Politics and History in the Soviet Union

Politics and History in the Soviet Union

Politics and History in the Soviet Union

Politics and History in the Soviet Union

Excerpt

The study of history has never been mere curiosity, a withdrawal into the past for the sake of the past . . . Historical science has been and remains an arena of sharp ideological struggle; it has been and remains a class, party history . . . Our ideological opponents contend that the Party spirit of Soviet historiography is incompatible with objective scientific research . . . [But] the great force of Marxist-Leninist doctrine is that it places in the researcher's hands the only correct and scientific creative method of objective, comprehensive study of social phenomena and processes.

Editorial, Soviet Historical Science at a New Stage of Development, Voprosy istorii, no. 8 (1960).

Marx captured the Hegelian god of history and brought him to earth to reign over a dialectic of modes of production and property relationships. The process of transubstantiation, however, did not destroy the mystical quality of history, which persists in Marxist social theory. The sense of mystery behind Marx's system consists precisely in the ineluctable flow of the dialectic, that life force which brings men -- unaware and often unwilling -- inevitably to the threshold of communism.

With Marx the ultimate cause or first mover of history becomes any change in the methods of production and exchange; all other factors are derivative. "The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual process of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness." Tradition, natural conditions, institutions, and ideas may exert an influence upon events; but they can only modify, accelerate, or retard the process of the historical dialectic. Thus in attempting to understand any phenomenon, the Marxist historian must cut through the superstructure ("the legal, political, religious, aesthetic, or philosophic -- in short, ideological -- forms") to discern its substance, or economic foundations. These foundations "can be determined with the precision of natural science."

The Marxian thesis that the economic factor is the determining element in all historical situations has generated a rich literature . . .

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