Today I went to a talk on Hegel and Marx given by Norman Levine a retired professor. Here is the blurb about him from Left Forum:
“Prof. Norman Levine published six books and 36 article in scholarly journals. His latest book, MARX’S DISCOURSE WITH HEGEL, will be published by Macmillan Palgrave in Jan. 2012. Prof. Levine holds the position of Visiting Professor at the University of Wuhan, China, and will lecture there during the first semester of 2012.”
Sponsored by the West Coast Marxist Humanists, the description below is from their posting about the event:
“The Marx-Hegel Relationship
Norman Levine’s presentation will cover: (1) system and method in Hegel; (2) the contemporary reinterpretation of Hegel starting with Lukács and Marcuse; (3) Marx’s rejection of the Hegelian system, but his acceptance of the Hegelian method; (4) Marx’s adoption of the Hegelian concepts of subjectivity and labor in the 1844 Manuscripts; (4) Marx’s misreading of Hegel, the parts of Hegel’s writings that Marx overlooked, and those parts of Hegel that were not published during Marx’s lifetime; (5) the Hegelian methodologies that Marx adopted and used in his new political economy. Kevin Anderson will give a brief overview of the Hegel-Marx relationship and respond to Levine’s presentation.”
About 10 people showed up. Most of them seem to have been Marxists of one sort or another. I was the only anarchist. There were two Iranians, and the rest were Anglo’s. Mostly men spoke, the one Iranian woman spoke also. Levine lectured about Hegel and Marx, noting that many of the early writings of Hegel were not available to Marx and were not made available until the 1920’s. This led Marx to misread Hegel, not giving enough weight to Hegel’s materialism, just as Marx has been distorted to be considered simply a materialist. Rather there was idealism in Marx and materialism in Hegel according to Levine. Levine blames Engels to some extent.
Levine spoke for an hour or so, Anderson spoke for another half an hour and others commented. Of special note were the comments of Frieda Afary, an Iranian blogger and academic. She blogs at “Iranian Progressives in Translation” and seems to have read Hegel fairly extensively. She thought that the chapter on the “Absolute Idea” in Science in Logic by Hegel was a good summary of his positions.
The term Dialectical Materialism is not a Marx term but one of Engels and other later Marxists, and Hegel never said the phrase thesis-antithesis-synthesis, according to both Anderson and Levine. This is a misinterpretation of negation of negation.
There was much talk of the concept of “Negation of Negation”, as Anderson wrote it is a three step process,
“one - the moving, generating force in the dialectic,
two – merciless destroyer of the old (first negation)
three- creator of the new (second or absolute negation)”
Anderson made the point that the left was not going past the first negation with the slogan of being anti-capitalist, what is needed is the second step replacement with a new reality. This is what is missing, a plan that is workable from a Marxist perspective.
Levine made the point that Marx rejected the Hegelian system of idealism but utilized the Hegelian forms and much of the methodology, such as the theory of labor.
In Hegel the mind of man labors, in Marx human labor is the primary force but it is economic processes not the mind as Levine states.
Levine says that because of missing the early Hegel, and some of the published Hegel in his own time, Marx missed some of the materialism and real world concerns of Hegel. He misinterpreted Hegel calling him a “Logical Pantheist”, where Levine utilizing the research of Georg Lukács claims that Hegel was much more of a materialist.
In John Rees article “Engel’s Marxism” we find this argument presented by Geroge Lichtheim:
“For Marx, Lichtheim claims, ‘the only nature relevant to the understanding of history was human nature.’ Engels therefore broke with Marx when he argued that ‘historical evolution is an aspect of general (natural) evolution and basically subject to the same “laws”. This meant that Engels had appropriated Hegel’s heritage quite differently to Marx. Marx had taken from Hegel the importance of self conscious activity in the making of history. In contrast ‘what really fascinates’ Engels ‘is Hegel’s determinism: his ability to make it appear that nature (and history) follow a pre-ordained course’. Such a drastic recasting of Marxism inevitably had political consequences:
…determinism in thought making for dogmatism in action. The cast-iron certainty which Engels imported into Marxist thinking found its counterpart at the political level in an unshakable conviction that the stars in their courses were promoting the victory of socialism.
Consequently, Engels, Kautsky–the leading thinker of the Second International–’and the orthodox school in general’ transformed Marxism ‘from the vision of a unique breakthrough into a doctrine of a casually determined process analogous to the scheme of Darwinian evolution’.”
Rees then goes on to quote Levine from his “The Tragic Deception, Marx contra Engels”, with a critical eye to the supposed split:
“The most remarkable aspect of the view that there was a fundamental divergence between Marx’s theory and Engels’ thought is that it ignores the evidence of their lifelong partnership. Some considerable intellectual contortion is necessary to overcome the elementary biographical facts of Marx and Engels’ lives. For Terrell Carver ‘the intellectual relationship between the two living men, however, was very much the story of what they accomplished independently’. These accomplishments ‘were by no means theoretically coincident’. After Marx’s death ‘Engels moved into an all-powerful role’ in which he ‘invented dialectics and reconstructed Marx’s life and works accordingly’. Nor is Carver alone in this kind of assertion. It is common coin among Engels’ critics to insist that he codified Marxism as a rigid dialectical philosophy either without Marx’s explicit approval or after his death. Norman Levine argues:
The height of Engels’ career corresponded with the termination of Marx’s life. It is, therefore, entirely consistent that five of Engels’ major works were published in the years closely preceding Marx’s death, or after the termination of Marx’s life. Anti-Dühring appeared in 1878, Socialism: Scientific and Utopian [sic] in 1882, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1884, and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy in 1888. The Dialectics of Nature was first published in 1927 by Riazanov, although the manuscript itself appears to have been completed by 1882.’”
Rees then goes on to refute the arguments of Levine and others in more detail.
“The first and most striking point about Marx and Engels’ relationship is the strength of the foundations on which it rested. In the 1840s both men arrived at what would later be known as the historical materialist view of the world. But it is by no means the case that Engels simply followed where Marx led. On the vitally important strategic question of the attitude which the pair took to the trade unions it was Engels who blazed the trail. And the entire content of Marx and Engels’ joint work, The Communist Manifesto, was first outlined by Engels alone in Principles of Communism.
Having arrived at a common outlook, Marx and Engels jointly authored two key works which elaborated their views, The Holy Family and The German Ideology. They struggled together to win the organisation they were both involved in, the League of the Just, to their ideas, transforming it into the Communist League. The Communist Manifesto was issued in its name. They went on to fight together in the 1848 revolutions–in Engels’ case literally revolver in hand, on the barricades. This then was the foundation of Marx and Engels’ partnership, forged by intense, common intellectual and practical, political work.”
There are others who would refute that there was any split between Marx and Engels as in this article by Alvin Gouldner:
“The caricature of Engels as the first revisionist and of his work as a haute vulgarisation of Marx is not new but began to emerge during and shortly after World War I. One finds it in Erwin Bans, “Engels als Theoretiker,” in the issue of Kommunismus, 3 December 1920, a journal that Georg Lukacs edited for a while after World War I. Even before, it may be found in Rudolfo Mondolfo’s Le Materialisme Historique d’apres F. Engels, published in Paris in 1917.
The most competent contemporary source of that view is George Lichtheim’s learned Marxism, which holds that “socialism, as understood by Engels and those who followed in his lead, was above all scientific. . . . Engels’s later writings, especially Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, are a veritable compendium of the new positivist world-view. . . . Marx gradually came to adopt a standpoint which in some respects resembled the scientism of the age, but he never quite yielded to the temptation to recast his doctrine altogether in evolutionary-materialist terms; Engels had no such inhibition.’”
From Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 9 - “Engels Against Marx? Marxism as Property” pp. 250-286.
Attempts to revitalize the humanist tradition in Marxism by bringing up the Hegelian connection is interesting but I fail to see how what Marx did not read of Hegel, and thus leading to a misinterpretation of Hegel, has to do with the ultimate development of Marxism. Levine acknowledges that Marx was not a Hegel scholar although he was part of the Berlin group of Young Hegelians as a student as Coser states in this extract at Bolender.com:
“Hegel was already dead when Marx entered the University of Berlin, but his spirit still dominated it fully. And Marx, after but a short period of resistance, surrendered to that spirit.
His teachers at the faculty of law, Savigny in jurisprudence and Gans in criminal law, exerted some influence over the young Marx. Savigny, the founder of the Historical School of Jurisprudence, impressed him with his historical erudition and his power of argumentation. Gans taught him methods of theoretical criticism in the light of philosophy of history. But it was not these older Hegelians or near-Hegelians who converted the young man to his new vision; it was a group of near-contemporaries, the Young Hegelians. These young philosophers had formed a little band of heretics who, though in many respects beholden to the master, had moved away from his teachings. Through them Marx was initiated into the Hegelian world system at the same time as he became a member of a group of iconoclasts who irreverently began to raise awkward and critical questions about major parts of the great man’s synthesis.
The informal Doktorklub, of which Marx now became a member, was comprised of young marginal academics–a radical, somewhat antireligious, and more than slightly bohemian lot. Outstanding among them were the brothers Bruno and Edgar Bauer, both radical and freethinking Hegelians of the Left, and Max Stirner, the later proponent of ultra-individualistic anarchism. Under the influence of these men Marx abandoned law and resolved to devote himself to philosophy. He also became a “man-about-town,” frequenting the advanced salons of the capital, as well as the beer cellars, where the Young Hegelians debated for hours on end the fine points of Hegelian doctrine.”
This is from A-Z of Socialism article by Paul Blackledge, July 2009 Socialist Review:
“Whatever the substantive differences among the Young Hegelians, they agreed that radical ideas were key to changing the world. This diverged from Hegel’s insistence that any social transformation must be rooted in underlying changes in the way people lived.
From this perspective it was as absurd to try to extend freedom beyond the limits of bourgeois egoism by abstract moral injunctions as it was to hope that lions might lie down with lambs. Rather, the expansion of freedom was dependent upon the prior emergence of forms of practice pointing to different ways of life.
Ironically, this Hegelian thesis informed Marx’s break with the Young Hegelians. Opening with a criticism of their abstract politics his argument culminated in the claim that the emergent workers’ movement, dismissed by them as irrelevant, pointed to a real deepening of the idea of freedom.
He suggested that, for workers, socialism was not a good (Feuerbach) or bad (Stirner) moral doctrine, but was the ideological moment of an emerging way of life within which solidarity came to be desired because it had become a real need.
From this standpoint neither biblical fundamentalism (Strauss) nor religion more generally (Bauer) were key social problems. Rather they were symptoms of deeper issues, and Marx insisted that the struggle for freedom should shift its focus to these causes.
Thus, against the pseudo-revolutionary posturing of the Young Hegelians, he argued that in the modern world a really revolutionary ideology is one which reflects and speaks to the actual movement of workers for freedom.”
I am no Marxist, hardly even an Anarchist at this point, but I find Levine and others who are attempting to redefine Marx for their own purposes, although interesting, perhaps unnecessarily leading us down another garden path to another abstract rosy future. I was listening to Kevin Anderson speak after Levine spoke, he had an almost messianic tone in his voice as he spoke of the work, the endeavor to tear down the walls of Stalinism, that now are claimed to be the result of a misinterpretation or deliberate transformation on the part of Engels. I am not sure I buy the argument. Stalinism, the mistakes of Lenin and others were the result of a certain overreach as far as I can tell. But I am looking kindly on the murderous reign of the Bolsheviks, they were attempting to do what they claimed not to believe in, changing from above. Something that Hegel and Kant thought was possible. Something that the Bolshevik Apparatchiks found themselves enforcing, as the party became the Soviet State and thus lost its intellectual autonomy and integrity, not trusting to the revolutionary capacity of the masses who were suffering from the fatigue of the loss of material stability in the revolutionary period leading up to and after the Russian Revolution. Lenin and his crew eliminated competition both on the left and right, took control, gambled and ultimately lost the revolution. We now live with the consequences, a demoralized working class and social conditions that have been so concretized by the Capitalist class that Fukuyama was able to declare the end of history in a parody of Hegel.
I admire Levine’s efforts and you can find his books on line at Amazon, but I question where he is attempting to take us and I am wondering why the Marxist Humanists are aligning with his critique. It seems that they are grasping at some kind of intellectual straw in an attempt to recreate a more benign, softer Marx. Certainly Marx was not an active player on the barricades as Engels was, he was not a manager of a company, he did not have that worldly experience in capital and affairs. Marx was profoundly a thinker and theoretician. That has its good and bad aspects. Finding a humane Marx is not a problem, but changing the course of history to satisfy a desire for a different past is. There were crimes committed in the name of Marxism, they go back to Lenin at least. But Marx is not to be blamed for what his followers did, although Marx certainly supported revolutionary efforts in 1848, the Paris Commune in 1870-71 and the Irish efforts at attaining freedom as well as the American North in the Civil War. Marx was clearly on the forefront of the revolutionary movement from the mid 1840’s until at least the expulsion of the Bakuninists from the First International. After that it is debatable where the focus of revolutionary struggle centered.
From Chapter two of the Communist Manifesto:
“In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?
The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.
They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.
The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”