Bogdanov's 'Science and the Working Class'

106 posts / 0 new
Last post
LBird
Bogdanov's 'Science and the Working Class'
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Science and the Working  Class

Alexander Bogdanov 1918

 

 

Preface to the English translation

 

This  text is  a  summary   of a  presentation  which Alexander  Bogdanov  (1873-1928)  gave at  a conference for the Proletkult organisations of Moscow, 23-28th  February 1918. It was written during a period in which Bogdanov was very active in Proletkult. Another version of his speech was given at the First All-Russian Proletkult Conference held 15-20 September 1918, and was reprinted after this conference with 'Methods of Labour and Methods of Cognition' which had previously appeared in Пролетарская культура (Proletarian Culture) No. 4, August 1918. During the summer of 1918, Bogdanov  was involved in the founding of the Communist University, founded 25th June 1918

Biggart et  al, 1998). It  was  a  “higher  education  establishment  conducting  social  and  natural scientific research” which in pursuit of its tasks “researched the elaboration of questions of history, theory, and  the practice  of socialism”  (Bogdanov 1977). These  experiences  then feed  into the discussion at the September Conference where Bogdanov  gave a speech on the Workers'  University. This  was further elaborated  in 'Proletarian University' which appeared  in No. 5 of Proletarian Culture which came out in November 1918. This latter text is in preparation.

Fabian Tompsett, 1st October 2015

ORCID: 0000-0003-4793-1761

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4801.0725

This translation is released under a Creative Commons license.                      (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Science and the Working Class

 

1. To say that the class character of science lies in defending the interests of a given class, is just an argument  of a pamphleteer   or a complete  falsification.  In reality,  science  may be bourgeois or proletarian by its very "nature", including its origin, designs, methods of study and presentation. In this fundamental sense, all the sciences, social or otherwise, including mathematics and logic, may and actually do have a class character.

 

2. The nature of science  is  to be organized   collective  experience  of humanity and the instrument of the organization of the life of society. The ruling science in its various branches, is bourgeois science: it has worked  on all representatives of the bourgeois intelligentsia, it is the concentrated  material  of the experience  accessible  to the middle  classes;  they have understood their bourgeois point of view and have made this generally understandable, they have organised affairs according to their own processes and habits. It follows that this science was  used, then  as now, an instrument of the bourgeois structuring of society: firstly as an instrument of struggle and victory of the bourgeoisie over the classes that had had their day, and  then as  an  instrument  of their rule  over the working class,  and  at  all  times  this organizational  instrument  for the development  of production  has  been  realised  under the leadership of the bourgeoisie. Such is the organising strength of this science which at the same time displays its historic narrowness.

 

3. This narrowness is already being felt in the very material of science, that is to say in the content of experience it organises; this is especially so in the social sciences. Thus, in the study of relations  of production,  bourgeois science  could not grasp or to distinguish  the particular  higher form, of collectivist  fraternal  cooperation,  because this  form is  virtually unknown to  the bourgeois  classes.  Even more significant  is  the narrowness  of  this fundamental perspective which is evident across the whole of bourgeois science and which is due to the same position of the bourgeois classes in the social system, including their way of life. This special feature is the split between science and its real basis: socialised labour.

 

4. The separation between mental and physical labor mark the origin of this rupture. In itself, this does not exclude the consciousness of the indissoluble connection of practice and theory in the social process into a single whole. But none of the bourgeois classes can perceive this; it is outside their field of vision. These classes are educated in the individualised economy, private  property, and  the competition of the market;  that is  why the citizens  have an individualistic consciousness and the social nature of science is incomprehensible to them. For them, science  is  not a collective  experience  of organized labor  nor an organizational instrument of collective work; for them, knowledge is something in itself, even something opposed to  practice, with a special “ideal”, "logical" nature, and if in their view it should lead to some practical outcome, they attribute this precisely to this higher  nature, and not because it has arisen from any practice which may have shaped it. This particular fetish that can be named the "fetishism of abstract knowledge."

 

5. Even  as specialization grew, the bourgeois world was developing all areas of its creation, science in particular. Science is split into an ever larger number of branches, increasingly divergent, always  weakening  the living  relationship  that existed  between  them. The individualistic  separation  of men  sharpened this  process because although  the pooling of ideas is still a need for specialists working in the same industry, this necessity is relatively less  compelling  for specialists  working in different branches. This  path led  Science  to a disparate  constitution, similar  to  that of  capitalist  society  itself,  and  to  extend  this comparison, its development follows the same anarchy.

 

This is the result: it has accumulated  in all its branches an enormous wealth of material and also a wealth of methods for shaping this material. However,  bourgeois science has been unable to achieve full, systematic and harmonious  organisation. Each specialty has created their own language that has become incomprehensible not only the broad masses but even to scholars of another specialty. The same correlations, the same experimental links, the same processes of knowledge are studied in different branches,  as if it were quite different things. The methods of one branch only share knowledge with other branches with much delay and difficulty. This is the origin of the narrow horizon, the corporatist narrowness that develops in men of science, weakening and slowing their creation.

 

6. Also  as  much as  science  has given a unity for technical  methods, the development  of mechanised production has also sparked a trend in science to unify methods, to overcome the harmful  aspects of specialization. Much  has been done in this direction, but in the meantime, the radical rupture between the individual branches of science remains. So far, this trend to unification may only impact on the details, but it can not lead to harmonisation in a single organization of science as a whole.

 

7. Bourgeois science is not very accessible to the working class; it is dense, its specialized corporatist  language  is  obscure and complicated,  and further, as it is  of course  become  a product in capitalist society, it's expensive. If isolated proletarian representatives, at the cost of enormous expenditure of energy, become masters of one or the other of its branches, its class character is then felt: as they are cut from the collective working, they commit to a path of rupture with the life, the interests and thought structure of the working community from which they come.  The corporatist  narrowness  doubles  here the tendency  towards  an intellectual aristocracy. In a word,  as a bourgeois  ideology 1, from its origin, science organizes the soul of the proletariat according to a bourgeois  model.

 

8. All this gives to the working class specific missions concerning contemporary science:

▪ we must review it from a proletarian point of view, in content  as much  as form of presentation;

▪ the creation  of  a  new organization,  as  much for  the elaboration  as  for  the

dissemination amongst the working masses.

In most branches of science, accomplishing these tasks will mean a methodical consideration of the legacy of the old world. But in some,  a large and deep autonomous  creation will be required.

 

9. The review of the content of science must first annul this break with collective working practices:  the material  of  science  must be understood   and  informed  as  the practical experience  of humanity;  the schemas,  conclusions,  formulas  must be seen  as  tools   for organizing  all  the social  practice  of humanity. At the moment, this work is  done almost exclusively  in the social  sciences,  but with insufficient  structure  and method;  it must be extended to all areas of knowledge. This transformation produces  a science vitally close to the working class:

▪ Astronomy as the science bringing together the work activity in time and space

▪ Physics  as  the science  of the resistances  encountered  by the collective  work of humanity

▪ Physiology as the science of the labor force, logic as a theory  the social agreement of

ideas.

 

1 “Our usual ideas about the social relations between people imply mutual understanding as their first precondition. (…) What is the essence of this mutual understanding? It is contained in a common  language and the sum of concepts which are expressed by this language, in what is called common “culture” or, more exactly, ideology” Bogdanov's Tektology Book I (Bogdanov 1996)

 

That is to say, such organizational tools of work will penetrate into the consciousness of the proletariat more immediately, more easily and more deeply than those same sciences in their present form.

 

10. It is  further necessary  to do everything possible  to eliminate  the disparate  nature  of science that has led to the increase of specialisation; the unity of scientific language most be the objective, matching and generalising the methods of the various branches of knowledge, not only in relation to each other, but as regards  the methods of all other areas of practice, developing  of  a  complete   monism   of  them all.  It  will  be embodied  in  the universal organizational science necessary for the proletariat,  the future organizer of the whole life of mankind in all its aspects.

 

11. With regard to the forms of the presentation  of science,  it is  slightly  easier,  without prejudice to the essence of what is  presented. Recently, the work of the democratisers  of science2  has shown  how it is possible to advance in this direction, whether  as regards the usual presentations of the useless scholastic hodgepodge or by repeating the same thing under different names in neighbouring  branches. Simplification  has already  reached  a sufficient degree for a single review of science from the viewpoint of collective of work which will release science from the abstract fetishism which is  a source  of the pseudo-problems and unnecessary devices  which were often  the subject  of 'evidence'  in the old mathematics, mechanics or logic, etc.

 

12. The review of the content and of the transformation of the external form of science will constitute its basis, that is to say its "socialism", its mode of adaptation to the tasks of the struggle and socialist construction. The dissemination of knowledge and scientific work must be organised in parallel. The two things are inextricably linked: they must be embodied in life in terms of the Workers' University and Workers' Encyclopedia.

 

13. The Workers' University shall consist of a system  of cultural and educational institutions with levels  which converge to a  single  centre for training and  organization  of scientific forces. At each level of the system, the general education courses must be complemented  by practical,  technical  and scientific  courses, of use to society.  The unifying of principle  of programmes  at each level and their complementary teachings should not hinder the freedom to try to perfect the particular programs or particular teaching methods.

The basic characteristic of the relationships between teachers and students should be fraternal co-operation, in which the competence of the former does not become sovereign authority nor the reliance of the latter engendering passivity and the absence of criticism. Education must primarily contain the assimilation of methods.

 

14. The development of the courses, and in conjunction with this, the work of publication of scientific  workers in the Labour University, should be geared towards  the creation  of a Workers' Encyclopedia which should not be a mere summary of scientific findings, but above all a complete,  harmoniously system which presents the methods of practice and knowledge in their vital links.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 As an example of such democratisers see John Dewey (1859-1952), Ernst Mach (1883-1916) and Yakov Perelmann

(1882-1942). Perelman was influenced by Mach and probably  Bogdanov  as well (Siemsen 2010).

 

Translators Notes

This English translation was made using 'Science et la class ouvrière', the French translation by Blanche Grinbaum  of 'Nauki I rabochii klass',  which appeared  in La science,  l'art et la class ouvriere (1977). Additional contextual  information  was gleaned from Bogdanov and His  Work (Biggart et al.  1998), which provides  a comprehensive  list  of Bogdanov's published  works and archival  holdings. The French  book cites  the piece  as coming from  Пролетарская культура (Proletarian Culture) No. 2, however  Biggart et al suggest it was published several places elsewhere (ibid pp. 315-6).

Gender specific terms have been rendered in a gender free way (e.g. “humanity” for “man”) for ease of reading rather than to mask the gendered language used. Footnotes have also been added for ease of comprehension for a modern  readership.  Minor formatting changes have been made from the French version.

This translation is part of ongoing  research into Bogdanov  and his relevance in the twenty-first century.

 

 

Title Image:

Vier  Männer  vor Fabriken (1926) by Franz  Seiwert  (1894-1933)  Seiwert  participated  in the discussion  about

Proletkult in the pages of Die Aktion in the early 1920s. This painting is currently in the Hamburg Kunsthalle. (Bohnen

1978)

 

 

Bibliography

Biggart J., Gloveli G., Yassour A., (1998) Bogdanov and His Work: A Guide to the Published and Unpublished Works of

Alexander A. Bogdanov (Malinovsky) 1873-1928 Aldershot: Ashgate

Bogdanov A. (1977) La science, l'art et la classe ouvrière, trans. Blanche Grinbaum, eds. Dominique Lecourt and Henri

Deluy, Paris: Maspero

Bogdanov A. (1996) Bogdanov's Tektology Book I translated by tr. Andrei Kartashov, Vladimir Kelle, Peter Bystrov, ed

Dudley P., Hull: Centre for Systems Studies

Bohnen U. (1978) Franz W. Seiwert 1894–1933. Leben und Werk. Köln : Kölnischer Kunstverein

Siemsen, H. (2010) 'Mach’s Science Education, the PISA Study and Czech Science Education' in: Ernst Mach – Fyzika

– Filosofie – Vzděláváni. Vol. 1 Brno: Masarykova Univerzita, 2010, pp. 255–265, DOI:

10.5817/CZ.MUNI.M210-4808-2011-255.

LBird
Comment and thanks

I've posted this text by Bogdanov because I think it can help inform any discussions about 'science', the proletariat and democracy.

Also, comradely thanks to Demogorgon, who advised me that I might be able to overcome my formatting difficulties on this site by switching from IE to Chrome. It seems to have worked!smiley

MH
Last word on Rovelli

The debate about proletarian culture in the Russian revolution, both in the context of art and science, is obviously an important one that has been dealt with before in the ICC press. This article is worth reading on ‘proletkult’ for a start, although it may need a new thread to discuss.

We are probably done for now on Rovelli. It's a shame the author of the ICC's article couldn't participate but this may be down to language issues.

After a bit of a break I just wanted to come back to LBird’s last responses.

LBird May 10 wrote:

‘Time' is a relationship between 'inorganic nature and an active, productive, consciousness' - this is the 'idealist-materialist', Marxist, option.

LBird May 19 wrote:

If even 'time' is a social product, then clearly so too is the physical.

 

You’ve changed your position, haven’t you? First you proposed that our concept of physical time is a relationship between inorganic nature and human consciousness. This to me seemed a not unreasonable approximation of Rovelli’s views, and one that we as materialists could largely agree with as the basis for further discussion.

You then appear to have reverted to your previous argument, in which everything, including inorganic nature, is a ‘social product’. Perhaps you realised you had conceded too much to the materialist conception of history?

It's pointless to go over this yet again. For the record, Rovelli does not argue that time is a ‘social product’. On the contrary, what makes his views interesting to me is that by accepting that social and cultural factors play a role in our conception of time, alongside physical, biological and psychological factors, he appears to confirm the materialist approach as set out by the Marxist scientist Pannekoek (see my posts above).

But his core argument is that time is a product of our lack of knowledge of the workings of the universe, and his hypothesis is that time emerges at the thermodynamical level (‘Forget Time’, 2008). At this point my own lack of knowledge of the universe prevents me from following...

LBird wrote:

Separation of our world into 'known' and 'material' prevents our class conciousness from developing. We must base our world upon 'unity', not bourgeois 'separation'.

I will just add, as Demogorgon has pointed out, that for materialists, the idea of a nature existing ‘out there’, in a relationship with human consciousness, does not at all imply that it is impossible for human beings to change the world they find themselves inhabiting. On the contrary.

What is unknown, through the conscious action of human beings, through observation of the real world, becomes known; our understanding of what is ‘out there’ changes and, through our changed understanding, changes us. This is what materialism shows us. 

Our current world is indeed based on separation. It is based fundamentally, concretely, on the separation of the producers from the product of their labour. We cannot first remove this separation now, in our heads, before we ‘act’ on the real world. To begin to unify this world we have first to challenge this separation through our struggles, then to destroy capitalism in practice, through revolutionary struggle. Your insistence that 'theory precedes practice' prevents you from practically dissolving the separation you have yourself identified.

LBird
Theory and practice, once more

MH wrote:
To begin to unify this world we have first to challenge this separation through our struggles, then to destroy capitalism in practice, through revolutionary struggle. Your insistence that 'theory precedes practice' prevents you from practically dissolving the separation you have yourself identified.

'Struggle' or 'practice' necessarily follow from 'theory'. Either a conscious theory, in which the active agent builds for their own purposes, or an unconscious theory, in which the active agent builds for the purposes of the body who did provide the theory.

Unless you are going to argue that random, undirected, meaningless 'practice' is to be our revolutionary method?

Plus, Marx wrote of social 'theory and practice', not 'practice' or 'struggle' in isolation. I've given a quote from Capital many times to show his notion of conscious implementation of plans.

LBird
What does the ICC say?

Plus, the ICC site's tabs above read "Contact us", "What is the ICC", "Theory and practice"...

LBird
Bogdanov's class theory and practice

I should put this debate about 'theory and practice' into context, so that comrades can see the significance of my posting Bogdanov's text.

For Lenin, the active agent was the party, so for his method the class was the active agent under the direction of the party's own theory. That is, the class remained unconscious, and could believe that it was simply doing practice without theory.

For Marx, the active agent was the class, so for his method the class was the active agent under the direction of its own theory. That is, the class was conscious, and was aware of its own theory and practice.

From what I've read so far, Bogdanov sought to place the class, not the party, at the forefront of theory and practice, and so Bogdanov was closer to Marx's views, and, obviously, opposed to Lenin's, as history shows.

Fred
Party and Class are Indivisible

For Lenin the active agent in 1917 was the class and the Party it had created.  It was the class which had produced the Communist Party,   in its process of struggling and developing consciousness through that struggle over a period of years.  And, by the same process, it was the class including the Party which created the Soviets.  When Lenin and the Party realised what they and the class of which they were a part had done in inventing this new organizational form, this new democracy, they were quick to understand the breakthrough and demanded "All Power to the Soviets"!   

This was an achievement for working class consciousness similar to the organizational breakthrough made by workers in Paris in 1871 when workers began dismantling parts of the bourgeois state.  This brought Marx, Engels and other revolutionaries to realise that the their class cannot just take hold of the repressive bourgeois  state and use it for new, revolutionary and working class purposes, but has to tear down the old and build something new.  Bourgeois organizations do not at all coincide with working class requirements. 

Perhaps the wider class, in 1871 and again in 1917, did not immediately appreciate, realise and understand, the great inventive breakthroughs they had made for humanity in disposing of bourgeois highly bureaucratic and of course hierarchically repressive government organizations and replacing them with new democracy.  But  that's where the class's avant garde comes  in useful and can help out with some theoretical elaboration of the inner workings of the class's triumphant activity. For the Party is of course a part of the class.  Do not forget or overlook this.  Party and Class are one indivisible whole. 

It is the working class which produces the theory elaborated by those of its comrades  engaged actively in the Party. The Party has no interests or goals seperate from those of the proletariat of which it is part.

As history has shown, the proletariat's aim is to be of one mind and one unifying class consciousness in the battle for Communism. 

That the Bolsheviks made serious mistakes as the Russian Revolution began to decay, does not invalidate their initial achievement in 1917, when Party and Class were of one mind. Though perhaps of what turned out to be one mistaken mind!  

Sadly of course the class consciousness and understanding available in Russia in 1917 and afterwards, was not sufficient to prevent serious mistakes being made. A major error was the setting up of an official state Bolshevik government. But as Rosa pointed out at the time,  the question could only be posed in Russia, not answered. And had revolution succeeded in Germany and elsewhere Russia could have been saved. 

LBird
For Lenin, the party and class were divisible

Fred wrote:
For Lenin the active agent in 1917 was the class and the Party it had created.  It was the class which had produced the Communist Party,   in its process of struggling and developing consciousness through that struggle over a period of years.  And, by the same process, it was the class including the Party which created the Soviets.  When Lenin and the Party realised what they and the class of which they were a part had done in inventing this new organizational form, this new democracy, they were quick to understand the breakthrough and demanded "All Power to the Soviets"!

This is the Leninist version of events, Fred.

There was never a point at which the Soviets could remove the leader or central committee of the Party (which they would have been able to do, if they truly had 'All Power'). This realisation is the key to understanding the views of Bogdanov as a contrast to those of Lenin. Bogdanov argued that the class should be the power, and that the party should be the tool. For Lenin, the opposite was true: he argued that the party was the embodiment of the class.

Fred wrote:
Party and Class are one indivisible whole. 

It is the working class which produces the theory elaborated by those of its comrades  engaged actively in the Party. The Party has no interests or goals seperate from those of the proletariat of which it is part.

As history has shown, the proletariat's aim is to be of one mind and one unifying class consciousness in the battle for Communism.

Simple question, Fred.

"Who determines 'matter'?"

If it is the class, 'matter' can be 'elected' to 'exist' or 'not exist'. It is a democratic decision by the class.

The Leninists, who do posit a divisible party and class, argue that they, the party, should determine what 'material conditions' are, prior to a vote by the class. They separate their theory, interests and goals from the democratic proletariat, and claim to have a 'special consciousness' which is not available to the wider class until the party says so.

For Bogdanov, 'matter' or 'energy' were inseparable from social activity, from the proletariat's own 'theory and practice'.

For Lenin, 'matter' was separable from human activity, and so 'material conditions' existed outside of the class' activity, and could be 'discovered' by the party, prior to the class building them.

This 'divisibility' of 'matter from activity' is the source of Lenin's dividing of 'party from class'.

For Bogdanov, the 'indivisibility' of 'matter and activity' is the source of his view that only the theory and practice of the proletariat can create its own social and natural world.

Fred
mystical creeds

"Leninism" is largely an invention of leftists and the like. It has nothing to do with 1917. The Party wasn't divided from the Class in 1917. But  understandings of how the class and it's Party would seize and control power were less understood then than  they are now after that formative Russian experience.

Lenin seems to stimulate your imagination to excess when it comes to 'matter' and it's supposed division from 'activity' hence the presumably significant use of inverted commas round certain specialised birdian words.  

But I suppose that appeals to and is all part of what I see as your mystical side, LBird.  Or do I mean "mystical"? 

The "indivisibility of matter and activity" sounds like a quote from some ancient religious creed.  "I believe in Marx the Mystical Father and the indivisibility of matter and activity. And I believe in the proletariat, it's theory and practice, which is the sole creator of the social and natural world." And so on.

But notice this: 

MH wrote:
 Our current world is indeed based on separation. It is based fundamentally, concretely, on the separation of the producers from the product of their labour. We cannot first remove this separation now, in our heads, before we ‘act’ on the real world. To begin to unify this world we have first to challenge this separation through our struggles, then to destroy capitalism in practice, through revolutionary struggle. Your insistence that 'theory precedes practice' prevents you from practically dissolving the separation you have yourself identified.
 

LBird
The 'mystical matter' of Lenin and Stalin

"Materialists" always resort to calling Marx's wish to unify theory and practice, activity and matter, production of organic by human creativity upon inorganic, as 'mystical'.

They get this from Engels, who assured them that 'matter' is simply 'out there', and can be 'discovered' by an elite with a special method.

Marx, like Bogdanov, regarded 'matter' as a social product.

Once 'matter' is regarded as separate from and pre-existing to human labour, to social theory and practice, then the power of the democratic proletariat is denied.

And we have Lenin and Stalin telling workers what 'material conditions' are, outside of the proletariat's own creative production.

LBird
Recommendation for reading

I'd recommend the following book to any comrades who are interested in Bogdanov's thought, and its comparison with Marx's and Lenin's differing views.

I don't agree with all that the author says, because he is not a Democratic Communist, which leads him to misunderstand some of the discussion about 'individuals', but nevertheless his work is a good introduction, if read critically by Marxists.

Jensen, K. M. (1978) Beyond Marx and Mach: Aleksandr Bogdanov's Philosophy of Living Experience

Reidel, London (Volume 41 of the 'Sovietica' series)

http://www.springer.com/gb/book/9789027709288

 

lem_
slipping words

lbird can i ask you a question?

can you complete this sentence:

i LBird believe there are no facts becasuse ____
i LBird believe that Marx agrees because ______

i've made it clear why i think there are facts: that without that underlying reality to things there's no way to show something was contradictory. you are stuck with everything that has happened only ever being exactly what seems to be happening now, and nothing else.

i've posted a more detailed argument, which i thought understandable, so many times.

as it stands, nearly yeverything you say is a mere slur, calling everyone else 'bourgeoise' or 'leninist' or 'engelist' etc. i don't find that conducive to debate, and seeing as everyone disagrees with your use of these appellations, i don't know what purpose they are serving even you. 

unless that's just it: you are only bothering to talk about this to affirm your psychological dependence upon these ideas.

lem_
MH / the idea of there being any history at all

Quote:
our concept of physical time is a relationship between inorganic nature and human consciousness. This to me seemed a not unreasonable approximation of Rovelli’s views, and one that we as materialists could largely agree with as the basis for further discussion.

MH, i haven't read this book, but i'm surprised that you give up on real time so quickly. has rovelli's work met with a consensus among scientists, that he's proven that time isn't real?

LBIrd just to quickly return to my main point, to you... if there are no facts then we can't show anything was untrue. are we on agreement there? 

doesn't it then follow, at least from classical logic, that we cannot know anything about the past? cos if it's true that it rained yesterday, then it's not true that it didn't rain yesterday.

you'd imagine that there could be a way of making a theory which says that only events which are happening now are at all knowable. but it's psychologically implausible: what did you eat for breakfast? you can reduce your having had cornflakes to something which is happening now, the content of your stomach, or just the present property of having had cornflakes earlier. but as long as these analytically amount to knowledge of the past (as with the latter, clearly), then your beliefs entail something which depends on there being facts.

whether or not you acknowledge it: it's just nonsense.

neither can you dodge the question by saying that there's no past anyway, unless you want to say that the constructed nature of the atom means that there's nothing we can know or establish about them..

in summary: the belief that everything we have any knowledge about is entirely a product of our knowledge making activity (i.e. a form of embodied idealism) is one thing... it is quite another to claim that there are no facts. this latter claim amounts to there being nothing to know besides the present, and ultimately that there is nothing to know we don't already. a pseudo belief apt for the propaganda of the capitalist class at war.

lem_
ignore me then

i just made like 8 carefully thought out replies to you, LBird, and you stick your head in the sand and ignored every one.

to get 'meta', that isn't a helpful way to discuss things, let alone rational etc

 

what about pure mathematics? if physics and the world can be voted away, can we the proletariat decide that the facts of basic arithmetic are themselves, and not our understanding of them, subect to change?

LBird
'Basic facts' are for the counterrevolution

lem_ wrote:

what about pure mathematics? if physics and the world can be voted away, can we the proletariat decide that the facts of basic arithmetic are themselves, and not our understanding of them, subect to change?

Yes.

'Maths' is a social construction.

Read Godel.

I know that you won't. Goodnight.

lem_
patronising, moi ?

LBird wrote:

lem_ wrote:

what about pure mathematics? if physics and the world can be voted away, can we the proletariat decide that the facts of basic arithmetic are themselves, and not our understanding of them, subect to change?

Yes.

'Maths' is a social construction.

Read Godel.

I know that you won't. Goodnight.

nn LBird, i'm sure that Godel claims that arithmetic consists of zero facts.

great debate, glad i attended lol. maybe later you can argue the proletarian point

lem_
ahistorical denial of difficult truths is the counter-revolution

Quote:
I know that you won't

sir, i did not know there was a reading list in order to consult your expertise.

however, i expect Godel to be a very diffcult read, and so my giving up on there being any fact of the matrer if i've read any Godel. i expect i'll run out into the street in confusion, after this, only to be greeted in the warm arms of my proletariat, comrades at last, liberated and thankful i read some Godel.

THEN I WAKE UP

LBird
Reading recommendation

If any comrades are interested in reading further about 'maths' and its social context, I would recommend:

Bill Barton (2009) The Language of Mathematics: Telling Mathematical Tales

Pages 73-78 are especially interesting, where he explains that the problem 1/4 + 3/8 can have at least four answers: 4/12, 5/16, 3/32 and 5/8, depending upon the 'theory' behind the 'practice' of 'doing the sum'.

This of course undermines the claim of bourgeois physics that 'maths is the language of nature', which has been an ideological claim since at least Galileo.

'Maths' is a human invention, and changes socio-historically.

BTW, the 'conventionally correct' answer to the above sum is 5/8. That's the one we are taught in schools. So, 5/8 is 'true', to those brainwashed in bourgeois schools, where we're not taught to think critically about ruling class ideas.

Also, Einstein realised that the same equation could have multiple 'right' answers...

lem_
silence

Quote:
If any comrades are interested in reading further about 'maths' and its social context, I would recommend:

cherry picking rerefences, as well as what to reply to. everything you say is incomplete.

here's a question which maybe doesn't have a reading list: can social constructionism be a ruling class ideology?

lem_
Quote:Pages 73-78 are

Quote:
Pages 73-78 are especially interesting, where he explains that the problem 1/4 + 3/8 can have at least four answers: 4/12, 5/16, 3/32 and 5/8, depending upon the 'theory' behind the 'practice' of 'doing the sum'.
can you summraise these 5 pages, i don't have access? looks like he's talking about language not maths, i would be VERY suprised if teaching "a class of young children" could change our understanding of arithmetic itself, rather than how to teach it

LBird
Spoon feeding only works with someone who wishes to eat

lem_ wrote:

Quote:
Pages 73-78 are especially interesting, where he explains that the problem 1/4 + 3/8 can have at least four answers: 4/12, 5/16, 3/32 and 5/8, depending upon the 'theory' behind the 'practice' of 'doing the sum'.
can you summraise these 5 pages, i don't have access? looks like he's talking about language not maths, i would be VERY suprised if teaching "a class of young children" could change our understanding of arithmetic itself, rather than how to teach it

'Arithmetic itself'?

The one that created itself?

As to being 'VERY suprised', I'm not sure you wouldn't be, what with your personal access already to 'The Truth' of 'arithmetic itself'.

If you're interested, you're going to have to read the introductory book that I recommended.

Or Godel himself.

lem_
tantalizing

i'm probably done arguing. no worries, sorry for calling your a fantasist, though fantasists don't get locked up. well, not usually.

sorry i don't read enough; think i gave some pretty good and pretty counter arguments. i don't, though, have a huge interest or faith either in physics or math. fascinating subjects, but i accept that it's like computer coding: difficult; and only a hobby for the enthusiast

LBird
Why is it difficult? What have they got to hide?

lem_ wrote:

sorry i don't read enough; think i gave some pretty good and pretty counter arguments. i don't, though, have a huge interest or faith either in physics or math. fascinating subjects, but i accept that it's like computer coding: difficult; and only a hobby for the enthusiast

The ironic thing is that neither physics nor maths are particularly difficult, if they are discussed in a language that we can understand.

It's the ruling class, which deliberately wants to exclude the 'masses' from a discussion of importance to all workers, who enforce the 'difficulty'.

One way of revealing this to oneself, is to read what 'mathematicians' and 'physicists' write when they use English (or any language a worker can read).

It soon becomes obvious that they haven't got a clue... and I include Einstein in that comment, even though he's probably the best of a particularly dense bunch.

The reason is that behind maths/physics is philosophy, and behind philosophy is politics. Once they stray into philosophy and/or politics, their weaknesses become very clear.

That's why they attempt to maintain the bourgeois myth that only elites can understand our world, to protect their own academic status and careers, and to help bolster ruling class ideas about 'reality' being 'out there', which they merely passively 'discover'.

And we have to have faith in them... like peasants had in priests. They, too, had a hotline to god, not available to us... only to Latin speakers.

Once we have the scientific equivalent of the Reformation, the Holy Church of Science will tremble...

lem_
depends what you mean. i

depends what you mean. i spoke to a physics phd and he said some of that stuff was insane difficult, and the guy is not just bright.

when it approaches the arts, the philsophy of science, it gets less specialised and more accessible, ime

LBird
Who are the 'bright'?

lem_ wrote:

depends what you mean. i spoke to a physics phd and he said some of that stuff was insane difficult, and the guy is not just bright.

Well, to echo Mandy Rice Davies, 'he would say that, wouldn't he?'.

Two things to consider here, lem_:

1. We must insist that 'physicists' talk a language that we understand, rather than one we don't. This is a political demand, about 'power'. As I've said already, when you read what physicists write in English, they can be seen quite clearly to be talking bollocks, much like when peasants could read the bible in English, they could see that the pope was an elitist liar, and that Jesus didn't say what the Catholic church said he did. 'Nature' doesn't say what these 'guys' say it does.

2. Your insistence that the guy is 'bright' is no more than peasant-like awe for the parish priest, who was 'eddicated, unlike us ignorant illiterates'. In fact, I can guarantee that if this guy was exposed to Communist questioning about the need for democracy in the scientific method, in front of you, you would soon lose your 'awe' of the (alleged) 'bright'. Lots of physicists and mathematicians are merely 'Rainmen' who are extremely good at very localised issues. Lots of academics in all areas are like this, too. Frankly, thick as pigshit, if you ask them about the world we all live in. They like to hide behind the ideological defences of 'insane difficulty', and want you to retain your awe of them. The role of Communists is to undermine this awe of the elite, and help to develop workers' confidence in the sciences.

lem_ wrote:

when it approaches the arts, the philsophy of science, it gets less specialised and more accessible, ime

No, all the arts and sciences are built upon the same elitist, bourgeois, model, which has no room for the democratic construction of social knowledge.

IMO, one of the signs of a developing class consciousness amongst workers will be the development of a separate educational system, run by workers themselves, and attracting those alienated by their smothering experiences of the bourgeois university system, which even now is coming under pressure from students unhappy by their experience of 'education', which is expensive and uncritical.

lem_
i don't agree you running

i don't agree you running together social constructionism and a functioning education system, and think that it lacks important critical ways of thinking.

but sure

LBird
'Functioning' for whose purposes?

lem_ wrote:

i don't agree you running together social constructionism and a functioning education system, and think that it lacks important critical ways of thinking.

but sure

I'm not sure what you mean, lem_.

'Education systems' are 'socially constructed'. Within a Democratic Communist society, we'd all have a say in constructing our education system.

I'd imagine that 'critical thinking' would be at the forefront of most workers' demands of their own education system.

Of course, you could vote for a continuation of the crap we get indoctrinated with now, but I'm opposed to being taught elitist bullshit, so I'd vote against you. But, you never know...

lem_
it's not a choice between

it's not a choice between social constructionism and a continuation of capitalist education.

you can claim that, but this discussion is not helpful: you won't "spoonfeed" anyone but can't be convinced by rational discussion either. 

at present, it just gives you an opportunity for solganeering. which doesn't really bother me, i am not so mistrustful of the future that i think that social constructionist ideology could become at all dangerous

LBird
lem_ never disappoints...

lem_ wrote:

it's not a choice between social constructionism and a continuation of capitalist education.

you can claim that, but this discussion is not helpful: you won't "spoonfeed" anyone but can't be convinced by rational discussion either. 

at present, it just gives you an opportunity for solganeering. which doesn't really bother me, i am not so mistrustful of the future that i think that social constructionist ideology could become at all dangerous

I never fail to get tricked by you, do I, lem_?

So, now I "can't be convinced by rational discussion", eh? And I'm a 'sloganeer'?

I think you need to look in the mirror, since I'm the one taking time to explain in great detail on several threads, and you are the one simply hurling personal insults.

Ah well, back to ignoring you, and being accused of being a 'capitalist roadster', amongst other calumnies. 

lem_
working stuff out

Well you don't engage with much of what I say, and it does kindaa seem to be based on either complaining or just repeating yourself. It doesn't make you an awful person.

If I wanted a solgan, I'd probably say that obviously some things are social constructs and the working class will figure out how to educate themselves, they don't need a blanket dismissal of there being anything to figure out.

Slogans can be helpful.

ps i called you a capitalist after you kept claiming it of me, it's just an empty retaliation, it does not work except to mean you can make your reply...

Fred
Weg

Hi LBird.  I want to say how much I like and go along  with the things you are saying in posts 23 and 25 above. But I can't say more now. 

LBird
Bogdanov is worth reading

Fred wrote:

Hi LBird.  I want to say how much I like and go along  with the things you are saying in posts 23 and 25 above. But I can't say more now. 

Much of what I say has already been said, not least by Bogdanov.

Bogdanov, above, point 1, wrote:
In reality,  science  may be bourgeois or proletarian by its very "nature", including its origin, designs, methods of study and presentation. In this fundamental sense, all the sciences, social or otherwise, including mathematics and logic, may and actually do have a class character.

Bogdanov, point 7, wrote:
Bourgeois science is not very accessible to the working class; it is dense, its specialized corporatist  language  is  obscure and complicated,  and further, as it is  of course  become  a product in capitalist society, it's expensive. If isolated proletarian representatives, at the cost of enormous expenditure of energy, become masters of one or the other of its branches, its class character is then felt: as they are cut from the collective working, they commit to a path of rupture with the life, the interests and thought structure of the working community from which they come.

Bogdanov, point 8, wrote:
All this gives to the working class specific missions concerning contemporary science:

▪ we must review it from a proletarian point of view, in content  as much  as form of presentation;

▪ the creation  of  a  new organization, as  much for  the elaboration  as  for  the

dissemination amongst the working masses.

In most branches of science, accomplishing these tasks will mean a methodical consideration of the legacy of the old world. But in some,  a large and deep autonomous  creation will be required.

I have my differences with Bogdanov, but on the social and creative nature of science, he's spot on.

'Physics' is not a simple re-telling of what 'nature says it is', as the bourgeois specialists claim.

Our universe is built by humanity, as Marx argued, and we are going to have to rebuild some knowledge, ditch some, and vote to accept whatever we deem useful in bourgeois-produced science.

Only a vote can determine 'truth'. And all elitists deny this, and pretend that they alone have a method for accessing 'Truth'. 

Ask those arguing for 'neutral science', and they soon reveal their elitist politics.

'Science' in its present bourgeois form is destructive of workers' consciousness, development and power. We must argue for the democratisation of all human science.

lem_
I probably agree with

I probably agree with Bogdanov, and I think he would agree with my claim that physics today is pretty difficult 

LBird
Power and physics

lem_ wrote:

I probably agree with Bogdanov, and I think he would agree with my claim that physics today is pretty difficult 

Yes, we all three agree on this.

The question, though, is "why is it 'pretty difficult'?".

The bourgeoisie, and your 'bright guy' argue that 'it just is, and youse stupids will never understand it'. You seem to agree with this ideology.

But, on the contrary, me and Bogdanov think that the bourgeoisie make it difficult, so as to keep workers in the dark, and thus powerless.

Is 'physics today' an eternal 'today'?

Or is 'physics today' different from 'physics past', and by implication, from 'physics tomorrow'?

And who decides these 'physics'?

lem_
Well that's where we differ

Well that's where we differ ofc, the facts of physics aren't going to change, only their dissemination etc.

i.e. it's about something bigger than the lab

Alf
proletkult

I apologise for coming late to this discussion. I think that the posting of the Bogdanov article makes it possible to advance in this discussion, if we can organise a discussion about it in a serious manner. I have not had time to read the article yet, or indeed much of the thread that follows, but do intend to soon. If you follow the link provided by MH earlier on, you will find that the ICC has already published an article (in our apparently interminable series on communism) which raises its criticisms of the Proletkult movement; and I am convinced that some key aspects of the debate with that current are re-surfacing here, so I don't think they require a separate thread. 

However we also know that there is a lot more to Bogdanov than Proletkult, in particular the Workers Truth group of 1922, and his perhaps flawed attempts to develop a cosmic vision. As with these aspects, we will have many criticisms to expound, and this will also no doubt apply to Bogdanov's views about science and the working class. But first we must engage with what he is actually saying. This was already the spirit of the article in International Review 109: 

 

The Proletarian Culture movement, Proletkult for short, had been formed in 1917 with the idea of providing a political orientation for the cultural dimension of the revolution. It is most often associated with Aleksander Bogdanov, who had been a member of the Bolshevik fraction in its earliest years, but who had come into conflict with Lenin over a number of issues, not only the formation of the Ultimatist group after 1905,but, more famously, over Bogdanov’s championing of the ideas of Mach and Avenarius in the realm of philosophy, and more generally, his efforts to ‘complete’ marxism with various theoretical systems, such as his notion of ‘tectology’. We cannot go into Bogdanov’s thinking in any detail here; from what little we know of it (only certain works have been translated from Russian), he was, despite his flaws, capable of developing some important insights - in particular, on the question of state capitalism in the epoch of capitalist decline. For this very reason, his ideas still require a much more developed critique, and from a clearly proletarian standpoint.In any case, Proletkult was by no means limited to Bogdanov: Bukharin and Lunacharsky, to name but two leading Bolsheviks, were also involved with the organisation and did not always share Lenin’s views on it. Bukharin, for example, who was due to present the resolution at the Proletkult Congress, objected to certain elements in Lenin’s draft resolution, which was presented in a somewhat modified form.

 

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_proletkult

Fred
socialism must precede cultural and educational change

Trotsky wrote:
It is impossible to create a class culture behind the backs of a class. And to build culture in cooperation with the working class and in close contact with its general historic rise, one has to build socialism, even though in the rough. In this process, the class characteristics of society will not become stronger, but, on the contrary, will begin to dissolve and to disappear in direct ratio to the success of the revolution. The liberating significance of the dictatorship of the proletariat consists in the fact that it is temporary - for a brief period only -that it is a means of clearing the road and of laying the foundations of a society without classes and of a culture based upon solidarity.
 

This quote is from "Leon Trotsky: What is proletarian culture and is it possible?"  available on this site. 

This isn't a quote from the link provided by MH above but from an article by Trotsky mentioned in MH's link which is relevant to the issue emerging for discussion on this thread.  This issue relates to how far the proletariat is able to create its own culture and science, prior to the successful revolutionary seizing of power by the proletariat, and even after it in the period of transition.

 During the period of transition the proletariat will be in the process of dissolving itself and its dictatorship in a direct relationship to its political success in building communism. Trotsky argues that the rule of the proletariat being therefore only a temporary dictatorship, there will be neither the time, the impetus  the know-how nor the inclination to create the new communist culture as this will begin to emerge once the dictatorship has dissolved itself into the new classless society. The new society produces the new culture. 

Does this mean that Bogdanovich was perhaps premature to start providing cultural and educational recipes for the future in Russia in 1917 and should have waited and worked instead for the successful world revolution. 

 

jk1921
Science/culture

Fred wrote:

This isn't a quote from the link provided by MH above but from an article by Trotsky mentioned in MH's link which is relevant to the issue emerging for discussion on this thread.  This issue relates to how far the proletariat can create its own culture and science, prior to the successful revolutionary seizing of power by the proletariat, and even after it in the period of transition.

I'm all for the creation of a new culture, but the proletariat can't create its own science. There is only one science. If science could be "created" in such a way, it wouldn't be science at all--it would be culture.

Fred
a misreading?

Bogdanovich wrote:
To say that the class character of science lies in defending the interests of a given class, is just an argument  of a pamphleteer   or a complete  falsification.  In reality,  science  may be bourgeois or proletarian by its very "nature", including its origin, designs, methods of study and presentation. In this fundamental sense, all the sciences, social or otherwise, including mathematics and logic, may and actually do have a class character.
 

Perhaps I misread  Bogdanovich jk.   

LBird
Who is the active agent in the process of revolution?

Alf, behind 'physics' stands 'philosophy', and behind 'philosophy' stands 'politics', so I think that this discussion will resolve itself on the basis of a political belief.

That political belief relates to the old question, that has never been resolved, of 'party or class?'.

This political question was the one behind the debate between Lenin and Bogdanov.

Put simply, if one already believes that a 'party' is the creator of the revolution, then one will take Lenin's side about 'philosophy' and 'physics'.

If one already believes that the 'class' is the creator of the revolution, then one will take Bogdanov's side about 'philosophy' and 'physics'.

It's my opinion that the 'class' viewpoint is the one of Marx (and not of Lenin), and that Bogdanov's ideas are much closer to Marx's than are Lenin's.

On a philosophical level, the Class-Marx-Bogdanov tendency will look to democratic forms and methods, because only the mass of proletarians can make their own decisions.

The Party-Engels-Lenin tendency will look to elite forms and methods, becuase only the minority of the party can make the class' decisions for them.

On a physics level, the class view will look to mass activity in building a changing nature, as Marx argued for. That is, 'knowledge' is created by changing 'out there'. This 'stuff' is an 'ingredient' into our social labour, as we, the class, create our 'reality'.

The party view will look to elite experts in discovering an unchanging reality, as Lenin argued for. That is, 'knowledge' is a reflection of 'out there'. This 'stuff' is a fixed 'thing', which we, the party, discover 'as it is'.

LBird
Science and culture? Or simple science?

jk1921 wrote:

I'm all for the creation of a new culture, but the proletariat can't create its own science. There is only one science. If science could be "created" in such a way, it wouldn't be science at all--it would be culture.

This again, jk, is a political question.

Is there a 'cultureless science'? Or is any 'science' always part of a 'culture'?

If one argues for the former, one is arguing for a timeless, asocial process called 'science', which produces timeless, asocial, 'Eternal Truth' about 'Objective Reality', in which there is no 'cultural' basis.

That view of science is not Marx's view, because he always stressed the specific, class (socio-historic) nature of all human activity.

The latter position, that 'science is cultural', regards all 'science' as located in societies, and changes over time, and so the 'truths' that it produces are socio-historic truths, and so 'truth' changes with culture.

Of course, the political belief that 'there is only one science' is an ideological belief, produced by the bourgeoisie because of the class nature of their own existence. From c. 1660, with the establishment of the Royal Society, 'physics' has pretended to be 'outside of culture', and merely concerned with producing 'Truth' which is not social. Thus, they keep any claims for the democratic production of knowledge at bay, which the radicals during the English Revolution were arguing for.

So, the very purpose of 'science' is alleged to be 'Objective Knowledge', rather than 'the betterment of humanity'. This can be produced by an expert elite. It is a bourgeois ideological stance.

Clearly, for the revolutionary proletariat, 'the betterment of humanity' would be its 'science'. And 'better' can only be determined by a democratic vote.

lem_
hmm

hm yeah would almost be the saddest thing to think that there is a revolution and no new culture, just (?) people feeling happier with themselves ...

 

EDIT obviously not literally. soiled freedom sounds like shit tho

Fred
the betterment of humanity

 

LBird wrote:
Is there a 'cultureless science'? Or is any 'science' always part of a 'culture'?

If one argues for the former, one is arguing for a timeless, asocial process called 'science', which produces timeless, asocial, 'Eternal Truth' about 'Objective Reality', in which there is no 'cultural' basis.

The notable thing about this point of view is that in seeing what they call science as a "timeless, asocial process" the bourgeoisie make their science comparable to capitalism itself, which they also understand to be timeless, eternal, asocial and objective. Capitalism, like science, is for the bourgeois something "out there" and mysterious. A product even of the deity, as Newton may have considered the laws of his science to be, or at least of "natural forces" beyond human understanding. 

LBird wrote:
That view of science is not Marx's view, because he always stressed the specific, class (socio-historic) nature of all human activity. The latter position, that 'science is cultural', regards all 'science' as located in societies, and changes over time, and so the 'truths' that it produces are socio-historic truths...
 

That science, even bourgeois science, can be changed and adjusted with the work of avant-garde thinkers like Einstein, or with the development of new and advanced technology, is a fact of life today.  However, the bourgeois does not learn from this that scientific 'truth' is open to doubt and change; nor that "truth and the way things are" are not eternally given but are socio-historic productions of a class nature. For the bourgeois, science is objectively untainted  by human hands. 

lBird wrote:
Of course, the political belief that 'there is only one science' is an ideological belief, produced by the bourgeoisie because of the class nature of their own existence. From c. 1660, with the establishment of the Royal Society, 'physics' has pretended to be 'outside of culture', and merely concerned with producing 'Truth' which is not social...So, the very purpose of 'science' is alleged to be 'Objective Knowledge', rather than 'the betterment of humanity'.

 It is of course a great leap to oppose the bourgeois pursuit of what they call "objective scientific knowledge" with "the betterment of humanity" - and some might say it is a false dichotomy - but is not this the awesome choice facing humanity today? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, for the revolutionary proletariat, 'the betterment of humanity' would be its 'science'. And 'better' can only be determined by a democratic vote.

Top

reply

 

lem_
give the working class a

give the working class a chance !

LBird
Purposes and concepts are human in origin

Fred wrote:
The notable thing about this point of view is that in seeing what they call science as a "timeless, asocial process" the bourgeoisie make their science comparable to capitalism itself, which they also understand to be timeless, eternal, asocial and objective. Capitalism, like science, is for the bourgeois something "out there" and mysterious.

Yeah, Fred, the bourgeoisie, like all ruling classes, try to 'eternalise' their rule.

One further concept that you might like to consider: 'matter'. This concept is the physicists' equivalent of 'private property' in economics. Once more, these concepts, 'matter' and 'private property', are the stuff of 'eternal nature', which 'exist' before society, and so can't even be challenged, never mind changed. They just 'are', and anyone who dares to question their 'existence' is condemned as a destroyer of the civilised world, as a lunatic who seeks to undermine the very foundations of 'science and society'. 

Fred wrote:
A product even of the deity, as Newton may have considered the laws of his science to be, or at least of "natural forces" beyond human understanding.

On Newton, I'd advise comrades to read Boris Hessen's text, "The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's Principia", which is freely available on the net for download.

Fred wrote:
 It is of course a great leap to oppose the bourgeois pursuit of what they call "objective scientific knowledge" with "the betterment of humanity" - and some might say it is a false dichotomy - but is not this the awesome choice facing humanity today?

Don't forget, before the bourgeoisie's imposition of their purpose upon 'science', many scientists (eg. Bacon, Comenius, Paracelsus) thought that 'the betterment of humanity' was 'science', and believed that that was precisely what their social activity was: the making of a better world for all humans. That's why that viewpoint was held, too, by the radical thinkers during the English Revolution. The view has a history, it's not something odd, or only a 21st century concern. 

So, we can see the socio-historical emergence of the ideological belief that "the purpose of science is to produce 'True Knowledge' " in the counterrevolution of 1660.

Makes on wonder why revolutionaries today still want 'science' to be 'the producer of Eternal Truth', based upon the timeless concept of 'matter'.

The simple answer to that conundrum is 'Engels'. And the source of the revolutionary alternative is 'Marx'.

LBird
BTW, Boris Hessen was murdered by the Stalinists

Wikipedia wrote:
From 1934 to 1936 Hessen was a deputy director of the Physics Institute in Moscow headed by S.I. Vavilov. On August 22, 1936 Hessen was arrested by the NKVD. He was secretly tried for terrorism by a military tribunal together with his gymnasium school teacher A. O. Apirin. They were found guilty on December 20, 1936 and were executed by shooting on the same day. On April 21, 1956 both Apirin and Hessen were rehabilitated (posthumously exonerated).

 

Alf
criticism of the texts...

My feeling is that we may get more from this debate if we examine in more depth and detail the work of our predecessors, so that we are certain that we have understood them before we can try to criticise their weaknesses and eventually go beyond them. There is much in the Bogdanov text which I can agree with regarding the treatment of science in bourgeois society. The disagreement is in the concept of bourgeois science versus proletarian science, which is closely linked to the problem of 'proletarian culture'. Fred referred earlier on to Trotsky's text which is also on our site and it would be a good idea if a comrade who has more time than I do at the moment could draw out the nub of Trotsky's argument against the notion of proletarian culture. 

 

http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/200206/1480/leon-trotsky-what-proletarian-culture-and-it-possible

LBird
Is Trotsky the most relevant thinker on this issue?

Alf wrote:

My feeling is that we may get more from this debate if we examine in more depth and detail the work of our predecessors, so that we are certain that we have understood them before we can try to criticise their weaknesses and eventually go beyond them. There is much in the Bogdanov text which I can agree with regarding the treatment of science in bourgeois society. The disagreement is in the concept of bourgeois science versus proletarian science, which is closely linked to the problem of 'proletarian culture'. Fred referred earlier on to Trotsky's text which is also on our site and it would be a good idea if a comrade who has more time than I do at the moment could draw out the nub of Trotsky's argument against the notion of proletarian culture. 

 

http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/200206/1480/leon-trotsky-what-proletarian-culture-and-it-possible

I've had a brief look at that text, Alf, but it doesn't seem to mention Trotsky's views on epistemology. I think we can presume that Trotsky shared Lenin's views on politics, philosophy and science (I've got Trotsky's pamphlet 'Marxism and science', so I'll have a look through that later).

That is, both Trotsky and Lenin opposed Bogdanov's belief in the centrality of the 'class' as the active agent in creating their world, and both regarded the 'party' as the active agent.

I think that it's important to expose one's views regarding the issue of 'class or party?', because one's politics informs one's philosophy/epistemology, and one's physics.

We'd have to compare/contrast the 'class' viewpoint (Marx, Pannekoek, Bogdanov?) with the 'party' viewpoint (Lenin, Trotsky?), and perhaps discuss Engels' misunderstanding of Marx's meaning of 'material', which gave a basis to the 2nd International going down the road of the 'party' elitism, including Kautsky and Plekhanov.

Any discussion of Bogdanov's 'proletarian culture' must be situated in the political context of his times, so that we can understand why he argued for 'proletkult', and why others opposed it.

LBird
Trotsky, reductionism and 'matter'

I've had a quick glance at Trotsky's 'Marxism and science', and as I thought a few years ago when I first read it, he's a Engelsian 'materialist', and so fits in with Lenin's (and not Bogdanov's) political and scientific views.

Trotsky, p. 12, wrote:
Psychology is for us in the final analysis reducible to physiology, and the latter - to chemistry, mechanics and physics.

Trotsky, p. 14, wrote:
Society is a product of the development of primary matter...

There's plenty more in that vein...

For Marx, humanity was the 'producer', not 'matter'. The ideological belief in 'matter' amongst Communists unfortunately came about because of Engels' misunderstanding of Marx's use of 'materialism' (meaning 'human' or 'social', in contrast to 'idealism' meaning 'divine'), as Engels was heavily influenced by the bourgeois thought of his time, and assumed that 'materialism' was something to do with 'matter'. Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky, amongst others, also went down that route to bourgeois elitism, which reinforced their elitist political views with an elitist science.

But, on the contrary, Bogdanov looked to Marx, and his ideas about 'productive humanity', and so to 'class', and he didn't look to Engels and 'matter', and so not to 'party'.

Demogorgon
"For Marx, humanity was the

"For Marx, humanity was the 'producer', not 'matter'."

What produced humanity?

MH
Trotsky's arguments against a 'proletarian culture'

Alf wrote:

It would be a good idea if a comrade who has more time than I do at the moment could draw out the nub of Trotsky's argument against the notion of proletarian culture. 

http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/200206/1480/leon-trotsky-what-proletarian-culture-and-it-possible

Briefly, in the context of this discussion some of the key points in Trotsky’s argument are:

  • In contrast to previous class regimes the dictatorship of the proletariat is only a brief period of transition
  • The political focus of the proletariat in this period is on the conquest and consolidation of its  power at an international level
  • There is no analogy therefore between the development of the bourgeoisie within feudal society and the revolution of the working class
  • Having successfuly destroyed the power of the bourgeoisie and consolidated its own political power the proletariat will be progressively dissolved into a socialist community and thus cease to be the proletariat
  • To the extent that culture develops after the victory of the proletariat it thus erodes the basis of a specifically proletarian culture:

 “In other words, there can be no question of the creation of a new culture, that is, of construction on a large historic scale during the period of dictatorship. The cultural reconstruction, which will begin when the need of the iron clutch of a dictatorship unparalleled in history will have disappeared, will not have a class character. This seems to lead to the conclusion that there is no proletarian culture and that there never will be any and in fact there is no reason to regret this. The proletariat acquires power for the purpose of doing away forever with class culture and to make way for human culture.” (my emphasis)

Trotsky is more sanguine than Proletkult about the possibilities of the period of civil war, ie. prior to the victory of the world revolution, for developing policy on scientific and cultural questions, seeing the priority as fundamentally the struggle for political power.

Like Bogdanov, he offers a critique of science in bourgeois society, seeing some branches as more closely attached to the regime of the bourgeoisie, and others at least potentially contributing to human knowledge (there is more detail on this in the article). Due to the domination of bourgeois tendencies it will be necessary to “clear the structure of science from the bottom to the top”. But for Trotsky this does not imply the construction of a proletarian science from scratch for the reasons above.

Finally, it’s worth emphasising the obvious point that this whole debate on a proletarian culture – Bogdanov, Trotsky, Lenin et al – only took place in the context of the seizure of political power by the working class in Russia in 1917, and that this discusssion is as much - if not more - about the lessons of the Russian revolution and the relationships between class, party and state as about questions of culture and science.

 

Demogorgon
"The proletariat acquires

"The proletariat acquires power for the purpose of doing away forever with class culture and to make way for human culture".

Indeed. The proletariat creates a new culture by abolishing itself as a class. Of course, this doesn't mean that proletarians shouldn't engage in cultural activity, although I have yet to see the new Star Wars film.

LBird
Humanity or matter?

Demogorgon wrote:

"For Marx, humanity was the 'producer', not 'matter'."

What produced humanity?

'Society' does, Demo. Humans are self-producers.

Your interest in a 'non-human producer' is an Engelsian concern, not one of Marx's.

Since you posit something other than 'humanity' as 'the producer', you'll (like all 'materialists') be forced to posit a 'producer' outside of 'humanity', like a 'god', or a 'party', which says that it, and it alone, represents humanity.

For 'materialists', the 'party' plays the role of the 'divine', and thus denies the self-creation of the conscious proletariat. 

You'll also claim that your 'party' has a special access to 'matter', which speaks to youse alone, to the exclusion of the democratic proletariat.

Marx warned us workers to beware of 'the divine party', and to rely upon our own class to develop itself. Bogdanov followed Marx's lead, which is why Bogdanov disagreed with the elitist Lenin.

You apparently agree with Lenin, and look to 'matter' as 'the creator'.

LBird
Entwined concerns

MH wrote:

Finally, it’s worth emphasising the obvious point that this whole debate on a proletarian culture – Bogdanov, Trotsky, Lenin et al – only took place in the context of the seizure of political power by the working class in Russia in 1917, and that this discusssion is as much - if not more - about the lessons of the Russian revolution and the relationships between class, party and state as about questions of culture and science.

Your statement is an ideological myth, propagated by the Leninists, MH.

The working class did not seize power in Russia in 1917, an elitist party did.

This issue of whether a 'class' or a 'party' took power is a fundamental part of this philosophical and scientific debate within which our views of Bogdanov are entwined, as you say.

It's probably better to outline both positions, and allow workers to decide for themselves which is the more useful for them - Lenin's 'party' or Bogdanov's 'class', when dealing with power, history and epistemology.

lem_
ta

good post MH, thanks for the summary.

MH
the context for the debate

LBird wrote:

MH wrote:

Finally, it’s worth emphasising the obvious point that this whole debate on a proletarian culture – Bogdanov, Trotsky, Lenin et al – only took place in the context of the seizure of political power by the working class in Russia in 1917, and that this discusssion is as much - if not more - about the lessons of the Russian revolution and the relationships between class, party and state as about questions of culture and science.

Your statement is an ideological myth, propagated by the Leninists, MH.

The working class did not seize power in Russia in 1917, an elitist party did.

This issue of whether a 'class' or a 'party' took power is a fundamental part of this philosophical and scientific debate within which our views of Bogdanov are entwined, as you say.

It's probably better to outline both positions, and allow workers to decide for themselves which is the more useful for them - Lenin's 'party' or Bogdanov's 'class', when dealing with power, history and epistemology.

My point is that this was the context for the debate on proletarian culture for all the main protagonists, including Bogdanov. The Proletkult movement was a product of the Russian revolution and Bogdanov’s arguments in the text you have helpfully included – eg. his advocacy of a Workers' University and Workers' Encyclopedia - are predicated on the proletariat exercising state power. The debate can’t be understood outside of this context.

Also, I think you need to address Trotsky's substantive arguments about why there can't be a proletarian science/culture...

(edited)

LBird
What is the nub of the debate?

MH wrote:

My point is that this was the context for the debate on proletarian culture for all the main protagonists, including Bogdanov. The Proletkult movement was a product of the Russian revolution and Bogdanov’s arguments in the text you have helpfully included – eg. his advocacy of a Workers' University and Workers' Encyclopedia - are predicated on the proletariat exercising state power. The debate can’t be understood outside of this context.

Yeah, Workers' University and Encylopedia are predicated on the proletariat exercising state power - but they didn't, and so any Workers' instituitions were still-born. Lenin wasn't going to have workers telling him what science and culture were. He was to tell them.

MH wrote:

Also, I think you need to address Trotsky's substantive arguments about why there can't be a proletarian science/culture...

Trotsky's 'substantive arguments' are much the same as any Leninists - 'party' not 'class', that 'proletarian science/culture' must follow the party's triumph. This is opposed by those who argue that 'p s/c' must precede the class' triumph.

If you genuinely want me to pick out a quote, which shows that he looks to the party not the class, I can do so, but you can read your own postings, so I didn't think it was necessary.

The key point is 'party or class?' - the rest is just illustrative detail of opposing political, philosophical and scientific beliefs.

I would have thought that the most interesting issue is why some Communists look to 'class' and others to 'party'.

lem_
a fact that the facts can change?

which is, it seems, just to dimiss trotsky's argument for his being trotsky.

i'm undecided whethere he's right. perhaps, even, we should wait and see what culure the working class creates during the transition. and also, if it decides that there are facts.
 

unless LBird can claim that social constrctionism is the very essence of communism, then it seems very much like he is, in turn, trying to dictate something to the working class.

and because social constructionism can be reactionary, i don't think that it is communism.

obviously LBird's opponents are going to struggle to find a reactionary "communist" who proselytizes for social constructionism, cos it's a relatively new invention... despite what LBird claims about Marx and Einstein, it was invented in like the 70s or something

 

EDIT my provisional belief is that the working class can have a culture: but they will have the facts of science to contend with. it seems at best churlish for a class conscious elite to say that the working class can't have a culture! and likewise, it seems at best foolish to tell them that they have no facts to struggle against.

i don't think the opposite is the case: that they can do; but they have to do something (not just believe they are e.g. free, but make it a fact). isn't that really what any political vanguard should be saying (not that i consider myself so) ...

lem_
social facts

sorry for the double post, but the issue (beisdes the highly confusing quotations) for me with LBird's belief is really that he is exchanging a democratic belief in the facts of society (and physics) for a (democratic..?) change to the facts of soiety.

i very much dislike the idea that it's not a fact that the working class aren't free, when they aren't.

MH
it's not quite that simple...

LBird wrote:

Trotsky's 'substantive arguments' are much the same as any Leninists - 'party' not 'class', that 'proletarian science/culture' must follow the party's triumph. This is opposed by those who argue that 'p s/c' must precede the class' triumph.

If you genuinely want me to pick out a quote, which shows that he looks to the party not the class, I can do so, but you can read your own postings, so I didn't think it was necessary.

The key point is 'party or class?' - the rest is just illustrative detail of opposing political, philosophical and scientific beliefs.

I don’t think it’s that simple actually. And I’m not sure you’ve realised the implications for your own advocacy of a proletarian science prior to a successful world revolution.

If you read the ICC article on proletarian culture you will see that in fact the ICC is broadly sympathetic to Bogdanov’s political opposition to state capitalism in Russia and to his emphasis on class rather than party.

This is not surprising as the entire left communist tradition from which the ICC claims its political origins defended the same principle against the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party and the Russian revolution. You will know this from reading the ICC’s basic positions.

Similarly, the ICC has always been highly critical of Trotsky’s political confusions which led him to choose loyalty to the (Stalinist) party over the international working class (see for example:  http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/200006/9649/1924-28-triumph-stalinist-state-capitalism)

But Trotsky’s views on the impossibility of a proletarian culture are based on drawing out the crucial differences between the proletarian revolution and all previous revolutions in class society. As such they are solidly based on Marx’s own views eg on the nature of the proletarian dictatorship and cannot be dismissed quite so easily; try having another look at the key points in Trotsky’s arguments and say which you disagree with, and why, based on Marx.

More seriously, I don’t think you’ve grasped the political implications of your own support for a ‘proletarian science’ to be built before the proletariat has already seized political power. Specifically how do you distinguish your vision of the 'democratisation' of science and the creation of a separate educational system 'run by workers' from the most utopian reformism?

 

LBird
'Utopia' or "Workers' Power"?

MH wrote:

If you read the ICC article on proletarian culture you will see that in fact the ICC is broadly sympathetic to Bogdanov’s political opposition to state capitalism in Russia and to his emphasis on class rather than party.

This is not surprising as the entire left communist tradition from which the ICC claims its political origins defended the same principle against the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party and the Russian revolution. You will know this from reading the ICC’s basic positions.

Similarly, the ICC has always been highly critical of Trotsky’s political confusions which led him to choose loyalty to the (Stalinist) party over the international working class (see for example:  http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/200006/9649/1924-28-triumph-stalinist-state-capitalism)

Yes, when I read some ICC publications, they do seem to be, at least, in the same political arena I inhabit. But... when it comes to the posters on this site, of whom some are ICC members, there often seems to be little common ground between their politics and mine.

FWIW, the 'official' ICC seems to be at odds with its members - and it's the ICC that catches my attention, rather than the 19th century Engelsism which appears to be rife, here.

MH wrote:

But Trotsky’s views on the impossibility of a proletarian culture are based on drawing out the crucial differences between the proletarian revolution and all previous revolutions in class society. As such they are solidly based on Marx’s own views eg on the nature of the proletarian dictatorship and cannot be dismissed quite so easily; try having another look at the key points in Trotsky’s arguments and say which you disagree with, and why, based on Marx.

But the problem is, I don't think Lenin, Kautsky, Plekhanov or Trotsky (or even much of Engels' work on science) has anything to do with Marx's ideas, whatsoever.

I'm more in line with Pannekoek, Bogdanov and Gramsci, who I think are closer to Marx.

MH wrote:

More seriously, I don’t think you’ve grasped the political implications of your own support for a ‘proletarian science’ to be built before the proletariat has already seized political power. Specifically how do you distinguish your vision of the 'democratisation' of science and the creation of a separate educational system 'run by workers' from the most utopian reformism?

Well, I'd be happy for you to point out what you consider that I have not grasped politically - but I suspect what you mean is that I don't agree with Leninism, which I've never claim to do.

On 'democratisation' and a workers' 'educational system', I think that they go hand-in-hand. Your own political view that this constitutes 'most utopian reformism' is not one that I share. I regard it as a necessary precondition for the building of class consciousness and of workers' power.

As I've said before, what this all comes down to is the question: "Party or class?".

I regard Marx and Bogdanov to favour 'class', and Lenin and Trotsky to favour 'party'.

The rest of the issues are built upon that starting point: hence, your 'party view' that 'class science and culture' is merely 'the most utopian reformism'.

LBird
Who creates our reality?

MH, what this boils down to is the question: 'How can the party 'know' a 'reality' that hasn't yet been created?'

Marx argues that humans 'create their own object', and thus 'know' it, and thus our reality has to be built upon a plan of our own making.

This is what neither Engels nor Lenin ever got to grips with. For them, as for the bourgeoisie, 'reality' simply 'existed', 'out there', and was simply 'waiting to be discovered', by passive, disinterested, objective, scientists.

Of course, what gets 'discovered' is a 'reality built by the bourgeoisie'. The world of nature we presently know is a social product of the present ruling class. 

A Communist revolution can't be made by a 'party' and an unconscious class - by its nature, that revolution must be planned and made by a self-conscious proletariat.

There isn't a 'special consciousness' which can build a revolution for workers - they have to build it for themselves. This was Lenin's - and Trotsky's - error.

This is the context of a debate about Bogdanov's views.

lem_
well, i have to disagree with

well, i have to disagree with MH's cursory lament for culure during the struggle for politcal power. civil wars aren't what they used to be

also, before the dictatorship. i guess it depends on what is meant by

Quote:
of construction on a large_historic_scale during the period of dictatorship

really though, it just seems strange IMHO to say that a (class conscious) working class can't have a culture without communism... does success depend on organising and acting. based on nothing else at all?

MH
what 'produces' humanity?

LBird wrote:

Demogorgon wrote:

"For Marx, humanity was the 'producer', not 'matter'."

What produced humanity?

'Society' does, Demo. Humans are self-producers.

Demo hasn’t come back on this but I think it’s worth trying to clarify a simple Marxist view.

The question itself of course contains a mystification: nothing ‘produces’ humanity; LBird is right about that. But the answer is not ‘society’, because that just begs the question: so what produces ‘society’ … humanity? Chicken or egg?  

I think a very simple Marxist, materialist, answer would be: humanity emerges from nature, and in turn acts upon nature and transforms it into society, which in turn transforms humanity...

This is an active process: man differentiates himself from the instinctual life of the animals through his own labour and changes his life from one passively determined by nature to one in which his consciousness can direct action and shape the world according to his own needs.

The fact that humanity emerges from nature of course also confirms that there was a nature that pre-existed humanity; a fact that LBird has previously been curiously reluctant to admit because he believes it is somehow incompatible with Marxism, which is probably why he ends up giving such a circular, non-answer…    

 

LBird
Marx and Bogdanov oppose Engels and Lenin, on 'nature'.

MH wrote:

The fact that humanity emerges from nature of course also confirms that there was a nature that pre-existed humanity; a fact that LBird has previously been curiously reluctant to admit because he believes it is somehow incompatible with Marxism, which is probably why he ends up giving such a circular, non-answer…    

In fact, I keep giving the same answer as Marx did, MH. Which is also the answer Bogdanov gave (see the other thread about 'matter').

'Nature' is 'consciousness and being'.

Any 'nature' which can be 'known' requires a 'knower'. And an 'active knower', not a passive discoverer.

To talk of 'a nature' outside of human making of it is to talk of 'a nature' that is, according to Marx, 'nothing for us'.

We create our reality. It is 'nature-for-us'. As Marx says, 'we create our object'.

This is essentially the road physics has gone down, very reluctantly, since Einstein's relativity, following Marx by about 60 years. But it's implications are revolutionary, and so physicists are resisting their own 'findings', and so are completely confused.

Marx calls this 'inorganic nature' (what you call 'pre-existing nature'), but it isn't 'pre-existing', because it only 'exists-for-us' through our social labour, our activity upon 'inorganic nature'.

The supposed search for 'objective reality' is a bourgeois myth, and I've explained when, where and why they made, and make, this claim. Unless you expose your ideology of physics, at least to yourself, you'll find yourself unable to understand Marx, Pannekoek and Bogdanov, who all claim we 'create' our nature.

MH
the proletariat will put its stamp on culture

lem_ wrote:

well, i have to disagree with MH's cursory lament for culure during the struggle for politcal power. civil wars aren't what they used to be

also, before the dictatorship. i guess it depends on what is meant by

Quote:
of construction on a large_historic_scale during the period of dictatorship

really though, it just seems strange IMHO to say that a (class conscious) working class can't have a culture without communism... does success depend on organising and acting. based on nothing else at all?

lem_ I'm not sure what your point is here exactly, but if you read Trotsky's text, although he rejects the notion of a 'proletarian culture' he still emphasises that:

"...the proletariat, during the time of its dictatorship, will put its stamp upon culture ... For tens of millions of people for the first time in history to master reading and writing and arithmetic is in itself a new cultural fact of great importance. The essence of the new culture will be not an aristocratic one for a privileged minority, but a mass culture, a universal and popular one..." (my emphasis)

But as this new mass culture grows it changes its character, eroding the basis for a specifically proletarian culture. I think his point about literacy and numeracy is still very relevant for this debate today.

 

LBird
Physics and politics, again

MH, I'm trying to think of ways of expressing the Marxist way of thinking about 'nature', so bear with me.

If we want to discuss 'what came before humans?', we must realise what we're discussing is 'what we think came before humans'.

So, the discussion always involves humans.

Since we know 'humans' are social producers, and thus produce their ideas, and their ideas are rooted in their social production...

...if there are classes, those ideas will be rooted in the role of classes in production.

Thus, all 'ideas' about 'nature' (what it is, where it came from, etc.) are always social questions, involving social ideologies.

There is no 'view from nowhere', as the bourgeoisie alleged prior to Einstein, and Einstein's views on 'relativity' echo Marx's views on 'production'.

The first question a physicist engaged in social research about our social nature must answer is 'What political ideology are you using?'.

When they realise this, not only will physics move forward, but the revolution will come nearer.

LBird
Who taught Trotsky? Who 'educates the educators', asked Marx

MH wrote:

I think his point about literacy and numeracy is still very relevant for this debate today.

The question is, MH, "whose 'literacy and numeracy'?".

Since we know that 'literature' and 'mathematics' are social products, we know that classes will produce different 'lit. and num.'.

Thus, the class conscious proletariat must start building its own institutions to teach its own 'lit. and num.', prior to the revolution, because any Democratic Communist revolution can only be based upon our own 'lit. and num.'.

It's part of bourgeois ideology, as I've explained before, to claim that 'words' and 'numbers' are 'objective reflections' of 'nature', a 'mirror' of 'out there', and so there is only one 'lit. and num.'.

The 'literacy and numeracy' of the bourgeois 'education' (sic) system won't be our meaning and practice of 'literacy and numeracy'.

MH
What would a Marxist say?

LBird wrote:

MH, I'm trying to think of ways of expressing the Marxist way of thinking about 'nature', so bear with me.

If we want to discuss 'what came before humans?', we must realise what we're discussing is 'what we think came before humans'.

So, the discussion always involves humans.

Since we know 'humans' are social producers, and thus produce their ideas, and their ideas are rooted in their social production...

...if there are classes, those ideas will be rooted in the role of classes in production.

Thus, all 'ideas' about 'nature' (what it is, where it came from, etc.) are always social questions, involving social ideologies.

There is no 'view from nowhere', as the bourgeoisie alleged prior to Einstein, and Einstein's views on 'relativity' echo Marx's views on 'production'.

The first question a physicist engaged in social research about our social nature must answer is 'What political ideology are you using?'.

When they realise this, not only will physics move forward, but the revolution will come nearer.

I appreciate your attempts to clarify your position LBird.

In this situation I ask myself, what would a Marxist say?

And here is Pannekoek in Anthropogenesis – A Study of the Origin of Man:

The problem of the origin of man cannot be solved by experiment or observation. The appearance of man on earth is a fact of the past of which no report or witness could reach us. The factual data which we have at our disposal are comparisons of man of today with animals, supplemented by extremely rare, imperfect and damaged fragments of fossils of prehistoric man and remains of his stone implements. But they are silent with regard to the forces which have caused the evolution of animal to man.

"Where direct empirical data are lacking and indirect ones are so few, a far stronger appeal than is needed in experimental science has to be made to the mental equipment of the scientist. Whereas in the case of plenty of empirical facts that can be increased at will, no more is necessary than arranging and combining them and from them deducing new problems and making new experiments, the scarcity of such facts causes theoretical discussion to play a more important part. What matters here is the logical combination of differing data, the seeking for connexion between what lies far apart, the making of conclusions, and the careful weighing of probabilities.”

So he recognises the problem – the lack of empirical data – and he also recognises the inadequacies of previous answers given by specialised researchers, as well as the more fundamental difficulties of comparing modern man with animals…

And then he proceeds to tackle the problem and give an answer from the point of view of a Marxist scientist.

Nothing about the 'social ideology' of other scientists in the field. He’s perfectly capable of critiquing bourgeois ideologists – as in Marxism and Darwinism, for example – from this point of view. This doesn’t mean he dismisses all their findings. It doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared to consider their empirical data. 

But for you this appears to be a woefully inadequate approach. Pannekoek should have first demanded to know what ‘social ideology’ they were all using, critiqued 'empiricism', challenged the very concept of 'objective data'...

But Marxism is already a critique of bourgeois society; a method for unmasking class interests in the world around us. Marx spent half his life closely analysing the writings of bourgeois scholars in order to extract the truth about how the real world worked, from the point of view of the proletariat.

Lacking conviction in Marxism, instead you seek to build a new, separate ‘science’ that will provide you with ideological certainty against the bourgeoisie’s science.

But I think you can see that there’s a problem in implying that ‘nothing existed before humanity’, or that humanity somehow produced itself. Hence your effort to clarify.

LBird
Whose 'problems' in politics, philosophy and physics?

MH wrote:

So he recognises the problem – the lack of empirical data – and he also recognises the inadequacies of previous answers given by specialised researchers, as well as the more fundamental difficulties of comparing modern man with animals…

And then he proceeds to tackle the problem and give an answer from the point of view of a Marxist scientist.

Nothing about the 'social ideology' of other scientists in the field. He’s perfectly capable of critiquing bourgeois ideologists – as in Marxism and Darwinism, for example – from this point of view. This doesn’t mean he dismisses all their findings. It doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared to consider their empirical data. 

But for you this appears to be a woefully inadequate approach. Pannekoek should have first demanded to know what ‘social ideology’ they were all using, critiqued 'empiricism', challenged the very concept of 'objective data'...

[my bold]

Yes, he should have.

This is a weakness in Pannekoek, but this isn't the place to turn to the details of Pannekoek's shortcomings.

Put simply, he didn't 'give an answer from the point of view of a Marxist scientist'.

MH wrote:

But Marxism is already a critique of bourgeois society; a method for unmasking class interests in the world around us. Marx spent half his life closely analysing the writings of bourgeois scholars in order to extract the truth about how the real world worked, from the point of view of the proletariat.

Your still making the mistake of talking about 'the truth' and 'the real world', MH.

The 'point of view of the proletariat' is our real world, is our truth.

So, we should be able to ask any physicist about whether they use 'our view' or 'the bourgeois view', about, for example, 'matter'.

I think that you're still thinking 'matter' is 'out there', rather than a 'social product', as Marx and Bogdanov argue.

MH wrote:

Lacking conviction in Marxism, instead you seek to build a new, separate ‘science’ that will provide you with ideological certainty against the bourgeoisie’s science.

But I think you can see that there’s a problem in implying that ‘nothing existed before humanity’, or that humanity somehow produced itself. Hence your effort to clarify.

The only people who 'lack conviction in Marxism' are the ones who won't have the proletariat voting on 'truth'. I think that, at present, you're still one of those. You lack faith in workers' ability to decide about 'nature'. You put your faith in bourgeois physics, not the class conscious proletariat.

I say openly that the proletariat can vote 'matter' out of 'existence'. Do you?

So, the 'problem' is in those who pretend to argue for workers' power, but won't let the workers elect 'truth'.

That's your problem, MH. You want to be a power outside of the proletariat. Or will you let workers tell you what matter is?

lem_
my point was just that it reads like a sleight of hand

my point was just that it reads like a sleight of hand, by defining "proletarian culture" as the culture that all proletarians have. i.e. it seems quite ideological

Quote:
as this new mass culture grows it changes its character, eroding the basis for a specifically proletarian culture

saying that a (mass) culture will become redundant, even that its goal is to make itself unnecessary, doesn't mean it can't exist.