[OPE-L:1584] Lenin and Hegel

michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 00:30:05 -0700

        When I referred a few days back in 1557 to the significance of Lenin's
Philosophical Manuscripts (Vol. 38 of the Collected Works), I was away from
my notes and study; I can now add some points that may be of interest.
        My reading of this volume (which I think Jurriaan supported) is that Lenin
developed a great appreciation of Hegel in the course of working through
the Science of Logic--- which is not to say at all that he embraced the
mysticism and idealism of Hegel. Eg., before his famous aphorism about the
need to understand Hegel's Logic to understand Capital, he commented, "If I
am not mistaken, there is much mysticism and empty pedantry in these
conclusions of Hegel, but the basic idea is one of genius: that of the
universal, all-sided, _vital_ connection of everything with
everything...."(146) Also, in an aphorism set out shortly before the one
above, he described some of Plekhanov's work (very much an early influence)
as more vulgar materialist than dialectical materialist (179). Again, I
think this volume is useful reading.
        Perhaps more directly relevant to recent list comments, however, is a
comment from the mature Lenin (reflecting that appreciation) in his "On the
Significance of Militant Materialism". In talking about a new journal (Pod
Znamenem Marksizma) set up to defend Marxism and materialism, he argued
that its contributors "must arrange for the systematic study of Hegelian
dialectics from a materialist standpoint, i.e., the dialectics which Marx
applied practically in his Capital and in his historical and political
works.... Of course, this study, this interpreation, this propaganda of
Hegelian dialectics is extremely difficult, and the first experiments in
this direction will undoubtedly be accompanied by errors. But only he who
never does anything never makes mistakes. Taking as our basis Marx's method
of applying materialistically conceived Hegelian dialectics, we can and
should elaborate this dialectics from all aspects, print in the journal
excerpts from Hegel's principal works, interpret them materialistically and
comment on them with the help of the way Marx applied dialectics.... In my
opinion, the editors of Pod Znamenen Marksizma should be a kind of 'Society
of Materialist Friends of Hegelian Dialectics'." (12 March 1922 reprinted
in Collected Works, Volume 33, pp.233-4.)
        Obviously, we can't just accept Lenin's judgement on this in judging what
Marx was doing in Capital but it is important to know what Lenin himself

        in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
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