[OPE] Science and scientology

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Tue Jun 02 2009 - 03:32:34 EDT

Jerry, of course it is not per se "unscientific and assbackwards" to check
Marx when dealing with questions of contemporary capitalism, why? Scientific
people in my experience read all kinds of professional and non-professional
literature to get ideas, or stimulate innovation. The unscientific part is
just if you believe that the MECW is sorta like "the book of revelations"
which has all the answers to all of the questions already. Because in that
case, you are just really being biblical or Talmudic - the idea being then
that there are "sacred scrolls" which, if read and interpreted correctly,
contain all the answers to all of life's problems.

It is perhaps of interest here that Engels refers to Das Kapital as the
"Bible of the working class", in the preface to the 1886 edition of Das

"Das Kapital" is often called, on the Continent, "the Bible of the
working-class." That the conclusions arrived at in this work are daily more
and more becoming the fundamental principles of the great working- class
movement, not only in Germany and Switzerland, but in France, in Holland and
Belgium, in America, and even in Italy and Spain, that everywhere the
working-class more and more recognises, in these conclusions, the most
adequate expression of its condition and of its aspirations, nobody
acquainted with that movement will deny.

This was meant both "defiantly" (as Terrell Carver notes, Engels had a
lifelong hostility to christianity, which was a main source of his
historical materialism) and "sincerely", because epistemically, workers
really did regard particular books as the revelators of the truth in those
days, and to some or other extent still do today. Certain books are revered
as containing the true idea by workers who are not in a position to
relativise things in the same way that an academic, able to access hundreds
of references and trained in interpretation, might. Practical people anyway
do not have much intellectual use for subtle nuances and qualifiers, they
want definite, yes-or-no answers. Propagandistically, of course, it is
convenient to be able to refer to a book which "has the answers" and can
provide a guide or orientation to what to believe or what to do.

There is still comparatively little research on the initial reception and
diffusion of the ideas of Marx and Engels in the period of (say) 1859-1890,
but it is clear that in reality christian religion still had a very strong
influence at that time, and that socialist or communist beliefs contained a
strong flavour of religious faith or religious fervour, even if they were in
principle atheistic. Indeed, socialism in New Zealand, a very modern country
originally colonized overwhelmingly by skilled workingclass people from the
British Isles and proletarians from Australia, began precisely in the form
of socialist churches (see Roth, H. O. "The labour churches and New
Zealand". International Review of Social History 4, No 3 (1959): 361--366).
The NZ Socialist Party formed in 1901 initially had religious themes in its
activities and propaganda; a NZ Marxian Association was founded circa 1918,
two years after the founding of a united NZ Labour Party. The NZMA featured
among other things reading groups in a special Hall, which also studied
literature forbidden by the sedition laws and imported illegally. Most
communist and socialist literature was in fact illegal, and was smuggled in
by sailors from San Fransisco, London and Scotland.

This is just to say that - although this is mostly ignored in the
literature - Marxism had very strongly "religious" cultural roots, not at
all because it was itself a theistic doctrine, to the contrary, but
precisely because it was formed and took shape in a strongly religious

This is acknowledged by Engels to some extent, in tracing the development of
socialism "from utopianism to science". The very idea of a "scientific
socialism" was supposed to be the alternative to a socialism which was not
rational-scientific at all, but fideistic and utopian. Likewise, when Lenin
aimed to forge a Marxist party ideology in Russia that would be an
infallible modernizing doctrine - literally, "omnipotent, because it is
true" - he did so in the context of a Russian culture which was actually
dominated by the Greek Orthodox Church and a superstitious belief in the
semi-divine characteristics of the Tsar, and in the context of a battle
against religious superstition, which involved the counterposition of a
completely new "world view" to it, a whole new cosmology. In good part, the
first world war was also justified in religious terms.

Hermeneutic debates occur especially in the social sciences and humanities -
for example in theology, philosophy, cultural anthropology, archaeology,
history - but they occur sometimes also in natural science. To some extent,
this practice could indeed be said to be intrinsic to the human condition,
as Viktor Frankl explains in his writings on "Man's search for meaning" and
Sartre also covers in his existentialist writings.


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