In Defence of Materialism - PDF by Georgi Plekhanov

In Defence of Materialism

In Defence of Materialism


The particular form into which Plekhanov’s book, On the Question of the Development of the Monist Theory of History, was cast, and the very great part it played in the history of Russian philosophical thought and political struggles, can best be understood against the background of the remarkable life of its author. George Valentinovich Plekhanov was born in 1856— the year which saw the end of the Crimean War, that final and most shattering exposure of the system of serfdom upon which Tsarist Russia still reposed. 

His father owned a small estate by Russian standards— some 500 acres—and was noted both for his efforts to introduce modern agricultural methods and for the ruthless treatment of his serfs, up to the Emancipation Law of 1861. On the death of the elder Plekhanov in 1873, the peasants asked his widow to sell them the land on which they and their serf forefathers had worked. 

The higher price offered by a rich merchant, however, tempted her, and she hesitated. But young George, distinguished by his democratic sympathies and his resolute character, intervened. “If you don’t sell to the peasants, I will set fire to the crop after th^ first harvest, and go to penal servitude,” he warned her. He had his way. At that time, capitalist industry in Russia was still in its infancy: but the propertyless or proletarian labour for its future development was rapidly coming into existence. 

The poorest peasants in many parts of Russia, after their personal emancipation in 1861, were being “emancipated” from the land by the rapid developmej^t of capitalist relations in the countryside. To the already hateful oppression of the Tsarist State was now added a new and increasing source of misery for the people —guarded, moreover, by a constantly expanding police and military machine. Moreover, the coming of capitalism brought with it the break-up of the primitive village homes—which still periodically redistributed peasant land according to family needs—or its transformation into “a convenient means of masking the dominance of the kulaks and an inexpensive instrument in the hands of the Tsarist government for the collection of taxes from the peasants” {flistory of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, English edition, 1939, pp. 13-14).

 All Russia’s best and most generous minds had for over a generation been in revolt against Tsardom. University youth in particular (as in all modem countries saddled with a feudal regime or its equivalent —colonial status) were drawn ceaselessly into the secret activity of all kinds which would have been perfectly legal in a more civilised regime—^reading prohibited books, issuing leaflets criticising authority, teaching ^ peasants and workmen to read. 

It was, however, proclaimed “subversive” and “revolutionary” by the authorities, who feared that any relaxation of policy rule would open the door to a popular rising. It was in these conditions that George Plekhanov, after six years at the Voronezh Military Secondary School and a year at a military college, entered the Mining Institute at St. Petersburg in 1874, filled already with a sense of the profound injustices from which the Russian peasantry was suffering.

Translator’s Introduction ... 7
I. French Materialism of the Eighteenth Century ...... 27
II. French Historians of the Restoration. 38
The Origin of Property Relations {p, 45)
III. The Utopian Socialists . . . -54
Law in Nature {p, 59); The Russian Utopians (j&. 66);
Government and Economic Conditions {p, 73); The
Utopians and History {p, 79); Biologicd Analogies
{p. 84).
IV. Idealist German Philosophy . . -91
Hegel’s Triad {p, 99); Engels and Natural Science
{p, 108); Rousseau, Engels and Mikhailovsky {p, 114);
Freedom and Necessity {p. 121); Whence Gome Social
Relations? {p, 130).
V. Modern Materialism . . . .138
The Historical Theory of Marx (/>. 146); The Develop¬
ment of Productive Forces {p, 153); Scientists and
Marxism {p. 159); How Private Property Arose {p,
 167)5 More on Freedom and Necessity (176); Pro¬
ductive Forces and Man’s Institutions {p. 179); One¬
sidedness? {p, 187); Ideology (193); Influence oi
Environment upon Nations {p, 202); Dialectics in In¬
tellectual Development {p. 207); The Individual and
His Ideals [p, 215); Marx and Darwin {p, 224);
Mikhailovsky on “Economic Materialism” {p, 231);
Man’s Conquest of Necessity {p, 240); Marxism:
Prophecy or Science? {p. 248).
Conclusion ...... 256
Was Capitalism Inevitable in Russia? {p, 261); Ideals
and Reality {p. 268); German Utopians in 1840 {p.
276). '
Appendix.. 290
Index ....... 299

the book details :
  • Author: Georgi Plekhanov
  • Publication date: 1947

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