Against eclecticism

Marxism, materialism, and methodology

For those not versed in Marxist theory, the accusation of “eclecticism” must seem strange. Quite often people describe their taste in music, art, or literature as eclectic, in the sense that they appreciate a number of different styles or genres. Here the term simply means varied or wide-ranging, and even suggests broadmindedness. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant was always careful to distinguish between aesthetic and cognitive judgments, however. Whereas the former are subjective, pertaining by the sensibility of the subject, the latter are objective, pertaining to the intelligibility of the object.1 De gustibus non disputandum est, as the old saying goes, “there is no arguing with taste.” Judgments based on the free play of the imagination do not demand strict logical consistency, and thus cannot be disputed in the same way as judgments based on the rigorous application of categories.2 One must be sure that the methods used to arrive at a conclusion are not mutually incompatible. At this point, insofar as it draws upon approaches which are at odds with each other, eclecticism proves to be unsound from a methodological perspective.

Reference to those thinkers who called themselves eclectics in the ancient world is sparse. Most of what is known about them comes from a single source: Diogenes Laertius. “In recent times,” he recorded in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, written sometime in the first half of the third century, “an Eclectic [Έκλεκτική] school was introduced by Potamon of Alexandria, who made a selection [έκλεξαμένου] from the tenets of each of the philosophical schools.”3 Etymologically, the name derives from the Greek verb “to select,” which gives an idea of the school’s characteristic procedure. Very little else has survived regarding Potamon and his followers, however. Galen twice mentioned a group of medical practitioners known as Έκλεκτικοί, while the apostle Paul advised the Thessalonians to “test everything, and hold fast to what is good.”4 Clement of Alexandria, an early church father, referred to his own preferred philosophical method as έκλεκτικον, which seems significant given his hometown: “When I speak of philosophy, I do not mean Epicurean, Stoic, Platonic, or Aristotelian, but all that is said rightly in each one of these schools.”5

Pierluigi Donini has traced “The History of the Concept of Eclecticism” in a long scholarly piece detailing its shifting fortunes over time. He discovers that the word still had positive connotations from about the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Jakob Brucker, author of the multivolume Historia critica philosophiae, wrote in 1742 that “the eclectic method of philosophizing… has long been employed by intelligent men.” Denis Diderot, the great French Enlightenment thinker, would virtually copy this definition in his 1755 overview of the subject for the Encyclopédie. “An eclectic,” Diderot declared, “is someone who, trampling underfoot prejudice, tradition, consensus, antiquity, authority — in a word, everything that governs the mind of the common herd — dares to think for himself, returns to the clearest general principles, examines them, discusses them, and admits nothing not based on the testimony of his own experience and reason… From all the philosophies he has analyzed for himself without bias, he then fashions one that belongs only to him.”6 Up until the nineteenth century, the term carried favorable undertones.

Near the end of the eighteenth, however, its usage began to change. Kant complained in his Critique of Practical Reason (1788) that consistent thinking was in short supply at present: “Consistency is the highest obligation of any philosopher, and yet the one most rarely found. Our syncretistic age has contrived a coalition system of contradictory principles, dominated by shallowness and dishonesty, because it commends itself to a public satisfied with knowing something of everything and nothing as a whole.”7 Gotthelf Kästner, who corresponded with Kant, concurred in a letter deploring “an eclectic [eklektisch] trend using unexplained words, unattached to any definable concepts, throwing together opinions without asking whether they cohere with one another.”8 By the mid-1790s, with idealist philosophies everywhere on the rise, Johann Gottlieb Fichte derided “eclectics [Eklektiker] who piece together an incoherent whole from heterogenous parts of the Leibnizian and Lockean systems.”9 Thirty years later, in his 1826 lectures on the history of philosophy, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel maintained “eclecticism yields nothing but a superficial aggregate,”10 a meager mélange of disconnected views. “Eclecticism is a disparaging term for a view that is too clever by half,” he wrote. “It consists in plucking out all that is best, one thing here and another here.”11

Siegfried Wollgast notes in his entry „Eklektizismus“ for the Historico-Critical Dictionary of Marxism [Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus] that the suspicious attitude Marx and Engels held on this score was largely a continuation of the early nineteenth century critique.12 Marx used the term to characterize his opponents both in the realm of politics and economics. “Petit-bourgeois socialists either become the eclectics or adepts of existing doctrines,” he observed in Class Struggles in France.13 Writing to Ferdinand Lassalle in 1858, Marx accused the post-Ricardians of “the most objectionable eclecticism” [widerlichstem Eklektizismus] in their endeavors to derive profit from equivalent exchange.14 Again and again in his economic manuscripts of the 1860s, the word appears in this pejorative sense to decry the “helpless, thoughtless, and unprincipled eclecticism” [hilfs-, gedanken-, und gewissenlosen Eklektizismus] of John Ramsay McCulloch15 as well as the “eclectic, syncretic compendia” [eklektische, synkretistische Kompendien] of John Stuart Mill.16 Finally, in a scathing footnote to Capital, Marx upbraided the vulgar economist Wilhelm Roscher’s “eclectic professorial twaddle” [eklektische Professoralfaselei tauft] about money as it exists under capitalism.17

Engels pursued a similar strategy after Marx’s death in 1883, and even slightly before, carefully distinguishing the science they had cultivated from false solutions that threatened to mislead the proletariat. “In his philosophy, the narodnik Piotr Lavrov is an eclectic who selects the best from all the different systems,” sniped Engels in an 1874 tract. “You must try everything! Keep only what is best!”18 His 1881 pamphlet Socialism: Utopian and Scientific was generally sympathetic toward the role utopians had played in the socialist movement, but faulted them for lacking a real foundation. “Nothing could come from their ideas but a kind of eclectic, average socialism — a mishmash of critical statements, economic theories, and images of the future society,” wrote Engels.19 This same deprecatory tone can also be heard in the 1888 preface to Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy, where the vibrancy of a bygone Hegelianism is contrasted with “the pauper’s broth of eclecticism [die eklektischen Bettelsuppen] which is currently being ladled out at German universities.”20

Over the course of the nineteenth century, meanwhile, “eclecticism” underwent several mutations, quite independent of the activities of Marx and Engels. Victor Cousin consciously concocted a system under this name, which incidentally did not impress Marx (who referred to him as “the weak, eclectic Cousin”),21 while the neo-Kantian Eduard Zeller authored a critical history of the ancient school.22 Zeller notwithstanding, neo-Kantianism began to make itself felt within socialist circles in highly eclectic ways. Antonio Labriola was among the first of Marx’s followers to defend the dialectic against the likes of Zeller.23 In an 1892 letter to Engels, Labriola took on the problem directly. “Eclecticism will not be going away anytime soon, since it is not just the effect of intellectual confusion, but the expression of a certain situation,” he averred. “When a few more or less socialist intellectuals address themselves to an ignorant, impolitic proletariat, which is in good part reactionary, it is almost inevitable they would reason theoretically as utopians and operate practically as demagogues.”24

Labriola was right. During this time, especially once Engels died in 1895, one controversy divided European socialism: the so-called “revisionist” debate. Revisionism was led by Eduard Bernstein, a veteran Social-Democrat and the executor of Engels’ estate. Bernstein was also a famous enthusiast of neo-Kantianism, going so far as to title the closing chapter of his 1899 treatise Preconditions of Socialism “Kant against cant.”25 He had already warned of the supposed “pitfalls” [Fallstricke] of Hegelianism in a previous section.26 Dialectic was for Bernstein a source of grave errors, its “logical somersaults” little more than sleight of hand, leading him to conclude that “[t]he great achievements of Marx and Engels were not because of Hegelian dialectic, but despite it.”27 Under the influence of the neo-Kantian legal philosopher Rudolf Stammler,28 whose lengthy 1896 work Wirtschaft und Recht engaged critically but respectfully with the materialist conception of history, Bernstein held that Marxists underestimated the importance of other “historical factors” besides the purely economic:

A multiplicity of causal factors remains, and it is not at all easy to display the connections between them with such precision that it is possible to determine where, in any particular case, the strongest impetus for the moment lies. Purely economic causes create, first of all, only a disposition to receive certain ideas. Yet how these then arise and spread and what form they take depends on a whole range of influences. It does historical materialism more harm than good if, from the outset, one superciliously rejects as eclecticism any accentuation of influences other than those of a purely economic nature. (Or, what is the same, if one rejects any consideration of economic factors other than the techniques of production along with their predicted development). Eclecticism — selecting from different explanations and ways of dealing with phenomena — is often just a natural reaction against the doctrinaire desire to derive everything from one thing, and then treat everything that exists according to the same method. Whenever this desire gets out of hand, “eclecticism” breaks through with elemental force: a rebellion of sober reason against the inbuilt tendency of all doctrines to confine thought inside a straitjacket. Factors other than the purely economic can influence social life.29

Unbeknownst to Labriola at the time, of course, Engels had already addressed some of these objections to the materialist doctrine of economic determinism in letters to Joseph Bloch and Konrad Schmidt. “The materialistic conception of history maintains that the production and reproduction of real life constitutes, in the last instance, the determining factor,” Engels wrote to the former in autumn 1890. “More than that neither Marx nor I ever contended.”30 Just a month later, he would elaborate on this point in response to Schmidt: “Production is, in the final analysis, the decisive factor. But in specific cases, and within the framework of that general dependence, new factors may crystallize which in turn obey laws of their own and react upon production.”31 Hammering it home even further, Engels continued: “Should someone try to argue that we deny that the political, etc., reflections of the economic trend have any effect whatsoever on that trend itself, he is simply tilting at windmills… Otherwise, why should we fight for the political dictatorship of the proletariat if politics (i.e., state power) ultimately proves powerless over economics?”32

Without access to this correspondence, which was kept by Bernstein until 1902, Labriola could not appeal to the authority of Engels on the matter. Forced to fend for himself, he immediately set to work discrediting the revisionists’ spurious “theory of factors.” Labriola asked what had given rise to this belief in the irreducible complexity of historical phenomena, such that they can only be explained as a confluence of numerous “factors.”33 In the face of this “empirical complexus” — “the immense mass of raw facts, which at first glance appears so confused” — it is tempting to treat social life as impervious to unitary explanation.34 Rather than trace out its manifold determinations, historians content themselves with the pseudo-insight that things are complicated. “Yet one must introduce a degree of analysis into this complexus, isolating concurrent aspects that afterwards acquire the semblance of autonomy,” insisted Labriola.35 Eventually, these aspects may be further sifted and parsed. Against the ad hoc methodology of the revisionists, he asserted that “historical materialism eliminates the eclecticism of empirical narrators of events.”36

Vladimir Lenin read Labriola’s Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History in French translation not long after it came out, deeming it “a very sensible and interesting book.”37 Georgy Plekhanov, the father of Russian Marxism, also held it in high regard. Several years earlier he had written an essay that earned him Engels’ praise,38 a retrospective “For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel’s Death,” in which arguments similar to those of Labriola were advanced. Plekhanov deployed the same criticism Hegel had made concerning the indeterminate “interaction” [Wechselwirkung]39 of multiple parts within a single phenomenon.40 “Hegel’s philosophy has the undeniable merit that it does not contain the slightest hint of eclecticism,” Plekhanov remarked.41 Though his 1897 review of Labriola’s Essays included some reservations here and there, on the whole it was quite positive.42 But Labriola was subtler than his Russian counterpart, stressing “the totality of the process” [la totalità del processo] over and above “the prevalence of the economic factor” [la prevalenza del fattore economico].43

Years later, Leon Trotsky recalled his first encounter with this work while imprisoned in Kherson: “In my cell, I read with delight two essays by the old Italian Hegelian Marxist Antonio Labriola. Unlike most Latin writers, he had mastered materialist dialectics in the philosophy of history. Labriola made short work of the official eclectic theory [официальная эклектика] of historical factors.”44 Reading these essays likewise left a lasting impression on Karl Korsch, who would count Labriola as “one of Marx and Engels’ greatest disciples.”45 Korsch considered him “the best interpreter of Marxian method, especially in its Hegelian methodological foundations.”46 As Labriola saw it, socialism was (to quote Marx) “a science in the German sense”47 of Wissenschaft, closer to the Latin scientia than to the narrow Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word. “We gladly accept the ‘scientific’ epithet,” wrote Labriola, “provided we are not mistaken for positivists, who presume to have a monopoly on science.”48 Marxism’s area of competence is social history, as the more “scientistic” Engels even seemed to realize.49

Despite the best efforts of Engels, Labriola, et al. to stave off the adulteration of Marx’s thought by a host of intellectual fads — from Machism to positivism to neo-Kantianism — a promiscuous mood slowly set in. Even Schmidt, to whom Engels grumbled about “the eclectic method [eklektische Methode] of philosophizing endemic at German universities since 1848,”50 succumbed shortly thereafter to neo-Kantianism.51 From top to bottom, the Second International was far too methodologically lax.52 Owing to a general inattentiveness to the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism, dilettantism reigned supreme in the realm of ideas.53 Concessions were granted without much pushback. The guardian of Social-Democratic “orthodoxy,” Karl Kautsky, paid lip-service to the dialectic in theory while liquidating it in practice. Neo-Kantianism and positivism were repudiated in word, but validated in deed.54 Jukka Gronow has brilliantly dissected all of this in his dissertation On the Formation of Marxism (1986),55 finally released after languishing in the University of Helsinki archives for three decades.

In any case, this was the context of Lenin’s intensive study of Hegel in Berne the summer of 1914. Recently some scholars have attempted to downplay the crucial significance of this rereading, arguing that there was no real change in outlook from before.56 Kevin Anderson’s research into the relationship between Lenin and Hegel more than withstands scrutiny, of course,57 but this will have to be dealt with another time. At least for now, it is enough to show how Hegelian themes worked their way into the polemics against eclecticism and informed a dialectical methodology. Lenin always had a knack for sniffing out contradictory bits of an opposing argument and laying them bare in a debate. “How eclectic [эклектическая] is this fashionable, quasi-realistic quest for an exhaustive enumeration of the separate ‘factors’ [«факторов»] and partial symptoms in a single phenomenon,” he wrote in 1902, with echoes of Labriola.58 While the notebooks on Hegel’s philosophy were still years away, Lenin upheld the materialist dialectic from an early date against neo-Kantian “eclectics.”59

Kautsky was Lenin’s go-to guide to the controversy around revisionism at the time.60 Summarizing Kautsky’s 1899 Antikritik, the reply to Bernstein, Lenin lampooned the revisionists’ “hybrid, eclectic views” [половинчатые, эклектические воззрения] as “a farrago [мешанина] of contrasting principles and ideas.”61 During the next few years, he kept his eyes peeled for any illicit additions to Marxist theory that might dilute its revolutionary spirit. “Unprincipled eclecticism [беспринципного эклектизма] is again rearing its head,” Lenin lamented in 1901, “aping every latest vogue.”62 Marxism was not a closed system for the Bolshevik leader; its method could be extended beyond the original scope of Marx’s inquiry and applied to emergent conditions. But this should not become an excuse for syncretizing impulses, which aim to assimilate or incorporate disparate schools of thought. One finds this sentiment in lines like the following, from What is to be Done?: “The much vaunted freedom of criticism does not imply substituting one theory for another, but freedom from all consistent, pondered theory — it implies eclecticism and lack of principle.”63

Just before the outbreak of World War I, Lenin had a chance to comment on Bernstein’s edition of the correspondence between Marx and Engels. “If one were to define in a single word the focus of the correspondence, the central point at which the body of ideas expressed and discussed converges,” he wrote, “that word would be dialectics.”64 Earlier in the review, throwing shade at Kautsky (albeit implicitly), he remarked: “Unfortunately, [Bernstein’s] eclectic attitude toward Marx’s ideological struggle against many of his opponents is becoming ever more widespread among contemporary German socialists.”65 Revisionism and orthodoxy were on increasingly good terms, since the rapprochement of Bernstein and Kautsky in 1910.66 Lenin began counterposing dialectical to eclectic approaches about a year or so later,67 but it was only after he returned to Hegel that this counterposition really appeared in earnest throughout his work. Consider these marginalia, found in Lenin’s copy of the Science of Logic:

Thoughts on dialectics, en lisant Hegel. An all-sided, universal flexibility of concepts, a flexibility reaching to the identity of opposites — that is the essence of the matter. Such flexibility, applied subjectively amounts to eclecticism and sophistry. Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, an accurate reflection of the world’s development.68

Dialectic for Lenin provided a means by which to think through the contradictions of interimperialist war, not a rationale for opportunistically accommodating this new reality. It allowed him to see the status quo in transit, to affirm its actual basis even as he pushed for its possible negation through the very circumstances it engendered. Hence his slogan to “transform the imperialist war into a civil war,” not to reinstate the status quo ante of business as usual (parliamentarism, the endless waiting game of Ermattungsstrategie)69 but pursue the antagonisms to their logical end:

Empty, futile, skeptical negation is not what is characteristic or essential in dialectics. No doubt, it contains the element of negation. Indeed, this is its most vital element. But negation as a moment of development, retaining the positive without vacillations or doubts, i.e., without eclecticism.70

Marx had of course pinpointed this ambivalence as the essence of his materialist dialectic, “because it includes in its positive understanding of what exists a simultaneous recognition of its negation and inevitable destruction.”71 Class struggle was not a novel discovery on the part of Marx; his sole contribution, as he put to Weydemeyer, was to recognize that “class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.”72 Kautsky’s denial of this fact, suggesting the phrase was just a slip of the pen, outraged Lenin. “How can this monstrous distortion of Marxism by that Marxist pedant Kautsky be explained?” Lenin asked. “As far as the philosophical roots are concerned, it is the substitution of eclecticism and sophistry for dialectics.”73 Violent revolution and the withering of the state had to go together, in Marx’s view, but Kautsky avoided this conclusion: “Usually the two are combined by means of eclecticism, by an unprincipled or sophistic selection made as if arbitrarily.”74

By 1915, Lenin was already drawing up notes for a polemic against Kautskyism under the title “the struggle against the swamp [болото]” (his contemptuous name for the international Marxist center). Swamps and centrism went hand in hand: “Eclectics instead of dialectics. The ‘middle way’ — i.e., the ‘reconciliation’ of extremes, absence of clear, definite, firm conclusions; vacillation.”75 Lenin rejected the toothless conception of dialectic as a search for some sort of middle path navigating between polar opposites. Indeed, as he put it in a letter to Zinoviev, “to pose questions of ‘the epoch’ and ‘the war’ as though they were ‘extremes’ is precisely what is meant by falling into ‘eclecticism.’ Just as though our aim were to strike the ‘happy mean’ between ‘extremes’!”76 With Zinoviev he coauthored an agitational text on Socialism and War in 1916, where they publicly aired these views. For them, “Kautskyism was not fortuitous, but the social product of unresolved contradictions within the Second International… representing the replacement of revolutionary Marxism with eclecticism in theory and servility toward opportunism in practice.”77

Georg Lukács, the Hungarian Marxist, ruminated on the vexed problem of method in the opening article of his 1923 collection History and Class Consciousness. Along with Karl Korsch, he was aware just how deceptive the figure of “orthodox Marxism” had been before 1914.78 He laid special emphasis on the revolutionary dialectical methodology of Marx and Engels, writing that “attempts to surpass or ‘improve’ [»verbessern«] this method have led to oversimplification, triviality, and eclecticism [Eklektizismus].”79 Quite obviously, Lukács was taking his cues from Lenin here. In his short 1924 survey of the Russian revolutionary’s thought, Lukács credited Lenin with the rebirth of Marxism in theory and practice. “Revisionism is always eclectic,” noticed Lukács. “The revisionist thus condemns the dialectic, for the dialectic is no more than the conceptual expression of the fact that social movements are really contradictory.”80 Methodologically, the greatness of Lenin resided in his studious adherence to a dialectical approach throughout.81

Lenin’s death in 1924 triggered a crisis of succession in the Soviet Union. None of his prospective successors were on the same theoretical level. Bukharin never had a proper grasp of dialectics, as Lenin testified in 1922,82 though he showed signs of improvement near the end of his life (see the posthumously-published Philosophical Arabesques, written after Stalin ordered him arrested in 1936). Only Trotsky came anywhere close to matching Lenin’s critical acuity or theoretical nimbleness of mind. Each of them was criticized by Lenin in 1921, during the trade union debate: Bukharin for his eclecticism, Trotsky for his one-sidedness, thus producing “a hodgepodge of political mistakes.”83 Stalin was completely hopeless as a theorist. David Riazanov insulted him at a party meeting, saying in front of the crowd: “You are making a fool of yourself, Koba… Everyone knows theory is not exactly your field.”84 Jan Sten tried to privately tutor Stalin in the dialectic, but was unsuccessful. For his trouble, he would be tried and executed in 1937.85

Regardless, it is not like the USSR’s problems could have been solved simply by having better theoreticians. Generally there have been precious few advances in the realm of revolutionary Marxist thought since the 1920s. After all, theory can only advance as far as practice has already taken it. Here and there one can locate groups, sometimes even individuals, who caught sight of something crucial — Amadeo Bordiga in Italy, Anton Pannekoek in Holland, Grandizo Munis in Spain, Paul Mattick in America, etc. But the repository of hard-earned lessons from history has not received much new material over this stretch, since today no revolution is imminent (and has not been for a long time). 1968 provided a brief but memorable effervescence of radical thought, and even a turn to Marxism within the academy. Very little of lasting value was left, however, as Russell Jacoby recalled in his Dialectic of Defeat:

The literature on Marxism threatens to drown both the theory and its students. Cynics might see this as a confirmation of Marxism’s obsolescence: It has fled the streets and factories for the halls and offices of the university, the struggle to publish replacing class struggle as academics jet to conferences to hawk competing brands of Marxism… Nowadays, a consumer’s guide is required just to stay abreast of the offerings and the recalls: structural Marxism, semiotic Marxism, phenomenological Marxism, feminist Marxism, hermeneutic Marxism, critical Marxism, and so on down the line.86

Whatever Jacoby said here of Marxism goes double for post-Marxism, another academic turn of the screw, this time in response to “postmodern” society. Jean-François Lyotard, formerly of Socialisme ou Barbarie, heralded its triumph in 1979. “Eclecticism is the degree zero of contemporary culture,” wrote Lyotard. “Someone listens to reggae, watches a Western, eats McDonald’s for lunch and local cuisine for dinner, wears Paris-made perfume in Tokyo and ‘retro’ clothes in Hong Kong. Knowledge is the stuff of TV quiz-shows. A public is easy to find for eclectic crap.”87 Post-Marxism mirrors this cultural logic at the level of theory, a bland blend of poststructuralist discourse and Gramscian platitudes about “hegemony,” à la Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe.88 Göran Therborn is not wrong to see it as postdialectical, as coming properly “after dialectics,”89 so to speak. Dialectics have finally run out of steam, exhausted at the end of history by radical altérité and sheer linguistic différance, so more or less anything goes. Loren Goldner’s pointed remarks about “the post-Marxists’ eclectic theoretical smorgasbord” apply with full force here.90

One might object that Marxism itself is nothing but a haphazard mixture of traditions which, on the surface, have little to do with each other. But such an objection would be misplaced. The “three component parts”91 of Marx’s thought, as Lenin put it — British political economy, French socialism, and German philosophy — were not selected at random.92 Rather, each component was an integral feature of capitalist modernity, revealing in its own distorted, ideological way some aspect of the social whole. “Marx developed his views from three principal sources,” explained the French Marxist Henri Lefebvre, “German philosophy (Hegel), English political economy (Smith, Ricardo), and French socialism (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Proudhon). He did not proceed eclectically or syncretically, but by way of a radical critique of philosophy, political economy, and socialism.”93 In other words, this was not an arbitrary assemblage thrown together willy-nilly from whatever subjects happened to strike Marx’s fancy. For Marx, the task of revolutionary theory was to provide “a ruthless criticism of everything that exists,”94 including the ideologies of the day.

Critique is the characteristic procedure of Marxism, its theoretical wellspring and unifying technique. “A principle that unites others within it, as the genuine unity of these mediations, is higher and more concrete,” argued Hegel. “Not external unification, but rather the internal connection of those principles. What is concrete should be differentiated from what is merely ‘eclectic’ — i.e., a ragbag of diverse opinions.”95 Engels in 1886 highlighted the pivotal distinction between method and system for Hegel, prioritizing the former over the latter. Unlike the great German idealist, he and Marx were not interested in idle system-building or erecting some pristine eidetic palace.96 Placing the dialectic back on its feet, grounded materially in the world at large so as to understand and overcome the systematic logic of capital, that was their main interest.97 Departing from the materialist dialectic, which is what Marx called his method, effectively entails a break with Marxism itself. Undoubtedly, the same can be said for efforts to “update” it.

Sebastian Timpanaro correctly pointed out in 1970 that “the true force and fascination of Hegelian Marxism lie in its anti-eclecticism, in its refusal to follow the latest philosophical or scientific fashion.” Just a sentence later, however, he voices his concern that “the price paid for this avoidance of eclecticism is an ostentatious archaism, a devaluation not only of how much is new in Marxism by comparison with Hegel, but also of how much in pre-Hegelian culture, and in particular the Enlightenment, is more advanced than Hegel.”98 Timpanaro’s worries are well-founded, of course, and the corrective he offers to tendentious interpretations which blame Engels for the vulgarization of Marx’s doctrine is important. But many today dismiss the dialectic as a relic of its time, a primitive way of conceptualizing social complexity which has long been outmoded. Marxists ought to adopt systems theory, according to these critics, or “upgrade” to some other newfangled conceptual technology. (How similar this is to getting a new IPhone.)

Now that Marxism is back in style, since 2008 or so, the range of topics that once fell within its purview are again fodder for the lecture circuit and campus speaking gigs. For the sake of novelty, though, the topics have to be spruced up and repackaged every few years in order to stay current. Lacanian Marxism, Deleuzean Marxism, Derridean Marxism, Foucauldian Marxism, various other name-specific brands. Queer Marxism, decolonial Marxism, Marxism alloyed with either critical race theory or Afropessimism: the list goes on and on, not to mention those Jacoby listed above. Revivals have also taken place: neo-Kautskyism, neo-Maoist bands of “Red Guards,” etc. In some ways, Freudo-Marxism paved the way for such later amalgams. Psychoanalytically-inclined Marxists, the best of the bunch, have tended to be Marxists first and Freudians second. Even Wilhelm Reich was clear about this: “Only scientific jugglers would seek to account for a single given phenomenon by means of both psychology and sociology, as this would be eclecticism of the worst kind,” he inveighed against Fromm.99

The example of Hegel is helpful here. His slow and methodical approach permitted him to work things out while others changed their positions with every passing enthusiasm or new book they skimmed. Many read too much, but understand too little. “Schelling conducted his philosophical education in public,” Hegel acidly quipped about his old roommate.100 Dialectical flexibility can cut both ways, moreover, with certain situations calling for inflexibility and even intransigence instead of adjustment. Adaptation to regressed conditions can easily slide into accommodation of regressed conditions. “When tactical schemes collapse beneath the weight of circumstances,” held Bordiga, “the matter is never remedied by relapsing into opportunism or eclecticism [l’éclectisme] but rather by renewed efforts to bring tactics back in line with the duties of the party.”101

Oblivion Oblomov
New York, NY
October 2018


1 “The judgment of taste is… not a cognitive judgment, hence not a logical one, but is rather aesthetic, by which is understood one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective. Any relation of representations, however, even that of sensations, can be objective.” Immanuel Kant. Critique of Judgment. Translated by Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 2000). Pg. 89.
2 Ibid., pg. 214.
3 Diogenes Laertius. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Translated by Pamela Mensch. (Oxford University Press. New York, NY: 2018). Pg. 12.
4 Paul. “First Thessalonians, 5:21.” Translated by Richard S. Ascough. New Oxford Annotated Bible. (Oxford University Press. New York, NY: 2018). Pg. 1719.
5 Clement of Alexandria. Stromateis, Books 1-3. Translated by John Ferguson. (Catholic University of America Press. Washington, DC: 1991). Pg. 49.
6 “Eclectics are among the philosophers who are kings on the face of the earth: they who alone have remained in the state of nature, where everything belonged to everyone.” Denis Diderot, quoted in Pierluigi Donini. “The History of the Concept of Eclecticism.” Translated by A.A. Long. Commentary and Tradition: Aristotelianism, Platonism, and Post-Hellenistic Philosophy. (De Gruyter. New York, NY: 2011). Pgs. 199-200.
7 Immanuel Kant. Critique of Practical Reason. Translated by Mary J. Gregor. Practical Philosophy. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 1996). Pg. 158.
8 Abraham Gotthelf Kästner. “Letter to Immanuel Kant, 2 October 1790.” Translated by Arnulf Zweig. Immanuel Kant. Correspondence. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 1999). Pg. 360.
9 Johann Gottlieb Fichte. “Outline of the Distinctive Character of the Science of Knowledge with Respect to the Theoretical Faculty.” Translated by Daniel Breazeale. Early Philosophical Writings. (Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY: 1988). Pg. 290.
10 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 1825-1826: Volume 3, Medieval and Modern Philosophy. Translated by Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stuart. (Oxford University Press. New York, NY: 2009). Pg. 330.
11 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 1825-1826: Volume 1, Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, As Well As Later Introductions. Translated by Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stuart. (Oxford University Press. New York, NY: 2009). Pg. 267.
12 Siegfried Wollgast. „Eklektizismus“. Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Band 3. (Berliner Institut für Kritische Theorie. Berlin: 1997). Pg. 232.
13 Karl Marx. The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850. Translated by Clemens Dutt. Collected Works, Volume 10. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1978). Pg. 126.
14 Karl Marx. “Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, 11 March 1858.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Collected Works, Volume 40. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1983). Pg. 287.
15 Karl Marx. Economic Manuscripts, 1861-1863. Translated by Emile Burns, Renate Simpson, and Jack Cohen. Collected Works, Volume 32. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1989). Pg. 356. See also: “a frivolous and unprincipled eclecticism designed for domestic use” [eines gedanken- und gewissenlosen, auf den Hausbedarf eingerichteten Eklektizismus], pg. 298; “easygoing, unprincipled eclecticism” [bequemen haltlosen Eklektizismus], pg. 311; “academic-syncretic and characterless-eclectic compilations” [gelehrt-synkretistische und charakterlos-eklektische Kompilation], pg. 501.
16 Karl Marx. “Bastiat and Carey.” Translated by Ernst Wangermann. Collected Works, Volume 28. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1986). Pg. 5.
17 Karl Marx. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1. Translated by Ben Fowkes. (Penguin Books. New York, NY: 1976). Pg. 187.
18 Friedrich Engels. “Refugee Literature, III.” Translated by Barrie Selman. Collected Works, Volume 24. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1989). Pg. 19.
19 Friedrich Engels. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Translated by Edward Aveling. Ibid., pg. 297.
20 Friedrich Engels. “Preface to the 1888 Edition of Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy.” Translated by Barrie Selman. Collected Works, Volume 26. Pg. 520.
21 Karl Marx. “Letter to Ludwig Feuerbach, 3 October 1843.” Translated by Jack Cohen. Collected Works, Volume 3. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1975). Pg. 350.
22 On Zeller’s Philosophie der Griechen, see Donini, “The History of the Concept of Eclecticism.” Pgs. 202-205.
23 Labriola wrote to Engels in 1893 of his exploits: “With youthful ingenuity I defended the dialectics of [Hegel] against Eduard Zeller, founder of neo-Kantianism.” Antonio Labriola. Socialism and Philosophy. Translated by Ernest Untermann. (Charles H. Kerr & Company. Chicago, IL: 1912). Pg. 56.
24 Antonio Labriola. “Letter to Friedrich Engels, 2 October 1892.” Quoted in Paolo Favilli. The History of Italian Marxism: From its Origins to the Great War. Translated by David Broder. (Brill Academic Publishers. Boston, MA: 2016). Pg. 142.
25 Eduard Bernstein. Preconditions of Socialism. Translated by Henry Tudor. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 1993). Pgs. 189-210.
26 Ibid., pgs. 29-36.
27 Ibid., pg. 46.
28 On Stammler, see Lenin’s reaction to this work: “I recently read Stammler’s book here in German, and felt very dissatisfied with it. In my opinion, it is an excellent argument against neo-Kantianism.” Vladimir Lenin. “Letter to Maria Ulyanov, 17 August 1899.” Translated by George Hanna. Collected Works, Volume 37. (Progress Publishers. Moscow, USSR: 1967). Pg. 272.
29 Bernstein, Preconditions of Socialism. Pg. 18.
30 Friedrich Engels. “Letter to Joseph Bloch, 22 September 1890.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Collected Works, Volume 49. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 2001). Pg. 34.
31 Friedrich Engels. “Letter to Konrad Schmidt, 27 October 1890.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Ibid., pg. 58.
32 Ibid., pg. 63.
33 “Should the economic factor serve alone to explain the whole of history? …What is the explanation of social change?” Antonio Labriola. Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History. Translated by Charles Kerr. (Charles H. Kerr & Co. Chicago, IL: 1908). Pg. 75.
34 “This belief [in the irreducibility of phenomena] has become for historians a semi-doctrine, urged as a decisive argument against the unitary theory of historical materialism. And indeed, the belief that history is only intelligible as the juncture or meeting of various factors is deeply rooted.” Ibid., pg. 140.
35 For some reason, Kerr translates complesso as “complexus.” Ibid., pgs. 141-142.
36 Ibid., pg. 231.
37 Vladimir Lenin. “Letter to Maria, Olga, and Ulyanov, 10 December 1897.” Translated by George Hanna. Collected Works, Volume 37, pg. 135.
38 “Plekhanov’s articles [‚Zu Hegels sechzigstem Todestag’, a two-part essay] are excellent.” Friedrich Engels. “Letter to Karl Kautsky, 3 December 1891.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Collected Works, Volume 49, pg. 317.
39 “Reciprocity [Wechselwirkung] is, to be sure, the proximate truth about the relationship of cause and effect and it stands, so to speak, on the threshold of the concept. Nevertheless — precisely for this reason — one should not be satisfied with the application of this relationship, insofar as what matters is to know conceptually. If one does not move beyond considering a given content only from the viewpoint of reciprocity, this is in fact an utterly conceptless way of behaving. One is then dealing merely with a dry fact. The requirement of mediation (what is prima facie at stake in the application of the relationship of causality) remains unsatisfied.” Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline, Part I: The Science of Logic. Translated by Klaus Brinkmann and Daniel O. Dahlstrom. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 2010). Pg. 229.
40 “Right influences religion, religion influences right, each and both together influence philosophy and art, which in turn, affecting each other, also affect right, religion, and so on. But then the question still remains: what determines the historical development of religion, philosophy, art, right, etc.… down to the present epoch? This question is usually answered by referring to the same interaction, which thus ceases to explain anything.” Georgy Plekhanov. “For the Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel’s Death.” Translated by Richard Dixon. Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 1. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pg. 406.
41 Ibid., pg. 408.
42 Georgy Plekhanov. “On the Materialistic Understanding of History.” Translated by Richard Dixon. Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pgs. 222-250
43 For more on Labriola, see Russell Jacoby. Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism. (Cambridge University Press. New York, NY: 1979). Pgs. 42-48. “Labriola came to Marxism as Marx had: via German idealism. As he told Engels in 1894, he arrived at socialism by way of his ‘rigorous Hegelian education.’ The timbre of Labriola’s Marxism resounded in his vocabulary; his terms attested to an effort to distance himself from both positivism and vulgar Marxism. Leery of the term ‘science,’ he preferred ‘critical communism’: ‘That is its true name; there is none more exact for this doctrine.’ He wrote to Engels of his misgivings about the terms ‘science’ and Wissenschaft; for Engels, Wissenschaft implied a ‘more profound, more organic, more complex’ meaning than the ‘science of the positivists,’ which supplanted it in Italy.”
44 Leon Trotsky. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. Translated by Joseph Hansen. (Pathfinder Press. New York, NY: 1970). Pg. 119.
45 Karl Korsch. “The Problem of ‘Marxism and Philosophy’.” Translated by Fred Halliday. Marxism and Philosophy, and Other Essays. (Monthly Review Press. New York, NY: 1970). Pg. 106.
46 Quoted in Patrick Goode. Karl Korsch: A Study in Western Marxism. (Macmillan Press. New York, NY: 1979). Pg. 114.
47 Karl Marx. “Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, 24 November 1858.” Translated by Peter Ross. Collected Works, Volume 40, pg. 355.
48 Labriola, Essays. Pg. 17.
49 Some comments by Engels on religion dispel the image of him as a vulgar naturalist: “A religion like Christianity is not destroyed by ridicule and invective alone; it must also be overcome scientifically, i.e., explained historically, which is beyond even the natural sciences.” Friedrich Engels. “Varia on Germany I, 1789-1873.” Translated by Barrie Selman. Collected Works, Volume 23. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1988. Pg. 608)
50 Friedrich Engels. “Letter to Conrad Schmidt, 12 March 1895.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 2004). Pg. 463.
51 Georgy Plekhanov. “Conrad Schmidt vs. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.” Translated by Richard Dixon. Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2, pgs. 379-397.
52 “Marxist philosophy and university philosophy, both expressions of different sectors of the same society, have never been radically separate. The two were always in communication with each other despite prejudices and a show of hostility. In fact, the young Marx and Engels developed within the Hegelianism of the Left bound to the revolutionary crises of the years 1830-1848 and, even though they continued their work after the collapse of progressive Hegelianism, which followed the defeat of the revolution, their disciples (Kautsky, Plekhanov, Bernstein, and even Lenin) transformed their thought as early as the close of the nineteenth century, orienting it toward a positivism quite close in some ways to university positivism and critical philosophy. The evolution from Marx to Bernstein, Kautsky, and Plekhanov is quite homologous to that which caused the German university philosophy of Hegel and the Hegelians to pass, via Schopenhauer and Haym, to neo-Kantianism and university positivism.” Lucien Goldmann. Lukács and Heidegger: Toward a New Philosophy. Translated by William Boelhower. (Routledge & Kegan Paul. Boston, MA: 1977). Pgs. 2-3.
53 “The prominent Marxist theorists of the period of the Second International (1889-1914) regarded concern with questions having to do with the general epistemological and methodological bases of Marxist theory as an utter waste of time. Of course, whether they liked it or not, they allowed discussion of such philosophical issues within the Marxist camp and in some circumstances even took part themselves. But in doing so they made clear that the elucidation of such problems was totally irrelevant to the practice of proletarian class struggle, and would always remain so. Such a conception was, however, only self-evident and logically justified on the premise that Marxism as a theory and practice was in essence totally unalterable and involved no specific position on philosophical questions whatsoever.” Karl Korsch. “Marxism and Philosophy.” Translated by Fred Halliday. Marxism and Philosophy, and Other Essays. (Monthly Review Press. New York, NY: 1970). Pgs. 32-33.
54 His anti-Hegelianism notwithstanding, Colletti is quite good here: “In [the divorce between science and revolution, between know-ledge and transformation of the world] lay the subordinate nature of the Marxism of the Second International, divided between positivist scientism and neo-Kantianism, yet internally consistent within this opposition.” Lucio Colletti. “Bernstein and the Marxism of the Second International.” Translated by Judith White and John Merrington. From Rousseau to Lenin: Studies in Ideology and Society. (Monthly Review Press. New York, NY: 1974). Pg. 74.
55 Jukka Gronow. On the Formation of Marxism: Karl Kautsky’s Theory of Capitalism, the Marxism of the Second International, and Karl Marx’s Critique of Political Economy. (Brill Academic Publishers. Boston, MA: 2016). Gronow is a bit too dismissive of “traditional Marxism,” but makes a number of valid points.
56 Lars T. Lih. “Lenin, Kautsky, Hegel, and the Outbreak of World War I.” Cataclysm 1914: The First World War and the Making of Modern Politics. (Brill Academic Publishers. Boston, MA: 2015). Pgs. 366-412.
57 Kevin Anderson. Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism: A Critical Study. (University of Illinois Press. Chicago, IL: 1995).
58 Vladimir Lenin. The Agrarian Question and “Critics of Marx”. Translated by George Hanna and Joe Fineberg. Collected Works, Volume 5. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pgs. 146-147.
59 “The disagreement between those Marxists who stand for the so-called ‘new critical trend’ and those who stand for so-called ‘orthodoxy’ is that they want to develop Marxism in different directions. One group want to remain consistent Marxists, developing the basic tenets of Marxism in accordance with the changing conditions and local characteristics of different countries, further elaborating the theory of dialectical materialism and politico-economic teachings of Marx. Meanwhile, the other group reject certain important aspects of Marx’s teachings, and in philosophy, for instance, take the side, not of dialectical materialism, but of neo-Kantianism, and in political economy the side of those who label some of Marx’s teachings as ‘tendentious.’ It is scarcely necessary to add that representatives of this eclectic trend have lately grouped themselves around Eduard Bernstein.” Vladimir Lenin. “Uncritical Criticism.” Translated by Joe Fineberg. Collected Works, Volume 3. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pgs. 630-631.
60 “Bernstein senses the eclecticism of his statements on value and tries to defend eclecticism as such, calling it ‘the revolt of the sober intellect against the tendency inherent in every dogma to constrict thought within narrow confines.’ Kautsky retorts that the real rebels against ‘the constriction of thought within narrow confines’ were never eclectics, that what has always characterized them has been a striving for the unity and integrity of ideas. Eclectics are too timid to dare revolt.” Vladimir Lenin. “Review of Karl Kautsky’s Book on Bernstein.” Translated by George Hanna and Joe Fineberg. Collected Works, Volume 4. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pg. 197.
61 Ibid., pg. 202.
62 Vladimir Lenin. “Where to Begin?” Translated by George Hanna and Joe Fineberg. Collected Works, Volume 5. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1960). Pg. 17.
63 Vladimir Lenin. What is to be Done? The Burning Questions of Our Movement. Translated by Lars T. Lih. Lenin Rediscovered: What is to be Done? in Context. (Brill Academic Publishers. Boston, MA: 2005). Pg. 695.
64 Vladimir Lenin. “The Marx-Engels Correspondence.” Translated by George Hanna. Collected Works, Volume 19. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1963). Pg. 554.
65 Ibid., pg. 552.
66 Georg Lukács. “Bernstein’s Triumph: Notes on the Essays Written in Honor of Karl Kautsky’s Seventieth Birthday.” Translated by Michael McColgan. Tactics and Ethics: The Question of Parliamentarism and Other Essays. (Verso. New York, NY: 2014).
67 “It is in his conclusion that Nikolin commits his chief sin — that of being vague and leaving things unsaid: ‘Both the infatuation with the old methods of action and the emphatically negative attitude to those methods are equally harmful.’ This is not a dialectical, but an eclectic, conclusion.” Vladimir Lenin. “Old and New.” Translated by Dora Cox. Collected Works, Volume 17. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1963). Pgs. 391-392.
68 Vladimir Lenin. “Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic.” Translated by Clemens Dutt. Collected Works, Volume 38. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1961). Pg. 110.
69 “Kautsky developed in 1910 the strategic philosophy of wearing out the enemy (Ermattungsstrategie) as opposed to the strategy of overthrowing the enemy (Niederwerfungsstrategie). His line was that of an increasingly firm adaptation to the existing system. What was really ‘worn out’ in the process was not bourgeois society, but the revolutionary idealism of the masses of workers. All the philistines, all the officials, all the climbers sided with Kautsky, who was weaving for them intellectual garments with which to hide their nakedness. Then came the war, where the political strategy of exhaustion was ousted by the trench variety. Meanwhile Kautsky adapted himself to the war the same way that he had been adapting himself to peace.” Trotsky, My Life. Pg. 214.
70 Lenin. “Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic.” Pg. 225.
71 Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1. Pg. 103.
72 Karl Marx. “Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, 5 March 1852.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Collected Works, Volume 39. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1983). Pg. 62.
73 “Kautsky is a past master at this substitution. Regarded from the point of view of practical politics, it amounts to subservience to the opportunists… Ever since war broke out, Kautsky has made rapid progress in this art of being a Marxist in words and a lackey of the bourgeoisie in deeds.” Vladimir Lenin. Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. Translated by Jim Riordan. Collected Works, Volume 28. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1965). Pgs. 233-234.
74 Vladimir Lenin. State and Revolution: On the Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution. Translated by Stepan Apresyan. Collected Works, Volume 25. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1964). Pgs. 404-405.
75 Vladimir Lenin. “Notes on Kautskyism.” Translated by Clemens Dutt. Collected Works, Volume 39. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1968). Pg. 30. Lenin’s association of swamps with eclecticism likely comes from Engels, who mentioned “the swamp [Sumpf] of empty eclecticism.” Friedrich Engels. “1882 Preface to Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.” Translated by Peter and Betty Ross. Collected Works, Volume 24, pg. 459.
76 Vladimir Lenin. “Letter to Grigory Zinoviev, August 1916.” Translated by Andrew Rothstein. Collected Works, Volume 35. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1966). Pg. 228.
77 Vladimir Lenin and Grigory Zinoviev. Socialism and War. Translated by Julius Katzer. Collected Works, Volume 21. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1964). Pg. 312.
78 “No sooner were questions [about the ‘seizure of state power by the proletariat,’ the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ and the final ‘withering away of the state’] posed in a concrete and unavoidable manner, than emerged at least three different theoretical positions on them, all of which claimed to be Marxist. Yet during the prewar period, the major leaders of these three tendencies — respectively Renner, Kautsky, Lenin — had not only been regarded as Marxists but as orthodox Marxists. For several decades there had raged an apparent crisis in the camp of Social Democratic parties and trade unions within the Second International, which took the shape of a conflict between orthodox Marxism and revisionism. But with the emergence of different socialist tendencies over these new questions, it became clear that this apparent crisis was but a provisional and illusory version of a deeper rift that ran through the orthodox Marxist front itself. On one side of this rift, there appeared Marxist neoreformism, which soon more or less amalgamated with the earlier revisionism. On the other side, the representatives of a new revolutionary proletarian party unleashed a struggle against the old reformism of the revisionists and the new reformism of the ‘center’ under the battle-cry of restoring pure (or revolutionary) Marxism.” Korsch, “Marxism and Philosophy.” Pgs. 53-54.
79 Georg Lukács. “What is Orthodox Marxism?” Translated by Rodney Livingstone. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. (MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 1971). Pg. 1.
80 Georg Lukács. Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought. Translated by Nicholas Jacobs. (Verso. New York, NY: 2009). Pg. 53.
81 “The common character of all opportunist currents is that they never regard events from the class standpoint of the proletariat and therefore fall victim to unhistorical, undialectical, and eclectic Realpolitik. This is what unites their different interpretations of the war and reveals these without exception as the inevitable consequence of their previous opportunism.” Ibid., pg. 55.
82 “Bukharin is not just a valuable and major theorist of the party. He is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole party. Still, his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and never fully understood it).” Vladimir Lenin. “Letter to the Congress.” Translated by Andrew Rothstein. Collected Works, Volume 36. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1966). Pg. 95.
83 “[Bukharin’s] theoretical (in this case gnoseological) mistake lies in his substitution of eclecticism for dialectics… His eclectic approach has confused him and has landed him in syndicalism. Trotsky’s mistake is one-track thinking, compulsiveness, exaggeration, and obstinacy.” Vladimir Lenin. “Once Again on the Trade Unions.” Translated by Yuri Sdobnikov. Collected Works, Volume 32. (Progress Publishers. Moscow: 1973). Pgs. 99-100.
84 Isaac Deutscher. Stalin: A Political Biography. (Oxford University Press. New York, NY: 1967). Pg. 290.
85 “Hardly anyone knew Stalin better than Sten. Stalin, as we know, received no systematic education. Without success Stalin struggled to understand philosophical questions. And then, in 1925, he called Jan Sten, one of the leading Marxist philosophers of that time, to direct his study of Hegelian dialectics… Sten drew up a program of study for Stalin and conscientiously, twice a week, dinned Hegelian wisdom into his illustrious pupil. In those years dialectics was studied by a system that Pokrovsky had worked out at the Institute of Red Professors, a parallel study of Marx’s Capital and Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. Often Sten told me in confidence about these lessons, about the difficulties he, as the teacher, was having because of his student’s inability to master Hegelian dialectics. Jan dropped in to see me often after these sessions with Stalin, in a depressed and gloomy state. Despite his naturally cheerful disposition, he found it difficult to regain equilibrium. He was not only a major philosopher, but a political figure, an outstanding member of the Leninist cohort of old Bolsheviks… Sten’s lessons with Stalin ended in 1928. A few years later he was expelled from the party and exiled to Akmolinsk. In 1937, he was seized on the direct order of Stalin, who declared him chief of the Menshevizing idealists. Finally, on June 19, Sten was put to death in Lefortovo prison.” Yevgeny Frokov, quoted in Roy Medvedev. Let History Judge: Origins and Consequences of Stalinism. Translated by George Shriver. (Columbia University Press. New York, NY: 1989). Pg. 440-441.
86 Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat. Pg. 1.
87 Jean-François Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: Report on Know-ledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. (Minnesota University Press. Minneapolis, MN: 1984). Pg. 76.
88 Interestingly, Laclau and Mouffe cite Labriola as a failed attempt to move beyond the supposed narrowness of Marxian categories: “Since the life of society is more complex than the morphological categories of Marxist discourse (and this complexity was Labriola’s starting point) the only possible result is that ‘theory’ becomes an increasingly irrelevant tool for understanding concrete social processes.” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. (Verso Books. New York, NY: 2001). Pgs. 26-27.
89 See “After Dialectics” in Göran Therborn. From Marxism to Post-Marxism?. (Verso Books. New York, NY: 2008). Pgs. 111-181.
90 Loren Goldner. “Postmodernism Meets the IMF: The Case of Poland.” Break Their Haughty Power. (July 24, 1990).
91 “[Marxism] is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism.” Vladimir Lenin. “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism.” Translated by George Hanna. Collected Works, Volume 19, pgs. 23-24.
92 Vladimir Lenin. “Karl Marx.” Translated by Julius Katzer. Collected Works, Volume 21, pg. 50.
93 Henri Lefebvre. The Sociology of Marx. Translated by Norbert Guterman. (Columbia University Press. New York, NY: 1982). Pg. 187.
94 Karl Marx. “Letter to Arnold Ruge, 15 May 1843.” Translated by Clemens Dutt. Collected Works, Volume 3. (International Publishers. New York, NY: 1975). Pg. 142.
95 Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 1. Pg. 61.
96 “Whoever placed the emphasis on the Hegelian system could be fairly conservative in [religion and politics]; whoever regarded the dialectical method as the main thing could belong to the most extreme opposition in both spheres.” Friedrich Engels. Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy. Translated by Barrie Selman. Collected Works, Volume 26, pg. 363.
97 “With him, it is standing on its head. It must be inverted.” Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1. Pg. 103.
98 Sebastian Timpanaro. “Considerations on Materialism.” Translated by Lawrence Garner. On Materialism. (New Left Books. New York, NY: 1975). Pg. 37.
99 Wilhelm Reich. “Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis.” Translated by Anna Bostock and Lee Baxandall. Sex-Pol: Essays 1923-1934. (Vintage Books. New York, NY: 1972). Pgs. 69-70.
100 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, quoted in Georg Lukács. The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relation between Dialectics and Economics. Translated by Rodney Livingstone. (Merlin Press. London: 1975). Pg. 249.
101 Amadeo Bordiga. “Draft theses for the Third Congress of the Communist Party of Italy, Presented by the Left.” L’Unità. (Lyons: January 12-26, 1926).