N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
PERSONALISM AND MARXISM
(1935 - #400)
The relationship of Marxism to personalism, as also its relationship to humanism, is more complicated, than is generally thought. It is very easy to point out the anti-personalist character of Marxism. It is hostile to the principle of person, as also is every purely sociological teaching about man, which purports to know merely the social man, formulated as object. Likewise anti-personalist in its understanding of man is the sociological school of Durkheim. Hostile to the principle of person is every single-planed world-outlook, for which the nature of man is comprised solely by its belonging to the social plane of being, i.e. man possesses no dimension of depth. They often contrast Proudhon to Marx, suggesting, that his social system was more favourable to personalism, than is Marxism. 1 But the teaching of Proudhon also about man is indeed entirely social, and person for him does not possess any inner dimension of depth, i.e. inner life. True, Proudhon was a very keen critic of Communism, as a system of the slavery of man, and his particular socio-economic system was the more favourable for person. But he was essentially was inclined towards a peculiar individualism hostile to Capitalism, rather than towards personalism. The philosophic world-outlook of Proudhon would not permit making a distinction between individualism and personalism. Likewise to me it does not seem especially fruitful to contrast Proudhon with Marx in the understanding of dialectics. In Proudhon the contradiction has not been surmounted, but has been preserved. 2 But by this dialectic it is deprived of its dynamic character. Proudhon stands closer to Kant’s teaching about antinomies, than to the Hegelian dialectics. But insofar as Hegel and Marx believed in the attainment of an ultimate harmony, not permitting of contradiction, at the third stage, at the synthesis, they certainly are subject to criticism.
To substantiate a basis for personalism, which also possesses its own social projection, is possible only in such instance, if we acknowledge, that the problem of man is more primary than the problem of society. And prior to passing on to a discussion of the relationship of Marxism to the principle of person, it is necessary to define, what we philosophically understand by person. It is not appropriate to confuse the concept of person with the concept of individual, as was frequently done by thought in the XIX and XX Centuries. The individual is a naturalistic category, biological and sociological, and it appertains to the natural world. The individual is from a biological point of view part of the race, and from the sociological point of view it is part of society. It -- is an atom, indivisible, not having inner life, it is anonymous. The individual does not possess any unique or independent existence apart from race or from society. The individual as regards itself is entirely a racial and a social being, only an element, part of a defining correlation with the whole. Person signifies something altogether different. Person is a spiritual and religious category. Person speaks not only about man belonging to the natural and social order, but also to a different dimension of being, to the spiritual world. Person is a form of being, higher than anything natural or social. We shall see, that it is not able to be part of anything whatsoever. Society has a tendency to consider person as an individual subordinate within it, as its product. From the sociological point of view, person is part of society, and it is a very small part. Society is the large circle, person however -- is a small circle set within it. In a sociological setting, person is unable to oppose itself to society and it cannot fight for itself. But from the point of view of existential philosophy everything is turned round -- society is a small part of person, is merely its social condition, and the world is merely part of person. Person is the existential centre, not society and not nature, it is the existentialised subject, and not object. Person realises itself in social and cosmic life, but it can do this only because that within it, it is independent from nature and from the principle of society. Person is not definable as a part in relation to any sort of whole. Person is an whole, it is a totality, it is integral, it bears within itself the universal, and it cannot be part of any sort of the general, whether of the world or of society, or of universal being or Divinity. Person is not at all of nature nor does it appertain, like everything natural, to an objective natural hierarchy, nor is it able to be put into any sort of natural order. Person is rotted in the spiritual world, its existence presupposes a dualism of spirit and nature, freedom and determinism, the individual and the general, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar. The existence of the human person in the world bespeaks this, that the world is not self-sufficient, that inevitably there is a transcending of the world, its completion is not in it itself, but in God, in supra-natural being. The freedom of the human person, is freedom not only within society and within the civil realm, but also from society and from the civil realm, and it is predicated by that which is over and above the world, over and above nature and society, over and above the kingdom of Caesar, for it is supra-natural being, it is the spiritual world, it is God. Person is a sundering within the natural world, and it is not explainable from it. 3
Person is first of all unity in multiplicity and immutability within change. Person is not a coordination of parts, it is a primal unity. Person mustneeds undergo change, to disclose the creativity of the new, to grow and to be enriched. And it mustneeds remain itself, to be the unchangeable subject of these changes. When we meet again with our good acquaintance after a number of years during which we have not seen him, we shall perhaps undergo to simultaneously disturbing and painful impressions. If this man has not changed at all, and he repeats certain things which have gone cold and stiff, if he has not grown nor enriched himself by anything, then this produces a painful impression. This means, that the person has not realised himself. The realisation of person presupposes changes. But the obverse painful impression is possible. This man has changed so much, that it is impossible to recognise him, and then he produces the impression of a different man. He not only has changed, but is himself become changed. The unity of person has been destroyed in the changes, the existential centre torn to shreds. Person is first of all an unity of destiny. Destiny is change, amidst the history and retention of unity of the existential centre. This is a mystery of person. Person presupposes the trans-personal, the higher being which it reflects, and trans-personal values, which it realises and which comprise the wealth of its life’s content. Person is not able to be self-sufficient, it mustneeds emerge from itself towards other persons, towards the human and towards the cosmic multiplicity, and towards God. Ego-centrism, being locked up within oneself and being absorbed by oneself disintegrates the person. Person realises itself through a constant victory over ego-centrism, over the hardening of self. The realisation of person means the filling-in of its universal content, for it cannot exist only by its particularity. Person is not something completed, it forms itself, it posits ends, like God’s idea about every single man. The realisation of person presupposes the creative process setting off into infinitude. Person-ness is act. M Scheler defines person, as the concrete unity of all acts. 4 But contrary to M Scheler, it is not life that manifests itself as active, but rather spirit, the spiritual principle in man, for life indeed is rather more passive. Only the creative act can be termed act, and in act there is created the new, the not previously existing, and non-being becomes being. Person presupposes the creative nature of man. Creativity however presupposes freedom. Authentic creativity is creativity from out of freedom. Creativity is contrary to evolution, which is determinism. Only the creative subject is person. A being that exists entirely determined by nature and by the social process cannot be termed person, not yet having become a person. Le Senne credibly opposes existence in the sense of an existential philosophy of determinisation. 5 Person defines itself on the outside for nature and for society, but it defines itself from within. Person is resistance to a determining from within, a determining by society and by nature. And only that one is manifest as person, who conquers this determining. Person is not born in nature’s generative process and it is not formed in the social process. The existence of person presupposes an interruptedness, it does not permit of evolutionary uninterruptedness. Person is created by God and in this is its highest merit, and the source of its independence and freedom. That which is born in the generative process and formed in the social process is merely the individual, in which person needs to be realised. Person is resistance to determining and is therefore anguish. The affirmation and realisation of person is always anguish. The refusal of this anguish, the dread of anguish is a refusal of person. The realisation of person, of its merit and independence is a painful process, it is an heroic struggle. Person-ness is struggle, and the refusal of the struggle is a refusal of person. And man happens often upon this refusal. Person is contrary to conformism, it is a non agreement with the conformism, which nature and society utilise. Since person is an existential centre and presupposes a susceptibility towards suffering and joy, it is therefore erroneous to adapt person as a category for the nation and other trans-personal communities, as the philosopher of personalism Shtern does. The nation is individuality, but not person-ness. We come to this, that person is a paradoxical combination of contraries: of the personal and the trans-personal, of the finite and the infinite, of the interrupted and the developing, of freedom and of destiny. And the fundamental paradox of person is in this, that it mustneeds still be created and it mustneeds already be, so that there be possible the creative creating of person. One, who mustneeds himself create, mustneeds already be. Person is not determined by society, but it is social, it can realise the fullness of its life only in community with other persons. The social projection of personalism presupposes a radical, a revolutionary transvaluation of social values, i.e. the transfer of the centre of gravity from the values of society, the state, the nation, the collective, the social group, to the valuation of person, of every person. The social projection of personalism is a revolutionary repudiation of the capitalistic regime, of the utmost anti-personalist, the utmost death-bearing for person, as ever existed in history. The socialisation of the economy, which affirms the right to work and a guarantee of a worthwhile existence for each human life not permitting the exploitation of man by man, is a demand of personalism. The sole system, therefore, corresponding to the eternal truth of personalism, is a system of personalist socialism. At the basis of a social world-concept of personalism lies not the idea of equality nor the idea of justice, but rather the dignity of every human person, which should receive the possibility to realise itself.
After these necessary definitions of person we shall look at how Marxism stands in relation to it.
The attitude of Marxism towards person is antagonistic. This is connected with the vagueness of the anthropology of Marxism. The anti-personalism of Marx -- is a consequence of the anti-personalism of Hegel. Hegel acknowledged the sovereignty of the general over the individual. The person for Hegel does not possess self-sufficient significance, it is merely a function of the world spirit. Kierkegaard revolted against the subordination of the human person to the world spirit, i.e. to the general. And such was the meaning of Dostoevsky’s revolt. 6 The talented creativity of Ibsen is saturated by these motifs. The anti-personalism of Hegel was inherited also by L. Feuerbach. The humanism of Feuerbach was through the generative, and not the personalistic. 7 Man realises himself in the collective life of the genus and ultimately he is dissolved in it. Feuerbach broke through towards an existential philosophy, he attempted to discover the “thou”, and not only the object. 8 But the Hegelianism that flipped over into materialism prevented Feuerbach from revealing person, as an authentic and primary existence. Marx follows upon Hegel and Feuerbach, and he recognises the primacy of the generic being of man over his personal being. With Marx it is possible to discover the realism of concept of the medieval Scholastics. The general, the generic, precedes the partialised, the individualised, and defines it. Society, and class, is more primary a reality than is man, than is person. Class is a reality situated in being, and not in thought. The class is not, but the human person is an abstraction of thought. Class is what then is sort of an universalia ante rem. It is class, and not man, that thinks and effects judgement and holds value. Man as person, and not as generic being, is not capable of independent thought and judgement. Man is a socio-generic being, a function of society. Already predisposed by this is the totalitarianism of the Communist society and state. In this totalitarianism is in opposition to man himself, and not to society and state. Only the human person can reflect in itself the integral and universal being, and society and state are always partialised and cannot contain the universalised.
Since Marxism is interested exclusively in the general and is not interested in the individual, the weakest side of Marxism then appears to be its psychology. If Marx himself not be considered, and from whom it is possible to find interesting psychological remarks, then the psychological excursions of Marxists usually is exhausted by invective. Even the psychology of classes is not entirely worked out. The bourgeois type is altogether not investigated, but is represented as being malevolent, blood-thirsty, preparing for an imperialistic war. The weakness of psychology of the Marxists is particularly discomforting, if compared with the works of Zombart, de Man, M. Weber, Zimmel and others. It is impossible to be concerned by psychology amidst an exclusive interest for the general and the generic, alongside the interest for the struggle. Instead of psychology they give moral judgement and sentence. And this is a defect of all the Marxist teaching about man. Although in Marx himself there is a prophetic element and he found himself in conflict with the society surrounding him, yet this teaching about man which emerged from him, negates the prophetic principle, which always signifies the elevation of the human person over the social collective, and conflict with it in the name of the realisation of truth, to which an inner voice summons, is the voice of God. A complete realisation of Marxism in human society mustneeds lead to the annihilation of the prophetic principle, not only in the religious sphere, but likewise in the sphere of philosophy, art and social life. The annihilation of propheticism results in a legacy of ultimate conformism of person in relation to society, of complete adaptability, excluding the possibility of conflict. This is a very negative side of Marxism, and it results from its anti-personalist spirit. Marx himself was a person, standing in opposition to the world, yet the Marxists cannot be likewise. An example of the death of the prophetic spirit was already demonstrated by the socialisation of Christianity in history. But anti-personalism is only one side of Marxism, its other side.
The sources of the Marxist critique of Capitalism -- are personalist and humanist. Marx revolted first of all against the Capitalist regime, because that in it the human person is crushed, is transformed into a thing. In Capitalist society occurs that, which Marx called Verdinglichung, the making a thing of man. He saw justly the dehumanisation, the inhumanity in this society. Both the proletariat and the capitalists are dehumanised. The working man, deprived of the implements of production, is compelled to dispose of his labour, as though it were merchandise. By this he is transformed into a thing needful for production. There occurs for man an alienation from his work activity, it is thrust out into the world as though objective things, it is projected to the outside. The results of the work activity of man, of alienation from the total existence of man, are made by external force, by the oppressing and enslaving of man. In essence, the gap between mental and physical labour is still a splintering of the whole of human nature and ought to be surmounted. But this problem was put to us more by L. Tolstoy and N. Fedorov, than by Marx. The thoughts of Marx in any case, particularly of the young Marx about alienation and being made into a thing, ought to be recognised as marks of genius. Herein lies the initial motif of his denunciation of Capitalism and of his antagonism towards the Capitalist order. 9 This motif is purely human. Marx declares a revolutionary revolt against the social order, in which occurs the fragmentation of the integral human person, in which part of it is separated, alienated and transferred into the world of things. The proletariat is also a man, for whom part of his being is alienated and transferred into the world of things, into the economy oppressing it. The teaching of Marx about Verdinglichung, about dehumanisation, was particularly developed by a very intelligent and interesting, and quite independent among Communist writers, Lukacs. 10 Marx emphasises, that if socialists attribute an enormous universal historical role to the proletariat, this is not because they worship him as a divinity, but rather, because that the proletariat represents an abstraction of everything human, and since his human nature is alienated from it, he also compels himself to return himself to the fullness of human-ness. 11 And it is especially one, who is deprived of the fullness of human-ness, that ought to achieve this fullness. This is dialectic thought. For Marx, for the original Marxism it was a very important thought, that a deprivation occurs, an alienation of man from human nature occurs, and in its most acute form this occurs for the proletariat. Hence result the illusions of consciousness. Man undertakes personal activity for an objective worlds of things, subject to inexorable laws.
In the early Marx is to be sensed the very strong influence of Feuerbach. What Feuerbach says about religion, Marx extended into all the other areas. In religion Feuerbach saw alienation of the proper nature of man. Man created God in his own image and likeness. Belonging to his unique nature presents for man a reality situated outside of him and over him. The poor man has a rich God, i.e. all the riches of man are alienated from him and bestown to God. Faith in God as it were proletarises man. When man becomes rich, God becomes impoverished and vanishes altogether. To return back to man his riches, he then becomes a totalitarian being, and no part of his nature can any longer be alienated. Marx placed this idea of Feuerbach at the foundation of his talented critique of Capitalism and political economy. And for Capitalism this is indisputably more applicable, than for faith in God. The teaching about the fetishism of goods in Tom I of “Kapital” is perhaps the most remarkable discovery of Marx. The fetishism of goods in Capitalist society is also an illusion of consciousness, in the power of which the products of human work activity are represented by things, by the objective world, in force by inalterable laws crushing man. Marx navigated this economic world of things, in which the bourgeios political economy revealed its laws. The economy is not a world of things, it is not an objective reality of some sort, it is but the activity of man, the labour of man, the relationship of man to man. And since the economy can be changed, man can take control of the economy. The riches, created by man, and alienated from him in a world of things by an objective economy, can be returned to him. Man can become rich, a totalitarian being, everything can be returned to him, that had been taken away from him. And this will be accomplished by the activity of the proletariat, i.e. of those people, from which the most wealth would be alienated. Everything is but the product of human activity, of human struggle. Economic fate does not exist, we shall conquer it. From the illusion of consciousness, caused by the false objectivisation of human activity, it can be set free. And this is the task of the proletariat. Marx defined capital not as a real thing, but as a social relationship of people to the process of production. This definition was very shocking to bourgeois economists. By this definition the centre of gravity of economic life was transferred to human activity and struggle. In the “Theses of Feuerbach” by Marx is a remarkable place in which he says, that the chief error of the materialists up until then was in this, that they viewed reality under the form of object, and not as human activity, not subjectively. 12 Nothing could be more anti-materialistic. This place merely witnesses, how controversial the materialism of Marx is. That which Marx says here is far more appropriate for existential philosophy, than for materialism. For materialism everything is object, a thing, whereas for existential philosophy everything is subject, activity. In Marx, just as in Feuerbach, there were elements of existential philosophy. The early Marx obtained his understanding of the exclusive activity of man, as spirit, and not as thing, from German idealism. But the idea of person was lacking in him.
Economic materialism itself can be understood twofold. First of all, this teaching produces the impression of a consequent and extreme social determinism. The economy determines the whole of human life, not only the structure of society, but also the ideology, all the spiritual culture, and there exists an invariable regularity of the social process. It was in such a spirit of extreme determinism that both the Marxists and the critics of Marxism understood Marxism. But this is merely one of the interpretations, one of the sides of Marxism, and another understanding is possible. That the economy should define the whole of human life, this is the evil of past times, the slavery of man. The day will come, when this servile dependence on the economy will cease, and the economy will depend on man, man will become its master. Marxism announced at the same time both about the slavery of man and about the possibility of the victory of man. Economic determinism itself by its sufficiently sad theory is not capable to summon up a revolutionary enthusiasm. But to an high degree Marxism possesses the capacity to proclaim the revolutionary will. Young Soviet philosophy moves in a direction of an indeterminist understanding of Marxism. 13 Marx still lived in a Capitalist society and he saw, that economics wholly determines human life, economics enslaves the consciousness of man and evokes an illusion of consciousness. But Russian Communists live in an era of the proletarians revolution and the world discloses itself to them from another angle. Marx and Engels spoke about a leap from the kingdom of necessity into a kingdom of freedom. The Russian Communists sense themselves the accomplishers of this leap, they already are in the kingdom of freedom. Therefore for them Marxism is inverted, though they at all costs want to continue to be Marxists. Already it is not economic being that determines consciousness, but consciousness, the revolutionary, proletarian consciousness that determines economic being; the economy does not determine politics, but rather politics determines the economy. Therefore in philosophising the Russian Communists want to construct a philosophy, based on the idea of self-actualisation. Into matter is transferred all the qualities of spirit -- freedom, activity, reason, etc. Such a sort of philosophy is demonstrated as corresponding to the revolutionary will. Mechanistic materialism is condemned, it does not correspond to the exaltation of the revolutionary will, it is not a philosophy of the heroic struggle of man. Man is demonstrated to be free from rule by things, from the objective, from the determinative-regulated world, yet not as an individual, but rather as collective man. The individual is not free in relation to the human collective, to the Communist society, and he attains freedom only in identifying himself with collectivised being. This was so already not only with Marx, but also with Engels, for whom man is authentically realised only in commonality, in generic being. Communism is exceptionally dynamic, it affirms an unheard of activism of man. But this is not an activism of the human person, this is an activism of society, an activism of the collective. Individual man is completely passive in regard to the collective, to the Communist society, it discovers active strength only by its dissolution into generic being. Communism affirms the activism only of human generic being. This was contained in Feuerbach, and this emerged in Hegel, for the Hegelian world spirit.
Marxism can be interpreted humanistically, and it is possible to see in it the struggle against the alienation from man of his human nature, for the restoring of a totalised existence to him. Marxism can be interpreted on the side of indeterminism , to view in him a declaration of the liberation of man from the force of the economy, from the dominion of fate over human life. Marxism exalts the human will, it wants to create a new man. But in it is also a fanatic side, deeply debasing of man. The Marxist doctrine about man is situated in a complete dependence on Capitalist industry, on the factory. The new Communist man is prepared in the factory, he is a manufactured product. The psychical soul structure of the new man depends on the conditions of life in the factory, on big industry. The dialectic of Marxism is connected with this. Good is begotten from evil, which becomes all the more powerful; light is ignited from darkness, which becomes all the more sombre. The conditions of life of Capitalist industry embitters the proletariat, dehumanises him, alienates his human nature from him, and makes his existence possessed by ressentiment, spite, hatred, revenge. Proletarianisation is dehumanisation, a robbery of the human nature. Least of all in this are the proletariat guilty. But how to await this progressive dehumanisation, this robbery of human nature, this terrible constriction of consciousness of the appearance of the new type of man? Marxism awaits a miraculous dialectical transition of that, which it reckons as evil, into good, into a better life. But fate weighs upon the proletariat all the same, the fate of Capitalist industry, of being exploited, oppressed, the alienation from the worker of all his human nature. The highest type of man would be the result of full alienation of all the human nature, complete dehumanisation. Suchlike a concept is completely anti-personalised, it does not acknowledge the self worth of the human person, the depth of its being. Man for suchlike a concept is a function of the world social process, a function of the “general”, and the faculty, which would manufacture the new man, is “the cunning of reason” (Hegel). A quantity of evil transfers into a quantity of good. The activity of person, its consciousness, its conscience, its creativity, here do not apply. The cunning reason does everything, which is in “general”. Lukacs recognises the debasing influence of Capitalism on the class consciousness of workers and he warns about this, he proposes to struggle against this. 14 This all speaks but about the complexity and the conflicting condition of Marxism. Marxism gave expression not only to the struggle against the oppression of man by man, against injustice and slavery, but also reflected with the materialist spirit the repression obtaining from Capitalist bourgeois societies, the spiritual decay of these societies.
Neither classical Marxism nor Russian Communism remark on a point here, nor did Feuerbach note it either. The critique of Marxism humanism is connected with this. An alienation of human nature occurs. According to Feuerbach and Marx, faith in God and in the spiritual world is nothing other, than the alienation of the higher nature of man, and the transfer of it into the transcendental sphere. Human nature in its totality ought to be restored to man. But how is this restoration to man of the fullness of his nature to occur. In materialistic Marxism this restoration does not happen. The spiritual nature is not restored to man, it perishes together with the destruction of the transcendental sphere. Man remains robbed, he remains a material being, a lump of matter. But a lump of matter cannot possess human dignity. In a material being there cannot be realisation of the totality of life. Communism wants to return to the proletariat the means of production alienated from him, but it does not at all want to return the spiritual element of human nature alienated from him, spiritual life. There therefore cannot be talk about attainment of the totality of life, just as there cannot be talk about the authentic dignity of man. The dignity of man is connected with this, that he is a spiritual being, the image and likeness of Divine being, that in him is an element independent of the external world, and from society. The dignity of man and the fullness of his life is connected with this, that man belongs not only to the kingdom of Caesar, but also to the Kingdom of God. This means, that man possesses an higher dignity and totality, a value of life, if he is a person. The idea of person does not exist in Marxism, just as it does not exist in Communism, and therefore they cannot offer a defense of man. Communism at best affirms the individual, a socialised individual, and demands for him a totality of life, but it denies the person. The individual is merely a being, formed by society by way of a drilled discipline. Lenin said, that after a period of dictatorship, in which there would be no sort of freedom, people would become accustomed to the new conditions of social life and they would sense themselves free in the Communist society. 15 This preparation of people by way of a drill-discipline and habit is contrary to the principle of person, of always presupposing autonomy. Marx began with the struggle against dehumanisation in Capitalist society. This dehumanisation it was necessary to oppose by humanisation. But in actuality a complex dialectical process transpired, in which the humanism crossed over into anti-humanism. Marxism is one of the crises of humanism, one of the exists from the midst of the humanistic kingdom, which attempted to affirm man upon himself alone, i.e. it acknowledged his existing as self sufficient, sufficient unto itself. In materialistic Communism the process of dehumanisation continues, which Marx denounced in Capitalist society. Communist industrialism can likewise dehumanise man, just like Capitalist industrialism, it can transform him into a technical function. Man is not examined as free spirit, i.e. not as person, but as a function of the social process, as a material existent, pre-occupied exclusively with the economic and technical, and during the hours of leisure being entertained by art, summoned forth to embellish the industrialised life. The anti personalism of Communism is connected not with its economic system, but with its spirit, with its denial of spirit. This mustneeds be kept sight of all the time. Personalisation indeed requires a socialisation of economy, but it does not allow of the socialisation of the spiritual life, which would signify the alienation of the spiritual life from man, i.e. the deadening of spirit.
The anti-personalism of Marxism is moreover connected with a false attitude towards time. Marxism and especially its practical application in Communism looks upon the relationship between present and future, as upon a relationship of means and end. The present time is a means, in it an immediate end does not exist. And they permit of means having no sort of semblance with the end -- coercion and tyranny for the realisation of freedom, hatred and contention for the realisation of brotherhood, etc. The totality of human life would be realised only in the future, the perhaps remote future. At the present time man remains robbed, from him everything is alienated, and he himself is alienated from himself. And while Marxist Communism affirms man and the totality of man in the future, at the present time it negates man. Man at present is merely a means for the man of the future, the present generation merely a means for the future generation. Such an attitude towards time is incompatible with the principle of person, with the recognition of the self-worth of every human person and its right to realisation of the fullness of its life, with its self-consciousness, as an end and not as a part, as an end and not as a means. Regardless of what sort of man or to whatever sort of class he might belong, it is impossible for him to be converted into simply a means, or to consider him exclusively as an obstacle. This is a problem of anthropology, and not sociology, though in Marxism there is however not yet an anthropology.
There are two problems -- the problem of man and the problem of society, and the primacy, ultimately, ought to appertain to the problem of man. But Marxism affirms the primacy of the problem of society over the problem of man. Marx was a remarkable sociologist and made large contributions in this area. But he was not at all an anthropologist, his anthropology was to the extreme simplistic and out-dated, it was connected with a rationalistic materialism and naturalistic evolutionism. Man is the product of nature and society, more concretely -- he is the product of social class, and there is no sort of independent inner core in man. Anthropology is entirely subordinated to sociology, is merely an aspect of sociology. Man is considered as the image and likeness of society, while society also is that higher being, which he reflects. To this is opposed an anthropology, based not on sociology, but on theology (I here use this word not in the scholarly sense). Man is not the image and likeness of society, but rather the image and likeness of God. Therefore in man there is a spiritual principle independent of society, wherein only is it possible to affirm the dignity of man, as free spirit, active and creative. Philosophic anthropology first of all teaches about man, as a person, and it is personalistic. Person cannot be without the spiritual principle, which makes man independent from the determinism of the external environment, both natural and social. The spiritual principle is not at all opposed to the human body, to the physical material condition of man, connecting him with the life of all the natural world. Abstract spiritualism is powerless to construct a teaching about the integrality of man. The spiritual principle encompasses also the human body, and the “material” in man, it means seizing mastery both of “soul” and “body” and the attainment of integrality of the image of person, of utmost qualification, the entering of all the man into another order of being. “Body” likewise belongs to the human person and from it there cannot be abstracted the “spiritual” in man. “Body” is already form, signifying the victory of spirit over formless matter. The old Cartesian dualism of “soul” and “body”, “spirit” and “matter” is a completely false philosophy, which it is possible to reckon surmountable. The present-time dualism is a dualism of “spirit” and “nature”, “freedom” and “necessity”, “person” and “thing”, which has altogether a different meaning. The “body” of man and even the “body” of the world can come forth from the kingdom of “nature”, of “necessity”, of “thing”, and cross over into the kingdom of “spirit”, of “freedom”, of “person”. This meaning possesses the Christian teaching about the resuscitation of the dead, a resuscitation in the flesh. The resurrected flesh is not natural matter, subject to determination, nor is it a thing; it is spiritual flesh, new flesh, but it is not fleshlessness, not abstract spirit. The teaching about this resurrection is also distinct from the teaching about the immortality of soul, in that it requires eternal life for all the whole of man, and not for its abstracted part, not for the soul only. This therefore is a personalist teaching. The independence of the spiritual principle in man from the dominion of society does not likewise mean the opposition of the “spiritual” to the “social”, i.e. the abstraction of the “spiritual” from the “social”, but it means that man ought to define society and be its master, to realise in full his life also in society, and not the other way around, not to be defined by society, not to be its slave, its function. The “spiritual” comprises also the “social”, the social condition of man, and this signifies the attainment of wholeness, integrality, totality. The end-purpose is not society, the end is man himself, the fullness and perfection of life, while the perfective organisation of society is itself but the means. Marxism is anti-personalist in that it posits the end-purpose not in man who is called to eternal life, but rather in society.
The fundamental error basic to Communist Marxism is with this, that it believes in the possibility of coercive accomplishment in not only of justice, but also of the brotherhood of people, in the possibility of coercive organisation not only of society, but also of community, of the communion of people. Socialism derives from the word society, Communism however derives from the word communion, the mutual uniting of people one to another. Socialism is quite distinct from Communism not on the plane of the social-economic organisation of society, and on this they can agree. But socialism can be perceived exclusively as the social-economic organisation of society therein limiting its task to this, whereas Communism inevitably is totalitarian, it presupposes a whole world-outlook, it wants to create a new man, a new brotherhood of people, its own relationship to all the whole of life. Communism is not agreeable to this, that it should be accepted in part, it demands an all-entire acceptance, a conversion to Communism, as though to a religious faith. The partial, extended but to the social-economic sphere, recognition of the truth of Communism, and united with a different world-outlook, is also socialism. By socialism it is necessary to connote the creation of a new classless society, in which there would be realisation of great social justice and in which there would not be permitted the exploitation of man by man. The creation of the new man however and the brotherhood of people is a spiritual and religious task, it presupposes an inner regeneration of people. Communism does not want to permit this, what actually is religion. Therefore a Christian can be a socialist, and even, in my conviction, ought to be a socialist. But it is difficult for him to be a Communist, since he cannot be agreeable to acceptance of the totalitarian world-outlook of Communism, into which enter in materialism and atheism. Christian personalism not only ought not to oppose the creation of a classless society, it ought to direct its creation. The class society, which considers as but means the vast quantity of human persons and permits the exploitation of the human person and the negation of the human dignity of workers, is contrary to the principle of personalism. Personalism ought to desire the socialisation of the economy, it ought to guarantee each human person the right to work and to a dignified human existence, it ought to secure for each the possibility to realise the fullness of life. But the socialisation of the economy is not able of itself to create a new man or a brotherly community of people, it regulates the community by communication between people on the soil of justice, but it does not create the community, the communion between people, the brotherhood of people. A community of people bears a personalist character, it is always a community of persons, a matter of “I and Thou”, the uniting of the I and Thou into the We. This is unattainable by an external organisation of society, which seizes upon only part of the condition of the human person and does not attain to its depths. No sort of organisation of society is able to create the totality of life. The illusion of this totalisation obtains in a strange constriction of the life of the person, the impoverishment of its consciousness, by the strangling in it of the spiritual side of life. The Communist consciousness is propped up by this illusion. Marxism creates this illusion by a non-credible teaching about person, about the whole man. A movement, directed towards the creation of a new classless society, one indisputably more just, can be accompanied by a degradation of spirituality, by a shrinking of the spiritual nature of man. But it is possible, that the creation of a classless society, which would be accompanied by the materialistic illusions of consciousness, would lead to a spiritual renaissance, whereas at present it is belaboured by the class struggle, its wicked topic of the day. When the classless society would be created, they would then see, that materialism and atheism, the Dukhobor-like spirit-denying in Communism belongs to the past, to an epoch of the struggle of classes, and the new classless man would be set afront the ultimate mystery of being, afront the final problematics of spirit. Then also would be disclosed in plain view the tragedy of human life, and that man longs for eternity. Then only would there be attained a totality of the existence of the person, and they would cease to accept the partial in place of this totality. In a period aggravated by the social struggle, the social system most corresponding to Christian socialism, is a system of personalist socialism.
© 1999 by translator Fr. Stephen Janos.
(1935 - 400 - en)
PERSONALIZM I MARKSIZM. Journal “Put’”, juil./sept. 1935, No. 48,
(Appeared in English translation under title “Marxism and the Conception of Personality” in Journal “Christendom”, dec. 1935, No. 2. Above translation
is not a reprint of this.)
1 Vide the interesting book of Denis de Rougemont: “Politique de la personne”. De Rougemont contrasts Hegel and Marx -- opposite Kierkegaard and Proudhon.
2 Vide concerning the dialectics of Proudhon, in distinction from that of Hegel and Marx, in G. Gurvitch’s: “L id?e du droit social”.
3 This is the fundamental thought of the remarkable book of Nesmelov, “The Science of Man” (“Nauka o cheloveke”).
4 Vide Max Scheler: “Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materielle Wertethik”.
5 Vide the remarkable book of Le Senne: “Obstacle et valeur”.
6 Belinsky revolted against the world spirit of Hegel in the name of the living human person and he anticipated the dialectic of Ivan Karamazov. Vide the book, “The Socialism of Belinsky”, in which are gathered the remarkable letters to Botkin.
7 Vide L. Feuerbach, “Das Wesen des Christentum”.
8 Vide his “Philosophie der Zukunft”.
9 Vide K. Marx, :“Der Historische Materialismus”. “Die Fruehschriften”. Kroener Verlag (Into two volumes are gathered the youthful works of Marx). Vide likewise August Cornu, “K. Marx: L’Homme et l’?uvre. De l’Hegelianisme au materialisme historique”.
10 Georg Lukacs, “Geschichte und Klassen -- Bewusstsein. Studien ueber marxistische Dialektik”.
11 Vide Tom I, “Der Historische Materialismus”, p. 377.
12 “Der Hauptmangel alles bisherigen Materialismus ist, dass der Gegenstand, die Wirklichkeit, Sinnlichkeit nur unter der Form des Objekts oder der Anschauung gefasst wird: nicht aber als sinnlich-menschliche Taetigkeit, Praxiss, nicht subjektiv”. (“The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism is, that the matter, the reality, the sense will have been grasped only under the form of object or concept: but not as sensual human activity, praxis, nothing subjective”.) -- “Thesen ueber Feuerbach”. -- “Der historische Materialismus”, II Band. S. 3.
13 Vide my article, “The General Line of Soviet Philosophy and Militant Atheism”. -- “Put’”.
14 Vide his cited book, “Geschichte und Klassen -- Bewusstsein”.
15 Vide V. Lenin, “State and Revolution”. Lenin in his book, “Materialism and Empirico-Criticism”, defended a quite vulgar materialism and naturalism. His philosophy is much inferior to the philosophy of A. Bogdanov, and it cannot even be termed socialist, let alone philosophy, ultimately.
Return to Berdyaev Online Library.