Research article
Issue: № 3 (3), 2015


In this article the author shows the complicated situation determined the conflict in Russian philosophical society at the beginning of the twentieth century. A.A.Bogdanov and V.I.Lenin, the leaders of the Bolsheviks, were involved in the long-lasted polemics. Simultaneously the Materialists had to defend their theory from the constant attacks of the Machists. Monograph «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» is the main reflection of this speech situation. V.I.Lenin wished to explain philosophic contradictions and to prove prosperity of his approach therefore you can find a great number of polemical methods in his text. Analysis of «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism»’s fragments helps the readers to appreciate V.I.Lenin’s polemical art. For linguists, orators, politicians, post-graduates and students.

Vladimir Ilich (Ilyich) Oulianoff (Oulianov, Ul’ianov, Uljanow, Ulyanov ore Lenin) (1870-1924) is a famous politician, but it should not be forgotten that he was a language personality and a philosopher too.

You can see V.I.Lenin’s biography in different articles and books [Bonnell 1999; Ennker 1997; Garaudy 1968; Krupskaya 1970; Lutz 2003; Maxton 1932; Possony 1965; Prilezhayeva 1987; Service 2002; Shub 1966; http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Vladimir_Ilyich_Lenin.aspx].

The boy Vladimir, the second son in the family of I.N.Ulyanov, was a conscientious and intelligent student, a good skater, swimmer and chess player. Volodya liked to play chess very much. He was much impressed by his father’s talk of the «darkness» of life in the villages and of the arbitrary treatment of peasants by officials. A voracious reader, V.I.Ulyanov became well-acquainted at an early age with the writings of Russian authors, from A.S.Pushkin through A.S.Turgenev to L.N.Tolstoi. From a childhood the boy was especially interested in the works of N.A.Nekrasov. The youth was also aware of such protorevolutionary writers of the nineteenth century as V.G.Belinskii, N.G.Chernyshevskii, N.A.Dobroliubov, A.I.Herzen and D.I.Pisarev. But there was no hint in these early intellectual activities that V.I.Lenin would become a revolutionary.

V.I.Lenin’s philosophy is mentioned in great number of scientific works [Althusser 1971; Brockhaus 2004; Cockshott 2012; Treadgold 2002].

It goes without saying his political views are presented in various foreign sources [Harding 1977; Hubenschmid 1998; Ivanov 1970; Leites 1953].

In the revolution of 1905 V.I.Lenin was able to exercise almost no influence.

V.I.Lenin’s influence among the Bolsheviks was challenged by many other militants including A.A.Bogdanov therefore «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy» challenged the ideas that A.A.Bogdanov had spread in philosophers’ society in the first years of the twentieth century.

The main reason of polemics was conflict between V.I.Lenin and A.A.Bogdanov who was the head of large philosophical group. A.A.Bogdanov was known as A.A.Malinovskii too. Besides philosophy A.A.Bogdanov had already achieved great success in economy and medicine.

The period between defeat of the first Russian revolution and World War I (1907-1914) was difficult for V.I.Lenin and all the rest Materialists. The historians called this epoch as a period of reaction. V.I.Lenin had to leave Russian Empire and live in West-European countries. During emigration V.I.Lenin could write several interesting articles, books and speeches.

At the end of 1907 the leader of the Bolsheviks abandoned his base in Finland and slipped back to Switzerland therefore the monograph was created not in Russian Empire, but in Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom.

V.I.Lenin lived briefly in London in May 1908, where he used the British Museum’s library to write «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism», an attack on A.A.Bogdanov’s relativist perspective, which he lambasted as a «bourgeois-reactionary falsehood». Increasing numbers of the Bolsheviks, including close V.I.Lenin supporters L.B.Kamenev and A.I.Rykov, were becoming angry with V.I.Lenin’s factionalism [Service 2002: 192-195].

In December 1908 V.I.Lenin went from Geneva to Paris where he worked until April 1909 on correcting the proofs of his book. The attentive author had to agree to tone down some passages of the work so as not to give the tsarist censorship an excuse for prohibiting its publication. It was published in Russia under great difficulties. V.I.Lenin insisted on the speedy issue of the book, stressing that «not only literary, but also serious political obligations» were involved in its publication.

V.I.Lenin revived his polemics against the Mensheviks, who objected to his advocacy of violent expropriations and thefts such as the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery, which the Bolsheviks were using to fund their activities. At that very moment V.I.Lenin became heavily critical of A.A.Bogdanov and his supporters. A.A.Bogdanov believed that a socialist-oriented culture had to be developed among Russia’s proletariat for them to become a successful revolutionary vehicle, whereas V.I.Lenin favored a vanguard of socialist intelligentsia who could lead the working-classes in revolution. Furthermore A.A.Bogdanov - influenced by E.Mach - believed that all the concepts of the world were relative, whereas V.I.Lenin stuck to the orthodox Marxist view that there was an objective reality to the world, independent of human observation. Although A.A.Bogdanov and V.I.Lenin went on a holiday together to A.M.Gorky’s villa situated in island of Capri, Italy, in April 1908, on returning to Paris, V.I.Lenin encouraged a split within the Bolshevik faction between his and A.A.Bogdanov’s followers, accusing the latter of deviating from Marxism [Service 2002: 189-192].

Unfortunately the manuscript of the book and V.I.Lenin’s preparatory material for it have so far not been found.

The author could unite in «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» different styles though each of them can be defined as a layer of big polemical pie. Artistic, colloquial and scientific lexemes are concentrated in this famous monograph.

Of course the struggle was cruel in the Bolshevik party. V.I.Lenin realized A.A.Bogdanov was the most dangerous opponent though their relations were not so bad. Explores knew a century ago about photography where V.I.Lenin and A.A.Bogdanov had played chess. According to this famous image V.I.Lenin won that game. Never the less A.A.Bogdanov was mentioned in work «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» more than 200 times. Soon A.A.Bogdanov and his colleagues were excepted from party of the Bolsheviks.

Evidently V.I.Lenin defined A.A.Bogdanov as a member of enormous community: «Here we have the true source of all Bogdanov’s philosophical misadventures, a source which he shares with the rest of the Machians» [Lenin 2002: 66].

Repeat of lexeme «source» attracts the readers’ attention. The author’s irony is expressed by generalizing word combination «all Bogdanov’s philosophical misadventures». Lexeme «misadventure» underlines the negative appreciation given by V.I.Lenin.

In many cases the polemical text includes critical statements. They concern the same opponent. For example V.I.Lenin wrote in his monograph: «Bogdanov swallowed the bait of professorial philosophy in believing that "introjection" was aimed against idealism. He accepted the evaluation of introjection given by Avenarius himself as its face value and failed to notice the barb directed against materialism» [Lenin 2002: 97].

In this extract V.I.Lenin underlined that A.A.Bogdanov hade made a mistake. The metaphor «to swallow the bait» makes this thesis vivid. To V.I.Lenin’s opinion A.A.Bogdanov had not checked statements of R.Avenarius and simply had agreed with his view in vain.

V.I.Lenin drew the preliminary conclusion: «Ridicule - that is the response of the thinking scientists to the idealist philosophy over which Mach waxes so enthusiastic» [Lenin 2002: 104].

At once the sentence makes the irony the fact («ridicule») and helps the readers to distinguish real and false philosophers, foes and friends. V.I.Lenin hoped to receive emotional effect from the readers that’s why the metaphor «to wax so enthusiastic» is represented at the end of the conclusion.

Then V.I.Lenin formulated the final conclusion: «No, it is those who "failed to note" that solipsism is Mach’s fundamental error who are stricken with "subjective" blindness» [Lenin 2002: 105].

The construction seems to be more categorical because the hints («misadventure» and «to swallow the bait») are transformed into the diagnosis («blindness»). Also graphic method (commas) can focus the reader’s thoughts on the main V.I.Lenin’s idea: the defects of the Machists’ theory are natural and unavoidable therefore the Materialists’ conception is worthy only.

So V.I.Lenin created orchestra of the polemical methods in «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism». Each of them acts as an instrument which helps to achieve harmony and makes the sounds louder.

The book is the outcome of a prodigious amount of creative scientific research carried out by V.I.Lenin during nine months. His main work on the book was carried out in Geneva’s libraries, but in order to obtain a detailed knowledge of the modern literature of natural science and philosophy V.I.Lenin went to London in May 1908, where he worked for about a month in the library of the British Museum. The list of sources mentioned or quoted by V.I.Lenin in his book exceeds 200 titles.

V.I.Lenin’s well-known work «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» played a decisive part in combating the Machist revision of Marxism. It enabled the philosophical ideas of Marxism to spread widely among the mass of party members and helped the party activists and progressive workers to master dialectical and historical materialism.

Before V.I.Lenin came to power, the old regime of Tsar Nicholas II (Emperor in 1895–1917) had kept him under constant observation because of his revolutionary and socialist ideas. To confuse the Tsarist authorities V.I.Oulianoff had used pseudonyms such as Jacob Richter and Nicholas Lenin. Later he adopted V.I.Lenin as his preferred name. In fact approximately 150 pseudonyms of the Bolsheviks’ leader were lost.

Jacob Richter was the name he used when he first applied for a Reader’s Ticket for the Library at The British Museum, with a reference from I.H.Mitchell, the General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions. The Admissions Office was dissatisfied with I.H.Mitchell’s reference because they could not locate his address. The second letter followed and a ticket was granted, which was claimed on Tuesday, the 29th, April 1902. The ticket was used for about a year. During this period he was in Britain to initiate publication of Iskra, the newspaper of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP).

V.I.Lenin may have used the same pseudonym in May 1907, as there was an entry in the Temporary Admissions Register (number 3782). He later applied to use the Library under his given name of Vladimir Oulianoff. Again he was only successful on his second attempt and collected his ticket on the 22th, May 1908. He last visited the Reading Room on the 11th, November 1911.

If you remembered how hard V.I.Lenin had worked, how quickly he could finish the book you would be surprised.

The author began to collect sources in February 1908. V.I.Lenin formed almost all the monograph in October 1908.

The author was eager to present Section I and Supplement to Chapter IV in March 1909. V.I.Lenin was upset because the first search of appropriate agent was not successful.

Finally monograph «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» was published in May 1909 in Moscow as a separate book by Zveno Publishers. Vladimir Ilin was chosen as a pseudonym by the author himself.

This classical work of V.I.Lenin achieved a wide circulation in many countries, and was published in over 20 languages [Lenin 2002 etc]. Certainly all the rest works of V.I.Lenin were published in the Soviet Union and abroad [Lenin 1983]. The articles, books, documents and speeches written by V.I.Lenin were united in the USSR in 55 huge volumes and published in the previous century.

The mentioned monograph became the hugest V.I.Lenin’s work. «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» happened to be the best reply of the Bolsheviks for permanent Machists’ attacks.

After the October revolution «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» was admitted as the symbol of V.I.Lenin’s victory over the Machists, who shared conception of idealistical philosophy the most dangerous enemies of V.I.Lenin’s followers. Some foreign explores defined it as the Soviet Bible even.

Full understanding of V.I.Lenin’s works will be possible if a reader involves in the process his own knowledge of the history of Russia and the 1905 Russian revolution. It goes without saying any reader should be well-educated. Difficult and long process of understanding claims that the reader is able to remember the main statements of Marxist European, Marxist Russian and classical Russian literature. Facts of V.I.Lenin’s biography and the history of Russia of course can make the process much easier.

While V.I.Lenin’s impact upon the world has been tremendous, and his ideas once commanded an immense following, many of the works in which he expressed his ideas were written with a specific audience in mind and dealt with issues and controversies which were peculiar to his age. In addition, it is probably fair to say that V.I.Lenin’s skills as a political agitator were superior to his skills as a writer. Consequently, the project which culminated in the completion of this manuscript posed a number of challenges.

In «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» V.I.Lenin’s presentation of theses ranges from obscure to redundant, and the contemporary reader is often hard pressed to understand subtle references which were undoubtedly common knowledge in the circle of Russian emigres in which V.I.Lenin moved in the early 1900s, but which can be difficult to make sense of out of historical context. Besides V.I.Lenin’s treatment of the problems of philosophy is loaded with political relevance. Indeed, it may be said that «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» represents not as much a treatise on philosophy as a manifesto of what its author believed Marxist philosophy should be.

Thus monograph «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» is a facet of argue between V.I.Lenin and the idealists. Only the attentive reader is able to recognize various nuances of ideology in this polemical discourse. The ideological connotations include first of all a great number of evaluation judgments constructions though context of inform can exist without such expressive markers.

These elements of V.I.Lenin’s discourse are providers of suggestive impact and active cognitive process corresponding to new scientific reality. The adaptation to changed conditions and appearance of new political parties were simultaneous processes. The members of these parties felt that they were contestants. These circumstances could explain why V.I.Lenin concentrated his philosophical and political enemies’ opinions in work «Materialism and Empirio-Criticism» and criticized them in different ways including hidden impact. It is possible to explain the meaning of every polemical method used in this monograph by V.I.Lenin in separate books only.


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