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Source: PRAXISInternational(PRAXISInternational),issue:1/1986,pages:95110,

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Mojmir Krizan The concept of essence has undergone a change in meaning throughout history, and is still controversial. Before its dialectization by Hegel it referred as a rule to a more or less concealed dimension of reality, inaccessible to sensual perception, to which was nevertheless, or perhaps just because of that, ascribed a higher ontological and cognitional status. There were various reasons for postulating such a hidden dimension: The pre-Socratic natural philosophers Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes searched for the primary matter within objects. Plato sought behind the changing perceivable world the unchangeable world of ideas as archetypes of real things. Intending to find the key for developing the only possible systematic classification of phenomena, Aristotle looked for the invariability, originality and independence of the substratum of objects. It was also he who developed the concept of substance, as the independently existing carrier of all changeable qualities the accidentals. Scholastic thinking took over both concepts and interpreted them in a metaphysical way. In spite of the critique of these concepts from a nominalist and, later on, a positivist standpoint, during the 19th century the essentialist way of thinking underwent a revival at the level of social theory and the philosophy of history in the work of Hegel and Marx. The dogmatized marxism of the 20th century has assigned a practical-political function to this mode of thinking: the function of ideological legitimation of the communist one party rule. The aim of the following study is to reconstruct the forms and genesis of an ideologized essentialism and of the political application of the essentialist way of thinking in the societies mentioned. In the work of Kant, the problem of essence1 is inseparably connected with his distinguishing the phenomenal from the noumenal world. He differentiated among appearances, sensual essences (Sinnenwesen, phaenomena), logical essences, which can be recognised as the first Grundbegriff aller notwendigen Merkmale eines Dinges (esse conceptus)2 by dissecting the concept while abstracting from all its contents, essence of understanding (Verstandeswesen, Gedankenwesen, noumena), which a human being is unable to know anything definite about because they refer solely to objects of possible experience and beyond it have no meaning,3 and the real or natural essences of things (esse rei), for the cognition of which one would have to know those predicates on which depends everything that belongs to their existence. Thus, essences of understanding are products of attempts made by reason overestimating its own capabilities, going beyond its limits, i.e., advancing into the world of things in themselves (Ding an sich); they are therefore hyperbolische Objekte.4 By an inner motivation, reason is driven to ascertain the real
Praxis International 6:1 April 1986 0260-8448

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essences, but due to its inherent limitation it has to renounce this project: the world of things in themselves remains closed to it. Consequently, Kant banishes the traditional, rationalistically founded essentialism into the sphere of speculation, yet within the frame and at the price of its dualistic ontology. G. W. F. Hegels work on overcoming Kants dualism leads to the necessity of once more discussing the concept of essence.5 He dialectizes the concept in order to show that it is not outside the totality amenable for conceptualisation. The following elements from his theory on essence should be emphasized: 1. In his discussion of Kants philosophy, Hegel objects to transcendental idealism in that it does not succeed in overcoming the limitation of the subject by the objects, which contradicts the principle of freedom according to which the subject knows itself to be the indefinite and the general and lets things have manifold specifications.6 In order to prove the perceptibility of a thing in itself, Hegel proceeds from existence itself, from the thing in itself as something immediately existing. Such existing things exist in relation to each other, they are the unity of reflexion-in-other-things and reflexion-inthemselves. The unessential external reflexions turn out to be properties which are their definite relations to other things. The thing-in-itself is the fundament of these properties; through these properties it acquires its identity, it is conditioned by the external reflexion. That is, the qualities do not differ from their fundament; through them the fundament is reflected in itself and identifies itself with them.7 2. Essence is related to existence as internal to external, which together form an object. They are specifications of reflexion (Reflexionsbestimmungen) which refer to each other: the internal as a form of reflexion-in-itself, of the essentiality, the external as the form of immediateness or inessentiality, which is reflected in other things. As a result they constitute a totality, in which they appear as identity: Das ussere ist daher frs erste derselbe Inhalt als das Innere. Was innerlich ist, ist auch usserlich vorhanden und umgekehrt; die Erscheinung zeigt nichts, was nicht im Wesen ist, und im Wesen ist nichts, was nicht manifestiert ist.8 The essence is the existence of the appearance,9 which synthesise together, as the internal and the external, forming absolute reality: Die Wirklichkeit ist die Einheit des Wesens und der Existenz; in ihr hat das gestaltlose Wesen und die haltlose Erscheinung oder das bestimmungslose Bestehen und die bestandlose Mannigfaltigkeit ihre Wahrheit.10 3 . This identity of essence and being, of internal and external, is valid also for humans: external acts cannot be opposed to internal intentions and convictions.11 4. The essence mediates between being and concept.12 The latter can be seen as the third moment, the basis and truth of being and essence as moments of becoming, as the identity in which they sink and in which they are contained.13 Essence is the first negation of being, which becomes deception (Schein). The concept is the negation of the negation, also das wiederhergestellte Sein, aber als die unendliche Vermittlung und Negativitt desselben in sich selbst.14 Being cannot be contrasted to the concept, it is only a specification of the concept which is mediating itself to itself, and is the whole and the totality.

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When the concept is different from being, it is subjective and therefore inadequate. By objectivising itself through its activity, it engenders its own existence.15 In the process of the work of conceptualisation,, the concept develops unconditionally the truth, recognises it as such and understands its necessity.16 With that the concept proves itself to be the truth of being and essence, which goes back to it as their fundament.17 This process of conceptualisation lets the thing in itself finally disappear: . . . der Begriff, wozu auch das von ihm ausgehende Urteil gehrt, ist das wahrhafte Ding-an-sich oder das Vernnftige. . . . 18 Thus, Hegelian dialectical philosophy succeeds in demonstrating the untenability of the Kantian concept of the thing-in-itself. Being and essence, the external and the internal, are equally accessible to the concept moving through the mediations of its object. It is not possible to maintain their different accessibility in the context of the philosophy of identity, where they are only moments of the concept. It is even less possible to put them in contradiction of one another, to consider as possible the knowledge of one without that of the other, or the knowledge of the essence as more valuable than that of the being. Hegel avoids evaluating single moments of historical development: he speaks about good and evil only in the sense of a morality at the subjective level. The concept and reality, originally disunited in the idea of knowledge and the good, are again identified through the activity of objective conceptualisation, whereby external reality is changed, and is set as being-in-and-for-itself. Thus the necessity of realising the good through subjective activity is sublated (aufgehoben), because reality is determined as the effected absolute purpose, as the objective world whose internal foundation and existence is the concept.19 Karl Marx is, in contrast, a social-ontological dualist and an axiological manichaean. He sees history as a struggle between the progressive suppressed classes, and, at least at some stage in the development of society, the ruling classes as inhibiting this progress. In other words, the Marxian social ontology has the structure of a philosophy of history, whose finality delivers the criteria for the differentiation of the essential and unessential historical actors and developmental tendencies, as well as for such an evaluation of these elements, which makes the class struggle, especially that between the proletariat and the bourgeois, appear as a manichaean struggle between good and evil. The best known example of Marxs concept of the difference between appearance and essence is his argument in Das Kapital in the context of his critique of bourgeois political economy or Vulgroekonomie, as he repeatedly writes. The Vulgroekonomie stays on the surface, and puts up with categories which depict the wesentlichen Verhltnisse in an incorrect manner; it does not penetrate to the essence, which is perversely represented in the appearance, but remains contemplative, undialectical and impractical.20 Thus essence and appearance are opposites. The concept does not try to establish their identity as moments of itself, but is primarily concerned with the search for the essence hidden behind appearance, for the internal behind the external. It furnishes only this essence with the attribute of truth. Essence


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is not, as with Hegel, the existence of appearance; the latter does not synthesise essence to reality,, the objective dimension of the concept. On the contrary, it remains hidden. The real relationship is invisible behind the appearance as its opposition, which is responsible for mystifications and illusions of the Vulgroekonomie.21 In particular, the members of the capitalist class are unable to comprehend the internal essence and configuration of the process of reproduction of capitalist society.22 The function of science is to make its way to the essence by breaking through the obliqueness of appearances and thereby bridging the discrepancy between appearance and essence. The described relationship between appearance and essence is characteristic not only for capitalist society and the Vulgroekonomie, but is generally valid: Dass in der Erscheinung die Dinge sich oft verkehrt darstellen, ist ziemlich in allen Wissenschaften bekannt, ausser in der politischen Oekonomie.23 brigens gilt von der Erscheinungsform Wert und Preis der Arbeit oder Arbeitslohn, im Unterschied zum wesentlichen Verhltnis, welches erscheint, dem Wert und Preis der Arbeitskraft, dasselbe, was von allen Erscheinungsformen und ihrem verborgnen Hintergrund. Die ersteren reproduzieren sich unmittelbar spontan, als gang und gbe Denkformen, der andre muss durch die Wissenschaft erst entdeckt werden.24 A further example of Marxian essentialism is the anthropology developed in his early writings. The common denominator of the five forms of alienation analysed in these works25 is the alienation of man from himself as generic being, his self-alienation. Only in relation to himself as living genus (Gattung), and to the genus of the remaining things, man behaves as a universal and free generic being.26 The alienated existence of man, as self-alienation, is therefore nothing else but his alienation from his essence. Since this existence is a physical one, in order to maintain itself the whole activity of life must be subordinated to it.27 However, this essentialist anthropology is not founded on natural philosophy and is therefore not static in relation to the history of mankind. Rather, it is anchored in Marxs optimistically oriented philosophy of history: the essence of man consists of his practical participation in the process of his liberation and universalisation through the realisation of communism, in which the universality and the creative character of bourgeois society become the forms of existence of the individual. Historical development results in certain social conditions, which are decisive for the formation of the personality structures of man brought up under them, and therefore also for his historically relevant activity. So formed, mans essence can therefore be recognised only by examination of the results and potentialities of this activity, i.e., the laws of the development of history. In developed bourgeois society these laws indicate the possibility and the necessity of revolution for the purpose of the development and realisation of human essence, recognised as the anthropological dimension of this historical process. Alienation from generic being is the philosophical-anthropological-aspect of the social conditions of developed capitalism: the latter creates needs, abilities, requirements and potentials in man, which cannot be wholly, or sufficiently, realised in its framework. This internal discord of the individual is a manifestation of

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the historically formed discord of social relationships. The tendency of historical development of these relationships is to universalise man on the level of the global society and to develop his individuality and autonomy in this consists his generic being as postulated by the philosophy of history. As a consequence of this, Marx understood by human essence vor allem jene Wesenszge der wirklichen Menschengeschichte (verstanden), die es ermglichen, die Geschichte als einheitlichen Prozess mit bestimmter Richtung und Entwicklungstendenzen aufzufassen, d. h. kognitiv zu rekonstruieren und aktiv-praktisch fortzubilden. Die Universalitt und (. . . ) die Freiheit des Menschen geben die allgemeine Richtung des menschlich historischen Entwicklungsprozesses an.28 Thus, the essence of man is in harmony with the essence of the law of historical development, which Marxs critique of political economy reveals behind Vulgroekonomie. So Marxs essentialism, based on his philosophy of history, equates the concept of essence with the elements of finality in his social ontology: these essentials are bound up with his viewpoint of the ultimate goals of history. He developed this concept of essence early in his work by postulating the existence of ultimate goals in the history of humanity. The evaluations contained in his earlier work spurred his later sociological and economical research, which aimed at an empirical confirmation of his theory of history and revolution, arising from his philosophical viewpoint. Among the data and theories accessible to him, he depicted those which confirmed his theories as essential. The essentialism of the philosophy of history, resting on the social-ontological dichotomy of causality and finality, gradually became thereby the essentialism of the theory of knowledge, based on the dichotomy true-false, without Marx ever having clearly differentiated between them. This logical transformation of the character of Marxs essentialism corresponds to the temporal development of his writings. Both together made it possible for him to declare his philosophy of history to be a science. Although Marx never stated it explicitly, an axiological analysis of his work easily proves that he gave the greatest importance to the essential dimension of man and his social relationships, including their potential for development towards communism, evaluating them higher than other potentials. This becomes clear both from the value-content of his terminology, and from the whole philosophical-historical construction of human history, viewed as a process of the search for freedom and the sublating (Aufhebung) of alienation. Marxist political practice also suggests the same conclusion. In other words, his philosophy of history, the essential potentialities of man and society, the subjects of history as guarantors of the realisation of philosophical-historical projections of the future, the political activity contributing to this, as well as the search for knowledge which advances to this essence, were valued by Marx more highly than other philosophies of history, sociological and anthropological analyses and political programs, which stay on the level of appearance. One must therefore attribute a petitio principii to Marx and Marxists, which refers to the structure of their historical-philosophical reconstruction of world history: Does the normative (regulative) or the cognitive element have priority? Marx does not succeed in bridging the hiatus between a value-


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oriented praxis and a historical necessity, between essence and appearance, between reality and possibility. He does not try to clarify these differences theoretically, to create a solid starting point for political praxis. The norm, which is declared to be necessity, the essence which contradicts the appearance, both axiologically and descriptive-analytically, reveals a lack of theoretical caution concerning possible deformations of the theory taking into consideration the political praxis which can be derived from it; the former therefore contain a high potential for ideologisation.29 The optimistic essentialist anthropology numbs the consciousness of the dangers and the possible negative developments on the level of appearances, i.e., the real historical existence of man, because it suggests the unavoidability of a certain direction of historical development. In concrete: Directly as a consequence the development of raw, thoughtless and despotic communism is made easier. This is the communism of which Marx speaks in his early writings,30 without bringing it in connection with the generic being of man, because he sees in it the generalisation and most consequent expression of private property as of the alienated social relationship and of the existence of the bourgeois individual. The unclear differentiation between norm and necessity enables the followers of Marxs teaching to declare this political praxis to be historically necessary, and each historical-philosophical Utopian speculation to be science. The ballast of meaning of the concept of essence, which even Hegel could not eliminate, its antithesis to the level of appearance, makes easier the separation of social theory from experience, its immunisation from the latter.31 Because essence is hidden behind appearance, its recognition is clouded with difficulty, which must have a selective effect on the group which tries to recognise it. Because of this it becomes possible for an intellectual elite to appear on the political scene, which can claim to have recognised the essence, and therefore the whole historical-philosophical construction. Because this recognition has a higher cognitive value, so also the existence, the action and the function of this elite has a higher social value. Thereby, the claim of the elite to constitute a vanguard can be legitimized. All of these potentials for ideologisation have been realised in the Eastern European socialist movements, and have led to a social formation which calls itself real existing socialism. The first and most important step on this road was made by V. I. Lenin. In his most important writing concerned with the theory of knowledge, Materialism and Empiriocriticism, Lenin analyses Kants concept of the thing-in-itself . He implicitly identifies incorrectly the unknowable thingin-itself with the unknown and concludes, that no thing in-itself can exist, or, in other words, it must be knowable.32 Thereby, the road is free for his acceptance of Marxs essentialism. The dynamic character of advancing towards essence and the relative character of the discovered essence (or substance) are especially stressed in Lenins analysis of Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik; the task of dialectics is to advance to ever deeper levels of essence. Dialectics is an infinite process of deepening the knowledge of a thing, of appearances, processes etc. by man, from the appearances towards the essence and from a less deep towards a deeper essence. Human thinking plunges

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incessantly from appearance towards essence, from an essence, so to say, of the first order towards an essence of the second order, an so on, without end. In the proper sense, dialectics is the examination of the contradiction in the essence of the things themselves . . ..33 In his search for essence, the dialectician finds laws: . . . the concept of law is one of the steps of the recognition by man of the unity and the interrelationships, the mutual dependence and the totality of the world process. The law is the essential appearance. The law is the reflection of the essential in the movement of the universe.34 Although in the context of his interpretation of Hegel, Lenin is unable to construct an unsurmountable opposition between essence and appearance, the thinkerdialectician using dialectical methods moves quasi per definitionem in the sphere of the essential and thereby comes across the law which reflects the essence of the world process, and this seems to me to be a legitimate conclusion also of the process of the history of mankind. Thereby, the essentialist dignity of the thinking of the dialectician Lenin is guaranteed. The first consequence of this dignity is the reinterpretation of Marxs theory of class struggle in the sense of an elite theory: the adherents to the socialist teaching and movement are not workers, it is the intelligentsia who steps into their place as the historical subject, leads them towards socialism and prevents, thereby, that the spontaneous development of the workers movement results in its subordination under the bourgeois ideology:35 The political class consciousness can be implanted into the worker only from outside, that is from a region outside of the economic struggle, outside of the sphere of the relationships between the workers and the entrepreneurs.36 Thereby, the leading role of intellectuals organized in the social-democratic party is ideologically legitimized. The party leads, as avantgarde, the proletariat to revolution, which results in the overthrow of bourgeois rule and thereby frees the way for the political rule, the dictatorship of the proletariat. This dictatorship is . . . in a new way democratic (for the proletariat and generally for the unpropertied) and in a new way dictatorial (against the bourgeoisie).37 But what happens if the party fails to completely eliminate the trade-unionistic consciousness of the workers, i.e., when it is impossible to maintain that under the dictatorship of the proletariat only a minority is suppressed by the majority? To a similar question asked by the German communists, Lenin apodictically answered: the party has the ability to bind itself to the working masses and in fact, to a certain extent, to fuse with them, so that such a question becomes pointless.38 Where does Lenins theoretical self-assurance and confidence, that the boundaries between the leadership, party, class and mass can be obliterated, or indeed are meaningless, come from? It is based on the conviction of knowing the essence of this relationship. The social reality and the backward trade-unionistic consciousness must make way for the higher dignity, the higher truth content and therefore the higher historical relevance of the dialectical recognition of essence: . . . because the truth is on our side . . . , . . . because our propaganda always said and says the truth to workers and farmers in the whole world, whereas all other propaganda deceives them.39 Certainly the axiological dimension of the essentialism is, also implicitly,


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present in Lenin: the truth of his social theory and the political praxis of the party derived from it are valued more highly than the theories of all other, socialist or non-socialist, parties; without a trace of relativism or self-doubt. Later on, what I shall call this essentialist intolerance is extended to include factions inside the bolshevik party. From this intolerance follows the special character of the ethics of bolshevik forms and techniques of rule. Similarly to Lenin, Trotzkys attempt to justify the leading role of the party relies on the conviction that the party is in possession of a privileged knowledge; from which, in the name of the proletariat, it draws practical conclusions: the party is the organised class-consciousness and the organised class-will40 of the proletariat. As early as 1904, he saw the danger of the development of a party-dictatorship and draws attention to it in the framework of his critique of the tendency to substitutional action within the party: In the internal politics of the party these methods lead ... to the replacement of the party by the party organisation, of the party organisation by the central committee and finally of the central committee by a dictator.41 Fifteen years later and at the peak of his power, he nevertheless claims the identity of dictatorship of the party and of the class: The general leadership is concentrated in the hands of the party. It doesnt rule directly, because its apparatus is not suitable for this. But in all fundamental questions the decisive word belongs to it. . . . The extraordinary role of the Communist Party in the victorious proletarian revolution is completely understandable. As a matter of fact, it is the dictatorship of class. . . . The revolutionary rule of the proletariat has as a precondition in the proletariat itself the political rule of a party with a clear program of action and an invulnerable internal discipline.42 Somewhat later Trotzky is more explicit: In this substitution of the power of the party in place of the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and essentially there is no substitution present at all. The communists express the fundamental interests of the working class.43 Dictatorship of the proletariat means in its innermost essence the direct rule of the revolutionary vanguard, who relies on the heavy masses and in the case of necessity forces its end lagging behind to conform with the head.44 These quotations indicate not only that Trotzkys style of thinking hardly differs from that of Lenin, but also illustrate his loose usage of the concept of essence in cases where reality clearly contradicts the ideological statement and can be built into the ideological-theoretical construction only by declaring its exact opposite to its essence, and itself to an irrelevant appearance. With the growing need for legitimation of the rule of the communist party, as well as with the lowering of the average educational level of the party membership, especially in the fields of philosophy and social theory, the use of this essentialist trick is extended to a general unreflected praxis. It is doubtless symptomatic that Lukcs, the theoretician who tried to argue simultaneously on a high theoretical level and to further develop marxism in Lenins sense, saw himself forced (in his studies of marxist dialectics which contain a philosophical foundation for the rule of the communist party)45 to go back to Marxs essentialism, although he also reflected upon Hegels dialectics. Wenn also die Tatsachen richtig erfasst werden sollen, so muss vorerst

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dieser Unterschied zwischen ihrer realen Existenz und ihrer inneren Kerngestalt, zwischen den ber sie gebildeten Vorstellungen und ihren Begriffen klar und genau erfasst werden. Diese Unterscheidung ist die erste Voraussetzung einer wirklich wissenschaftlichen Betrachtung, die nach Marxs Worten berflssig wre, wenn die Erscheinungsform und das Wesen der Dinge unmittelbar zusammenfielen. Es kommt deshalb darauf an, die Erscheinungen einerseits aus dieser ihrer unmittelbaren Gegebenheitsform herauszulsen, die Vermittlungen zu finden, durch die sie auf ihren Kern, auf ihr Wesen bezogen und in ihm begriffen werden knnen und andererseits das Verstndnis dieses ihres Erscheinungscharakters, ihres Scheins als ihrer notwendigen Erscheinungsform zu erlangen.46 The proletariat as a subject with the character of totality is the possessor of a latent class consciousness, which becomes effective only when the historical process categorically requires the action of the proletariat. Therefore Lukcs speaks of an imputed consciousness: Die rationell angemessene Reaktion nun, die auf diese Weise einer bestimmten typischen Lage im Produktionsprozess zugerechnet wird, ist das Klassenbewusstsein. Dieses Bewusstsein ist also weder die Summe noch der Durchschnitt dessen, was die einzelnen Individuen, die die Klasse bilden, denken, empfinden usw. Und doch wird das geschichtlich bedeutsame Handeln der Klasse als Totalitt letzthin von diesem Bewusstsein und nicht vom Denken usw. des Einzelnen bestimmt und ist nur aus diesem Bewusstsein erkennbar.47 The conclusion from such an argument can only be that during the phases of latency of its imputed political consciousness the proletariat requires the party as the social carrier of this consciousness. The party has to play an elevated role as: Trgerin des Klassenbewusstseins des Proletariats, Gewissen seiner geschichtlichen Sendung zu sein.48 Historical dialectics can be considered as an incessant struggle for truth, the result of which enables human beings to climb to progressively higher levels of self-knowledge. In this struggle the party has progressed the most. Since the (imputed) proletarian consciousness is able to reach the essence of the driving social forces,49 the party is in possession of this deeper truth, and therefore the carrier of the true action and the essential historical movement. Although J. V. Stalin uses the concept of essence more often than Lenin, his thinking is neither dialectical nor essentialist. He does not work out the difference between the surface, the level of appearance, and the hidden essence of the examined objects, not even in the form of the statement that the essence = truth beneath the surface of appearance which plainly contradicts experience. The hiatus between social praxis and the content of ideology had in the meantime become so great that attempts to approach and mediate them, in whatever form, would have delegitimising effects. Theory is here pure ideology in the worst sense of the word, a doctrine about politically correct thinking independent from any experience. Stalins writings have, therefore, the form of a system of apodictical statements and definitions, which are bound together in a more or less logical system and try to legitimize themselves through a great number of quotations from Lenin (taken out of context), as apodictic and interpreted as definitions. In other words: the hiatus from social experience is so large that Stalin can and must, on the one hand, simply define the truth about social conditions, the role of the party,


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the goals of social development, and the tasks of single social groups dependent on this development etc., and, on the other, rule by means of terror. Thereby, a stage of complete immunization of ideology and propaganda from experience, is reached: ideology does not try to interpret reality but is completely resistant to it and, therefore, able to withdraw from it. Ideology can then become a construction which is far removed from reality and which in foreign policy has a propagandistic function and in domestic policy that of a criterion of subjugation. One example of this relationship of theory and praxis is the Soviet Constitution of 5.12.1936, laid down in the middle of the period of the Great Purge and praised by Stalin as the only through and through democratic constitution in the world.50 It is characteristic here, that the distance of Stalins statements from experience frees him from distinguishing the cognitive and normative dimensions. The absolute truth emanating from his pen (or the pen of his ghostwriter) stands above such a differentiation, because it announces the necessity before which reality has to retreat. This is valid both of his theory of the party51 and also for the laws of his economic theory, in which are reflected the laws of the processes of economic life independent of our will,52 which are, however, either so abstractly formulated that they are not operationalizable or directly contradict experience. A concrete example of the origin of the transcendence of experience by Leninist-Stalinist ideology can be offered which at the same time reveals the political applicability of this ideology. Marxs procedure for the critique of ideology consists of two steps: first at the level of critique of knowledge, in which the scientific untenability of a theory has to be proven, and second, at the level of social psychology, in which this untenability has to be explained in terms of the social position and special interests of the group supporting it: science had priority over the sociology of knowledge. This binding of the knowledge of truth (founded in the sociology of knowledge) to a certain social group facilitated the formation of a simple correspondence between the opposition, at the level of theory of knowledge, of appearance versus essence (i.e. truth), and the sociological opposition of the non-proletarian classes versus the proletariat (i.e. its avantgarde). This correspondence and Stalins non-scientific and apodictic method of theory construction which removed theory from the test of experience, made it easy for him to interchange the sequence of the two steps and form them into simple assertions. He decided (to be sure not on the base of sociology of knowledge, but according to actual political needs), whether an ideal is bourgeois or proletarian, in order to draw conclusions about its falsehood or indeed truth, correctness, and progressiveness.53 Although the earlier bolshevik theoreticians made only cautious use of essentialistic terminology, essentialism nonetheless became a functionally decisive element in the later development of the canonized ideology of dialectical and historical materialism. Dialectical materialism sees in the laws of the motion of matter necessary relationships which result from its essence, the internal nature of things, phenomena and processes. By essence we understand internal invariable relationships. Essence stands as the internal in

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opposition to the external, variable side of reality.54 The general and the necessary are not immediately accessible to the senses. In the process of the progressive cognition of essence one advances to deeper and deeper levels: the essence of the first, second and so on, order.55 Through this process, cognition does not remain imperfect in the sense of not sufficiently grasping the essence of a given region of reality. However, the evolution of this reality compels it to strive permanently for further development and greater precision. Since materialism sees matter as the origin of things, it concludes on the level of social science that the way of production of material goods determines an entire social and spiritual development. In accord with Marx, the former as base is contrasted to the latter as superstructure. The superstructure is understood as a reflection of the base without regard to the contradicting statements of Engels,56 and the claim of the party to a leading role in the economic sphere. Although the base-superstructure relationship is not explicitly characterised as that of essence and appearance, but rather subsumed under the dichotomy of content-form,57 the latter is invested with similar gnoseological and axiological connotations, as in the case of the dichotomy essence-appearance. This is a consequence of the ambigious use of the content-form dichotomy: it denotes both relationships of reflection and the relation of internal properties of the external form of a thing. That is to say, its meaning as the internal, content encompasses the essence of a thing, i.e., its fundamental and necessary properties.58 While Marx understands the base-superstructure relationship as analogous to that between being and consciousness,59 here it is transferred to the level of the dichotomy of essence and appearance, and dedialectized in the sense of a mirroring determination of the superstructure by the base. All of this conjuring of materialism and the priority of production as base, does not motivate the Leninist-Stalinist ideology to reverse its tendency to immunize and distance theory from an experiencable social reality. In the relation of this ideology to its own society, the essentialization of the base is not taken as motive for an empirical examination of the real means of production, because then conclusions could be drawn about the character of the superstructure which would question its avantgardistic elements. The procedure is exactly the opposite: ideology and institutions as elements of the superstructure built up by the party, are related (as a mirror image of a deeper layer of the base) to its essential content, as to so speak, the essence of the essence. In exactly the same way as an essential consciousness is imputed to the proletariat, the character of the way of production and the class position of the proletariat are defined a priori. Exactly the opposite is the procedure of the critique of bourgeois society: class contradictions and exploitation in the sphere of production are declared to be an essential definition of bourgeois institutions. Thereby, not only is bourgeois democracy reduced to a merely formal affair and the political freedoms of citizens to mere deception, but a marxist immanent critique of bourgeois society, proceeding from its own ideals and goals carried in its superstructure, is made impossible. It therefore belongs to the essence of the


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bourgeois state apparatus, that it represents the interests of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, the monopoly capital. Thereby it is not essential, in which form of government the bourgeoisie exercises its political power, whether in the form of a constitutional monarchy, a republic etc., which of the bourgeois parties happens to form the government, which persons happen to hold the highest positions of power etc.60 Apart from these elements of the indirect legitimation of power, this ideology seeks to legitimize party rule both positively and directly. The most important features of this rule which require legitimation are its exclusivity towards other political forces and its temporal unlimitedness. Both can be derived from the principle of vanguard. The transcendence of experience as the basis of legitimation for vanguard rule can be most easily understood if seen as one of the last members in a chain of attempts at transcendent legitimation. This chain has its origins in the mythological and theocratic foundations of political power continues in the eschatological ideas of the future developed in the 18th and 19th century in the philosophies of history, eventually to take shape in the ideal conception of communist society in the writings of Lenin and Trotzky.61 The philosophy of history and the philosophers of history (revolutionaries) demand that mankind realise these ideals by revolutionising the world. For this purpose they need an historical subject; in our example, they declare the proletariat to be such a subject. However, although the working class can participate in the revolution, it thereafter must resume its work, and cede the continuation of the revolution to the party which led it. The absoluteness of the eschatological ideal offers sufficient reason for the exclusivity of rule by its adherents, the proletariat and its party. The same absoluteness explains its unrealisability, the permanent withdrawal of communism into an always more distant future, which results in the temporal unlimitedness of party rule. Another reason for its unbounded duration is the economic competition of socialist and capitalist countries: communism cannot be reached or achieved before capitalism is overtaken. However, the crisis of capitalism is today no worse than the crisis of real existing socialism. Besides these basic elements, a whole series of single goals and methods of rule must be legitimized. From the absoluteness of these revolutionary goals it is concluded that there exists a necessity for the universalisation of their pursuit. Originally it was expected that the proletariat would become the large majority of the population. From this the idea that its vanguard should eliminate all other political forces and initiate a program of industrialisation in order to increase the number of proletarians could be justified. If this goal turned out to be only partly realisable in spite of extensive industrialisation, the whole population is simply declared to be working class, so that the exclusivity of the claims to leadership do not change. The absoluteness of the ideal justifies also the dictatorial rule the dictatorship of the proletariat. The essence of this dictatorship, hidden behind the claim of the unlimited use of force,62 is the creative work on the construction and development of the new socialist society.63 For this dictatorship is really the proletarian democracy, the historically highest type of democracy,64 and dictatorial measures are

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applied only against the non-proletarian classes, doomed to disappear anyway. Those parts of the proletariat, which, in the opinion of the party, are not sufficiently engaged in the rapid construction of socialism, can be simply redefined to be such a class. The leadership of the party can even decimate its own membership through purges, without thereby changing anything in the essence of its rule: So it belongs to the essence of socialism, that the working class exerts political power. The concrete forms of appearance of this essence reveal themselves in manifold ways: in the leading role of the party of the working class, in the life of state and society . . .. 65 Certainly, ideological legitimation is not the only form of legitimation in real existing socialism. In addition, industrialisation and increases in the standard of living belong to forms of overt legitimation. The latter is complemented by many forms of covert legitimation,66 which are incompatible with the proclaimed ideal of the construction of socialism, but which, in spite of this, contribute to the authority of the regime. Primarily, these forms of covert legitimation are based on institutions and forms of rule which are in harmony with traditional values, norms and expectations.67 In this case, essentialism is instrumentalised for the purpose of interpretation of these traditional elements into the official ideology. Legitimizing itself in an essentialist-definitional manner, as well as the essentialist way of thinking, this form of rule is sedimented to the level of everyday usage. Seen in their social context, they contain the scarcely avoidable dynamics of development in the direction of delegitimization. Here two different mechanisms of delegitimization can be distinguished. The first consists of the distortion of the relationship between ideology and reality, creating great difficulties for the former to keep its position vis a vis the latter. On the one hand, rulers are compelled to continue asserting the identity of their ideological consciousness with the consciousness of the working class, otherwise they would have to admit the illegitimity of their rule. This is an all or nothing alternative, the more pronounced, the more the ideology is removed from experience. On the other hand, the possibility of ideological self-legitimation, resistant to experience, leads the party as the leading force to more and more frequent use of it as justification for all the negative consequences of its rule. The essentialist thinking of party members, who as a rule have a particularistic interest in accepting and internalising the ideology of the party, leads to greater readiness to neglect or suppress their own experience; to fail to search for rational explanations, but to imagine occult powers behind them. The consequence of this is both the degeneration of rational thinking and the increasing loss of contact with reality. Thereby, the party is decreasingly in the position to play an active, constructive and leading role in the society. There remains then only a negative function for ideology: to occupy the universe of socially and politically relevant speech and thereby impede independent political thinking. This makes the development of alternative political proposals and programs in times of crisis more difficult and, thereby, increases the probability that crisis will reach such dimensions that these programs will come too late. The second mechanism of delegitimation consists in the damaging of forms


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of legitimation which are unofficial and not based on ideology, for instance those which are built on economic expansion the quantitative increase of consumption, security in the autocratic socialist community, etc. The unrealistic actions of the leadership (for instance in planning of the economy) results in the development of reality in neither a planned nor a desired direction: illegality and corruption. Only through such means can social life be brought into harmony with the postulates of the plan and the ideology. Thereby, not only is it the case that actions in harmony with state norms are made impossible, but also personal relationships as the origin of norms of everyday life are negatively influenced by their mercantilisation. This being the case, personal relationships as the basis of social security are reduced to the level of the morality of do ut des. At the same time, economic rationality and with it productivity are kept at a low level. The claim of the ideology to define the horizons of perception is a guarantor of the rule of silence, half-truths and lies. This ideology also hampers the cognition processes independent of ideology, thereby reducing the creativity of people and worsening the social crisis. The moral regression of the population leads to a fatal trap: the weakening of social solidarity and the dissolution of conventional morals makes the decentralising strategies of reform more difficult, even impossible to implement, because they require a responsible participation of the population in political and economic decision-making. The essentialistic technique of legitimation proves to be inappropriate. It turns out that also those who consider themselves the carriers and executors of historical-philosophical laws are subject to the cunning of reason, which bring ideology into an intractable situation: making it appear unreasonable.

1 General definitions of the concepts of essence in Kant can be found in: Metaphysische Anfangsgrnde der Naturwissensschaft, first remark of the Vorrede, in: Immanuel Kant: Werkausgabe in 12 Bnden, edited by Wilhelm Weischedel, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1980, vol. IX, p. 11, A III, as well as in: Logik, ibid., vol. VI, p. 489, A 90. Logik, ibid., vol. VI, p. 489, A 91. Prolegomena zu einer jeden knftigen Metaphysik, die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten knnen, 32 and 34, ibid., vol. V, p. 183ff, A 104-108. Prolegomana . . ., 45, ibid., vol. V, p. 203, A 133. In his writings Hegel defines the concept of essence in several places. See for example: Texte zur Philosophischen Propdeutik, Philosophische Enzyklopdie fr die Oberklasse, 33, in: G. W. F. Hegel, Theorie-Werkausgabe in 20 Bnden, vol. 4, p. 17; Logik fr die Mittelklasse (1808-9), (43/75), ibid., vol. 4, p. 96; Logik fr die Mittelklasse (1810/11), 33, ibid., vol. 4, p. 171; Wissenschaft der Logik, Die Lehre vom Wesen, ibid., vol. 6, p. 18; Enzyklopdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, die Wissenschaft der Logik, 112, ibid., vol. 8, p. 231. Wissenschaft der Logik, Die Lehre von Wesen, section l, chapter 1. Ab, remark, ibid., vol. 6, p. 133ff. See: Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Wesen, section 2, chapter 1. A, ibid., vol. 6, p. 129-139; Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 122-124, ibid., vol. 8, p. 252-255.

2 3 4 5

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8 Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 139, ibid., vol. 8, p. 274. 9 Ibid., 131, p. 261f. 10 Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Wesen, section 3, Einfhrung, ibid., vol. 6, p. 186. For the problem of the internal and external see also: Philosophische Enzyklopdie fr die Oberklasse, 46, 47, ibid., vol. 4, p. 20; Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 142, ibid., vol. 8, p. 279ff. 11 Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 140, ibid., vol. 8, p. 274-279. 12 Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Wessen, Vorrede, ibid., vol. 6, p. 15f. 13 Die Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Begriff, Vom Begriff im allgemeinen, ibid., vol. 6, p. 245. 14 Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Begriff, Einleitung, ibid., vol. 6, p. 269. 15 Vorlesungen eber die Philosophie der Religion, ibid., vol. 17, p. 524ff.; Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 159, ibid., vol. 8, p. 304ff. 16 Phnomenologie des Geistes, Einleitung, ibid., vol. 3, p. 76f; Vorlesungen ber die Philosophie der Religion, ibid., vol. 17, p. 198 and 339. 17 Enzyklopdie . . ., Die Wiss. der Logik, 159, ibid., vol. 8, p. 304ff. 18 Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Begriff, chapter 2, Das negative Urteil, ibid., vol. 6, p. 320. 19 Begriffslehre fr die Oberklasse, 70-83, ibid., vol. 4, p. 158ff.; Wiss. der Logik, Die Lehre vom Begriff, section 3, chapter 2, B, ibid., vol. 6, p. 541-548. 20 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Werke, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 39 vols, (MEW), vol. 23, p. 559. 21 MEW, vol. 23, p. 262; vol. 25, p. 219; vol. 26.2, pp. 63 and 162. 22 MEW, vol. 25, p. 178. 23 MEW, vol. 23, p. 559. 24 MEW, vol. 23, p. 564. 25 MEW Ergnzungsband, part 1, p. 512-522. 26 Ibid., p. 515. 27 Ibid., p. 516. 28 Gyrgy Markus: Anthropologie und Marxismus, VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 1981, p. 92. 29 For the concept of potential for ideologisation and part of the related argumentation I am indebted to Svetozar Stojanovi, especially his text Marxismus als Gesellschaftstheorie und Ideologie, berlegungen zur Krise des Marxismus, in: Ossip K. Flechtheim (ed.): Marx heute, Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg 1983, p. 253ff., as well as his lecture Marxismus, Leninismus, Stalinismus: Kontinuitt oder Diskontinuitt in the University of Gttingen, summer semester 1983. 30 MEW Ergnzungsband, part 1, p. 534f. 31 See: E. Topitsch: Machtkampf und Humanitt, in: Topitsch: Gottwerdung und Revolution, Verlag Dokumentation, Pullach 1973, p. 135-215, p. 173ff. 32 V. I. Lenin: Materialismus und Empiriokritizismus, Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1967, p. 91-97, 195-199, 262. 33 V. I. Lenin: Werke, vol. 38, Philosophische Hefte, Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1964, p. 213, 239f.* 34 Ibid., p. 141f.* 35 V. I Lenin: Was Tun? in: Lenin: Ausgewhlte Werke in 6 Bnden, Verlag Marxistische Bltter, Frankfurt/M. 1982, vol. 1, p. 365f., quotation p. 376. 36 Ibid., p. 418.* 37 Staat und Revolution, ibid., vol. III, p. 497; Die proletarische Revolution und der Renegat Kautsky, ibid., vol. IV, p. 556f.; ber Demokratie und Diktatur, ibid., vol. IV, p. 667-672.* 38 Der linke Radikalismus, die Kinderkrankheit im Kommunismus, ibid., vol. V, p. 489ff. 39 VIII. Gesamtrussischer Sowjetkongress, 22-29 December 1920, ibid., vol. VI, p. 24.* 40 L. Trotzky: Unsere politischen Aufgaben, in: Trotzky: Schriften zur revolutionren Organisation, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1970, p. 47.*


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41 Ibid., p. 73.* 42 L. Trotzky: Terrorismus und Kommunismus (Anti-Kautsky), published by the West European Secretariat of the Communist International, Hamburg 1920, p. 87.* 43 Ibid., p. 88f.* 44 Ibid., p. 89.* 45 Georg Lukcs: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein, Luchterhand, Darmstadt and Neuwied 1968. 46 Ibid., p. 68f. 47 Ibid., p. 126f. 48 Ibid., p. 114, see also p. 495f. 49 Ibid., p. 152. 50 J. V. Stalin: ber den Entwurf der Verfassung der UdSSR, in: Stalin: Ausgewhlte Werke, Verlag Roter Morgen, Dortmund 1979, vol. 2, p. 195.* 51 ber die Grundlagen des Leninismus, VIII: Die Partei, ibid., vol. 1, p. 258-273, see also p. 33 and 350. 52 Oekonomische Probleme des Sozialismus in der UdSSR, ibid., vol. 2, p. 405-498, p. 412.* 53 S. Stojanovi: Geschichte und Parteibewusstsein, Hanser, Mnchen 1978, p. 106f. 54 Grundlagen der marxistiscken Philosophie, Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1960, p. 216, quoted from: Gustav A. Wetter: Sowjetideologie heute, I, Dialektischer und historischer Materialismus, Fischer, Frankfurt/M. 1962, p. 77.* 55 G. Klaus, M. Buhr (eds.): Philosophisches Wrterbuch, VEB-Verlag, Leipzig 1974, p. 1295-1298. 56 Engels to Joseph Bloch, MEW, vol. 37, p. 463. 57 G. Klaus, M. Buhr, ibid., p. 409 and 574. 58 Ibid., p. 574. 59 MEW, vol. 13, p. 9. 60 G. Klaus, M. Buhr, ibid., p. 1297.* 61 V. I. Lenin: Staat und Revolution, ibid., vol. III, p. 550-565; L. Trotzky: Literatur und Revolution, Gerhard Verlag, Berlin 1968, p. 195f. and 209-215. 62 Compare for instance V. L Lenin: Geschichtliches zur Frage der Diktatur, ibid., vol. V, p. 714f. and 717. 63 G. Klaus, M. Buhr, ibid., p. 28Iff. 64 Wolfgang Leonhard: Sowjetideologie heute, II, Fischer, Frankfurt/M. 1962, p. 166-169. 65 G. Klaus, M. Buhr, ibid., p. 1297.* 66 The differentiation between overt and covert legitimation is developed in: Maria Markus: Overt and Covert Modes of Legitimation in East European Societies, in: T. H. Rigby, F. Fehr (eds.): Political Legitimation in Communist States, Macmillan Press, London and Basingstoke 1982, p. 82-93. 67 Stephen White: The USSR: Patterns of Autocracy and Industrialism, in: A. Brown, J. Gray (eds.): Political Culture and Political Change in Communist States, Macmillan Press, London 1977, p. 25-65.

* Translated from the German by Gerry Shaw and M. Krizan.

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