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Monday, December 6, 2010

1908-2010: how Lenin re-arms us against promoters of XXIst Century Menshevism


The Criterion of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge

Lenin’s 1908 “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” is a full-length book but a difficult one to include under any particular category. It is a polemic against Ernst Mach and his Russian followers, whom Lenin said had little to distinguish themselves from the 18th-century subjective idealist Bishop Berkeley. This controversy does not seem so important today as it was then.

Our text from Lenin’s book is “The Criterion of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge” (download linked below).

It begins: “We have seen that Marx in 1845 and Engels in 1888 and 1892 placed the criterion of practice at the basis of the materialist theory of knowledge;” and this shows up some of our difficulty in the field of Marxian philosophy. As the footnote says, Lenin is referring to Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845) and to the works by F. Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy” (1888) and the “Special Introduction to the English Edition of 1892” of his “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”.

The latter pamphlet is made out of excerpts from Engel’s “Anti-Dühring”, while the “Theses on Feuerbach” are part of “The German Ideology”, a book written between 1845 and 1847 by Marx and Engels and then abandoned “to the gnawing criticism of the mice”.

Karl Marx had a Doctorate in Philosophy but did not write a book of philosophy as such, except insofar as his long “Capital” project could be taken as philosophy, and there are indeed some philosophical statements here and there among the preparatory works and in the three originally-published volumes of “Capital”. So what is linked from this post comprises the major part of the philosophical work of Marx, Engels and Lenin, a tiny amount compared to the world’s literature on philosophy.

It is clear that the classical literature does not provide us with a full, exclusively Marxist exposition of philosophy. Perhaps this is fitting, because Marxism is after all not outside of the main stream of learning, and as we have seen, it is a continuation of, as well as a reaction to, Hegel’s work, while Hegel’s work stands in a similar relation to Kant’s. And so on.

In “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” Lenin quotes Hegel several times in passing, and briefly, though not in this particular chapter. It would seem that Lenin’s interest in Hegel really only got going later, at the time (1914) when he prepared his ‘Conspectus of Hegel’s book “The Science of Logic”’. The Lenin Philosophy Archive on MIA is here.

Lenin is saying in this short chapter that that the test of truth is practice, and this provides us with a continuity in relation to our previous installment, from Ilyenkov.

The next part will be the last in this Hegel series.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

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