Fundamental Problems of Marxism

By George V. Plekhanov | Go to book overview

Here is the first of these extracts: "Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite group of parallelograms of forces which give rise to a resultant, the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a force which works as a whole, unconsciously and without volition, for what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed." (Letter of 1890).45

Here is the second extract: "Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc., development, is based on economic development. But all these react upon one another and also on the economic base." (Letter of 1894).46 Herr Bernstein finds that "this sounds somewhat different" than the preface to Critique of Political Economy, which speaks of the link between the economic "base" and the "superstructure" that rises above it. But in what way does it sound different? Precisely what is said in the preface, is repeated, viz., political and all other kinds of development rest on economic development. Herr Bernstein seems to have been misled by the following words, "but all these react upon one another and also on the economic base." Herr Bernstein himself seems to have understood the preface to the Critique differently, i.e., in the sense that the social and ideological "superstructure" that grows on the economic "base" exerts no influence, in its turn, on that "base." We already know, however, that nothing can be more mistaken than such an understanding of Marx's thought. Those who have observed Herr Bernstein's "critical" exercises can only shrug their shoulders when they see a man who once undertook to popularize Marxism failing to go to the trouble--or, to be more accurate, proving incapable--of first getting an understanding of that doctrine.

The second of the letters quoted by Herr Bernstein contains passages that are probably of greater importance for an understanding of the causal significance of the historical theory of Marx and Engels, than the lines I have quoted, which have been so poorly understood by Herr Bernstein. One of these passages reads as follows: "So it is not, as people try here and there conveniently to imagine, that the economic situation produces an automatic effect. Men make their history themselves, only in

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Fundamental Problems of Marxism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • EDITOR'S NOTE 6
  • EDITOR'S PREFACE 7
  • I- Philosophical Writings of Marx and Engels 23
  • Ii. Feuerbach and Marx 27
  • Iii. Thinking and Being in Feuerbach 34
  • Iv. Emergence of Historical Materialism 40
  • V. the Materialist Dialectic as Method 44
  • Vi. Productive Forces and Geography 49
  • Vii. Role of Relations of Production 53
  • Viii. Base and Culture 58
  • Ix. Interaction of Base and Superstructure 63
  • X. Man and Necessity in History 67
  • Xi. Economic Base and Ideology 71
  • Xii. Against One-Sidedness and Schematism 74
  • Xiii. Psychology of the Epoch 81
  • Xiv. Class Struggle and Ideas 84
  • Xv. Necessity and Freedom 88
  • Xvi. Necessity and Revolution 94
  • EDITOR'S NOTES 179
  • BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND INDEX 185
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