-30.

In the same section, Stalin states that besides exposing the fact that there was an extremely unhealthy climate in linguistics (‘a Regime’), there was a second reason why it was good to ventilate these issues openly. This was in order to clarify the controversial areas, from the scientific point of view:

“The usefulness of the discussion does not end here. It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal question of linguistics which prevails among the leading circle in this branch of science. Until the discussion began, the “disciples” of N.Y.Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence became impossible and they were compelled to express their opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N.Y.Marr’s teachings there are a number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy propositions. Why, one asks, have N.Y.Marr’s “disciples” begun to talk about this only now, after the discussion opened ? Why did they not see to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly, as befits scientists?”

J.V.Stalin, Ibid, p.31.

In the same section Stalin points out that, Marr’s status was such, that any mundane words of Marr’s were considered valuable holy writ. So much so, that when even the author Marr himself discredits one of his own textbooks, his followers insisted on its use! It is very obvious how this enshrining of a view can take a knife to that independence of thought crucial for aspiring Marxist-Leninists. Stalin saw the potential for mischief (Sabotage):

“If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade Meschaninov and the other linguistic leaders I would say that such conduct is tantamount to sabotage.”

Stalin, p.30, Ibid.

But what leads to this rather unhappy and unscientific state of affairs?

“How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyv regime established in linguistics, cultivates irresponsibility and encourages such arbitrary actions.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 30.

Arakcheyv was a:

“Reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, responsible for an unrestrained, dictatorial police state warlord despotism and brutal rule enforced in Russia in the first quarter of the 19th century.”

Editors notes to J.V.S. Edition (Peking) cited above, p.55.

BUT THEN HOW ARE WE TO CHARACTERISE MARR, ACCORDING TO STALIN?

“Save us from N.Y.Marr’s “Marxism”! N.Y.marr did indeed want to be, and endeavoured to become, a Marxist, but he failed to become one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the “proletcultist’ or the ‘Rappists.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Who were the ‘proletcult’ (also spelt Proletkul’t) or the ‘Rappists’?

They were organisations that represented the views of the visual artists and writers respectively, who were trying to define their role in the revolution. Their big debate was whether any of the “Old cultures” (ie Rembrandt or Tolstoy or medieval church icons etc) had any relevance to socialist life in the Soviet Union. The tendency towards Ultra-Leftism , exemplified with the attitudes of poet and artist, Vladamir Mayakovsky (“Out with the Old”) was dominant.

Both Bukharin, and A.Lunarcharsky were in contradiction with that of Lenin, upon the Proletkul’t, and the issues of whether a new separate proletarian culture could be evolved without recourse to the structure of previous “bourgeois culture.” Thus Lenin had to soothe Buhkarin, and tried to win him to a compromise when Bukharin refused to attend the Congress of the Communist Group at the First All Russian Congress of Proletkul’t, October 5-12 1920.

[Editor : Please see a fuller “Note On RAPP and The Proletkul’t”, Below (p.19)].

The general relationship of The Communist Academy to Proletkul’t, lay in their common Ultra-Left wing approach to the intelligentsia; and their applications of a mechanical simplistic reductionist “Marxism,” and not a dialectical understanding. In this Marr was characteristic.

Wherein did Marr’s Ultra-Left errors lie?

“N.Y.Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect and non-Marxist formula regarding the “class character”of language,and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Moreover Marr’s style was repugnant:

“Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest boastful, arrogant, tone alien to Marxism and tending toward a bald and off-hand negation of everything done in linguistics prior to Marr.
Marr shrilly abused the comparative historical method as “idealistic”. Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings the comparative-historical method is nevertheless better than Marr’s really idealistic four-element analysis, because the former gives a stimulus to work, and the latter only gives a stimulus to loll in one’s arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup of the celebrated four elements…
To listen to Marr, and especially to his disciples, one might think that there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science of language appeared with the “new doctrine” of Marr. Marx and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31-2.

Stalin did not reject all that Marr said:

“Of course the works of Marr do not consist solely of errors. Marr made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics elements of Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent theory of language, But Marr had certain good and ably written works, in which he, forgetting his theoretical claims, conscientiously and one must say, skilfully investigates individual languages, In these works one can find not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly these valuable and instructive things should be taken from Marr and utilized.”

Stalin, “Concerning Certain Problems of Linguistics, Reply to Comrade E.Krasheninnikova,” Contained in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Peking, Ibid, p.39

We have examined how Stalin viewed Marr, and what he at least said about the scientific method-the “clash of opinions.” There is not a little here that reminds one forcibly about the tone of the Biology debates undertaken by Lysenko.

To illustrate that Stalin was not a crude “Reducer to Class Reality,” we have to discuss his actual concrete objections to the Japhetic School of Marr.

BY UNDERSTANDING THIS, WE SEE THAT STALIN DID NOT ADVOCATE A CRUDE “MARXIST LEVELLING”:

Firstly Marr, argued that language was a “superstructure on the base.” This was a mechanical translation of the Marxist view that all the phenomena of a class society reflect the underlying economic structures:

“Question :Is it true that Language is a superstructure of the base?

Answer : No, it is not true. The base is the economic structure of society as the given stage of its development. The superstructure us the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political legal and other institutions corresponding to them.

Every base has its own corresponding superstructure, the base of the feudal system has its superstructure its political legal or other views, and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base has its own superstructure, so has the socialist base.

In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure. Take for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course of the past 30 years the old capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia and a new socialist base has been built. Correspondingly the superstructure on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created corresponding to the socialist base.. But in spit of this the Russian language has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution.. Language is not a product of one base or another, old or new within the given society, but of the whole course of history of the society and of the history of the bases for many centuries.. Language was created for by some by one class, but by the entire society, by the hundred of generations.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 3-6.

Secondly Marr argued that there were class languages, and now there was a “proletarian” languages pitched against a “bourgeois” language:

“Question: Is it true that language always was and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people?

Answer: “The first mistake is that…our comrade are confusing language with superstructure…since the superstructure has a class character, language too must be a class language, and not a language common to the whole people.

The Second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive the opposition of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the fierce class struggle between them as meaning the disintegration of society, as a break of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that since society has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but only classes, a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary. If society has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to the whole people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes and ‘class languages.’ Naturally every ‘class language’ will have its own ‘class’ grammar- a ‘proletarian’ grammar or a ‘bourgeois’ grammar.

True such grammars do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry these comrades: they believe that such grammars will appear in due course.

At one time there were ‘Marxists’ in our country who asserted that the railways left to us after the October Revolution were bourgeois railways, that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them, that they should be torn up and new ‘proletarian’ railways built. For this they were nicknamed ‘troglodytes.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p.16-7

Finally on Marr’s mechanical insistence that there were “stages” in language development, Stalin was equally blunt:

“It is said that the theory that languages develops by stages is a Marxist theory, since it recognises the necessity of sudden explosions as a condition for the transition for a language from an old reality to a new. This is of course untrue for it is difficult to find anything resembling Marxism in this theory.. Marxism does not recognise sudden explosions in the development of languages, the sudden end of an existing language, and the sudden erection of a new language. Lafargue was wrong when he spoke of a sudden “linguistic revolution” which took place between 1789 and 1794 in France (See Lafargue’s pamphlet The French Language Before and After the Revolution). There was not a linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden one, in France at that time.. Marxism holds that transition for a language from an old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion, of the destruction for an existing language and the certain of a new one, but by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality and hence by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality.”

“It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades who have an infatuation for explosions that the law of transitions from an old quality to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not only to the history of the development of languages; it is not always applicable to other social phenomena of a base or superstructural character. It applies of necessity to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not necessarily apply to a society which has no hostile classes.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 27.

Finally why did Stalin feel that he could so sharply pin down the weaknesses of Marr? It was not the case for biology. But the debates in biology; and their terms paralleled well the Linguistics Debate, upon which Stalin came out with a written piece, that exposed the shallowness of the hitherto “Linguistics Debate.” Furthermore, these polemics, upon Linguistics, are not after all, like the common image painted by the bourgeois. You know the sort of thing, “subtle, quietly intelligent, devious – quiet in public, stab you dead in the dark sort of thing.”

Even the line the polemics describe, is counter to the view that the bourgeois paint. Instead of the crude Marxist Levelling that bourgeoisie accuse him of, Stalin upholds a much more visionary view. After all, what could be more plain to a “Marxist” than that everything in society is a product of class warfare? The same bourgeois and Trotskyites, who castigate Stalin’s understanding of philosophy as “Class Reductionist” cannot explain his refusal to jump onto Marr’s bandwagon. This would appear to be a “perfect bandwagon,” from the standpoint of the usual Paradigm set up by the bourgeois academics.

Obviously, Stalin was enabled to put into print an attack upon Ultra-Leftism in the science of Linguistics because some students had the good sense to approach him for direction. But it cannot be irrelevant that one of his first theoretical books had been : “Marxism and the National Question.” Indeed it had been this book written in 1913, that had first attracted Lenin’s attention to Stalin. One could be forgiven for guessing that this work, allowed Stalin the critical scientific insight into the technicalities that allowed him to open an attack.

In biology, he may not have had the critical insights. But he could see the debate as an important debate, that was proceeding. The complexity of this debate was staggering; both “sides” had good points. The same issues (environment versus heredity) continue to plague honest and principled scientists now. Stalin probably realised this. Not being an “expert,” Stalin commissioned assessments, from specialists in the biological field such as Sukachev. Ultimately Lysenkoism as a crude unthinking “application” of dialectics to biology was reductionist and destructive.

The linguistics debate makes clear Stalin’s opposition to an anti-scientific approach to technical questions; and Stalin’s insistence that only “applications of dialectics” will explain the facts. As opposed to this was the reductionist view that “dialectics came first and then come the facts.” As Stalin says in the linguistics debate, there is a relationship between that latter incorrect view, and sabotage.

NOTE : AN ADDENDUM ON PROLETKUL’T (See P. above)

Both Proletkul’t, and RAPP were Ultra-Leftist organisations for the visual arts, and writing respectively. Both provoked Lenin’s disapproval on aesthetics, and their ultra-leftist insistence of “out with the old.” For example Lenin explicitly did not support abstractionism in art and expressly countered movements like the Futurists (supported by Proletkul’t). These movements, always popular amongst the “avant garde” Art For Art Sake-ists in the West, were highly abstractionist in their art, and their view of what “the masses needed.” All this, ultimately led to an open disagreement between the Minister for Culture A.Lunarcharsky and Lenin.

The latter viewed the Futurists and the like tendencies as being generally positive. At the First Proletkul’t Congress in 1920, Lunarcharsky attempted to downplay the role of the State apparatuses like the Education commissariat, in ensuring that the Ultra-Left tendencies of Proletkul’t did not go unrestricted.

In an open rebuke, Lenin proposed a Draft Resolution. Points One and Two, emphasised the leading role of the workers and peasants in creating socialism; and therefore the leading role of the vanguard Communist Party in pubic education. The Third point pointed out that history had vindicated the Marxist world outlook.

The 4th and 5th points emphasised that all culture had to be absorbed, and that the State Apparatuses had to be the final arbiters of public education :

“4. Marxism has won its historic significance as the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat because, far from rejecting the most valuable achievements of the bourgeois epoch, it has, on the contrary assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than 2,000 years of the development of the human thought and culture. Only further work in this basis and in this direction, inspired by the practical experience of the proletarian dictatorship as the final stage in the struggle against every form of exploitation can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

“5. Adhering unswervingly to this stand of principle, the All Russia Congress of Proletkul’t rejects in the most resolute manner, as theoretically unsound and practically harmful, all attempts to invent one’s own particular brand of culture, to remain isolated is self-contained organisations, to draw a line dividing the field of work of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Education and the Proletkul’t, or to set up a Proletkul’t “autonomy” within establishments, under the People’s Commissariat of Education and so forth. On the contrary the Congress enjoins all Proletkul’t organisations to fully consider themselves in duty bound to act as auxiliary bodies o the network of establishments under the People’s Commissariat of Education, and to accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet Authorities (Specifically the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party, as part of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship.”

V.Lenin CW: Vol 31, Moscow, 1966-86. p.316-7.

Buhkarin had refused to speak at the Congress, following Lenin’s draft resolution, as above. Bukharin’s grounds for refusal were that he would be in disagreement with Lenin on various issues, especially Point 4 of Lenin’s draft Resolution “On Proletarian Culture ” (See above). However, Lenin tried to assuage Bukharin’s refusal with the following note:

“Why now dwell on the differences between us (perhaps possible ones), it suffices to state (and prove) on behalf of the Central Committee as a whole:
1. Proletarian culture = communism.
2. Is carried out by the RCP (ie the party-ed).
3. The proletar.class = RCP=Soviet power.
We are all agreed on this, aren’t we?”

V.Lenin Oct. 11th, 1920. In CW. Moscow, 1944 Vol 44. p.445.

The Draft Resolution of Lenin was adopted by the Congress of Proletkul’t.

Source

Comments are closed.