Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, the first Russian Marxist, was one of the world's greatest thinkers and publicists. His activity in the Russian and the international arena in the eighties and nineties of the last century gave the world outstanding works on the theory and history of Marxism. In his works he defended, substantiated and popularised the teachings of Marx and Engels, developed and gave concrete expression to questions of Marxist philosophy, particularly the theory of historical materialism: the role of the popular masses and of the individual in history, the interaction of the basis and the superstructure, the role of ideologies, etc. Plekhanov did much to substantiate and develop Marxist aesthetics.
His best works on the history of philosophical, aesthetic, social and political thought, especially on the history of materialism and of philosophy in Russia, are a valuable contribution to the development of scientific thought and progressive culture.
Lenin ranked Plekhanov among the socialists having the greatest knowledge of Marxist philosophy. He described his philosophical works as the best in international Marxist literature.
"The services he rendered in the past," Lenin wrote of Plekhanov, "were immense. During the twenty years between 1883 and 1903 he wrote a large number of splendid essays, especially those against the opportunists, Machists and Narodniks." [7•* Plekhanov left a rich philosophical legacy which to this very day serves to defend Marxist theory and the aims of the proletariat's struggle against reactionary bourgeois ideology.
Plekhanov began his social, political and literary work at the end of the seventies, when the revolutionary situation in Russia was maturing.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, which had just ended, inflicted many hardships on the Russian people. It brought to light the incurable ulcers of the autocratic and landlord system, tyranny, lawlessness and widespread corruption, bad supply of the army and other vices in the military administrative machine. All this added to the indignation of the popular masses, who were cruelly oppressed by tsarism, the landlords and the capitalists. By this time capitalism had already come to dominate in Russia's economy. After the 1861 Reform, feudal relations of production were gradually replaced by bourgeois relations. Capitalism asserted itself in industry and penetrated increasingly into the countryside, where it led to stratification of the peasantry. The expropriation of the peasants from their lands formed an army of unemployed wage-workers for industry and for landlord and capitalist agriculture. The survivals of feudal relations in agricultural production, which were fostered by the system of autocracy and landlordship, and the elements of natural economy which still existed in separate areas of the country, held up the growth of the productive forces. Capitalism made its way slowly and with great difficulty in agriculture and left the landlords in their dominant position there for many decades. After the Reform, small, low-productive, privately owned peasant economies predominated in the countryside, and Russia was still mainly agrarian.
The development of capitalism combined with the all– powerfulness of the landlords exacerbated the growing antagonism between the working masses and the ruling classes.
The bulk of the peasantry was doubly oppressed—by feudalism and by capital; they suffered from land hunger, survivals of feudalism and capitalist exploitation; ruin and misery were their lot. As a result, the peasant movement against the landlords, which had subsided somewhat in the late sixties, started to grow again in the middle of the seventies.
The working class, too, was in a condition of great hardship. Unbridled capitalist exploitation, low wages, the absence of legislation on labour protection, the ban on the institution of workers' organisations, arbitrary police rule—all this led to unrest and spontaneous outbreaks among the workers. The middle of the seventies saw the appearance of the first workers' organisations—the South Russian Workers' Union and the Northern Union of Russian Workers—which attempted to organise to some extent the spontaneous working-class movement.
At that time the working-class movement in Russia was developing independently of the revolutionary Narodnik trend which set up the Zemlya i Volya (Land and Freedom) organisation and was then dominant in the Russian emancipation 9 movement. In the seventies, Narodism was influenced by the revolutionary-democratic ideas of Belinsky, Herzen, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov. Despite the limitations of their outlook, the revolutionary Narodniks played a great part in the country's emancipation movement. They fought selflessly for the emancipation of the peasants, for the abolition of the autocracy and the privileges of the nobility, and tried to rouse the peasants to revolt against the tsarist government. The culminating point in the revolutionary Narodniks' struggle against tsarism and the landlords in the seventies and early eighties was the Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) movement. The heroism of the revolutionaries in this movement and their unstinting devotion to the people received high praise from Marx and Engels, who noted that a revolutionary crisis was growing in Russia and that the centre of the revolutionary movement had begun to shift to Russia. In 1882, they stressed in the preface to the Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party (which Plekhanov translated): "Russia forms the vanguard of revolutionary action in Europe." [9•*
In the period following the Reform, the Russian revolutionaries extended their contacts with the West European revolutionary movement. In the half century, beginning about the middle of the nineteenth century, revolutionary Russia closely observed the development of progressive theoretical thought in the West and learned from the experience of the West European working people's struggle. Progressive Russians studied the works of Marx and Engels; the Manifesto of the Communist Party was published in Russian in 1869 and the first volume of Marx's Capital in 1872. Russian revolutionary Narodniks—P. Lavrov, H. Lopatin, V. Zasulich and many others—kept up a lively correspondence with Marx and Engels on questions of economic and political development in Russia, the Russian emancipation movement and the ideas of socialism.
In the first years of his public activity, G. V. Plekhanov took part in revolutionary Narodnik organisations.
Plekhanov was born on December 11, 1856, in the village of Gudalovka, Lipetsk Uyezd, Tambov Gubernia. His father, Valentin Petrovich Plekhanov, belonged to the gentry and had a small estate; his mother, Maria Fyodorovna (a relative of Belinsky), held progressive views and had a great influence on her son. On finishing the military school in Voronezh in 1873, Plekhanov studied for a few months at the Konstantin Cadets' School in Petersburg and entered the Mining Institute in 1874.
In 1876, he joined the Narodnik circle "The Rebels", which 10 later merged with Zemlya i Volya. He was one of the organisers of the first political demonstration in Russia, which took place in 1876 on the square in front of the Kazan Cathedral in Petersburg with Petersburg workers taking part for the first time. At this demonstration Plekhanov made a fiery speech indicting the autocracy and defending the ideas of Chernyshevsky, who was then in exile. From then on Plekhanov led an underground life. The Petersburg Public Library (now Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library) became his alma mater where he took refuge to study.
The young Plekhanov was a passionate admirer of Chernyshevsky and Belinsky, whom he considered as his true masters and tutors. He was amazed at the ideological wealth of Belinsky's articles and was inspired to fight for the people by Chernyshevsky's noble works and revolutionary heroism. It was not fortuitous that Plekhanov later devoted a number of his writings to the activity and works of those outstanding representatives of Russian revolutionary democracy, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Herzen and Dobrolyubov.
In the early years of his activity Plekhanov was one of the theoreticians of Narodism. He twice "went among the people" as a Narodnik agitator to prepare a rising, for he believed in the possibility of transition to socialism through a peasant revolution. At the same time, he took a great interest, as he put it, in the "working-class cause". He conducted study groups for working men, spoke at workers' meetings and helped to carry out strikes, published articles and correspondence in the journal Zemlya i Volya, wrote leaflets on the major outbreaks and strikes among the workers and called on the working people to fight. Plekhanov's close association with the Russian workers proved extremely fruitful, for it prepared him to understand the historical role of the working class in the revolutionary movement. The thorough study he made of Marxism and of the experience of the working-class movement in Western Europe enabled him in the early eighties to understand clearly this role of the working class and to go over to the standpoint of the revolutionary proletariat.
In the early eighties, following the assassination of Alexander II by members of Narodnaya Volya led by Andrei Zhelyabov and Sophia Perovskaya, years of reaction set in with the reign of Alexander III. The wave of revolutionary Narodnik terror was crushed. In the nineties, Narodism degenerated to a liberal trend professing conciliation with the tsarist government and renunciation of the revolutionary struggle.
Plekhanov was arrested, twice in 1877 and 1878 for his revolutionary activity, and increasing persecution compelled him to emigrate in 1880. By 1882–83 he had become a convinced 11 Marxist, and in the late eighties he established personal contact with Frederick Engels.
The first Russian Marxist organisation—the Emancipation of Labour group—was founded in Geneva in 1883 by Plekhanov, Zasulich, Deutsch, Axelrod and Ignatov. Its aim was to spread scientific socialism by means of Russian translations of the works of Marx and Engels and criticism from the Marxist standpoint of the Narodnik teachings prevailing in Russia. The Emancipation of Labour group laid the theoretical foundation of Russian Social-Democracy and greatly promoted the growth of political consciousness among progressive workers in Russia.
Lenin noted that the writings of the Emancipation of Labour group, "printed abroad and uncensored, were the first systematically to expound and draw all the practical conclusions from the ideas of Marxism". [11•*
In April 1895, Lenin went abroad to establish contact with the Emancipation of Labour group in order to unite all the Russian Marxists' revolutionary work. His arrival was of great importance for the Russian working-class movement. For the first time the Emancipation of Labour group established regular contact with Russia.
While in emigration (in France, Switzerland and Italy) Plekhanov, who had made the dissemination of Marx and Engels' revolutionary ideas the work of his life, was extremely active as a publicist. He also delivered lectures and wrote papers on various subjects. As early as 1882 he translated Marx and Engels' Manifesto of the Communist Party into Russian; in 1892 he translated and published for the first time in Russian Engels' pamphlet Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy with his own commentaries; he also translated the section "Critical Battle against French Materialism" from the sixth chapter of The Holy Family by Marx and Engels.
"In the period of gloomy reaction, at a time when the rank-and-file worker was obliged to overcome great difficulties and make tremendous efforts to obtain even primary education, illegal publications written by Georgi Valentinovich were already circulating among the workers.
"These works opened up a new world for the working class, they called on it to fight for a better future and taught the 12 fundamentals of Marxism in plain, simple form accessible to all; by unshakable faith in the final victory of the ideals of the working class they bred the assurance that all obstacles and difficulties on the road to those ideals would be easily swept away by the organised proletariat." [12•*
Plekhanov occupied a prominent place and received international recognition among the West European and American socialists in the late eighties and early nineties of the nineteenth century as a great theoretician of Marxism and an authoritative figure in the international working-class movement. For a number of years he represented the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in the International Socialist Bureau of the Second International, which he kept informed of the state of affairs in Russia. He also took an active part in the work of the German, Swiss, French and Italian Socialist parties and in the work of the Congresses and the Secretariat of the Second International.
He wrote numerous articles on Russian and international themes, critical reviews which in their aggregate embraced a broad range of subjects on politics, economics, philosophy, history, literature and art. These appeared mainly in illegal publications in Russia and in the socialist press in Germany, Bulgaria, France, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and other countries.
At the beginning of the eighties, when Bakunin's anarchist theories considerably influenced educated youth in Russia, Plekhanov came out against anarchism and its adventurist tactics. But in his criticism of anarchist views he failed to throw light on the question of the attitude of the proletarian revolution to the state or of the state in general, for which he was criticised by Lenin.
Not a single West European Marxist raised the banner of the fight against Bernsteinianism, but Plekhanov did. He also criticised the opportunism of Millerand, Bissolati and other socialists. His struggle in Russia against the opportunist trend of Economism and the bourgeois travesty of Marxism, "legal Marxism", is well known. He did no little to unmask the socialist-revolutionaries, too, particularly their individual terrorist tactics.
During the struggle against anti-Marxist trends in the eighties and nineties, Plekhanov gave great attention to the dissemination of the ideas of scientific socialism and Marx's economic teaching. He characterised scientific socialism by opposing it to the Utopian socialist systems of Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and the 13 petty-bourgeois socialism of Proudhon, the Narodniks, anarchists and others. His Augustin Thierry and the Materialist Conception of History, On Modern Socialism, Scientific Socialism and Religion, Foreign Review, Preface to Four Speeches by Workers, Home Review and other writings, not to speak of his widely known works against Narodism, anarchism, Economism, Bernsteinianism and Struvism, show how thoroughly he studied questions of scientific socialism.
In the works which he wrote against the bourgeois opponents of Marxism, Plekhanov analysed the social substance of the views held by the classics of bourgeois political economy—Adam Smith and David Ricardo—and defended Marx's economic teaching, especially singling out his revolutionary teaching on surplus-value and capital.
From the close of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, capitalism entered a new period in its development—the period of imperialism, the period of revolutionary upheavals and battles—which called for a reconsideration of old methods of work, a radical change in the activity of the Social-Democratic parties, and an all-round creative development of the Marxist theory as applied to the new historical conditions.
Although he remained an active figure in the international working-class movement and defended and substantiated Marxism, Plekhanov did not clearly grasp the character of the new historical epoch; he was unable to disclose its laws and specific features, to generalise the new experience acquired by the working-class movement or to arm the working class with new theoretical conclusions and propositions. Lenin was the man who was destined to fulfil this historic task and to raise Marxism to a new and higher stage.
In 1903, after the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, Plekhanov became a Menshevik. His desertion to the Menshevik standpoint and his inconsistency in Marxist theory and practice at that time were determined in no small degree by the influence of reformism, which was widespread in the working-class movement in Western Europe. Plekhanov supported Menshevik views, fought against Lenin and the Bolsheviks on paramount political questions of Marxism—the role of the proletariat in the revolution and its tactical line, the attitude to the peasantry, the appraisal of the 1905 Revolution, the question of the state, etc. Plekhanov's serious theoretical mistakes in philosophy and his deviation from consistent Marxism on a 14 number of questions were connected with, his falling off to Menshevism in politics.
But although Plekhanov held Menshevik views on basic questions of politics and the tactics of the working class, he nevertheless advocated the maintenance of the Party, and from 1909 to 1912 he opposed liquidationism and stood for the underground organisation of the Party, supporting Lenin in his struggle for the Party.
Plekhanov opposed the conference of liquidators in August 1912. Lenin stressed this and wrote that Plekhanov said outright that the conference was attended by "non-Party and anti-Party elements". [14•*
From 1908 to 1912, when the Bolsheviks led by Lenin waged a resolute fight against Machism, Plekhanov was the only theoretician of the Second International to write against Bogdanov and Lunacharsky and expose Shulyatikov, the vulgariser of materialism, and others. It was at that time that he wrote his valuable work Fundamental Problems of Marxism. Plekhanov severely criticised Croce, Mach, Avenarius, Petzoldt, Windelband, Rickert, Bergson, Nietzsche and many other bourgeois philosophers and sociologists, and defended the philosophical foundations of Marxism. During this period he defended the materialistic and emancipatory traditions of progressive Russian philosophical thought against the Vekhi people and "religious seekers". But after 1912 he became a supporter of "unity" with the liquidators. Lenin wrote: "...it is a pity that he is now nullifying his great services in the struggle against the liquidators during the period of disorganisation, in the struggle against the Machists at the height of Machism, by preaching what he himself cannot explain: Unity with whom, then? ... and on what terms? " [14•**
During the First World War Plekhanov adopted a social– chauvinist standpoint. After the bourgeois-democratic revolution in February 1917 he returned to Russia after 37 years in emigration and went to Petrograd.
Having been many years abroad, Plekhanov was out of touch with the Russian revolutionary movement. On his return to Russia he was a captive to the social-reformist and social-chauvinist theories of the Second International and was unable to understand the intricate concatenation and peculiarity of social development in Russia. We know how he attacked the course for a socialist revolution, steered by Lenin. In his appraisal of the future of the Russian revolution he proceeded from the Second International dogmas of the necessity of "economic conditions" for socialism 15 gradually to mature, of an alleged obligatory "high level" of culture for the transition to socialism, and so on. He held that the revolution in February 1917, being a bourgeois revolution, was to be the beginning of a long period of capitalist development in Russia. That was why he had a negative attitude towards the Great October Socialist Revolution, seeing it as a "violation of all the laws of history". But, although he continued to deny the necessity for an immediate socialist revolution in Russia, he did not fight against the victorious working class and Soviet power. He died on May 30, 1918, in the Pitkajarvi Sanatorium in Finland and was buried in the Volkovo Cemetery in Petrograd, near the graves of Belinsky and Dobrolyubov.
The spread of Marxism in the working class and among progressive intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century was hindered by the penetration of bourgeois, anti-Marxist theories in the working-class and revolutionary movement. In the West the struggle against revolutionary Marxism was waged not only by bourgeois idealist and eclectic professors (e.g., Brentano, Sombart, Schulze-Gavernitz) but by their followers, the theoreticians of the Second International, Bernstein, Kautsky, Hochberg and others, too. In Russia, where the works of Marx and Engels were then little known in the original, attempts to "criticise" Marxism from the bourgeois standpoint, to debase and discredit it openly or covertly, came not only from the official ideologists of the landlord and monarchic state and liberal bourgeois professors, but also from the liberal Narodniks, and then from the legal "Marxists" and the Economists.
Great, in the circumstances, was the importance of Plekhanov's Marxist writings of the eighties and nineties, which were published in Russia as well as abroad and in which the ideas of Marxism were defended and their lofty scientific and revolutionary content substantiated and brought to light.
In his boundless faith in the victory of Marxist ideas, Plekhanov courageously and fearlessly opposed all kinds of "critics" and distorters of Marxism. He was the first in Russia to give a Marxist analysis of the erroneous views of the Narodniks, to oppose the Marxist outlook to the Utopias of Narodism and to show the historic role of the working class of Russia, thereby dealing a severe blow to Narodism.
Plekhanov's work, Socialism and the Political Struggle (1883), was highly appraised by Lenin, who called it "the first profession de foi of Russian socialism". Besides a sharp criticism of idealist social theories, it gives a brilliant characterisation of the scientific 16 socialism of Marx and Engels, brings out the profound meaning of the well-known Marxist proposition "Every class struggle is a political struggle", and speaks of the necessity of combining the revolutionary struggle in Russia with correctly understood scientific socialism.
Besides Socialism and the Political Struggle, his subsequent works, Our Differences (1885) and The Development of the Monist View of History (1895), also cleared the way for the victory of Marxism in Russia and were the most important theoretical works of Russian Marxists in that period.
In these writings Plekhanov provided the first creative application of Marxism to the analysis of economic conditions in Russia after the Reform and showed the immediate needs of the Russian revolutionary movement and the political tasks of the Russian working class. He laid bare the reactionary essence of the so-called socialist views of the Narodniks, which had nothing in common with scientific socialism.
In Our Differences Plekhanov continued the criticism of the theoretical doctrine of the Narodniks as a whole and particularly of their economic "theory" and their erroneous views on the peasant question in Russia. Lenin, in his What the "Friends of the People" Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats, called Plekhanov's Our Differences the "first Social-Democratic work" of a Russian Marxist. Engels gave a high appraisal of it.
The Development of the Monist View of History (1895), one of Plekhanov's best Marxist works, was written in London, where he went after being deported from France in 1894. Lenin wrote that it "had helped to educate a whole generation of Russian Marxists".
There are other books by Plekhanov akin to The Development of the Monist View of History by their theme. They are: Essays on the History of Materialism, which was written in 1894 and published in Stuttgart in 1896 in German and had enormous success abroad, and his work For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel's Death (1891), also first published in German and described as excellent by Engels, and other philosophical works of later years.
The Development of the Monist View of History appeared legally in Russia under the pseudonym Beltov. Because of the censorship, Plekhanov gave the book, as he put it, the "purposely clumsy" name "monist" without indicating which conception of history—the materialist or the idealist—was meant. The book was translated into a number of foreign languages and soon became widely known. Engels wrote on January 30, 1895: "George's book 17 has been published at a most opportune time." On February 8, 1895, he wrote to Plekhanov: "In any case, it is a great success that you were able to get it published inside the country."
In this book Plekhanov dwelt mainly on questions of the materialist conception of history. In a polemic with the liberal Narodniks Mikhailovsky, Kareyev and others, he set himself the task of exposing the idealism of subjective sociology.
These works of Plekhanov and others of that period clearly reflect his great Marxist erudition and his profound knowledge of the history of philosophic and social thought. They reveal the historic preparation of Marxism on the basis of past progressive social thought, its sources and component parts, and shed light on major problems of dialectical and historical materialism, political economy and scientific socialism. By his fight against various forms of idealism, particularly positivism and Kantianism, and also "economic" materialism, Plekhanov contributed much that was new and original to the argumentation of Marxist ideas, and gave concrete expression and development to propositions of Marxism.
Plekhanov's best works of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties—the flourishing period in his theoretical work on Marxism—before Lenin founded the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, are included in the first volume of this edition of his Selected Plilosophical Works.
In fighting against idealism, metaphysics and the reactionary Utopias of Narodnik "socialism", Plekhanov defended materialism in philosophy and history and disclosed the objective nature of the laws governing social development and the dialectics of the historical process.
The subjective Narodniks maintained that Russia was following a road of her own and that as capitalism was "artificially transplanted" into Russia, it was accidental and a decline, a retrogression, for the "exceptional" Russian economic system. It was therefore necessary to "hold back", to "stop" the development of capitalism, to "put an end to the breaking up" by capitalism of the traditional foundations of Russian life. This Narodnik position was reactionary and aimed in essence at preserving survivals of feudal relations.
Advocating the impossibility of capitalist development in Russia, the Narodniks attempted to distort the ideas of Marx and his followers in that country. Mikhailovsky, for example, stated that Marx had applied his historical scheme uncritically to Russia and that the Russian Marxists were just as uncritically copying those "ready-made schemes" of Marx and ignoring facts pointing to Russia's "exceptional road", distinct from capitalism. Mikhailovsky, Vorontsov and others maintained that Marxism as a theory was applicable in a certain degree to the West European countries only, but completely inapplicable to Russia.
In order to bring out all the fallacy of the Narodnik economic theory, Plekhanov compared the conditions of capitalism's rise and its historic role in the West with the conditions of its development in Russia, ascertained the general preconditions for the development of capitalism in various countries and hence drew the conclusion that it was a mistake to oppose Russia to the West. He showed the untenability of the Narodniks' myth about the "special" character of Russian economic development. Plekhanov gave a profound Marxist analysis of the economic relationships in Russia since the Reform and of the capitalist road of development of town and country in his book Our Differences. This work is full of historical facts and statistics describing the various fields in the economic life of Russia. It shows very well the penetration of foreign capital into Russia, the ever-growing dependence of small handicraft industry on commercial capital, the process of proletarianisation of the craftsmen and the transformation of small handicraft production into a domestic system of large-scale production. "Capitalism is going its way," Plekhanov wrote, "it is ousting independent producers from their shaky positions and creating an army of workers in Russia by the same tested method as it has already practised 'in the West'." [18•*
Plekhanov was just as convincing when he revealed the penetration of capitalism in agriculture too, the disintegration of the "foundations of the peasant mir"—the village commune ( obshchina).
The Narodniks, who were fighting capitalism from the petty-bourgeois standpoint, saw the village commune as an indestructible stronghold, a universal remedy for all the evils of capitalism and the basis for the socialist transformation of Russia, allowing capitalism to be bypassed. Idealising the pre-capitalist forms of life, they were completely mistaken in their appraisal of the actual 19 situation and they argued, Plekhanov said, like metaphysicians, who do not understand the dialectic contradictions of life. They kept talking about a supposed "popular" production, free from inner contradictions, and regarded the people as a kind of rigid mass. They considered historical phenomena metaphysically, apart from their actual development and change.
The Narodniks refused to notice the weakening and disintegration of the village communes. In Our Differences Plekhanov showed by facts that these communes displayed indubitable vitality as long as they remained within the conditions of natural economy. They began to disintegrate, not under the influence of circumstances outside and independent of them, but by virtue of inner causes, of the fact that "the development of money economy and commodity production little by little undermines communal land tenure". [19•*
Plekhanov was profoundly convinced that Russia was developing along the road of capitalism not, as the subjectivists thought, because of the existence of any external force of mysterious law driving her on to that road, but because there was no actual internal force that could divert her from that road. "Capitalism is favoured by the whole dynamics of our social life," he wrote.
The principal conclusion to be drawn from the analysis of Russian reality was that large-scale private capitalist production in Russia was expanding and developing unceasingly while the Narodnik illusion of a supposed "popular production" and the other Utopian outlooks were being shattered by life itself.
In his works Plekhanov proved that "by the inherent character of its organisation the rural commune tends first and foremost to give place to bourgeois, not communist, forms of social life...." The commune's "role will be not active, but passive; it is not in a position to advance Russia on the road to communism...." [19•**
Plekhanov's greatest historic merit was that besides investigating the paths of Russia's economic development he provided a Marxist solution to the question of the class forces and the character of the class struggle in Russia. It was typical of the Narodniks to idealise the "people"; they considered the peasantry as the main revolutionary force and ignored the role of the proletariat. Plekhanov was the first in Russia to oppose to their Utopia the doctrine of the historic role of the Russian working class in the emancipation struggle.
The Narodniks' position was based on the erroneous idea that industry was hardly developing in Russia and that consequently the inconsiderable worker stratum was not increasing.
Plekhanov showed by convincing arguments why the revolutionaries should rely precisely on the proletariat, the growing force in society, connected with the most progressive form of production, big factory production, and not on the peasantry, who, although they were more numerous, must inevitably divide, as commodity production developed, "into two hostile camps—the exploiting minority and the toiling majority". [20•*
Plekhanov was the first in Russia to prove that the working class was to play the chief role in the impending Russian revolution. "The initiative in the communist movement can be assumed only by the working class in our industrial centres, the class whose emancipation can be achieved only by its own conscious efforts." [20•**
This conviction that Plekhanov had of the historic future of the working class of Russia was clearly illustrated in his speech at the 1889 International Working Men's Socialist Congress in Paris. He then proclaimed: "The revolutionary movement in Russia can triumph only as the revolutionary movement of the workers. There is not and cannot be any other way out for us! " [20•***
To the vulgar economists, who attached to the political organisation of society an utterly negligible significance, he opposed the Marxist proposition that wherever society is split into classes the antagonism between the interests of those classes necessarily leads them to struggle for political domination. It is, therefore, a mistake to recommend that the workers should fight only in the economic field and to ignore the political tasks of the working class. That, Plekhanov argued, is nothing but the line of renouncing revolutionary class struggle, revolution and socialism. The class, political struggle against tsarism and the bourgeoisie is the only way to fulfil the task of the historical emancipation of the working class. This struggle culminates in revolution, the most powerful manifestation of the class struggle and the means of achieving the social and economic transformation of society.
Plekhanov contested the Narodnik Utopian conception that Russia was on the very eve of a socialist revolution. The Narodniks proceeded from the view that there was no bourgeoisie in Russia and that, therefore, the bourgeois revolution would pass her by, but that the Russian peasantry showed a propensity to communism and that, therefore, conditions were favourable for a popular socialist revolution. In Plekhanov's opinion, socialism was impossible without the economic preconditions. The impending revolution in Russia could only be a bourgeois one. In his early 21 works Plekhanov gave serious attention to the peasant question and thought it indispensable for the workers, who were eventually to win political freedom, to carry on revolutionary work and spread the ideas of scientific socialism among the peasantry.
But as he maintained that the peasantry as a class was breaking up, Plekhanov failed to take into account the fact that one of the primary tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia was to fight for the abolition of landed proprietorship and that the peasantry was destined to play an enormous progressive role in that fight.
In his very first works Plekhanov speaks a number of times of the passivity, the political apathy and conservatism of the peasantry. This error showed that he underestimated the revolutionary potential of the peasantry and as a result he subsequently fell into the erroneous Menshevik interpretation of the peasant question and of the Social-Democrats' attitude to the peasants.
At the beginning of the eighties, when the revolutionary proletarian movement in Russia was still in its embryonic stage, Plekhanov was a brilliant champion of Marxism. For its time the programme of revolutionary activity which he set forth in Our Differences was a considerable step forward in the fight for the spreading of Marxism in Russia. The members of Blagoyev's, Tochissky's and Brusnev's Social-Democratic circles who were then doing practical work in Russia and maintained contact with the Emancipation of Labour group highly appraised Plekhanov's works and drew attention to their significance in spreading revolutionary theory during the period of disorder and vacillation. They requested that the pamphlets (Our Differences and Socialism and the Political Struggle) be sent in "as large quantities and as soon as possible".
The vital requirement of that time was the elaboration of a programme for the Russian Social-Democrats. Plekhanov wrote two draft programmes, in 1884 and 1887. The first contained a number of erroneous propositions: the recognition of individual terror, the cult of "heroes" and other Narodnik survivals. The Marxist circles (of Blagoycv and others) in Russia pronounced it unsatisfactory. The second draft was more correct. It said that the arm of the Russian Social-Democrats was the complete emancipation of labour from the oppression of capital by the transfer of all means and objects of production to social ownership, which would be possible only as a result of a communist revolution. In his article "A Draft Programme of Our Party", Lenin expressed the opinion that there were elements in Plekhanov's draft which were 22 absolutely indispensable for the programme of a Social– Democratic labour party. [22•*
Plekhanov's Socialism and the Political Struggle and Our Differences fulfilled a great historic task. It was under their influence that the first Russian Marxists turned their eyes and their hopes towards the working class, tried to develop its class self-consciousness, to create its revolutionary organisation—the party—and aimed their work at helping the working class to rise to the fight against the bourgeois and landlord regime. Plekhanov pointed out "the task of the Russian revolutionaries—the foundation of a revolutionary working-class party". [22•** But not until the middle of the nineties did the formation of a revolutionary Marxist party become possible.
In the last ten years of the nineteenth century a new period in the history of Russian Marxism opened, when the merger of two great forces—the working-class movement and scientific socialism—took place. This new period in the development of Marxism in Russia is inseparable from the name of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and from the work of the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class which he founded and which was the embryo of the Marxist party of the working class in Russia.
The significance of Plekhanov's activity as an outstanding Marxist philosopher in the field of theory is not limited to his masterly application of a number of basic propositions of Marxist theory to the historical conditions of Russia or to his defence and substantiation of Marxism in the fight against its enemies.
In his philosophical works Plekhanov endeavoured to defend, substantiate and popularise all Marx and Engels' new contributions to philosophy. The greatness of dialectical and historical materialism, Plekhanov stressed, consists in its having overcome the limitations of metaphysical materialism and idealism and explained all aspects of human life.
Plekhanov proclaimed that "the appearance of Marx's materialist philosophy was a genuine revolution, the greatest revolution known in the history of human thought". [22•*** He considered Marx's materialist philosophy as the inevitable and natural result of the development of the whole history of social thought, as a higher stage in the development of philosophy; he saw Marx's 23 revolutionary outlook as the reflection of the class interests of the proletariat.
Plekhanov mainly directed his attention to the propaganda of historical materialism and disclosed its real content; this was a vital necessity of the time, for the bourgeois opponents of Marxism both in the West and in Russia tried to debase historical materialism to the level of vulgar "economic" materialism and replace it by all sorts of non-scientific theories—racism, Malthusianism, the theory of "factors", the geographical theory and others, or else they passed over in complete silence the materialist conception of history formulated by Marx.
In his Development of the Monist View of History, Plekhanov polemised against Mikhailovsky, "who had not noticed" Marx's historical theory and, moreover, tried to hush up Marx's masterly ideas for the benefit of subjectivism. Plekhanov showed that many experts on history, economics, the history of political relations and the history of culture knew nothing of Marx's historical materialism and yet the results that they had achieved obviously testified in favour of Marx's theory. Plekhanov was convinced that there would be many discoveries confirming that theory. "As to Mr. Mikhailovsky, on the other hand, we are convinced of the contrary: not a single discovery will justify the 'subjective' point of view, either in five years or in five thousand." [23•*
p Plekhanov repeatedly wrote that the materialist conception of history formulated by Marx was one of the greatest achievements of theoretical thought in the nineteenth century and an epochmaking service rendered by Marx. Nobody before Marx had been able to give a correct, strictly scientific explanation of the history ' of social life. Marx was the first to extend materialism to the development of society and he created the science of society.
At the same time Plekhanov stressed that the materialist conception of history, while being one of the paramount achievements of Marxism, is only a part of the materialist outlook of Marx and Engels. It is a mistake to see the "most important element of Marxism" in historical materialism alone. The materialist explanation of history presupposes the materialist conception of nature.
Plekhanov clearly and convincingly demonstrated the organic unity of Marx's philosophical, sociological and economic theories, the close interconnection of the basic propositions of Marxism, and described Marxism as the integral, coherent revolutionary World outlook of the proletariat.
The striving to single out the most important in the phenomena of social life, their material basis, is in striking evidence all through Plekhanov's exposition of Marx's materialist views of human society and its history. It is from this standpoint that he analyses the philosophical views of materialists before Marx, the Utopian socialists, the nineteenth-century French sociologists and historians, the views of Comte, Spencer, Hegel, the Bauer brothers, Fichte, Weisengriin and others, and underlines that Marx's masterly discovery—the materialist conception of history—corrects the radical error of the philosophers and sociologists before him, who proceeded from idealist premises in their analysis of society. Plekhanov shows that Marx's materialist scientific explanation of the social-historical process derives from one single premise: the objective basis of social life, the economic structure of society.
Plekhanov thoroughly substantiates the Marxist conception of the laws governing society. He is interested in the way the question of the laws of social development is posed in the teachings of Marx's historical predecessors, the eighteenth-century French materialists and the nineteenth-century Utopian socialists. He stresses that, despite certain isolated materialist guesses, they remained idealists in their conception of history and were unable to grasp social development's objective necessity and conformity to law and hence to reveal the roots of the ideas motivating human activity. Plekhanov showed that it was Marxism that first made a scientific investigation of the historical process. Marxism revealed the objective nature of the laws of history, which work with the force of natural laws and with unrelenting necessity; he showed that changes in social relations, often unforeseen by man but necessarily resulting from his activity, take place in accordance with definite laws of social life.
People's activity, their ideas and views do not depend on chance; they are subordinate to the laws of historical development, and in order to discover those laws, Plekhanov wrote, the facts of humanity's past life must be studied with the help of Marx's dialectical and materialist method. Only he who understands the past, who sees the succession and connection between historical events, their conditionality and not a chaos of fortuities, can foresee the future.
Plekhanov assessed very highly the role of dialectics in the life of society. The dialectical method, applied to social phenomena, he pointed out, has worked a complete revolution. "We can say without exaggeration that we are indebted to it for the understanding of human history as a law-governed process. " [24•*
This means that the qualities of the social environment depend 25 just as little on the will and consciousness of man as those of the geographical environment, Plekhanov said. He emphasised Marx's thought that it is incorrect to look for the laws of society in nature.
Plekhanov, it should be noted, did not leave uncriticised the even now widespread pseudo-scientific bourgeois "theories" which apply biological laws to society and thereby reduce social progress to biological evolution. He derided the positivists, the social-Darwinists, all those who dreamed of reforming social science by means of natural science, by the study of physiological laws. He called them Utopians. People who consider society from this standpoint, he wrote, find themselves in a blind alley, for physiology, biology, medicine and zoology are unable to explain the specific sphere of social development.
Plekhanov showed and emphasised the distinction between Marxism and Darwinism. Darwin succeeded in solving the question of the origin of vegetable and animal species, whereas Marx solved the question of how the various forms of social organisation arise. If Darwin was inclined to apply his biological theory to the explanation of social phenomena, Plekhanov wrote, that was a mistake. Therefore, when Plekhanov himself wrote in his Development of the Monist View of History that Marxism is Darwinism applied to social sciences, he was obviously using an unfortunate expression which by no means reflected his actual opinion of the relation between Marxism and Darwinism.
The objective laws of material production, the laws of the class struggle—these are the key to the understanding of the inner logic of the social process, and of the whole wealth and variety of social relations. It is here that the causes of social phenomena must be sought. Plekhanov explains that other phenomena of social lifeideology, for instance—are also governed by their specific laws. For the materialist, the history of human thought is a law-governed and necessary process. The train of human thought is also subject to its own particular laws. Nobody will identify, say, the laws of logic and those of commodity circulation. But Marxists do not consider, as the idealists did, that we can seek the ultimate cause, the basic motive force behind the intellectual development of mankind, in the laws of thought. The laws of thought cannot answer the question: what determines the afflux and character of new impressions? These questions can be elucidated only by analysing social life and its reflection in man's consciousness.
Plekhanov's defence of Marxist determinism against voluntarism is important in principle. Marx considered the history of human society as a necessary law-governed process and at the same time as the product of human activity. The objective and subjective 26 sides of social life are interdependent. Historical necessity does not preclude freedom of action in man. In studying the objective conditions of the material existence of mankind, Marxists thereby study the relations between people, and also their thoughts, ideals and strivings. The subjective voluntarists' assertion that man's will and activity are entirely free and independent of social conditions is untenable. In practice the will is only "apparently" free; the idea of complete freedom of will is an illusion. Freedom of will does not exist of itself—it is a result of the knowledge of historical necessity, knowledge of the laws of progress. The freedom of the individual, Plekhanov holds, consists not only in knowing the laws of nature and history and being able to submit to those laws, but also in being able to combine them in the most advantageous manner.
It is just as erroneous, Plekhanov said, to seek the motive force of historical development outside the practical activity of human beings. Bourgeois historians and sociologists attempted to ascribe to Marxism an absolute metaphysical determinism, maintaining that, according to Marx, historical necessity works of itself, without any human participation, for inasmuch as the working of objective necessity is recognised, no room is left, they say, for free human activity.
Plekhanov completely exposed that falsification of Marxist views and refuted the standpoint according to which historical necessity works automatically: he proved that it is human activity which makes history.
He skilfully refuted the assertions that people are subject to an iron law of necessity, that all their actions are predetermined, and so on. "No ... once we have discovered that iron law, it depends on us to overthrow its yoke, it depends on us to make necessity the obedient slave of reason," [26•* Plekhanov writes, quoting Marx.
Not only does dialectical materialism teach that it is absurd to revolt against economic necessity, it shows how that necessity must be made use of practically. It thus rejects the fatalist point of view and proclaims the great and insuperable force of human activity, of human reason, which, once it has come to know the inner laws of necessity, strives to transform reality and make it more rational. "People made and had to make their history unconsciously as long as the motive forces of historical development worked behind their backs, independently of their consciousness. Once those forces have been discovered, once the laws by which they work have been studied, people will be able to take them in their own hands and submit them to their own reason. The service rendered by Marx consists in having 27 discovered those forces and made a rigorous scientific study of their working." [27•*
Plekhanov made it clear that historical materialism's task consists in explaining the sum-total of social life. However, in order to explain the whole historical process consistently, one must remain true to the Marxist principle of first finding out the very foundation of social life. According to the theory of Marx and Engels, that basis is the development of the productive forces, the production of material wealth. But in order to produce, people must establish between themselves certain mutual relations which Marx called relations of production. The sum– total of these relations constitutes the economic structure of society, out of which all other social relations between people develop. From the standpoint of Marxism, the historical progress is determined, in the final analysis, not by man's will, but by the development of the material productive forces. Their development leads to changes in the economic relations. That is why the study of history must begin with the study of the state of the productive forces in the country concerned, its economy, out of which social psychology and the various ideologies develop.
In the fight against idealism Plekhanov refuted the assertions made by Mikhailovsky and Kareyev that "the efforts of reason" play the decisive role in the development of the productive forces, the means of production, in the process of creating and applying the instruments of labour. He showed that the very ability to produce tools is developed in the process of action on nature, in the process of winning the means of subsistence. By acting on nature, man changes his own nature. "He develops all his capacities, among them also the capacity of 'tool-making'. But at any given time the measure of that capacity is determined by the measure of the development of productive forces already achieved. " [27•**
The indissolubility, the unity of the interrelations between the productive forces and the relations of production which Marx established, is called by Plekhanov the basic cause of social progress. He clearly sees the dialectics of their development in the fact that relations of production are the consequence, and the productive forces the cause. But the consequence in turn .becomes a cause, the relations of production become a new source, a form of development of the productive forces.
Plekhanov also elucidates, although he not infrequently overestimates, the influence of nature—a natural, and, as he puts it, most important precondition of human history—on the 28 development of society. Thus, in his early works, particularly in The Development of the Monist View of History, he noted that social relations have an infinitely greater influence on the process of history than natural conditions. In Essays on the History of Materialism—another of his earlier works—he wrote that the mutual influence of the productive forces and the relations of production is the cause of social development, which has its own logic and its own laws, independent of the natural environment, and that this inner logic "may even enter into contradiction with the demands of the environment". He speaks in the same spirit of the indirect influence of climate, of the fact that the historical destiny of peoples does not depend exclusively of the geographical environment, for "geography is far from explaining everything in history". The relative stability of the geographical environment compared with the variability of the historical destinies of peoples, Plekhanov writes, confirms this conclusion. This means, he goes on, that man's dependence on his geographical environment is a variable magnitude which changes with every new step in historical development. He was also correct in asserting that the geographical environment promotes or hinders the development of the productive forces. And yet even in these early works Plekhanov slips into formulations which show that he exaggerates the role of the natural, geographical environment—he explains the condition of the productive forces by the features of the geographical environment. This was a concession to the socalled geographical trend in sociology.
In his Development of the Monist View of History, he treats population as an integral clement in social progress, whose growth, however, is not the basic cause of that progress. He quotes Marx's proposition that abstract laws of reproduction exist only for animals and plants, whereas the increase (or decrease) of population in human society is determined by its economic structure.
In his works of the eighties and nineties, Plekhanov gives a Marxist solution to the question of the role of the popular masses and of the individual in history in connection with the elucidation and substantiation of the historic role of the proletariat in the revolutionary class struggle. In 1898, he devoted a special work to the subject. But even in his earlier works he criticised the anti-scientific theories of Lavrov, Tkachov, Mikhailovsky and other Narodniks on the role of "heroes" in history. Following the Bauer brothers, they professed subjectivism in the conception of history, ignored the role of the popular masses and of the classes in history, and considered the intelligentsia as an independent social force supposedly playing a primary role in the development of society; in their view, the masses are 29 incapable of conscious and organised activity; they can only subordinate themselves to and blindly follow the "heroes".
The Narodnik ideologists held that historical progress is accomplished exclusively by critically thinking individuals, as a particular and higher variety of the human race. The critically thinking individual was a "hero", the one who carries along the "crowd", as contrasted to the "hero". The crowd, as the Narodniks see it, is "a mass alien to every creative element, something in the nature of a vast quantity of ciphers, which acquire some positive significance only in the event of a kind, 'critically thinking' entity condescendingly taking its place at their head". [29•* Elsewhere, Plekhanov noted that the Narodniks give the name crowd to millions of producers out of whom "the hero will mould whatever he considers necessary". [29•** This was the extremely harmful cult of the individual, of the "hero", who stands above the masses.
In one of the variants of Essays on the History of Materialism, Plekhanov gave a remarkable explanation of the harm done by the cult of historical personalities. The actions of these people are not infrequently considered as the cause of great historical movements. "It is in this way that the roles of 'Moses', 'Abraham', 'Lycurgus' and others assume the incredible proportions which amaze us in the philosophy of history of Holbach and all the last century 'enlighteners'. The history of the peoples is turned into a series of 'Lives of Illustrious Men'." That is why "religion, morals, customs, and the entire character of the people are represented as having been formed by one man acting according to a pre-considered plan. Thus there remains no trace," Plekhanov says, "of any idea of social science, of the laws on which man depends in historical development". This point of view, he noted, has nothing in common with science.
Since the Narodnik ideologists as a rule did not trust the masses and recognised only the "single combat" of isolated individuals with the autocracy, they went over, as Plekhanov pointed out, to the pernicious tactics of individual terror, which retarded the development of the revolutionary initiative and activity of the working class and the peasantry. The unsuccessful attempts to wage the struggle against tsarism by the efforts of individual heroes alone, divorcement from the popular masses, led the Narodniks to still more serious errors and made them evolve towards liberalism. Clearly realising the harmfulness of the cult of the individual, of "heroes", for the development of a mass revolutionary movement, Plekhanov was not content with 30 criticising the political and theoretical bankruptcy of the Narodnik ideologists' views on this question and deriding their immense conceit; he at the same time set examples of profound understanding of the Marxist teaching on the laws of social development and the role of the masses and of individuals in history.
Mikhailovsky, the "Achilles of the subjective school" Plekhanov wrote, imagines that Marxists "must only talk about 'the self-development of the forms of production and exchange' ". "If you imagine," Plekhanov said to the Narodniks, "that, in the opinion of Marx, the forms of production can develop 'of themselves', you are cruelly mistaken. What are the social relations of production? They are relations between men. How can they develop, then, without men? " [30•* It is the working masses, Plekhanov maintains, who advance the development of production.
While, in the view of the subjectivists, Plekhanov wrote, the hero operates and the producer co-operates, the Marxist view is that the producers do not co-operate, but operate. The development of society is achieved only by the operations of the producers themselves.
He proved by examples from social life that history is made by the masses, the millions of producers, not by "heroes" according to their caprice or fantasy. "It is not the Utopian plans of various reformers, but the laws of production and exchange, which determine the now continually growing working-class movement." [30•**
The subjectivists attribute to outstanding individuals deeds which only the masses can accomplish; not individuals, but the popular masses, the classes, play the decisive role in historical development, in Russia's social reorganisation. The subjectivists and the voluntarists, Plekhanov wrote, cannot rise from the acts of individuals to the acts of the masses, to the acts of whole social classes. The Narodniks, like the bourgeois sociologists, are inclined to see in the political activity of great people the chief and almost only mainspring of historical development. They give too much attention to the genealogy of kings and leave no room for the independent activity of the popular masses.
The attention of historians, Plekhanov wrote, must be centred on the life of the popular masses. The people must be the hero of history, he emphasised. The real history of a country is the history of the people, the history of the citizens. "...No great step can be made in the historical progress of mankind, not only without the participation of people, but even without the participation of the great majority of the people, i.e., of the masses. " [30•***
Plekhanov noted that: "So long as there exist 'heroes' who imagine that it is sufficient for them to enlighten their own heads to be able to lead the crowd wherever they please, and to mould it, like clay, into anything that comes into their heads, the kingdom of reason remains a pretty phrase or a noble dream. It begins to approach us with seven-league strides only when the 'crowd' itself becomes the hero of historical action, and when in it, in that colourless 'crowd', there develops the appropriate consciousness of self." [31•*
The greatness of Marx's philosophy, Plekhanov wrote, consists in that, unlike many other philosophical trends, which have doomed man to inactivity and passive acceptance of reality, it appeals to his power of creation. Marx called to activity the proletariat, the class which has a great historical role to play in modern society. It is to it, the proletariat, the revolutionary class in the full sense of the word, that the Marxists appeal. The proletariat uses Marx's philosophical theory as a reliable guide in its struggle for emancipation. This theory infuses into the proletariat an energy hitherto unequalled. The whole practical philosophy of Marxism amounts to action. Plekhanov called dialectical materialism the philosophy of action.
But in attributing decisive significance in historical development to the action of the masses, Marxism is nevertheless far from denying the role of the individual in history, from reducing it to nil.
An outstanding individual, in indissoluble contact with the masses and expressing their interests and aspirations, may in definite historical circumstances play a great role in society by arousing heroic self-consciousness in the masses; by his progressive activity he accelerates the advance of society. Hence "...the development of knowledge, the development of human consciousness, is the greatest and most noble task of the thinking personality. 'Licht, mehr Licht! '—that is what is most of all needed.... One should not leave the torch in the narrow study of the ' intellectual'. ...Develop human consciousness.... Develop the self-consciousness of the producers". [31•**
The significance or an outstanding individual's social activity, Plekhanov stressed, depends on how correctly that individual understands the conditions of development of society, and is determined by his nearness to the people, to the progressive class. But no great man can impose on society relations which no longer conform to the condition of the productive forces. Thus Plekhanov brilliantly criticised the idealist cult of the32 individual in the middle of the nineties and explained the Marxist teaching on the role of the people and of the individual in history. Plekhanov's Marxist works still help in the fight to eliminate the remaining survivals of the cult of the individual.
Substantiating the paramount role of the people in history, Plekhanov sought to prove that only the revolutionary movement of the people, of the working class, could overthrow a political monster such as Russian autocracy and lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the triumph of socialism. This was of great importance to the Russian emancipation movement, in which Blanquist and anarchist ideas were being spread in the eighties. Plekhanov defended the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Socialism and the Political Struggle, Our Differences and other works. He pointed out that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the first act, the sign of the social revolution. The task of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not only to destroy the political domination of the bourgeoisie, it is also to organise social and political life. "Always and everywhere," he noted, "political power has been the lever by which a class, having achieved domination, has carried out the social upheaval necessary for its welfare...." [32•*
When he later adopted Menshevik views, Plekhanov, while not openly renouncing the Marxist principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, let himself be influenced by reformist constitutional illusions and evaded the answer to concrete practical questions in the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Among the highly important questions of historical materialism which Plekhanov worked out, a prominent place is given to the question of the rise and development of ideology, the origin of forms of social consciousness and their interaction, the question of the relation between the political and ideological superstructures and the economic basis, and so on.
Just as there is nothing rigid, eternal and invariable in nature, so, in the history of social life, changes in the mode of production are accompanied by changes in ideas, theories, political institutions and the like—i.e., in the entire superstructure. All this is the historical product of the practical activity of people.
In his works Plekhanov devoted his main attention to defining how the development of the forms of social consciousness depends on material production. He criticised in great detail the idealist theory of "self-development" of ideologies, and the notion that the general condition of intellects and morals creates not only the various forms of art, literature and philosophy but 33 also the industry of a given period, the social environment. Plekhanov convincingly explains that only the materialist conception of history can find the real cause of a given condition of both intellects and morals in the production of material values.
In the interaction of society and nature people produce material values and create the economic basis on which arise the political system, psychology and ideology. The very direction of intellectual work in society is determined in the final analysis by people's relations in production. This materialist thesis does not reject cases of other countries' ideological and political influence on the policy and ideology of the country in question. Plekhanov supplements the study of the interrelations between economy and ideology within a country, the elucidation of the dependence of political and ideological development on the economic structure of society, with the study of foreign influences on the cultural development of one people or another. "The French philosophers were filled with admiration for the philosophy of Locke; but they went much further than their teacher. This was because the class which they represented had gone in France, fighting against the old regime, much further than the class of English society whose aspirations were expressed in the philosophical works of Locke." [33•* This means that foreign influences cannot do away with the .main thing, the fact that the features and peculiarities of the social ideas in a given country are explained in the final analysis by the fundamental inner cause of its development—the degree of development of its own economic relations.
p No less convincing is Plekhanov's argument in favour of the Marxist proposition on the reverse influence of the forms of superstructure on the economy. The dependence of politics on economics does not preclude their interaction, the influence of political institutions on economic life. The political system either promotes the development of the productive forces or hinders it. The reason why a given political system is created is to promote the further development of the productive forces. If the political system becomes an obstacle to their development it must be abolished.
In societies based on exploitation, the ruling and the subject classes are opposed to one another in the production process. The relations between classes, Plekhanov explains, are first and foremost relations into which people enter in the social process of production. The relations between the classes are reflected in the political organisation of society and the political struggle. This struggle is the source from which the various political 34 theories and the ideological superstructure arise and develop. Only by taking into account and studying the struggle between the classes can one come to understand the spiritual history of society, and draw a correct conclusion that in societies divided into classes there is always a dominant ideology, which is the ideology of the dominant class.
Plekhanov's indisputable services include his brilliant refutation of the untenable idea, nevertheless obstinately ascribed to Marxism, that economic conditions determine spiritual life wholly and entirely (and not merely in the final resort), and that any theory can be deduced directly from a given economic condition. This vulgar fiction which describes Marx's historical materialism as "economic materialism" was spread at the end of the nineteenth century by Mikhailovsky and other subjective Narodniks and bourgeois sociologists in the West.
Mikhailovsky is wrong, Plekhanov wrote, to think that Marxism knows only what belongs to economics, that it "breathes only with the string". Marx never considered the economic development of a given country separate from the social forces which, arising from it, themselves influence its further direction. As regards the development of ideologies, the best experts on economic development will at times find themselves helpless if they have not a certain artistic sense which enables them to understand, for example, the complicated process of the development of social psychology and its significance in the life of society, its adaptation to economics, its connections with ideology. The great writers Balzac and Ibsen, Plekhanov noted, did much to explain the psychology of the various classes in modern society. "Let's hope that in time there will appear many such artists, who will understand on the one hand the 'iron laws' of movement of the 'string', and on the other will be able to understand and to show how, on the 'string' and precisely thanks to its movement, there grows up the 'garment of Life' of ideology" [34•*
Marx, Plekhanov argued, never denied the very great importance of politics and ideology (moral, pilosophical, religious and aesthetic concepts) in people's life. But he first of all determined their genesis, and found it in the economic relations of society. Then he investigated how the economic skeleton is covered .with the living flesh of social and political forms and finally-and this is the most interesting, the most fascinating aspect-how human ideas, feelings, aspirations and ideals arise and develop.
Plekhanov showed the relative independence of ideological development, thus refuting the illusion of the absolute 35 independence of ideology, an illusion so characteristic of bourgeois ideologists and revisionists. The process by which the ideological superstructure arises out of the economic basis goes on unnoticed by man. That is why the link between ideological and economic relations, the dependence of the former upon the latter, is not seldom lost sight of, the former are considered "self-sufficient" and ideology is erroneously regarded as something which is independent by its very essence. The relative independence of ideological development is explained, Plekhanov emphasises, first of all by continuity in the development of each ideological form. This relative independence is shown by the fact that the ideologists of any class adopt an active attitude to the legacy of ideas from the preceding age and use the achievements of previous generations. "The ideologies of every particular age are always most closely connected—whether positively or negatively—with the ideologies of the preceding age." [35•* The moment material and spiritual labour part, and opposition arises between them, special branches of the division of labour in spiritual production appear. The ideologies become, as it were, segregated in relatively independent fields with the inner tendencies peculiar to their own development. The existence of these phenomena proves that the relative independence of ideologies is a reality, a historical fact.
It is an error, Plekhanov writes, to attribute to Marxism the thought that the content of all of a given society's ideas can be explained directly by its economic condition. Ideas which arise in one and the same society often play completely different roles.
Plekhanov's profound thoughts on the role and significance of ideas in the development of society are of enormous interest to this day. In the eighties and nineties of the last century the Narodniks, whose Utopian ideals were completely out of touch with real life, greatly harmed the revolutionary struggle of the masses by asserting that ideas and theories are independent of economic, social life. Exposing the subjectivism of Mikhailovsky and others, Plekhanov gave an independent and original development of the Marxist teaching on the role of ideas and theories.
Ideals may be lofty or base, correct or erroneous. From Marx's point of view, Plekhanov noted, ideas, ideals are always the reflection of the material conditions of people's existence. The only correct ideal is that which corresponds to the aspect of economic reality which tends towards progress. The metaphysician thinks that if a public personality must base himself upon reality it means that he should reconcile himself with it. But the 36 materialist and dialectician points out that life in a class society is antagonistic. The reactionaries base themselves on a reality which is already obsolete, and yet in it is being born a new life, the future reality, to serve which means to contribute to the victory of the new.
Marxists attribute great importance to ideas, ideals, although this is challenged by the Narodnik sociologists. Ideas become a great power, but on the indispensable condition that they are able to embrace and reflect reality, the course of history, the relations between the classes. Only in that case are they invincible and do they promote progress. In the opposite case they act as brakes to social development. A class and its political party may be called revolutionary only if they express the most progressive trends of society, are vehicles of the most advanced ideas of their time, if they determine the tasks of the social struggle.
Plekhanov called revolutionary ideas "dynamite" which "no other explosive in the world can replace". [36•*
Plekhanov, being a Marxist, never tired of calling for the fulfilment of the great ideals of scientific socialism. He stressed the exceptional role of revolutionary theory in the proletariat's class struggle. "For without revolutionary theory," he wrote, "there is no revolutionary movement in the true sense of the word." [36•** He called for the dissemination among the masses of the progressive ideas advanced by the most progressive social forces, and this he saw as a very great factor of progress.
However, Plekhanov did not apply these views consistently in practice. Later, when he became a Menshevik, he underestimated the subjective side of the revolutionary movement, minimised the role of the revolutionary party and belittled the reverse influence of social consciousness on economics, the role of ideas in the development of society.
At the end of the nineteenth century and later, when the bourgeoisie were conducting a campaign against Marxism and its philosophy, the materialist Plekhanov's resolute defence of the philosophical principles of Marxism—Marxist materialism and dialectics—was of immense importance. He showed that the ideological bourgeois reaction was fighting under the flag of philosophical idealism and eclecticism. In the final analysis, he saw the social basis of that campaign against materialism in the 37 bourgeoisie's fear of the revolutionary proletariat entering the historical arena.
In defending the just cause in philosophy Plekhanov exposed idealism in its various forms—Berkeleianism, Humism, Fichteism, Kantianism, Schellingism, Hegelianism and the subjective sociology of the Narodniks—and proved that idealism is akin to religion.
His resolute attacks on the landlord-bourgeois reaction, which slandered dialectical materialism and strove to exclude it from the general course of philosophy's progressive development, were particularly valuable.
The main thing in Plekhanov's historical and philosophical conception was to fight idealism and to bring out the materialist tradition in philosophy. However, his works contain no clear formulation of dialectical materialism's conception of the object of philosophy.
At the same time he shows how the bourgeois historians of philosophy give an idealist twist to the views of the materialists, falsify the history of materialism and try to pass over materialism in silence. He draws attention to the unscientific way in which bourgeois scholars expound the history of philosophy in the spirit of vulgar filiation of ideas, that is, simple consecutiveness of philosophical systems, ignoring the connection between the history of ideas and the history of society. At the same time he demands that continuity in the development of ideas be taken into account, that the connection between the different philosophical systems and schools and the philosophical theories of the past be borne in mind.
From the standpoint of dialectical materialism Plekhanov endeavoured to trace the continuity of the materialist ideas and also what distinguishes dialectical materialism from pre-Marxian materialism and from Hegel's philosophy. This was of great value, for in the eighties and nineties socialist literature often failed to give a clear idea of the difference between dialectical materialism and the preceding materialist systems. More than that, Marx's views were often confused with those of Holbach 5nd of Helvetius. The weak sides of metaphysical materialism Were attributed to dialectical materialism. On the other hand, dialectical materialism was professed to be a fragment of Left Hegelianism.
Plekhanov saw the continuity and the connection between the dialectical and the pre-Marxian materialists mainly in their defence of materialism. He traces the genesis of materialism from Heraclitus, Democritus, Spinoza, French materialists and Feuerbach. However, he committed an inaccuracy in calling Marx's materialism a kind of Spinozism. But it would be incorrect to think that Plekhanov was thus identifying dialectical materialism with Spinoza's philosophy. He was merely underlining the materialist basis of the link between the philosophical teachings of Democritus, Spinoza, Feuerbach and Marx. This link, he thought, was expressed in the fact that these thinkers resolved the basic question of philosophy materialistically and proved the primacy of the material over the ideal.
The point of departure of Plekhanov's Development of the Monist View of History is the clearly expressed view that the way the basic question in philosophy is resolved serves as the dividing line between materialism and idealism.
Plekhanov spread the basic proposition of materialism that being determines consciousness; he tirelessly opposed every sort of "synthesis" of materialism and idealism, i.e., dualism. Being, nature, such is the primary basis, the original element which determines all aspects of life.
All most important trends of philosophic thought, Plekhanov says, can be classified under materialism and idealism. Although besides them there were nearly always some dualist systems, which considered spirit and matter as separate independent substances, dualism was never able to give a satisfactory answer to the inevitable question of how these two separate substances having nothing in common can influence each other. Any kind of synthesis of the materialist and idealist points of view, Plekhanov shows, leads to eclecticism. It is impossible to understand the nature of historical phenomena from the standpoint of dualism, for dualism is always eclectic. To explain this thought Plekhanov says: "Of course, the eclectic can unite everything in his mind. With the help of eclectic thinking one can unite Marx not only with Kant, but even with the 'realists' of the Middle Ages. But for people who think consistently the illegal cohabitation of Marx with the philosophy of Kant must appear as something monstrous in the fullest sense of the word." [38•*
Plekhanov attributes a particularly great role in the history of materialism to the eighteenth-century French materialists. To idealism he opposes the French materialists' conception of consciousness as a "natural phenomenon", a quality of matter, and shows their resolute fight against the idealists, who 39 explained consciousness by supernatural forces, etc. Plekhanov analyses the ethics of the French materialists, shows how progressive it was for its time and defends these materialists against accusations of "immorality" by the vulgar bourgeois historians of philosophy. Highly assessing the French materialists' fight against the church and religion, he shows at the same time how limited, bourgeois, their views were. However, it is mainly the historical views of the pre-Marxian materialists that capture Plekhanov's attention. He dwells in great detail on the French materialists' attempts to explain by the conditions of social life why definite ideas and morals prevailed in society; at the same time he emphasises that, being entangled in unsolvable contradictions, the French materialists did not overcome the idealist view of history.
In a polemic with bourgeois historians of philosophy, Plekhanov defended Feuerbach's consistent materialism in his conception of nature and disclosed the resemblance between Feuerbach's philosophical views and those of the French materialists, saw the limitations of Feuerbach's philosophy resulting from his underestimation of dialectics and also from his lack of a materialist view of history. However, in appraising the philosophy of Feuerbach, Spinoza and the eighteenth-century French materialists, he did not sufficiently underline their typical limitations— their mechanistic, contemplative outlook, and so forth.
Plekhanov wrote that the Marxist philosophy—dialectical materialism, the most outstanding philosophical system—is monistic. Materialism alone correctly explains the phenomena of nature and of human society. Even in the field of psychology, the science which studies mainly mental phenomena, "we work with greater success when we accept nature as the primary element and consider mental phenomena as necessary consequences of the motion of matter". [39•*
p Marxist materialist philosophy is consistent in the way it deals with the basic question of philosophy. While holding that the outside world is primary, it at the same time considers it as developing and changing.
In his notes to Engels' Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Plekhanov explains highly important propositions of dialectical materialism—the eternity of matter, the basic forms of existence, motion, space and time. He refutes the Kantian subjective idealist conception of space, time and causality.
Motion is an inalienable quality of matter. Matter needs no supernatural prime mover to set it in motion, to produce what 40 we call sensation, thought. Modern materialism, i.e., dialectical materialism, is the only consistent and the most progressive system of philosophy; it agrees with the data of natural science and is alien to mysticism.
Plekhanov gave a Marxist explanation of questions of knowledge. The point of departure of knowledge is the outside world. Our notions and conceptions of objects and phenomena of the outside world have an objective content.
In his notes to Engels' Ludwig Feuerbach and in his own The Development of the Monist View of History, Plekhanov criticises the agnostics—Hume, Kant and others—who denied or doubted the knowability of the outside world.
The existence of the outside world, Plekhanov wrote, is beyond doubt. My impressions are the result of the action of outside objects on me and, therefore, they correspond and cannot but correspond to the mutual relations of the things outside us. Hence the knowledge of an object is always knowledge through the intermediary of the impressions which the object makes on us. Sensation, perception of objects outside us, is the basis of knowledge.
Plekhanov said, in complete agreement with Engels, that the Kantian and Humist teachings of the unknowability of the outside world are best refuted by experience and industry; "every experiment and every productive activity of man represents an active relation on his part to the external world". Science proves that a large number of phenomena can be foreseen and brought about. This means that it is also possible to foresee the effects that will be produced on us by "things in themselves". But if we can foresee some of the effects that can be produced on us by "things in themselves", Plekhanov convincingly wrote, that means that "at least some of their properties" are known to us. And if some properties of things are known to us, we are not entitled to call those things unknowable.
In a number of works, mainly in The Development of the Monist View of History, Plekhanov gave a brilliant exposition of the Marxist teaching of objective truth. He clearly linked the acknowledgement that the outside world is knowable with the acknowledgement that man's knowledge can provide objective truth. Answering Mikhailovsky, Kareyev and other subjectivists who categorically denied the existence of objective truth and asserted that all that satisfies our demand for knowledge is true, i.e., that truth is subjective, Plekhanov said: truth is found, not 41 in the sphere of subjectivity, but as a result of all-round consideration of the objective relations of reality.
Objective truth, he says, summing up his argument, is the correct reflection of reality. Outside us there exist objects and phenomena, their properties and relations. The only true views are those which correctly reflect the aspects of reality and these relations; views which distort them are erroneous.
The denial of the objectivity of truth by the subjectivists on the grounds that life develops through contradictions is untenable, Plekhanov wrote. The presence of contradictions in life does not disprove objective truth but only leads to it. However, the road to knowledge is not a straight one. The contradictions of life force us to consider reality in a more profound and allround manner, as a result of which our knowledge of the world becomes more correct; they provide objective, absolute truth which no further development of knowledge, no further contradictions can do away with.
This emphasis on the possibility of knowing absolute truth expressed confidence in the unlimitedness of human knowledge, the assurance that human thought would not stop half-way in its striving to know the world, that new discoveries would supplement and confirm Marx's brilliant theory as new discoveries in astronomy supplemented and confirmed Copernicus' discovery. At the same time one must draw attention to a certain confusion of which Plekhanov is sometimes guilty in questions concerning the theory of knowledge. An example is his agreement with Hume's words that man must have belief in the existence of the outer world. Lenin called this remark absurd and said the "word 'belief (taken from Hume), although put in quotation marks, discloses a confusion of terms on Plekhanov's part". [41•*
A more serious error in the field of the theory of knowledge was the proposition that our sensations are hieroglyphs, which Plekhanov formulated in 1892 in his notes to the first edition of the translation of Engels' Ludwig Feuerbach. This meant that the sensations produced in us by the action of various forms of matter in motion do not give an exact reflection of the objective processes which give rise to them, are not images of the outside world. Only conventionally do they pass on to us the links between phenomena of the objective world. "Our sensations are in their way hieroglyphs which inform us of what is taking place in reality. The hieroglyphs do not resemble the events conveyed by them." [41•** This error on Plekhanov's part showed to a certain extent the influence of Helmholtz.
Later, Plekhanov represented things as though he had made only a mistake in terminology, in words, and understood "all the awkwardness of that inexactness". However, Lenin considered it necessary to point out that mistake as a departure from Engels' materialistic formulation, a concession to agnosticism.
Notwithstanding individual serious errors made by Plekhanov in the field of philosophy, the history of Marxist philosophy is greatly indebted to him. He unmasked unscientific and reactionary idealist outlooks, disclosed the untenability of the views of the vulgarisers who distorted Marxist philosophy, criticised the confusion of the eclectics and positivists and defended the correctness of dialectical materialism.
Plekhanov was an ardent defender of materialist dialectics, which he skilfully applied to social life, correctly considering it as an achievement of Marxist philosophic thought. He saw in it the great and the new which, combined with the masterly discovery of the materialist conception of history, distinguishes Marx's materialism from the teachings of materialists before him. Plekhanov brings out the various aspects of materialist dialectics and brilliantly expounds the theory of development, the correlation between evolution and revolution, leaps, etc. In this connection he shows the opposition between Marx's dialectical method and Hegel's, and considers the role of Hegel's idealist philosophy as one of the theoretical sources of Marxism.
Plekhanov elucidated questions of materialist dialectics in the eighties and nineties of the last century in a number of works: A New Champion of Autocracy, or Mr. L. Tikhomirov's Grief (1889)—his first detailed defence of materialist dialectics; For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel's Death, The Development of the Monist View of History, Essays on the History of Materialism, works on Belinsky and Chernyshevsky, articles against Bernstein, Struve and other revisionists.
Plekhanov called Hegel a titan of idealist philosophical thought. He considered the restoration of the dialectical method a great service on his part. Hegel's speculative philosophy, for which reality is the product of the development of the Absolute Idea or the world spirit, was superior to metaphysical materialism by the fact that it worked out the dialectical method. Hegelian philosophy, Plekhanov noted, exalted the dialectical method. Hegel explained phenomena of reality from the point of view of their coming into being, development and destruction. "All that is finite," Plekhanov said, quoting Hegel, "is doomed to self-destruction. "
Many of Hegel's opponents did not notice the progressive innovatory kernel of his dialectical method—his teaching on development—because of the reactionary shell of his philosophic system. Hegel had a fruitful influence on scientific thought of his time. Plekhanov explained this very well. He showed that Hegel's dialectics was a progressive step compared with metaphysics, in spite of the appeal to the Absolute Idea, and that Hegel rendered great services to human thought. At the same time Plekhanov gave a popular exposition of Marx and Engels' proposition on the contradiction between method and system in Hegel and disclosed the idealism and mysticism with which Hegel's philosophy was permeated. He wrote about the conservatism of Hegel's system which contradicts the idea of development, the dialectical method. While Hegel's dialectical method demanded development, his reactionary system, Plekhanov wrote, aimed at justifying the German reactionary state at that time. It tried to prove the "perfection" and "eternity" of the social system then existing in Germany.
Plekhanov saw as one of the limitations of Hegel's dialectics the fact that it was turned towards the past only. "Philosophy always comes too late," Hegel writes, and only takes cognizance of what has already been accomplished. Of course, Plekhanov notes ironically, philosophy cannot vivify a decrepit, obsolete social system. But must this process of the rise of the new really remain for ever hidden to philosophy? Only dialectical materialism, Plekhanov emphasises, overcomes this extreme. Hegel's idealistic dialectics is incompatible with and alien to materialism. In Marx's philosophy it has been changed into its direct and complete opposite.
"Karl Marx said quite rightly of himself," Plekhanov wrote in his For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel's Death, "that his method is the complete opposite of Hegel's method" inasmuch as Marx, being a materialist, did not understand dialectics in the same way as Hegel, who was an idealist.
Unlike Hegel's idealist dialectics, which maintained the spontaneous motion of pure thought and denied in substance the development of nature, the development of matter, Marxism turns dialectics right side up, basically transforms it and frees it from the idealistic hazy cover in which it was enveloped in Hegel.
We sometimes meet in Plekhanov expressions which indicate that he was not critical enough towards Hegel's philosophy, but this must not be exaggerated. His merit lies in his brilliant and convincing opposition of the Marxist dialectical method to Hegel's idealistic method.
Plekhanov emphasised that the dialectical method and materialism are indissolubly united in Marx and Engels' philosophy. That 44 is why the most distinctive feature of modern materialism is its dialectical method. Therein lies its substantial distinction from the old, metaphysical materialism of the eighteenth century. In materialism the modern doctrine of development finds its firm basis. Plekhanov called Marx's method the most revolutionary of all methods ever applied. Marxist dialectics is an indispensable instrument of knowledge by means of which the contradictory tendencies in the development of nature and society are disclosed.
In this connection a large place in Plekhanov's works is devoted to bringing out the radical difference between dialectics and metaphysics, two different methods of studying and approaching reality. Marx's dialectics, unlike metaphysics, studies phenomena in their contradictory development, in their immediate connection and interdependence, in continual and eternal motion.
In accordance with the dialectical method—the only scientific one—Plekhanov considered metaphysics historically, in connection with the development of knowledge. He brought out the scientific untenability and reactionary nature of the metaphysical standpoint, which denies contradictions, leaps and upheavals, and recognises only quantitative changes. Metaphysicians are exponents of the vulgar theory of evolution and introduce into their teaching a considerable admixture of conservatism, distorting the very theory of development.
The point about the metaphysical view of the world, Plekhanov says, is that it recognises only quantitative changes in things and phenomena. For the metaphysician, development assumes the form of a gradual increase of decrease in the dimensions of the object studied. Similarly, by destruction he understands only the gradual decrease of a phenomenon until it becomes quite imperceptible. But gradual increase and change cannot account for the appearance or disappearance of objects.
It was Marx who first explained and showed the substance of the dialectical method. Plekhanov elucidates the dialectics of the transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones by a break in the gradual process, by leaps and revolutionary upheavals, and concentrates the fire of his criticism on the limitations of the evolution conception.
Answering the renegade L. Tikhomirov—a former Narodnik— who denied dialectical development and "forcible upheavals", leaps in nature and society, and maintained that in "the scientific sense" one may speak only of a slow "change in the type of a given phenomenon", Plekhanov proved that dialectics does not overlook the indisputable fact that one and the same uninterrupted process goes on at all moments of the change, but in that process there emerge a number of conditions under which the gradual change must necessarily lead to a leap.
Thus, substantiating the dialectical doctrine of leaps, Plekhanov shows that nature refutes the views of the metaphysicians at every step by displaying contradiction in phenomena and breaks in gradual development, or leaps; all the more do transitions from quantity to quality, leaps, take place in society.
Plekhanov analyses with great skill the dialectical process of the transition of quantity into quality, the process of motion by leaps, making use of many facts of human history. Every leap is prepared by the preceding development. It cannot take place without a sufficient cause which lies in the previous course of social life. In his articles, particularly those against Tikhomirov, and in the first decade of this century those against Struve, Plekhanov gives a correct general theoretical interpretation of the working of the law governing the transition of quantity into quality and inversely.
Plekhanov explains in a way accessible to all the law of the unity and struggle of opposites. Every development is caused by internal contradictions, is the result of the interaction of opposite sides. The contradictoriness of every phenomenon means that it develops of itself and out of itself the elements which sooner or later will put an end to its existence, will turn it into the opposite of itself, for everything develops through contradictions, through the struggle of opposite forces. That is the great eternal and universal law of the contradiction between the old and the new, the law of the overthrow of the form rising from a given content as a result of the further growth of that content itself. This law governs the development of nature and of society.
The study of development as the dialectical contradiction in processes and phenomena of reality did not, however, lead Plekhanov to understand the law of the unity and struggle of opposites as the basic law in dialectics. Although he recognised that law, Plekhanov did not consider it as the essence of dialectics. He held that the distinctive feature and the axis of dialectics was development in the form of leaps. That was why Lenin, who highly assessed Plekhanov's defence of Marx's dialectical method, repeatedly noted that he did not pay enough attention to the law of the unity and struggle of opposites, the most important law of the objective world and of knowledge. Lenin also noted that in expounding the laws of dialectics, Plekhanov, in his wish to popularise them, reduced them to an aggregate of examples and did not devote due attention to dialectics as the theory of knowledge in Marxism.
Plekhanov's work at the end of the eighties for a correct understanding of the law of "the negation of negation" is of considerable value. He attacked those who distorted that law because they 46 saw in it only the manifestation of Hegel's notorious "triad"; he opposed Mikhailovsky, for instance, who, clinging to Marx's mode of expression, reduced Marxist dialectics to Hegel's "triad". It was in the universal law of the negation of negation that Plekhanov saw the principle, the specific feature of dialectics which shows the interdependence between what is coming into existence and what is disappearing. He resolutely defended Marx against accusations of formalism, of following Hegel's "triad" and so forth. He showed how unfounded were assertions that Marx's brilliant foresight of the outcome of capitalist development was based on the "triad". The "triad" never played the role of proof in Marxism. Marx's dialectics brings out the contradictory tendencies existing in development not a priori, but on the basis of the factual study of reality. The strength of historical materialism consists not in references to the "triad", but in all-round scientific investigation of the historical process. Only thus can one obtain a "living understanding of all the real qualities of an object", Plekhanov said, emphasising the hostility of Marxist dialectics towards abstract schemes.
Plekhanov's works in defence of dialectical and historical materialism are brilliant in style, full of polemic ardour and profound in their content; they are a treasure of Marxist literature. They expound in an original form many basic problems and propositions of Marxist materialism and dialectical method, of the materialist conception of history and of Marxist philosophy as a whole.
Plekhanov's Marxist works were directed against philosophical reaction and obscurantism and aimed at the political and social reorganisation of Russia and the emancipation of the people of Russia and other countries from social slavery and oppression. They served the dissemination of proletarian internationalism and the establishment of close ties between the revolutionary movement in Russia and in Western Europe. That is why they still maintain their significance in modern times.
[7•*] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 358.
[9•*] K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1973, p. 100.
[11•*] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 247.
[12•*] Izvestia Petrogradskogo Gorodskogo Obshchestvennoeo Upravlenia No.40, 12 June (30 May), 1918.
[14•*] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 36, p. 195.
[14•**] Ibid., p. 277.
[18•*] See this volume, p. 235.
[19•*] See this volume, p. 246
[19•**] Ibid., p.336.
[20•*] See this volume, p. 279.
[20•**] Ibid., p. 336.
[20•***] Ibid., p. 405.
[22•*] See V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 232.
[22•**] Ibid., p. 264.
[22•***] See Vol. II of this edition (Karl Marx's Philosophical and Social Outlook).
[23•*] See this volume, p. 661.
[24•*] G. Plekhanov, Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VIII, p. 129.
[26•*] See this volume, p. 666.
[27•*] See this volume, p. 428.
[27•**] Ibid., p. 593.
[29•*] See this volume, p. 583.
[29•**] Ibid., p. 739.
[30•*] See this volume, p. 658
[30•**] Ibid., p. 430.
[30•***] G. Plekhanov, Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VIII, p. 210.
[31•*] See this volume, pp. 667–68.
[32•*] See this volume, p. 73.
[33•*] See this volume, p. 634.
[34•*] See this volume, p. 659.
[35•*] See this volume, p. 642
[36•*] See this volume, p. 90.
[38•*] See this volume, p. 465.
[39•*] G. Plekhanov, Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VIII, p. 139.
[41•*] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 14, p. 141.[41•**] See this volume, p. 480