collection of works arranged by Wolfgang Eggers

on February 1, 2015


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Lenin on Religion

New York - 1930



- Writings and Speeches -



Socialism and Religion

December 3, 1905.



Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution




The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion




Classes and Parties in Their Attitude to Religion and the Church

June 1909



Letter to  MAXIM GORKY (1)




Letter to  MAXIM GORKY (2)





On the Significance of Militant Materialism

12 March 1922


Volume 38
(Philosophical Notebooks)
1895 — 1916


Conspectus of Feuerbach’s Book
Lectures on the Essence of Religion







We must be extremely careful in fighting religious prejudices; some people cause a lot of harm in this struggle by offending religious feelings. We must use propaganda and education. By lending too sharp an edge to the struggle we may only arouse popular resentment; such methods of struggle tend to perpetuate the division of the people along religious lines, whereas our strength lies in unity. The deepest source of religious prejudice is poverty and ignorance; and that is the evil we have to combat.



* * *

In what sense do we reject ethics, reject morality?

In the sense given to it by the bourgeoisie, who based ethics on God's commandments. On this point we, of course, say that we do not believe in God, and that we know perfectly well that the clergy, the landowners and the bourgeoisie invoked the name of God so as to further their own interests as exploiters. Or, instead of basing ethics on the commandments of morality, on the commandments of God, they based it on idealist or semi-idealist phrases, which always amounted to something very similar to God's commandments. (Lenin)


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"Autocracy cannot do without its twin agents: a hangman and a priest, the first to suppress popular resistance by force, the second to sweeten and embellish the lot of the oppressed with empty promises of a heavenly kingdom."
— Vladimir Lenin

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Religion is the opium of the people—this dictum by Marx is the corner-stone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion. Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organisation, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class.”

– V.I. Lenin, “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party Towards Religion”


* * *


[…] under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.”

– V.I. Lenin, “Socialism and Religion”

* * *


That is the reason why we do not and should not set forth our atheism in our Programme; that is why we do not and should not prohibit proletarians who still retain vestiges of their old prejudices from associating themselves with our Party. We shall always preach the scientific world-outlook, and it is essential for us to combat the inconsistency of various “Christians”. But that does not mean in the least that the religious question ought to be advanced to first place, where it does not belong at all; nor does it mean that we should allow the forces of the really revolutionary economic and political struggle to be split up on account of third-rate opinions or senseless ideas, rapidly losing all political importance, rapidly being swept out as rubbish by the very course of economic development.”

– V.I. Lenin, “Socialism and Religion”

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“[Engels polemicized against those who] gave prominence to religious divisions rather than political divisions, and diverted the attention of some sections of the working class and of the other democratic elements away from the urgent tasks of the class and revolutionary struggle to the most superficial and false bourgeois anti-clericalism. Accusing the would-be ultra-revolutionary Dühring of wanting to repeat Bismarck’s folly in another form, Engels insisted that the workers’ party should have the ability to work patiently at the task of organising and educating the proletariat, which would lead to the dying out of religion, and not throw itself into the gamble of a political war on religion.”

– V.I. Lenin, “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party Towards Religion”

* * *

“[…] Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be “more left” or “more revolutionary” than the Social-Democrats, to introduce into the programme of the workers’ party an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion. Commenting in 1874 on the famous manifesto of the Blanquist fugitive Communards who were living in exile in London, Engels called their vociferous proclamation of war on religion a piece of stupidity, and stated that such a declaration of war was the best way to revive interest in religion and to prevent it from really dying out. Engels blamed the Blanquists for being unable to understand that only the class struggle of the working masses could, by comprehensively drawing the widest strata of the proletariat into conscious and revolutionary social practice, really free the oppressed masses from the yoke of religion, whereas to proclaim that war on religion was a political task of the workers’ party was just anarchistic phrase-mongering.

Religion must be declared a private affair. In these words socialists usually express their attitude towards religion. But the meaning of these words should be accurately defined to prevent any misunderstanding. We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned. But by no means can we consider religion a private affair so far as our Party is concerned. Religion must be of no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases, or no religion whatever, i.e., to be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. These should become absolutely free associations of like-minded citizens, associations independent of the state. Only the complete fulfilment of these demands can put an end to the shameful and accursed past when the church lived in feudal dependence on the state, and Russian citizens lived in feudal dependence on the established church, when medieval, inquisitorial laws (to this day remaining in our criminal codes and on our statute-books) were in existence and were applied, persecuting men for their belief or disbelief, violating men’s consciences, and linking cosy government   jobs and government-derived incomes with the dispensation of this or that dope by the established church. Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church.

The Russian revolution must put this demand into effect as a necessary component of political freedom. In this respect, the Russian revolution is in a particularly favourable position, since the revolting officialism of the police-ridden feudal autocracy has called forth discontent, unrest and indignation even among the clergy. However abject, however ignorant Russian Orthodox clergymen may have been, even they have now been awakened by the thunder of the downfall of the old, medieval order in Russia. Even they are joining in the demand for freedom, are protesting against bureaucratic practices and officialism, against the spying for the police imposed on the “servants of God”. We socialists must lend this movement our support, carrying the demands of honest and sincere members of the clergy to their conclusion, making them stick to their words about freedom, demanding that they should resolutely break all ties between religion and the police. Either you are sincere, in which case you must stand for the complete separation of Church and State and of School and Church, for religion to be declared wholly and absolutely a private affair. Or you do not accept these consistent demands for freedom, in which case you evidently are still held captive by the traditions of the inquisition, in which case you evidently still cling to your cosy government jobs and government-derived incomes, in which case you evidently do not believe in the spiritual power of your weapon and continue to take bribes from the state. And in that case the class-conscious workers of all Russia declare merciless war on you.”

– V.I. Lenin, “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party Towards Religion”


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Section Of The Programme Dealing With Religion

As regards religion, the policy of the R.C.P. is not to be confined to decreeing the separation of the church from the state and the school from the church, that is, to measures promised by bourgeois democrats but never fully carried out anywhere in the world because of the many and varied connections actually existing between capital and religious propaganda.

The Party’s object is to completely destroy the connection between the exploiting classes and organised religious propaganda and really liberate the working people from religious prejudices. For this purpose it must organise the most widespread scientific education and anti-religious propaganda. It is necessary, however, to take care to avoid hurting the religious sentiments of believers, for this only serves to increase religious fanaticism.


* * *

In the sphere of philosophy revisionism followed in the wake of bourgeois professorial “science”. The professors went “back to Kant"—and revisionism dragged along after the neo-Kantians. The professors repeated the platitudes that priests have uttered a thousand times against philosophical materialism—and the revisionists, smiling indulgently, mumbled (word for word after the latest Handbuch) that materialism had been “refuted” long ago. The professors treated Hegel as a “dead dog”, and while themselves preaching idealism, only an idealism a thousand times more petty and banal than Hegel’s, contemptuously shrugged their shoulders at dialectics—and the revisionists floundered after them into the swamp of philosophical vulgarisation of science, replacing “artful” (and revolutionary) dialectics by “simple" (and tranquil) “evolution”. The professors earned their official salaries by adjusting both their idealist and their “critical” systems to the dominant medieval “philosophy” (i.e., to theology)—and the revisionists drew close to them, trying to make religion a “private affair”, not in relation to the modern state, but in relation to the party of the advanced class.

(Lenin: Marxism and Revisionism, 1908)


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"Expelling laws from science means taking a step towards religion." (Lenin, Volume 20, page 202

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Materialism and Empirio-criticism


Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy

( selected Quotations concerning Religion)


Bogdanov, arguing against Plekhanov in 1906, wrote:

“. . . I cannot own myself a Machian in philosophy. In the general philosophical conception there is only one thing I borrowed from Mach—the idea of the neutrality of the elements of experience in relation to the ‘physical’ and ‘psychical’ and the dependence of these characteristics solely on the connection of experience.” (Empirio-Monism, Bk. III, St. Petersburg, 1906, p. xli.)

This is as though a religious man were to say—I cannot own myself a believer in religion, for there is “only one thing” I have borrowed from the believers—the belief in God. This “only one thing” which Bogdanov borrowed from Mach is the basic error of Machism, the basic falsity of its entire philosophy. Those deviations of Bogdanov’s from empirio-criticism to which he himself attaches great significance are in fact of entirely secondary importance and amount to nothing more than inconsiderable private and individual differences between the various empirio-criticists who are approved by Mach and who approve Mach (we shall speak of this in greater detail later). Hence when Bogdanov was annoyed at being confused with the Machians he only revealed his failure to understand what radically distinguishes materialism from what is common to Bogdanov and to all other Machians. How Bogdanov developed, improved or worsened Machism is not important What is important is that he has abandoned the materialist standpoint and has thereby inevitably condemned himself to confusion and idealist aberrations. (Volume 14, pages 57 - 58)


( Chapter Two: The Theory of Knowledge of Empirio-Criticism and of Dialectical Materialism. II )

4. Does Objective Truth Exist?

Volume 14, pages 125 - 126

Of course it is very gratifying that Bogdanov himself “does not include” social experience in regard to sprites and hobgoblins under objective experience. But this well-meant amendment in the spirit of anti-fideism by no means corrects the fundamental error of Bogdanov’s whole position. Bogdanov’s definition of objectivity and of the physical world completely falls to the ground, since the religious doctrine has “universal significance” to a greater degree than the scientific doctrine; the greater part of mankind cling to the former doctrine to this day. Catholicism has been “socially organised, harmonised and co-ordinated” by centuries of development; it “fits in” with the “chain of causality” in the most indisputable manner; for religions did not originate without cause, it is not by accident that they retain their hold over the masses under modern conditions, and it is quite “in the order of things” that professors of philosophy should adapt themselves to them. If this undoubtedly universally significant and undoubtedly highly-organised religious social experience does “not harmonise” with the “experience” of science, it is because there is a radical and fundamental difference between the two, which Bogdanov obliterated when he rejected objective truth. And however much Bogdanov tries to “correct” himself by saying that fideism, or clericalism, does not harmonise with science, the undeniable fact remains that Bogdanov’s denial of objective truth completely “harmonises” with fideism. Contemporary fideism does not at all reject science; all it rejects is the “exaggerated claims” of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth. If objective truth exists (as   the materialists think), if natural science, reflecting the outer world in human “experience,” is alone capable of giving us objective truth, then all fideism is absolutely refuted. But if there is no objective truth, if truth (including scientific truth) is only an organising form of human experience, then this in itself is an admission of the fundamental premise of clericalism, the door is thrown open for it, and a place is cleared for the “organising forms” of religious experience.



( Chapter Four: The Philosophical Idealists as Comrades-In-Arms and Successors of Empirio-Criticism )

5. A. Bogdanov’s “Empirio-Monism”

Volume 14, pages 229 - 230

A philosophy which teaches that physical nature itself is a product, is a philosophy of the priests pure and simple. And its character is in no wise altered by the fact that personally Bogdanov emphatically repudiates all religion. Dühring was also an atheist; he even proposed to prohibit religion in his “socialitarian” order. Nevertheless, Engels was absolutely right in pointing out that Dühring’s “system” could not make ends meet without religion. The same is true of Bogdanov, with the essential difference that the quoted passage is not a chance inconsistency but the very essence of his “empirio-monism” and of all his “substitution.” If nature is a product, it is obvious that it can be a product only of some thing that is greater, richer, broader, mightier than nature, of something that exists; for in order to “produce” nature, it must exist independently of nature. That means that something exists outside nature, something which moreover produces nature. In plain language this is called God. The idealist philosophers have always sought to change this latter name, to make it more abstract, more vague and at the same time (for the sake of plausibility) to bring it nearer to the “psychical,” as an “immediate complex,” as the immediately given which requires no proof. Absolute Idea, Universal Spirit, World Will, “general substitution” of the psychical for the physical, are different formulations of one and the same idea. Every man knows, and science investigates, idea, mind, will, the psychical, as a function of the normally operating human brain. To divorce this function from substance organised in a definite way, to convert this function into a universal, general abstraction, to “substitute” this abstraction for the whole of physical nature, this is the raving of philosophical idealism and a mockery of science.

Materialism says that the “socially-organised experience of living beings” is a product of physical nature, a result of a long development of the latter, a development from a state of physical nature when no society, organisation, experience, or living beings existed or could have existed. Idealism says that physical nature is a product of this experience of living beings, and in saying this, idealism is equating (if not subordinating) nature to God. For God is undoubtedly a product of the socially-organised experience   of living beings. No matter from what angle you look at it, Bogdanov’s philosophy contains nothing but a reactionary muddle.

Bogdanov thinks that to speak of the social organisation of experience is “cognitive socialism” (Bk. III, p. xxxiv). This is insane twaddle. If socialism is thus regarded, the Jesuits are ardent adherents of “cognitive socialism,” for the basis of their epistemology is divinity as “socially-organised experience.” And there can be no doubt that Catholicism is a socially-organised experience; only, it reflects not objective truth (which Bogdanov denies, but which science reflects), but the exploitation of the ignorance of the masses by definite social classes.

But why speak of the Jesuits! We find Bogdanov’s “cognitive socialism” in its entirety among the immanentists, so beloved of Mach. Leclair regards nature as the consciousness of “mankind” (Der Realismus, etc., S. 55), and not of the individual. The bourgeois philosophers will serve you up any amount of such Fichtean cognitive socialism. Schuppe also emphasises das generische, das gattungsmässige Moment des Bewusstseins (Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, Bd. XVII, S. 379-80), i.e.,the general, the generic factor of consciousness. To think that philosophical idealism vanishes when the consciousness of mankind is substituted for the consciousness of the individual, or the socially-organised experience for the experience of one person, is like thinking that capitalism vanishes when one capitalist is replaced by a joint-stock company.

( Chapter Five: The Recent Revolution in Natural Science and Philosophical Idealism )

8. The Essence and Significance of “Physical” Idealism

Volume 14, page 308

But what is highly characteristic is the way the drowning man clutches at a straw, the subtle means whereby representatives of the educated bourgeoisie artificially attempt to preserve, or to find a place for, the fideism which is engendered among the masses of the people by their ignorance and their downtrodden condition, and by the wild absurdities of capitalist contradictions.

( Chapter Six: Empirio-Criticism and Historical Materialism )

4. Parties in Philosophy and Philosophical Blockheads

Volume 14, page 339


Marx and Engels were partisans in philosophy from start to finish, they were able to detect the deviations from materialism and concessions to idealism and fideism in each and every “new” tendency. They therefore appraised Huxley exclusively from the standpoint of his materialist consistency. They therefore rebuked Feuerbach for not pursuing materialism to the end, for renouncing materialism because of the errors of individual materialists, for combating religion in order to renovate it or invent a new religion, for being unable, in sociology, to rid himself of idealist phraseology and become a materialist.

* * *

J. Dietzgen had not the slightest doubt that the “scientific priestcraft” of idealist philosophy is simply the antechamber to open priestcraft. “Scientific priestcraft,” he wrote, “is seriously endeavouring to assist religious priestcraft” (op. cit., p. 51). “In particular, the sphere of epistemology, the misunderstanding of the human mind, is such a louse-hole” (Lausgrube) in which both kinds of priests “lay their eggs.” “Graduated flunkeys,” who with their talk of “ideal blessings” stultify the people by their tortuous (geschraubte) “idealism” (p. 53)—that is J. Dietzgen’s opinion of the professors of philosophy. “Just as the antipodes of the good God is the devil, so the professorial priest (Kathederpfaffen) has his opposite pole in the materialist.” The materialist theory of knowledge is “a universal weapon against religious   belief” (p. 55), and not only against the “notorious, formal and common religion of the priests, but also against the most refined, elevated professorial religion of muddled (benebelter) idealists” (p. 58).

Dietzgen was ready to prefer “religious honesty” to the “half-heartedness” of freethinking professors (p. 60), for “there at least there is a system,” there we find integral people, people who do not separate theory from practice. For the Herr Professors “philosophy is not a science, but a means of defence against Social-Democracy . . .” (p. 107). “All who call themselves philosophers, professors, and university lecturers are, despite their apparent freethinking, more or less immersed in superstition and mysticism . . . and in relation to Social-Democracy constitute a single . . . reactionary mass” (p. 108). “Now, in order to follow the true path, without being led astray by all the religious and philosophical gibberish (Welsch), it is necessary to study the falsest of all false paths (der Holzweg der Holzwege), philosophy” (p. 103).


Not a single one of these professors, who are capable of making very valuable contributions in the special fields of chemistry, history, or physics, can be trusted one iota when it comes to philosophy. Why? For the same reason that not a single professor of political economy, who may be capable of very valuable contributions in the field of factual and specialised investigations, can be trusted one iota when it comes to the general theory of political economy. For in modern society the latter is as much a partisan science as is epistemology. Taken as a whole, the professors of economics are nothing but learned   salesmen of the capitalist class, while the professors of philosophy are learned salesmen of the theologians.

The task of Marxists in both cases is to be able to master and adapt the achievements of these “salesmen” (for instance, you will not make the slightest progress in the investigation of new economic phenomena unless you have recourse to the works of these salesmen) and to be able to lop off their reactionary tendency, to pursue your own line and to combat the whole alignment of forces and classes hostile to us. And this is just what our Machians were unable to do, they slavishly follow the lead of the reactionary professorial philosophy. “Perhaps we have gone astray, but we are seeking,” wrote Lunacharsky in the name of the authors of the Studies. The trouble is that it is not you who are seeking, but you who are being sought ! You do not go with your, i.e., Marxist (for you want to be Marxists), standpoint to every change in the bourgeois philosophical fashion; the fashion comes to you, foists upon you its new surrogates got up in the idealist taste, one day à la Ostwald, the next day à la Mach, and the day after à la Poincaré. These silly “theoretical” devices (“energetics,” “elements,” “introjections,” etc.) in which you so naïvely believe are confined to a narrow and tiny school, while the ideological and social tendency of these devices is immediately spotted by the Wards, the neo-criticists, the immanentists, the Lopatins and the pragmatists, and it serves their purposes. The infatuation for empirio-criticism and “physical” idealism passes as rapidly as the infatuation for Neo-Kantianism and “physiological” idealism; but fideism takes its toll from every such infatuation and modihes its devices in a thousand ways for the benefit of philosophical idealism.

The attitude towards religion and the attitude towards natural science excellently illustrate the actual class use made of empirio-criticism by bourgeois reactionaries.

Take the first question. Do you think it is an accident that in a collective work directed against the philosophy of Marxism Lunacharsky went so far as to speak of the “deification of the higher human potentialities,” of “religious atheism,” etc.? If you do, it is only because the   Russian Machians have not informed the public correctly regarding the whole Machian current in Europe and the attitude of this current to religion. Not only is this attitude in no way similar to the attitude of Marx, Engels, J. Dietzgen and even Feuerbach, but it is the very opposite, beginning with Petzoldt’s statement to the effect that empirio-criticism “contradicts neither theism nor atheism” (Einführung in die Philosophie der reinen Erfahrung, Bd. I, S. 351), or Mach’s declaration that “religious opinion is a private affair” (French trans., p. 434), and ending with the explicit fideism, the explicitly arch-reactionary views of Cornelius, who praises Mach and whom Mach praises, of Carus and of all the immanentists. The neutrality of a philosopher in this question is in itself servility to fideism, and Mach and Avenarius, because of the very premises of their epistemology, do not and cannot rise above neutrality.

Once you deny objective reality, given us in sensation, you have already lost every one of your weapons against fideism, for you have slipped into agnosticism or subjectivism—and that is all fideism wants. If the perceptual world is objective reality, then the door is closed to every other “reality” or quasi-reality (remember that Bazarov believed the “realism” of the immanentists, who declare God to be a “real concept”). If the world is matter in motion, matter can and must be infinitely studied in the infinitely complex and detailed manifestations and ramifications of this motion, the motion of this matter; but beyond it, beyond the “physical,” external world, with which everyone is familiar, there can be nothing. And the hostility to materialism and the showers of abuse heaped on the materialists are all in the order of things in civilised and democratic Europe. All this is going on to this day. All this is being concealed from the public by the Russian Machians, who have not once attempted even simply to compare the attacks made on materialism by Mach, Avenarius, Petzoldt and Co., with the statements made in favour of materialism by Feuerbach, Marx, Engels and J. Dietzgen.

( Chapter Six: Empirio-Criticism and Historical Materialism )

5. Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mach

Volume 14, page 350

The point is that Haeckel’s philosophical naïvete, his lack of definite partisan aims, his anxiety to respect the prevailing philistine prejudice against materialism, his personal conciliatory tendencies and proposals concerning religion, all this gave the greater salience to the general spirit of his book, the ineradicability of natural-scientific materialism and its irreconcilability with all official professorial philosophy and theology. Haeckel personally does not seek a rupture with the philistines, but what he expounds with such unshakeably naïve conviction is absolutely incompatible with any of the shades of prevailing philosophical idealism. All these shades, from the crudest reactionary theories of a Hartmann, to Petzoldt, who fancies himself the latest, most progressive and advanced of the positivists, and the empirio-criticist Mach—all are agreed that natural-scientific materialism is “metaphysics,” that the recognition of an objective reality underlying the theories and conclusions of science is sheer “naïve realism,” etc. And for this doctrine, “sacred” to all professorial philosophy and theology, every page of Haeckel is a slap in the face.


Volume 14, page 357


There are four standpoints from which a Marxist must proceed to form a judgment of empirio-criticism.

First and foremost, the theoretical foundations of this philosophy must be compared with those of dialectical materialism. Such a comparison, to which the first three chapters were devoted, reveals, along the whole line of epistemological problems, the thoroughly reactionary character of empirio-criticism, which uses new artifices, terms and subtleties to disguise the old errors of idealism and agnosticism. Only utter ignorance of the nature of philosophical materialism generally and of the nature of Marx’s and Engels’ dialectical method can lead one to speak of “combining” empirio-criticism and Marxism.

Secondly, the place of empirio-criticism, as one very small school of specialists in philosophy, in relation to the other modern schools of philosophy must be determined. Both Mach and Avenarius started with Kant and, leaving him, proceeded not towards materialism, but in the opposite direction, towards Hume and Berkeley. Imagining that he was “purifying experience” generally, Avenarius was in fact only purifying agnosticism of Kantianism. The whole school of Mach and Avenarius is moving more and more definitely towards idealism, hand in hand with one of the most reactionary of the idealist schools, viz., the so-called immanentists.

Thirdly, the indubitable connection between Machism and one school in one branch of modern science must be borne in mind. The vast majority of scientists, both generally and in this special branch of science in question, viz., physics, are invariably on the side of materialism.   A minority of new physicists, however, influenced by the breakdown of old theories brought about by the great discoveries of recent years, influenced by the crisis in the new physics, which has very clearly revealed the relativity of our knowledge, have, owing to their ignorance of dialectics, slipped into idealism by way of relativism. The physical idealism in vogue today is as reactionary and transitory an infatuation as was the fashionable physiological idealism of the recent past.

Fourthly, behind the epistemological scholasticism of empirio-criticism one must not fail to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis reflects the tendencies and ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society. Recent philosophy is as partisan as was philosophy two thousand years ago. The contending parties are essentially, although it is concealed by a pseudo-erudite quackery of new terms or by a feeble-minded non-partisanship, materialism and idealism. The latter is merely a subtle, refined form of fideism, which stands fully armed, commands vast organisations and steadily continues to exercise influence on the masses, turning the slightest vacillation in philosophical thought to its own advantage. The objective, class role of empirio-criticism consists entirely in rendering faithful service to the fideists in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular.


The Vperyodists and the Vperyod Group

1914, Volume 20, pages 487-493

Machism is the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius, modified by Bogdanov. It is advocated by Bogdanov, Lunacharsky and Volsky, and is concealed in the Vperyod platform under the pseudonym of “proletarian philosophy”. In effect, this philosophy is a species of philosophical idealism, i. e., a subtle defence of religion, and it was no accident that Lunacharsky has slipped from this philosophy into advocating a blending of scientific socialism with religion. Even today, A. Bogdanov, in a number of “new” books, defends this utterly anti-Marxist and utterly reactionary philosophy, which both the Menshevik G. V. Plekhanov and the Bolshevik V. Ilyin have strongly opposed.



Karl Marx

A Brief Biographical Sketch With an Exposition of Marxism

The Marxist Doctrine



In his Ludwig Feuerbach—which expounded his own and Marx’s views on Feuerbach’s philosophy, and was sent to the printers after he had re-read an old manuscript Marx and himself had written in 1844-45 on Hegel, Feuerbach and the materialist conception of history—Engels wrote:

“The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is the relation of thinking and being... spirit to Nature... which is primary, spirit or Nature.... The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primary of spirit to Nature and, therefore, in the last instance, assumed world creation in some form or other... comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded Nature as primary, belonged to the various schools of materialism.”

Any other use of the concepts of (philosophical) idealism and materialism leads only to confusion. Marx decidedly rejected, not only idealism, which is always linked in one way or another with religion, but also the views—especially widespread in our day—of Hume and Kant, agnosticism, criticism, and positivism in their various forms; he considered that philosophy a “reactionary” concession to idealism, and at best a “shame-faced way of surreptitiously accepting materialism, while denying it before the world.”



The Collapse of the Second International

Chapter V


The Lord help us, the Lord have mercy on us! “What is a philistine?” Lassalle used to ask, and answered by quoting the words of the well-known poet: “A philistine is a gut void of everything but fear and hope that God will have mercy on him.”

Kautsky has degraded Marxism to unparalleled prostitution and has turned into a real churchman. The latter tries to persuade the capitalists to adopt peaceful democracy—and calls this dialectics: if at first, he argues, there was Free Trade, and then arrived the monopolies and imperialism, why should there not he “ultra-imperialism”, and then Free Trade again? The churchman consoles the oppressed masses by depicting the blessings this ultra-imperialism will bring, although he has not even the courage to say whether it can be “achieved"! Feuerbach was right when, in reply to those who defended religion on the ground that it consoles the people, he indicated the reactionary significance of consolation: whoever consoles the slave instead of arousing him to rise up against slavery is aiding the slaveowner.

All oppressing classes stand in need of two social functions to safeguard their rule: the function of the hangman and the function of the priest. The hangman is required to quell the protests and the indignation of the oppressed; the priest is required to console the oppressed, to depict to them the prospects of their sufferings and sacrifices being mitigated (this is particularly easy to do without guaranteeing that these prospects will be “achieved”), while preserving class rule, and thereby to reconcile them to class rule, win them away   from revolutionary action, undermine their revolutionary spirit and destroy their revolutionary determination. Kautsky has turned Marxism into a most hideous and stupid counter-revolutionary theory, into the lowest kind of clericalism.




The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War



The war cannot but evoke among the masses the most turbulent sentiments, which upset the usual sluggish state of mass mentality. Revolutionary tactics are impossible if they are not adjusted to these new turbulent sentiments.

What are the main currents of these turbulent sentiments? They are: (1) Horror and despair. Hence, a growth of religious feeling. Again the churches are crowded, the reactionaries joyfully declare. “Wherever there is suffering there is religion," says the arch-reactionary Barr s. He is right, too. (2) Hatred of the “enemy”, a sentiment that is carefully fostered by the bourgeoisie (not so much by the priests), arid is of economic and political value only to the bourgeoisie. (3) Hatred of one’s own government and one’s own bourgeoisie—the sentiment of all class-conscious workers who understand, on the one hand, that war is a “continuation of the politics” of imperialism, which they counter by a “continuation” of their hatred of their class enemy, and, on the other hand, that “a war against war” is a banal phrase unless it means a revolution against their own government. Hatred of one’s own government and one’s own bourgeoisie cannot be aroused unless their defeat is desired; one cannot be a sincere opponent of a civil (i.e., class) truce without arousing hatred of one’s own government and bourgeoisie!






I have already said that you are not likely to find another question which has been so confused, deliberately and unwittingly, by representatives of bourgeois science, philosophy, jurisprudence, political economy and journalism, as the question of the state. To this day it is very often confused with religious questions; not only those professing religious doctrines (it is quite natural to expect it of them), but even people who consider themselves free from religious prejudice, very often confuse the specific question of the state with questions of religion and endeavour to build up a doctrine—very often a complex one, with an ideological, philosophical approach and argumentation—which claims that the state is something divine, something supernatural, that it is a certain force by virtue of which mankind has lived, that it is a force of divine origin which confers on people, or can confer on people, or which brings with it something that is not of man, but is given him from without. And it must be said that this doctrine is so closely bound up with the interests of the exploiting classes—the landowners and the capitalists—so serves their interests, has so deeply permeated all the customs, views and science of the gentlemen who represent the bourgeoisie, that you will meet with vestiges of it on every hand, even in the view of the state held by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, although they are convinced that they can regard the state with sober eyes and reject indignantly the suggestion that they are under the sway of religious prejudices. This question has been so confused and complicated because it affects the interests of the ruling classes more than any other question (yielding place in this respect only to the foundations of economic science). The doctrine of the state serves to justify social privilege, the existence of exploitation, the existence of capitalism—and that is why it would be the greatest mistake to expect impartiality on this question, to approach it in the belief that people who claim to be scientific can give you a purely scientific view on the subject. In the question of the state, in the doctrine of the state, in the theory of the state, when you have become familiar with it and have gone into it deeply enough, you will always discern the struggle between different classes, a struggle which is reflected or expressed in a conflict of views on the state, in the estimate of the role and significance of the state.



Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution


Take religion, or the denial of rights to women, or the oppression and inequality of the non-Russian nationalities. These are all problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The vulgar petty-bourgeois democrats talked about them for eight months. In not a single one of the most advanced countries in the world have these questions been completely settled on bourgeois-democratic lines.





Volume 38
(Philosophical Notebooks)
1895 — 1916




(36) “Accepting the relations of private property as human and rational, political economy comes into continual contradiction with its basic premise, private property, a contradiction analogous to that of the theologian, who constantly gives a human interpretation to religious conceptions and by that very fact comes into constant conflict with his basic premise, the superhuman character of religion.

* * *

How far the sharpness of Bauer’s division into Geist
and Masse goes is evident from this phrase that
Marx attacks: “In the mass, not somewhere else, is the true
enemy of the spirit to be sought.” (121)

Marx answers this by saying that the enemies of prog-
ress are the products endowed with independent being
(verselbständigten) of the self-abasement of the mass, although
they are not ideal but material products existing in an out-
ward way. As early as 1789, Loustallot’s journal had the

Les grands ne nous paraissent grands
Que parceque nous sommes à genoux.

But in order to rise (122), says Marx, it is not enough
to do so in thought, in the idea.

“Yet Absolute Criticism has learnt from Hegel’s Phen-
at least the art of converting real objective
chains that exist outside me into merely ideal, merely sub-
chains existing merely within me, and thus of
converting all exterior palpable struggles into pure struggles
of thought.” (122)

In this way it is possible to prove, says Marx bitingly,
the pre-established harmony between Critical Criticism and
the censorship, to present the censor not as a police hangman
(Polizeischerge) but as my own personified sense of tact
and moderation.

Preoccupied with its “Geist,” Absolute Criticism does
not investigate whether the phrase, self-deception and
pithlessness (Kernlosigkeit) are not in its own empty
(windig) pretensions.

“The situation is the same with ‘progress.’ In spite of
the pretensions of ‘progress,’ continual retrogressions and
circular movements are to be observed. Far from suspecting
that the category ‘progress’ is completely empty and
abstract, Absolute Criticism is instead so ingenious as to re-
cognise ‘progress’ as being absolute, in order to explain
retrogression by assuming a ‘personal adversary’ of
progress, the mass.” (123-124)

“All communist and socialist writers proceeded from
the observation that, on the one hand, even the most
favourable brilliant deeds seemed to remain without brilliant
results, to end in trivialities, and, on the other, all progress
of the spirit
had so far been progress against the mass
of mankind
, driving it to an ever more dehumanised situation.
They therefore declared “progress” (see Fourier) to be an
inadequate abstract phrase; they assumed (see Owen, among
others) a fundamental flaw in the civilised world; that is
why they subjected the real bases of contemporary society
to incisive criticism. This communist criticism immediately
had its counterpart in practice in the movement of the
great mass, in opposition to which the previous historical
development had taken place. One must be acquainted
with the studiousness, the craving for knowledge, the moral
energy and the unceasing urge for development of the French
and English workers to be able to form an idea of the human
nobility of this movement.” (124-125)

“What a fundamental superiority over the communist
writers it is not to have traced spiritlessness, indolence,
superficiality and self-complacency to their origin but to
have denounced them morally and exposed them as the
opposite of the spirit, of progress!” (125)

“The relation between ‘spirit and mass,’ however, has
still a hidden sense, which will be completely revealed
in the course of the reasoning. We only make mention
of it here. That relation discovered by Herr Bruno is, in fact,
nothing but a critically caricatured culmination of Hegel’s
conception of history
; which, in turn, is nothing but the
speculative expression of the Christian-Germanic dogma
of the antithesis between spirit and matter, between God
and the world. This antithesis is expressed in history, in
the human world itself, in such a way that a few chosen
individuals as the active spirit stand opposed to the rest
of mankind, as the spiritless mass, as matter.” (126)

And Marx points out that Hegel’s conception of history
(Geschichtsauffassung) presupposes an abstract and
absolute spirit, the embodiment of which is the mass. Par-
allel with Hegel’s doctrine there developed in France the
theory of the Doctrinaires (126) who proclaimed the
sovereignty of reason in opposition to the sovereignty of the
people in order to exclude the mass and rule alone

Hegel is “guilty of a double half-heartedness” (127):
1) while declaring that philosophy is the being of the Abso-
lute Spirit, he does not declare this the spirit of the philo-
sophical individual; 2) he makes the Absolute Spirit the
creator of history only in appearance (nur zum Schein),
only post festum, only in consciousness.

Bruno does away with this half-heartedness; he declares
that Criticism is the Absolute Spirit and the creator of his-
tory in actual fact.

“On the one side stands the Mass, as the passive, spirit-
less, unhistorical material element of history; on the other—
the Spirit, Criticism, Herr Bruno and Co. as the active ele-
ment from which all historical action arises. The act of
the transformation of society is reduced to the brain work
of Critical Criticism.” (128)

As the first example of “the campaigns of Absolute Crit-
icism against the Mass,” Marx adduces Bruno Bauer’s
attitude to the Judenfrage, and he refers to the refutation
of Bauer in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.

“One of the chief pursuits of Absolute Criticism consists
in first bringing all questions of the day into their
right setting
. For it does not answer, of course, the real
questions—but substitutes quite different ones.... It thus
distorted the ‘Jewish question,’ too, in such a way that it
did not need to investigate political emancipation, which
is the subject-matter of that question, but could instead be
satisfied with a criticism of the Jewish religion and a des-
cription of the Christian-German state.

“This method, too, like all Absolute Criticism’s original-
ities, is the repetition of a speculative verbal trick. Spec-
philosophy, in particular Hegel’s philosophy,
must transpose all questions from the form of common
sense to the form of speculative reason and convert the
real question into a speculative one to be able to answer
it. Having distorted my questions and having, like the cate-
chism, placed its own questions into my mouth, specul
lative philosophy could, of course, again like the catechism,
have its ready answer to each of my questions.” (134-135)

In Section 2a (...“‘Criticism’ and ‘Feuerbach’—Damna-
tion of Philosophy...”)—pp. 138-142—written by Engels,
one finds Feuerbach warmly praised. In regard to “Criti-
cism’s” attacks on philosophy, its contrasting to philosophy
the actual wealth of human relations, the “immense content
of history,” the “significance of man,” etc., etc., right up
to the phrase: “the mystery of the system revealed,”
Engels says:

“But who, then, revealed the mystery of the ‘system’?
Feuerbach. Who annihilated the dialectics of concepts, the
war of the gods known to the philosophers along? Feuer-
. Who substituted for the old rubbish and for ‘infinite
self-consciousness’ not, it is true, ‘the significance of
’—as though man had another significance than that of
being man—but still ‘Man’? Feuerbach, and only Feuer-
. And he did more. Long ago he did away with the
very categories that ‘Criticism’ now wields—the ‘real
wealth of human relations, the immense content of history,
the struggle of history, the fight of the mass against the spirit,’
etc., etc.

“Once man is conceived as the essence, the basis of all
human activity and situations, only ‘Criticism’ can invent
new categories and transform man himself again into a
category and into the principle of a whole series of categories
as it is doing now. It is true that in so doing it takes the
only road to salvation that remained for frightened and
persecuted theological inhumanity. History does nothing, it
‘possesses no immense wealth,’ it ‘wages no battles.’ It is
man and not ‘history,’ real living man, that does all that, that
possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not, as it were, a person
apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history
is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. If
Absolute Criticism, after Feuerbach’s brilliant reasoning, still
dares to reproduce the old trash in a new form...” (139-140)
etc.—then, Engels says, this fact alone is sufficient to
assess the Critical naïveté, etc.

And after this, in regard to the opposition of Spirit
and “Matter” (Criticism calls the mass “matter”), Engels

“Is Absolute Criticism then not genuinely Christian-
? After the old contradiction between spiritualism

and materialism has been fought out on all sides and over-
come once for all by Feuerbach, ‘Criticism’ again makes
a basic dogma of it in its ugliest form and gives the victory
to the ‘Christian-German spirit.’” (141)

In regard to Bauer’s words: “To the extent of the prog-
ress now made by the Jews in theory, they are emancipated;
to the extent that they wish to be free, they are free” (142),
Marx says:

“From this proposition one can immediately measure
the critical gap which separates mass profane communism
and socialism from absolute socialism. The first proposition
of profane socialism rejects emancipation in mere theory
as an illusion and for real freedom it demands besides
the idealistic ‘will,’ very tangible, very material conditions.
How low ‘the Mass’ is in comparison with holy Criticism,
the Mass which considers material, practical upheavals
necessary, merely to win the time and means required
to deal with ‘theory’!” (142)

Further, (pp. 143-167), the most boring, incredibly
caviling criticism of the Literary Gazette, a sort of word
by word commentary of a “blasting” type. Absolutely noth-
ing of interest.

The end of the section ((b) The Jewish Question No. II.
pp. 142-185)—pp. 167-185 provides an interesting answer
by Marx to Bauer on the latter’s defence of his book Juden-
, which was criticised in the Deutsch-Französische
. (Marx constantly refers to the latter.) Marx here
sharply and clearly stresses the basic principles of his entire
world outlook.

“Religious questions of the day have at present a social sig-
nificance” (167)—this was already pointed out in the Deutsch-
Französische Jahrbücher
. It characterised the “real position
of Judaism in civil society today.” “Herr Bauer explains
the real Jew by the Jewish religion, instead of explaining
the mystery of the Jewish religion by the real Jew.” (167-168)

Herr Bauer does not suspect “that real, worldly Judaism,
and hence religious Judaism too, is being continually pro-
duced by present-day civil life and finds its final develop-
ment in the money system.”

It was pointed out in the Deutsch-Französische Jahr-
that the development of Judaism has to be sought
“in der kommerziellen und industriellen Praxis”(169),
—that practical Judaism “vollendete Praxis der christlichen
Welt selber ist.”(169)

“It was proved that the task of abolishing the essence
of Judaism is in truth the task of abolishing Judaism in
civil society
, abolishing the inhumanity of the present-day
practice of life, the summit of which is the money system.
” (169)

In demanding freedom, the Jew demands something
that in no way contradicts political freedom (172)—it is
a question of political freedom.

“Herr Bauer was shown that it is by no means contrary
to political emancipation to divide man into the non-re-
ligious citizen and the religious private individual.” (172)

And immediately following the above:

“He was shown that as the state emancipates itself from
religion by emancipating itself from state religion and
leaving religion to itself within civil society, so the indi-
vidual emancipates himself politically from religion by re-
garding it no longer as a public matter but as a private
. Finally, it was shown that the terroristic attitude
of the French Revolution to religion, far from refuting this
conception, bears it out.” (172)

The Jews desire allgemeine Menschenrechte.

“In the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher it was
expounded to Herr Bauer that this ‘free humanity’ and
the ‘recognition’ of it are nothing but the recognition of the
selfish, civil individual and of the uncurbed movement
of the spiritual and material elements which are the content
of his life situation, the content of civil life today; that the
Rights of Man do not, therefore, free man from religion
but give him freedom of religion; that they do not free
him from property, but procure for him freedom of prop-
; that they do not free him from the filth of gain but give
him freedom of choice of a livelihood.

“He was shown that the recognition of the Rights
of Man by the modern state
means nothing more than
did the recognition of slavery by the ancient state. In
fact, just as the ancient state had slavery as its natural
, the modern state has civil society and the man of
civil society, i.e., the independent man connected with
other men only by the ties of private interest and uncon-
natural necessity, the slave of labour for gain and
of his own as well as other men’s selfish need. The mo-
dern state has recognised this as its natural basis as
such in the universal Rights of Man.”(175)

“The Jew has all the more right to the recognition of
his ‘free humanity’” “as ‘free civil society’ is of a thoroughly
commercial and Jewish nature and the Jew is a necessary
link in it.” (176)

That the “Rights of Man” are not inborn, but arose histor-
ically, was known already to Hegel. (176)

Pointing out the contradictions of constitutionalism,
“Criticism” does not generalise them (faßt nicht den allge-
meinen Widerspruch des Constitutionalismus). (177-178)
If it had done so, it would have proceeded from constitu-
tional monarchy to the democratic representative state,
to the perfect modern state. (178)

Industrial activity is not abolished by the abolition
of privileges (of the guilds, corporations, etc.); on the con-
trary it develops more strongly. Property in land is not
abolished by the abolition of privileges of landownership,
“but, rather, first begins its universal movement with the
abolition of its privileges and through the free division
and free alienation of land.” (180)

Trade is not abolished by the abolition of trade privileges
but only then does it become genuinely free trade, so also

with religion, “so religion develops in its practical univer-
sality only where there is no privileged religion (one calls
to mind the North American States).”

...“Precisely the slavery of bourgeois society is in ap-
the greatest freedom....” (181)

To the dissolution (Auflösung) (182) of the political
existence of religion (the abolition of the state church),
of property (the abolition of the property qualification
for electors), etc.—corresponds their “most vigorous life,
which now obeys its own laws undisturbed and develops
into its full scope.”

Anarchy is the law of bourgeois society emancipated
from privileges. (182-183)