Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963


At first, the Polish version of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy did not differ substantially from its Soviet model. There were, however, certain minor deviations and shifts of emphasis which instead of disappearing persisted and tended to increase the original distance from the orthodoxy. In the course of time they have produced a markedly different Marxist-Leninist philosophy from that which exists in the Soviet Union.

The first and one of the most important was the problem of the relation of dialectics to formal logic. In view of the strength and high reputation which formal logic has enjoyed in Poland, Polish Marxist-Leninists could never think of entirely dismissing it as the so-called metaphysical mode of thought. The tendency in this direction, latent in Soviet philosophy, was put down to a poor knowledge of formal logic in the Soviet Union. After some hesitations as to what attitude he should take in this matter, Schaff pronounced himself, in his Introduction to the Marxist Theory, in favour of Plekhanov’s ‘logical dualism’, the coexistence of formal and dialectical logic one alongside the other. Although he qualified the stand taken by the stipulation that it was provisional and for the purpose of discussion, he also added that there was no question of depriving dialectics of such powerful technical tools as formal and mathematical logic. What remained undecided was the division line between the subject-matter of dialectics and formal logic or between the fields of their respective validity. The solution of this question, Schaff explained, rather in reference to the Soviet Union than to Poland, would have a salutary effect on the progress of logic and the advancement of science[282].

This tentative solution was later re-inforced by philosophical developments in the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Schaff was exposed to a heavy pressure of arguments of all kinds, put forward by Polish logicians and philosophers, to abandon the untenable view of ‘logical dualism’ and to recognise that dialectics has nothing to lose and everything to gain by the acceptance of the principle of non-contradiction. This protracted tug-of-war will be examined in one of the succeeding chapters, but its outcome can now be stated. Schaff became finally persuaded (1955) that Marxist-Leninist philosophy was misled by Hegel and mistook contraries for contradictories. A dialectical contradiction is not a logical contradiction, and, consequently, formal logic must be recognised as the only universally valid logic[283].

The second slight difference between the Soviet and Polish versions of Marxist-Leninist philosophy concerned the principle of partijnost’. This principle assumes the social determination of knowledge and its varying validity which depends on the social location of particular social classes. In the course of social and historical development different classes occupy a social location that is situationally adequate for the knowledge to be valid or as valid as is possible under the existing circumstances. It is claimed that at present only the proletariat provides a social location that favours progress of undistorted and genuine knowledge. This knowledge has been attained by the proletarian party, that is, by the Communist Party, which is by definition the most conscious and advanced part of the proletariat. Partijnost’ is usually defined as ‘to be in agreement with the objective truth’, provided it is understood that ‘objective truth’ is what is declared by the Party leadership to be true in each particular case. A non-Party scholar and scientist may also rise to the ‘objective truth’, when he is in accord with the Party, accepts its authority to determine what is and what is not knowledge and to settle scientific questions recognised by the Party to be its concern.

In Introduction to the Marxist Theory Schaff passed over the principle of partijnost’ in silence. He mentioned only briefly the doctrine of the class determination of science and explained its meaning in terms of the Marxian theory. Marx confined the class determination of knowledge to philosophy, the social and historical sciences, and Schaff followed in his footsteps. He accepted the Marxian view that what matters in philosophy, political economy, sociology, history, jurisprudence, political science, is a general conceptual framework, which lends to isolated facts, opinions and partial theories their meaning and significance. These general conceptual frameworks are a social product and reflect the forms of social consciousness and class interests of social groups in which they originate.

Since there are two main classes in a modern society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, there is, therefore, a bourgeois and a proletarian science, the latter being more progressive and objective than the former. The working class has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the advance of knowledge, which is not the case as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. The implications of scientific progress may threaten or endanger the position of the ruling class. The class interests of the bourgeoisie then act as an obstacle to the progress of knowledge and prevent those who wittingly or unwittingly are exposed to their influence from seeing objectively the forces and laws shaping the historical, political and social existence.

Dialectical materialism provides an example in point. The laws of dialectics are rejected on the pretext of their being deduced from Hegel’s mystic schemes. In fact they are rejected for their social implications. The ‘law of the transformation of quantity into quality’ implies that changes occur both by evolution and by revolution and this conclusion is unacceptable to a man of science associated by many links with the ruling class and its interests. The same applies to the opposition which the dialectical ‘logic of contradictions’ has encountered. The recognition of the fact that objective contradictions are inherent in the phenomena of nature justifies a revolutionary practice. The defence of the principle of non-contradiction aims at depriving the supporters of this practice of what theoretically justifies their course of action[284].

It is not possible to say what were the reasons which persuaded Schaff to leave out the principle of partijnost’ in his first presentation of Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Whatever these reasons were, Schaff soon abandoned the position adopted in Introduction to the Marxist Theory. He extended indiscriminately the class determination of knowledge to all science, to history, political economy, sociology, philosophy on the one side, mathematics, physics, and biology on the other, and supplemented it by the principle of partijnost’. The latter was, in his opinion, only a logical conclusion of the former. There is no ‘pure science’; every science is necessarily class-bound and class-determined. If it is classdetermined, its partisan character follows therefrom as a consequence[285].

The extension of the class determination to all science was accomplished by a simple syllogism: if all science is ideology, and all ideology is class conditioned in its content, then all science is class conditioned in its content. The first premiss is not invalidated by the fact that there are sciences ideologically neutral, since this neutrality is not absolute but relative with respect to place and time. Physics and biology were once neutral; they are not so any longer. So far as physics is concerned, this can be seen by placing Einstein’s theory of relativity, Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle or the theory of quanta in the full context of modern life in which they function as weapons in furious ideological disputes. It becomes then clear that certain solutions of the problems of physics serve the cause of progress, and others that of reaction. The struggle for the recognition of Michurin’s biology is clearly of the same nature. Moreover, Russell the mathematician and Russell the philosopher or Einstein the physicist and Einstein the philosopher are one and the same person. Their authority in mathematics and physics lends weight to their philosophical views, and the latter have rendered great services to the bourgeoisie in its struggle against Marxism-Leninism. The most abstract investigations are connected, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, with the continuing class struggle[286].

The alleged distorting influence of ideology on science was made somehow clearer by Eilstein. She started with distinguishing the social and epistemological roots of idealism (in the Marxist-Leninist sense) in a mannerclosely modelled on Lenin’s ‘sociology of science’. Fideism is a component part of the bourgeois superstructure, since it provides the exploiters with an effective means of exercising control over the masses. Fideism, or more specifically theism, is a belief intrinsically connected with idealism sensu largo, with the opinion that there are real entities which are not material in the world. Thus idealism sensu largo is strengthened by any epistemological view which either implies or does not explicitly exclude the idealist conceptions. Idealism in physics, which scientists like Bohr, Born, Einstein, Heisenberg, Jordan, Pauli, Schrödinger support, is one of them. The idealist views of these scientists are not totally groundless, they have some foundations in the facts established by atomic physics. But these facts admit both a materialist and an idealist interpretation. If the latter is accepted, this should not be explained by an impartial weighing up of evidence and arguments, but by the scientist’s ideological dependence on the bourgeois superstructure. In assessing the validity of philosophical theories in physics the key is provided by the analysis of ideology, to the influence of which their protagonists are subject in one way or other[287].

It is perhaps not difficult to understand why in Schaff’s opinion the partisan character of science and philosophy is entailed by their being class-determined. His claim is comprehensible once it is accepted that according to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine the Party is the most conscious part of the working class, incarnates its class consciousness and translates its content into deeds and ideas. What is more difficult to comprehend is the extraordinary claim that by being consciously class-determined and partisan in character Marxist-Leninist philosophy provides the only truly objective and undistorted reflection of reality[288].

It does not seem possible to account for this irrational conception of objectivity in other terms than those of psychology. The principle of partijnost’ not only transfers the authority to settle scientific questions to the hands of those holding power and opens the door to establishing truth by political decision, but also makes of philosophy a means of discrediting the adversary, of demolishing the basis of his ‘social and intellectual existence. The sense of power, which this technique may provide, is taken to be the result of having risen to a higher level of knowledge and prompts the claim of objectivity, obtained by the adherence to and the consistent use of the principle of partijnost’.

When a Marxist-Leninist discovers a class bias, class prejudice or interest behind every view with which he disagrees, he enters a state of mind in which he believes he is in possession of knowledge superior to any other. His knowledge is not ‘the phantom formed in the human brain’, mere ‘ideological reflexes and echoes of the life process’, which Marx set out to exorcise. Compared with those who blindly follow their prejudices and are obliged to say what they say without being able to understand the reasons that make them do it, Marxist-Leninists have reached a higher degree of comprehension. Since everybody is in a varying degree deceived without knowing it and only Marxist-Leninists are aware of this fact, as well as of the cause of everybody’s deception, Marxist-Leninists constitute a body of the elect whose vision of truth is neither veiled nor obscured by pretentious and futile aspirations to achieve the impossible, the impartiality and objectivity of pure science. They are the only ones who can look the truth in the face, they are the first to see the human world not in the distorting mirror of an ideology but as it actually is. In the kingdom of Hegelian freedom the claim that only a consistently partisan attitude secures a genuinely objective knowledge seems to lose the ring of a deadly contradiction[289].

The psychological description of the mental processes by which a Marxist-Leninist arrives at the statement, that his knowledge is the only objective one in virtue of being partisan, does not yet establish the truth of what he says. The gnawing doubt that what he holds is absurd does not cease to persist. Some young Marxist-Leninists complained that it was an unenviable task to face the undergraduates with the statement that Marxist-Leninist philosophy is objectively true and partisan together. Schaff himself did not manage to silence entirely this doubt and while adhering to the principle of partijnost’ he seemed to have felt its irrationality and ideological character in the pejorative sense of this term[290].

The contention that all knowledge is class-bound and class-determined in its content can be regarded either as a statement that itself is class-bound and classdetermined in its content, and thus an expression of the class-interest of a particular group, a ‘mere ideology’ in Marx’s sense, or as a piece of genuine and objective knowledge. In the former case, the contention cannot claim objectivity, in the latter it reduces to absurdity the statement that all knowledge is classbound and class-determined. For if the contention is objectively true, it follows that there is some knowledge which does not reflect the class interests of a particular group, is not class-bound and class-determined in its content.

Marxist-Leninists never removed this contradiction from their system, nor even faced it squarely. It was a source of intellectual uneasiness within their own ranks, and one of the most disreputable characteristics of Marxist-Leninist philosophy to others. To the latter it meant that Marxist-Leninists were saying a final farewell to reason and taking flight from science based on the intersubjective, public, and social rules of procedure to the realm of the irrational and the arbitrary, subject to no control but the unpredictable intuitions of the initiated. It was pointed out that the opponents and not the supporters of the principle of partijnost’ could claim the authority of Marx in their favour[291].

This principle is not only logically but also epistemologically unsound. The principle of partijnost’ seems to imply that there is a body of absolute knowledge which only a Marxist-Leninist can discover or comprehend. In his Introduction to the Marxist Theory Schaff made a distinction between the unchanging core of the Marxist-Leninist system and its parts which are subject to modification and adjustable to the requirements of the social and political development. He did not specify this unchanging core of absolute knowledge, contained in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, except by saying that it is expressed in certain assumptions of the view of the world, presumably those of dialectical materialism, and in some methodological rules[292]. Thus, however, some new difficulties have been made apparent.

Dialectical materialism purports to be an empirical generalisation of the historical development of science and of what particular sciences learn about the order and laws of Nature. As an empirical generalisation dialectical materialism cannot be an immutable principle. On the other hand, if it is a metaphysical principle, the question arises how to justify the claim that it holds good for natural phenomena and settles problems of science. The identification of the principle of partijnost’ with any other Marxist-Leninist theorem must fail for the same reason. There is no such theorem that would satisfy the requirements of being an empirical generalisation and a statement immune from correction. The requirements are clearly incompatible. An unchanging principle must be a metaphysical one, but then the claim of its empirical origin and empirical relevance must be given up. If it is empirical, it cannot be immutable and the claim that it must be adhered to unconditionally and unreservedly has to be abandoned.

The principle of partijnost’ cannot consist in fixed principles unless they are factually vacant. Such principles purport to cover all the facts and by covering all the facts they lose the logical connection that exists between a genuine statement of law and statements of fact referring to particular cases of law. The absence of this connection marks an all-embracing statement not only as a false hypothesis – a false hypothesis is a meaningful and genuine statement of law, falsified by particular statements of facts – but a sham law statement. The claim to the validity of the latter cannot be maintained unless it is ambiguous enough to be verified by any evidence and data of experience. It thus loses the character of a genuine theory and acquires that of a pseudo-theory. The usefulness of a sham law statement is not theoretical; it is useful in the practical sense, or, more precisely, in the sphere of political life. It allows us to make changes and to contend that no change has been made.

The principle of partijnost’ is not what it is presented to be – an epistemological principle that assures that the world is viewed from the ‘right’ social perspective. It is a moral and political principle. It is political since it reserves to a politically selected group the right to decide ultimately what is true and what is false. It is a moral principle, since its adherents must believe something to be true and something else to be false on account of its having been declared to be true or false by the authority. It is inspired by the ‘instrumentalist’ conception of philosophy. Philosophy is reduced to the function of a means which helps to shape man and society. Thus, the principle of partijnost’ provides the essence of what was called above the ‘voluntaristic interpretation of the Marxian doctrine’ [293].

The mistaken view that the disclosure of the social origin of an opinion may amount to a proof of its falsehood, prompted a debunking technique which in Poland, as much as elsewhere, became very common in Marxist-Leninist writings and was transformed into a general method of resolving philosophical and other differences of opinion. The conviction that by unveiling the secret or hidden motives of human behaviour, sentiments and thoughts, the latter can be shown to be meaningless, ‘unreal’, and, as it were, laughed out of court, is not peculiar to Marxist-Leninists alone[294]. Nobody, however, but Marxist-Leninists reduced the philosophical argument to a debunking technique. If it could be shown by a more or less arbitrary interpretation that a philosophical view ‘implies’ or ‘is implied’, ‘supports’ or ‘is supported’ by the ‘idealist outlook’, this view was thus ‘proved’ to be socially conditioned by the class interests of the bourgeoisie and thereby dissmissed as an ideological distortion. The same procedure was applied to provide ‘proofs’ of the truth of some other opinions. If they supported or followed from the ‘materialistic outlook’, they served the interests of the proletariat and were true. The debunking technique of Marxist-Leninists undermines and finally destroys objective criteria of validity and thus reinforces the tendency towards dogmatism, irrationalism and oracular philosophy[295].

The contention that the truth and validity of a view or a theory depends on its social origin was strongly challenged by logical and historical arguments. There is a wide measure of agreement that class-determined presuppositions, conscious and subconscious, play a part in the social and natural sciences by influencing or conditioning individual scientific workers. The inference that there is no scientific objectivity is, however, unwarranted. Chalasiłski referred to the history of science and civilisation to provide some supporting evidence for this opinion. There is continuity in scientific advance, although different social classes contribute to it, either in turn or simultaneously. It is impossible to maintain that only the bourgeoisie has created the social arid philosophical thought of the nineteenth century; it is certain that the bourgeoisie benefited from the achievements of Greek antiquity and the Renaissance. Scientific procedure has at different times and in different political systems served the interests of different social classes, not all of them, it must be conceded, in the same measure. But what has been conquered by science and technique, whether it is the art of writing and reading, of printing or logical thinking, is at the disposal of all. Science has been in the past a powerful factor in levelling down class differences. The twentieth century tendency to subordinate science to military requirements and political interests or to a social class to secure its hegemony over the others is a retrogressive development [296].

This argument is not by itself decisive; a Marxist-Leninist may accept it without changing his original conviction. Much stronger is the logical argument, commonly called the ‘genetic fallacy’ argument, put forward by Czeżowski, Lange and Ossowski. According to this argument, Marxism-Leninism confuses the social and psychological origin of a belief with its logical validity[297].

A universal and personal standard of truth is not based, as Marxist-Leninists seem to believe, on the scientist’s protestations of impartiality and objectivity, and it is not made illusory by the discovery that social, moral, political and even some scientific opinions are determined by class interest, or, more generally, by historical and social circumstances. The validity of scientific statements depends on the adherence to scientific procedure, to appeal to facts, verification of predictions, and the test of consistency with other already confirmed statements. This procedure is unaffected by personal or class motivation, conscious or subconscious, by what psychology or sociology may reveal about the origin of any particular statement. Any statement stands or falls according to the rules of scientific method, which is intersubjective, public, and social; it rules out of court arbitrary ideas and thoughts inspired by some hidden motives and establishes what is confirmable or verifiable by the co-operation of many minds. If the scientific method fails, as it sometimes does fail in morals and sociology, the only conclusion to be drawn is that these disciplines do not consist of scientifically valid statements. The fact that a statement originates in the class consciousness of one class rather than another has no logical significance and does not provide a criterion by which scientific statements can be distinguished from non-scientific ones.

The rules of testing and verifying the validity of scientific statements, irrespective of whether they are inspired by partial or impartial motives and ideas, provide the best possible guarantee against class prejudices and other irrelevant presuppositions. Whatever successfully passes the public and social test of validity, can claim scientific value, though necessarily a relative one, liable to revision in the light of further progress of scientific knowledge. The hypothetical character of scientifically valid statements is not to be confused with the absence of objectivity. The former results from the inconclusiveness of evidence at every stage of scientific development, the latter is based on observing the established procedure with respect to the evidence available at the time.

These arguments were not accepted by Marxist-Leninists and in 1949 the distinction between a bourgeois and a proletarian science was proclaimed a dogma, which could not be publicly challenged. They were not made in vain, however, they helped to keep critical thought alive, and slowly undermined the dogma. When more favourable circumstances prevailed in 1956, they were re-stated and substantiated with an invigorating freshness by Eilstein and Kolakowski, former supporters of the Marxist-Leninist dogma, and placed within a more general social framework by Ossowski[298].

The third peculiarity of the Polish version of Marxist-Leninist philosophy concerns dialectical materialism. In Schaff’s account of its historical origin there is apparent a pronounced tendency to minimise or to eliminate, whenever possible, Hegel’s share in it. This is worth emphasising for two reasons. Polish Marxist-Leninists later became divided on the issue of Hegel’s philosophy and something like a Hegelian and an anti-Hegelian wing made its appearance. The Hegelian wing included, primarily, those interested in the history of philosophical and social thought (Baczko, Kolakowski, Kroński). The Hegelian wing was not only motivated by respect for Hegel’s historical dialectics but also by the desire to find an escape from the intellectual straight-jacket imposed on the Marxist-Leninist historians by Zhdanov’s pronouncement. On the other hand, those interested rather in the theoretical aspect of Marxism-Leninism, though by no means all of them (e.g., Krajewski, Ładosz, and, above all, Nowiński are Hegelians in the above indicated sense), were inclined to deplore the Hegelian influence on the Marxist-Leninist thought and were anxious to erase any trace left by it. Schaff belonged to the anti-Hegelian wing. His anti-Hegelian attitude played a certain role in his final rejection of the view that there exist ‘objective contradictions’ and that consequently the validity of the principle of non-contradiction must be restricted.

It is true that under Stalin the anti-Hegelian trend in Soviet Marxism was conspicuous and its reflection in the Polish version of Marxism-Leninism was to be expected[299]. But there is little doubt that this influence was at least strongly reinforced by native considerations. What Chwistek said of Hegel in The Limits of Science represented truly the widely held opinion on Hegel’s philosophy among Polish thinkers. The intellectual climate of Polish philosophy was decidedly hostile to speculations of Hegelian metaphysics, Hegel’s doctrine was thought to be pernicious, his method fantastic and capable of producing any farrago of nonsense. Moreover, Hegel’s view on the State and the State’s supremacy over the individual was totally rejected, the terms ‘Hegelian’ and ‘totalitarian’ being used almost synonymously. For practical and theoretical reasons the connections between Hegel and Marxism-Leninism were disadvantageous[300]. Schaff was exposed to these influences and his attitude exemplifies the effect of the pressure exercised by non-Marxist thought on Marxism-Leninism in Poland.

The most objectionable principle of Hegelian dialectics was the’triad’, the negation of the negation which, having been stripped by Marx of the ‘veil of mystery in which it was wrapped by the old idealist philosophy’, was proclaimed by Engels to be an ‘extremely general, and for this reason extremely comprehensive and important, law of development of Nature, history and thought’. This law, to quote more of what Engels said, ‘holds good in the animal and plant kingdoms, in geology, in mathematics, in history and in philosophy’ and concerns a ‘very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand’ [301]. While Hegel applied the triad to abstract entities, Marx, and following him Engels, saw through the ‘mystification which dialectics suffers in Hegel’s hand’ and declared it to be the law that governs the phenomena of Nature. Marx expressly recognised, however, that Hegel was the first to .present its (dialectics) general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner’. Those who said that Marxian speculations about dialectical development are derived from Hegel and his triad were certainly right[302].

Schaff simply denied this to be the case and based this denial ultimately on the fact that Hegel’s dialectics is speculative and irrational, that of Marxism-Leninism rational and empirical. Hegel’s laws of dialectics are ‘different’ from those laid down in Marxism-Leninism, because instead of to ideas they apply to the material world, to self-developing matter instead of self-developing thought[303]. This difference has been denied by nobody but neither does it imply, as Engels carefully and strongly emphasised, that thus Hegel was simply put aside. What is common to the Hegelian and Marxist-Leninist dialectics is the substitution of bogus laws of Nature, whose mode of operation is identical irrespective of the realm of being to which they apply, for genuine laws of Nature. Thus, they are not only a nuisance, but also a menace. While the laws of dialectics purport to be a contribution to physical, biological, psychological, sociological and logical theories, they are actually factually vacant phrases and only pretend to be generalisations of scientific observations. The emptiness of the claim to empirical relevance can best be seen from the fact that these alleged generalisation of observations are quite useless in the description of natural phenomena. They neither make more comprehensible nor predictable anything that actually happens in the world of experience. If they have any meaning, the scientist has no use for it[304].

Schaff returned to the subject of the relationship between the Hegelian and Marxist-Leninist dialectics after Stalin’s death. Stalin’s greatest contribution to the Marxist-Leninist theory, Schaff wrote, was his expurgation of dialectics from the last remnants of Hegelianism. Stalin’s teaching on dialectical materialism in Dialectical and Historical Materialism is an improvement upon Engels’ formulation of the laws of dialectics. Stalin stopped ‘coquetting Hegel’, did not mention the negation of the negation, and finally ousted it from among the principles of Marxist-Leninist dialectics. The time has clearly come to cut Marxist-Leninist philosophy free from even a semblance of any connection with Hegel’s philosophy. What Lenin had begun in What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are was thus completed by Stalin in Dialectical and Historical Materialism[305].

Hegel’s ancestry is visible not only in the negation of the negation, but also in other laws of dialectics. In Schaff’s opinion, Stalin Marxism and Problems of Linguistics and Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR contain further repudiations of the Hegelian inheritance. The law of transition from an old quality to a new by means of an explosion, wrote Stalin in Marxism and Problems of Linguistics, ‘is not always applicable to. social phenomena of a basis or superstructural character’. Schaff also felt that in Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR Stalin no longer insisted, as he did before, on the development being a ‘disclosure of the contradictions’ which reveal a struggle of opposite tendencies operating on the basis of these contradictions. The emphasis in Stalin’s last work, Schaff argued, is on the development by way of gradual changes, on the adaptation of the old to the new, without the destruction of the former by the latter[306].

Schaff claimed that this reformulation of dialectical principles removes the inconsistency between the law of the unity and struggle of the opposites on the one hand, the principle of non-contradiction on the other, or between dialectics and formal logic. If change is the ‘adaptation of the old to the new’, change does not imply contradictions, in the strict sense of this term, being inherent in social and natural phenomena. Dialectics would not require imposing restrictions on the validity of the principle of non-contradiction; formal logic and dialectics could be reconciled[307]. Thus, the expurgation of Marxism-Leninism from the most objectionable Hegelian influences did mark a certain progress of Marxist-Leninist back towards reason and common sense.