Everyday thinking is unable to grasp that the self-destruction of the communist empire and the subsequent difficult transition period are, first of all, manifestations of sociological regularities, a historical tragedy rather than consequences of the mistakes and crimes of the politicians of the period of liberal-democratic reforms. Alas, for those who have not risen to the level of theoretical thinking and are unable, following Marx, to distinguish "essence from existence," everything is explained by simply counterposing the sorry present to a past embellished by "psychological aberration."
Alas, it is precisely the masses, unaware of the deep meaning of what is happening, who become without expecting it the most important subjects of historical action at times of revolutionary upheaval. Under these conditions, the reformation of historical materialism—the separation of its nonutopian component, which is compatible with contemporary knowledge and the retention of the customary authority of both the founder of the doctrine and his terminology and affirmation, in particular, of the Marxist assumptions about the lawful course of history and the possibility of building a more perfect society—would provide an effective mechanism for legitimizing the new social system, a mechanism created by history itself, which is psychologically comfortable insofar as it affirms the new without on the surface breaking with the old.
The reformation of historical materialism is at the same time a possible way of rehabilitating the humanistic aspects of theoretical thought, the authority of which has been badly undermined as a result of the failure of the theoretically unsubstantiated socialist experiment, which had been presented as the crowning achievement of theory.
An attractive feature of Marx's views is their systematic character. According to his hypothesis, society is a self-developing system—a social (as distinct from a geological) formation. The mode of production is the system-forming factor of a social formation,6 and material relations of production are its economic structure on which "ideological forms" of social life are based. Hence the social formation is called an economic formation.
This is the starting hypothesis and to this day it is accepted by all followers of historical materialism. But at the next stage there already appear divergences between orthodox and reform-minded Marxists. The two groups define the mode of production in different ways. For orthodox Marxists, relations of production are relations of cooperation (in the primitive commune and under socialism) or relations of domination and servitude (domination of the exploited by the exploiters). In the latter case, the basis of the relations of production is the dominating classes' ownership of the means of production.
According to the neo-Marxist F. Tekei, mode of production can be defined in the following way.7 It is the "subsystem" that determines the properties of the "large system," that is, of the social formation, and consists of three elements: individuals, collectives (communities) of individuals, and means of production. Each of these elements exists only in connection with the other two. Taken together, they constitute the productive forces. The relations among the three elements of the mode of production are the relations of production. The individuals are citizens of the ancient city-state; serfs, craftsmen, and lords of the Middle Ages; or workers and capitalists. The change in the definition of relations of production ("individual and community" instead of "domination and servitude") leads to far-reaching consequences. The whole course of world history appears in a new light.
For those who reduce relations of production to domination and servitude, the main content of history is the struggle of working people against their exploiters—that is, against those who, according to Engels's definition, "being free from real labor, . . . manage labor, engage in trade or in state affairs, and later also in the arts and sciences."8 (A typical example of an explanation of the doctrine by a "less profound pupil.") Bloody revolutions are inevitable. (Speaking at a congress of collective-farmer shock-workers in 1933 about the downfall of the Roman Empire, Stalin declared in disregard of the facts: "The revolution of the slaves liquidated the slaveholders.")
The proletarian revolution, which "liquidates" private property in the means of production, is the path toward a society based on the principle "to each according to his needs." Nor need the proletariat wait until society attains the level of development of the productive forces and the cultural level necessary for the construction of socialism. In his comments on N.N. Sukhanov's Notes on the Revolution [Zapiski o revoliutsii], Lenin wrote that this was precisely how the proletariat of Russia acted, beginning the movement toward socialism by driving out the landlords and capitalists. In contrast to this ideology of revolutionary Marxism, reformed Marxism sees the content of history in man's individual development: "The social history of people is always merely the history of their individual development, whether they realize it or not."9 A new mode of production "does not develop out of nothing, out of thin air, or out of the womb of the self-positing idea": it develops within, and in straggle with, the existing mode of production and traditional property relations. A social formation has its preconditions; it becomes an "organic whole" only as a result of historical development.10
The path traversed is accumulated within this result. Hence, transition to a new formation cannot be reduced to the forcible change in the form of property accomplished by a victorious revolution. To establish a "three-element" mode of production requires a transitional period, a prolonged process during which a new type of individual is formed. The result of such a process is a formational transformation, the emergence of a new quality: a revolution in the broad sense of the word. The prolonged qualitative transition may include acute and rapidly developing social conflicts— revolutions in the narrow sense of the word—only as one of its phases.11 To reflect the significance that reformed Marxism attaches to prolonged historical transformations without which the individualization of man is impossible, we shall henceforth refer to it as the evolutionary school of historical materialism.
Marx sets out his theory of individual development most systematically in the essay "Precapitalist Economic Formations."5 His study is based on the analysis of three different types of commune: the Asiatic (now we know that communes of this type existed not only among Asiatic peoples), the ancient, and the Germanic type. In the course of historical evolution, collective property in land gives way to private property. At the same time man becomes more self-sufficient. He progressively frees himself from subjection to nature and to the commune and changes from a herd animal into a member of civil society. The development of individuality in the commune member and if his land ownership are concurrent and are closely linked to one another. But why is the "humanization of man" of decisive significance in the systemic description of formations? The young Marx called man an "individual social being" who belongs to society and possesses his own individuality at the same time.12
This contradiction, which from the beginning lies at the very essence of man whose forbears were herd animals, is manifested in all his creations, including religion, morality, and art. Marx's hypothesis presupposes that in the history of precapitalist communities this original contradiction of the human psyche manifested itself as a progressive step-y'-step shift in relations between the individual and the commune. Each stage id its corresponding social expression. The apogee of individuation, according to "Formations," must come in the society of the "absolute expression of man's creative gifts with no other preconditions except the preceding historical development."13
To elevate the relations between the average individual and society to this higher historical level, an extraordinarily prolonged historical period of gradual formation of a qualitatively new man who is inclined to regard the unfolding of his abilities as a basic life value is necessary. Which of the two definitions of mode of production and relations of production should be considered the ""authentically Marxist" definition? Neither side is victorious in the grand "battle of the quotations" from the Marxist classics it took place at the time of the discussion "of the Asiatic mode of production." Nor can one regard as convincing the repeated attempts to oppose the works of the young and the mature Marx. It has to be recognized that both definitions of relations of production can be backed up by references to the works of the founder of the ideology.
And there is nothing unusual in this: otherwise the very historical phenomenon of reformation would be impossible. Let us recall how many divergent interpretations of Christianity found port in one and the same set of sacred books! The New Testament's inner traditions are. to a certain extent, determined "genetically," by the origin of the new religion within Judaism. Does not the Christ who responds to Canaanite woman pleading for a cure for her daughter "I am not sent but the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ... It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs" (Matthew, 15: 22-26) deviate from customary image of him, which was created only later? The influence of Old Testament is manifest also in the rationalistic character of Calvinism.14 One can point to Marx's use of the legacy of two of his predecessors, Hegel and Saint-Simon (see below) as the cause of inner contradictions in historical materialism. But why did Marxism's sources consist of two dissimilar streams of European thought as classical German philosophy and French Utopian socialism?
The answer has to be sought in that combination in a single person of the scholar and the revolutionary propagandist that was so characteristic of Marx. Marx lived in an age of great scientific revolutions. His contemporaries were L. Boltzmann, C. Layell, R. Meier, G. Mendel, and D. Mendeleev. The famous "formula" of historical materialism in the preface to Toward the Critique of Political Economy was published in the same year as The Origin of Species and Marx's contribution to historical science has been compared often to the revolution brought about in biology by Charles Darwin. Indeed, evolutionary ideas had been expressed both in biology and in history before Darwin and Marx, but each of them in his own field proposed an explanation of evolution that satisfied the scientific criteria of his time and put forward ideas of the self-development of biological and social organisms respectively. Marx himself was aware of this parallel when he wrote in the preface to Capital of the "natural-historical" process.
On the other hand, Marx's revolutionary temperament at times overshadowed the scientist's theoretical thinking. Moreover, the revolutionary character of Marx's views was exaggerated in later arbitrary interpretations that arose from the popularization of his works on Engels's insistence. (Yet another splendid confirmation of the "Duerer-Vernadskii law": the pupil is easier to understand, but only because he distorts his teacher.) In order to change, not merely interpret, the world slogans comprehensible to the masses were required. Marx sometimes set out his thoughts in difficult language, Engels tactfully pointed out in his letters to Marx. He called the tone of some of Marx's works "abstractly dialectical."13 remarking sadly that "now the public, even the scholarly public, is completely unaccustomed to this kind of thinking and it is necessary to do whatever is possible to make things easier for it."16
Marx himself acknowledged that the style of the initial draft of Capital (of which "Formations" is a part) was far from popular, attributing this to the subject matter's abstract nature and the fact that revolutionary ideas in science cannot be generally accessible. But once "the scientific foundation is laid, it will be easy to popularize them."17 In his preface to the first edition of Capital, Marx noted with satisfaction that "with the exception of the section on value, this book will not be difficult to understand." The popularization of texts, however, conceals the hidden danger of distortion by those unfamiliar with the "scientific foundation": it was not without reason that Marx emphasized that the latter must precede popular exposition.
As a result, a number of passages in Capital that revolutionary Marxists readily cite are susceptible to a different interpretation when one turns to the "abstractly dialectical" exposition of the same problems in "Formations." Thus the task of the reformation of historical materialism can correspondingly be formulated also as an attempt to separate the scientific component in Marx's works from the revolutionary-propagandist component. For this purpose we may apply the usual scientific method of comparing hypotheses with facts. In this case, let us compare with the facts of history two variants of Marx's initial hypothesis that differ in the way they define the mode of production.
The criterion of antiquity
The divergence between revolutionary and evolutionary Marxism is clearly manifested in the way they tackle one of the main problems of historical materialism—the formational classification of ancient societies (the basic issue in the discussion of the Asiatic mode of production). The classification in terms of relations of domination and servitude began to be established in the Russian social-democratic movement at the end of the nineteenth century when A. A. Bogdanov's Short Course in Economic Science [Kratkii kurs ekonomicheskoi nauki] appeared: subsequently it was adopted by Lenin.
Supporters of this classification often refer to Engels's well-known saying about the three great forms of exploitation—slavery, serfdom, and wage labor—that characterize the three great eras of civilization. Engels in his turn might have referred to Saint-Simon, who distinguished historical eras in accordance with the same three dominant modes of exploitation. This series of social formations was finally consolidated in five stages set out in the Short Course in the History of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik): primitive communal, slaveholding, feudal, capitalist, and socialist. The slaveholding formation included both ancient Asiatic despotisms and the ancient states.
For Tekei, as for Marx in the preface.6 the history of humanity begins with the Asiatic and the ancient modes of production: the oldest states belong to the first of these, the classical states to the second. This corresponds to Hegel's schema: the history of humanity unfolds in accordance with the plan of world reason, which gradually becomes aware of its freedom in the course of the history of the ancient East, classical antiquity, and the Germanic peoples. Antiquity is something like a criterion of truth for the two definitions of the mode of production cited above. The relative simplicity of the city-state's economic and political life makes it a convenient object on which to verify Marx's systemic hypothesis. Depending on whether antiquity is part of the "slaveholding formation'' or must be regarded as an independent historical stage, one definition of the mode of production turns out to be false. Investigating in "Formations'' the process by which the individual is freed of the ties imposed by the community, Marx places the ancient commune in an intermediate position: land is already private property, but it may be possessed only by a member of the commune.
The commune takes the form of the ancient city-state (polis). The citizen of the polis is capable of active autonomous conduct, but at the same time he is deeply aware of belonging to the civic community of the polis and of the obligations he owes it. It is logical to suppose that this amazing equilibrium between the collective and the individual had a vital impact on the whole spiritual culture of ancient society and enabled it to occupy an exceptional place in humanity's history. The social system is established, according to Marx, by subordinating to itself "all the elements of a society or creating organs it still lacks."18 In the totality of its relations of production, in its structure, is rooted "the soul of the system," its singular being that emerges at its birth. Having formed, the system strives to preserve itself, to prolong its existence.
The ancient mode of production reproduced itself so long as new generations of people did not change its original structure. But over the course of time it became increasingly difficult to do this. As the population grew, it became no longer possible to provide all commune members with land. This obstacle was overcome by means of colonization, which led to wars of conquest and an inflow of slaves. The slave was outside the commune: he was merely an appendage to the land. However, the concentration of large numbers of slaves in the same hands sharply increased social inequality and changed the relations of production.
The commune gradually lost the ability to reproduce itself in its original forms: its development and expansion led to its downfall. Thus Marx draws a distinction between the original relations of production that arise with the ancient commune and determine its unique nature and the derivative relations of production the development of which leads to the degeneration of the system's original structure. "Slavery, serfdom, and so on are always derivative, never original, forms."19 They "constitute a necessary ferment of the development and decay of all primitive relations of property and production."20
The same thought is expressed in Capital: small-scale peasant farming and independent handicraft production are the economic foundation of ancient society "at its peak after the original Eastern common property had disintegrated but slavery had not yet managed to acquire any significant degree of dominion over production.21 (At the same time, Capital also mentions "the slaveholding order" and "the society based on slavery.")22
Thus Marx distinguishes three phases in the existence of a formation: establishment, flourishing, and downfall, which constitute as it were its life cycle. By comparison with the extremely general formulations of the preface, this analysis of the rise and fall of social systems is a step on the road from theoretical abstraction toward concrete history. Was Marx's systemic approach to the ancient formation confirmed by later research? Which of the two definitions of the mode of production is preferable from this point of view? The "revolution of the polis" was pre ceded by the "iron revolution," which raised the profitability of private farming and the military strength of the peasant infantry (by comparison with the aristocrats' cavalry).
The right to dispose of one's own plot of land and the "conscious individual stance" closely connected to that right23 have been recorded as early as the middle of the eighth century B.C.—a century and a half before Thales of Miletus, whose works are accepted usually as the onset of the grandiose intellectual shift called "the Greek miracle," and two and a half centuries before Cleisthenes, whose reforms completed the formation of the democratic polis in Athens. Many authors trace a connection between the philosophy, art. and entire classical worldview and the democracy of the polis and its citizens' personal freedoms .
Only in a democratic society that had replaced the bitter struggle of social groups by reasonable compromise among them could there arise the all-encompassing spirit of competition that was a necessary condition of the cultural revolution in Ancient Greece.24 Thus we have both an extended evolutionary period during which the new social system is established and a necessary (from the point of view of evolutionary Marxism) sequence of events: progress in the economy and in individual development preceded the revolution in thinking; the "miracle" was accomplished by the awakened individual. In its evolutionary variant, the systemic hypothesis works when applied to antiquity. In this variant Marx's materialist approach loses its status of an "all-powerful doctrine," but retains its significance as one school of contemporary historical thought.
The two-element definition of the mode of production presupposes that relations of domination and servitude in slaveholding society determined its spiritual culture, lending similar features to all ancient societies that used slave or near-slave labor. But is there any need to demonstrate that the ancient art of Greece and of Egypt expressed different worldviews and embodied fundamentally different types of artistic thinking? Everything we know about ancient culture speaks against reducing it to a reflection of mere class antagonisms between slaves and their masters! Some authors of works about the "Greek miracle" make no mention of slaves at all.25 Nor is it possible to substantiate the system-forming function of slaveholding on the basis of the conception of two cultures. Indicative are studies of the spiritual culture of the golden age of the Roman republic.26
By this time slaves had acquired their own gods and heroes and had their own cultural tradition, but it lay on the periphery and. certainly, did not define Rome's spiritual life. In literary works, slaves most often figured as the bearers of feelings, but this did not exhaust the content of these works and did not make them monuments of slaveholding culture. For Romans of the golden age slaves were a "police problem." Nobody has managed to discover a special "culture of slaves" in the ancient Middle East.27
The simple argument made in Engels's spirit that only the exploitation of slaves provided the citizen of the polis with the leisure for intellectual activity fails to agree with the facts. Historians are no longer sure that slave labor is incompatible with the use of machines or that it gave rise to a general contempt for labor among free people. These speculative conclusions are not confirmed by empirical research. In the democratic city-states, the main productive force was the labor of small property owners. According to crude estimates, slaves constituted up to a third of the population in Athens and Rome during their peak. Undoubtedly, in the early stages of the slaveholding states, the proportion of slaves was much smaller.
There remains the closing stage, when in Marx's words slavery "acquires a significant degree of dominion over production" and the "derivative forms" cause the downfall of the original relations of production.28 It is primarily to this stage that the two-element definition of the' mode of production is applicable. Indeed, the ancient Asiatic despotisms may be regarded as the closing stage of the "Asiatic" communes (Marx placed special emphasis on the compatibility between Eastern despotism and the communal ownership of land), and ancient Rome, which in the last centuries of its existence was influenced greatly by its eastern provinces, displayed features approaching those of the despotic states of Asia ("the orientalization of the Roman Empire").
But similar features were also characteristic of other declining formations: an all-pervasive state striving to subordinate to its bureaucracy the whole life of the country, including the economy; a disproportionate growth of the privileged estates, government officials, the military, and the priesthood; bribery and embezzlement of state funds on an ever increasing scale; a policy of foreign conquest and the suppression of dissent and, as a result, a reduction in the share of GNP consumed by the direct producers and spiritual degeneration at all levels, starting with the ruling elite. Under these conditions, the inevitable consequences of the social organism's degradation are the weakening of the state, military defeat, acute social conflicts, loss of the sense of personal security on the part of the common people, the destruction of accumulated spiritual treasures, and the spread of extreme forms of individualism.
There is no need for a more detailed description of the closing stage: the reader is sufficiently well acquainted with it from the periods of the "stagnation" and perestroika of socialism. (The similarity between the late socialism of the Brezhnev period and the closing stages of other formations is the reason for the debates over which formation socialism belongs to: state capitalism? military-police feudalism? etc.) European feudalism ended in absolute monarchies, regarding .one of which—the Spanish monarchy—Marx said that its similarity to other European monarchies was purely external and that it should be classified as an Asiatic form of government.29 We may add to it social organisms that were also in the grip of state power, but never in their history embodied the "classical model" of any social formation;30 for example, Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire. Plekhanov convincingly equated the position of land tillers in Russia and in ancient Egypt.31
Historical epochs are the result of organic growth. The despotic state subordinates this growth to a centralized bureaucratic mechanism, channeling the stream of history between artificial banks. When naturally formed and freely developed social organisms reach their closing stage, they degenerate into bureaucratic machines with a deformed economy, corresponding political superstructures, and a servile people. Temporally and spatially remote cultural worlds that were once highly distinctive acquire frighteningly similar features, making any classification senseless. The formational classification of revolutionary Marxism does not correspond to historical materialism's initial hypothesis concerning the system-forming factor of social formations. I
n classifying precapitalist social formations, one must take as a starting point not relations of domination and subordination, but those original relations of production that emerge in a newly forming system. In this approach, feudalism is preceded by antiquity and the primitive communal order (in Marx, the Asiatic mode of production). There is no room for the slaveholding order, that astonishing invention of revolutionary thought, which lumped Asiatic despotisms together with ancient democracies, the Egyptian pyramids with the Parthenon! Consequently, there is no theoretical basis for revolutionary Marxism; after all, Marx's initial hypothesis claims to explain the whole history of humanity!
Evolutionary Marxism and the present day
Comparing the works of the historians who wrote within the framework of historical materialism with the works of their opponents and with the achievements of historical thought in our country during the past decade, we may conclude that while Marx's systemic approach to the analysis of precapitalist societies has lost its halo as the "all-powerful doctrine," it retains its cognitive value as one of the scientific methods that bring us closer to the understanding of natural-historical processes. The dream of a society of the "absolute unfolding of man's creative gifts" also retains its appeal.32 Analogous statements can be found in the works of religious thinkers. People, they declare, must arrange their life in such a way as to manifest the personal destiny that the Supreme Being has prepared for them.
Conversely, Marx's analysis of the capitalism of his day and of the tendencies of its development now appears to be wrong on the main point. (As the well-known aphorism of F. la Rochefoucauld has it, philosophy triumphs over the miseries of the past and the future while the miseries of the present triumph over philosophy.) In the age of information science, science-intensive manufacturing, and rapidly changing fashions on the market for technological innovations, it has become evident that the "labor theory of value" is untenable. It was from this theory that Marx drew his conclusions about the historical fate of private property in the means of production, the increasing impoverishment of the proletariat, and the inevitability of the proletarian revolution. One can only-wonder how the halo of science still hangs over these erroneous (but fundamental for revolutionary Marxism!) sections of Capital.33
The "Western type" of society that is arising before our eyes in place of the capitalism of Marx's day and has yet to receive a generally recognized "formational" definition includes among the individuals constituting the "three-element" mode of production, besides workers and "capitalists," a new middle class. According to Marx, everything in capitalist society is directed toward the profit-driven stimulation and satisfaction of a range of false (artificial) needs, while true needs are suppressed. In democracies of the Western type, in addition to these negative tendencies, tendencies of another kind are now noticeable. To the extent that basic material needs are satisfied (for the middle class, food and clothing have ceased to be a vital problem) the individual's true spiritual needs also emerge and begin to be satisfied.
In this context, the evolutionary path of development presupposes not the immediate abolition of private ownership of the means of production, but the gradual alleviation of social inequality. The latter does not refer solely to the material side of life. Thus scientific and technological advances have vastly broadened access to information, to high-quality copies of works of art, and to long-distance travel. ("Informational equality" is a step toward the alleviation of intellectual inequality.) Now everyone can watch and listen to the same television and radio broadcasts; sometimes the head of state and the rank-and-file citizen learn of important events from one and the same news program.
But is the reformation of Marxism really compatible with such a radical step as recognizing private ownership of the means of production? After all, its abolition, as The Communist Manifesto says, comprises the very essence of the doctrine! Here again an analogy with the history of the Catholic Church may prove useful. The Gospels too contain a direct prohibition on the entry of the rich into the Kingdom of God and an appeal to the followers of Christ to give away their property. (Archeologists have discovered that this appeal was not heeded even at the dawn of Christianity: the burials of rich and of poor Christians in the catacombs differed very noticeably.)
Protestant reformers were able to reconcile Christianity with entrepreneurship just as Western social-democrats learned to combine socialism with legal activity in a bourgeois state. After a desperate struggle against Protestantism, the orthodox Catholic Church also was forced to recognize the "divine character" of normal economic activity. At the end of the nineteenth century, a papal encyclical pronounced private property to be a gift of nature without which the free human personality cannot exist. The property owner merely must not forget about the common good and the Church has the duty constantly to remind him of this. The reformation of Catholicism continues in our times.
Scientific findings concerning the evolution of higher organisms from lower ones have been recognized. The Church has decided to apologize to the Jews for their persecution down through the ages in which the Catholic Church played a part and to emphasize, moreover, the Judaic roots of Christianity and the Jewish origin of Christ himself. Thus we are witnessing a shift in the Catholic worldview toward evolutionism. Now it is the turn of orthodox Marxism to take analogous steps to meet life's demands.
And, first of all. it is time to give serious recognition to private ownership of the means of production. (Vagaries like the recognition of mixed forms of ownership with state ownership predominating do not count, of course.) We shall also have to admit that we are not in a position to predict with scientific certainty how humanity will climb the rungs of history and to give preference to "social engineering" in Karl Popper's sense,34 over irreversible revolutionary upheavals that "spur on the jade of history."
The three-element definition of the mode of production and the concepts of individual development, of the extended transition period, and of the three stages in the life of a formation, discussed above in reference to precapitalist formations, have the most direct bearing on the current Russian reforms. Marx introduced the concept of a social formation by analogy with a geological formation. Historical cataclysms (one of which Russia is experiencing now) resemble geological catastrophes in that they lay bare ancient layers. In the case of history, these are layers of archaic psychology.
According to Fromm, archaic impulses—the striving to renounce everything that individuation gave man and turn back the clock of history—are hidden in many people's consciousness and surface when the "normal forms of civilized life" are destroyed, manifesting in religious fanaticism, in racial, ethnic, and party exclusiveness. in xenophobia, and in political movements headed by semi-psychotic leaders. In all these regressive phenomena of social life Fromm sees "group narcissism"—"a passion of such intensity as to be comparable in many people with the sexual instinct and the instinct of self-preservation." In opposition to group narcissism stand scientific thinking and humanism in its Christian and Marxist varieties.35 Many contemporary tendencies in art, religion, and philosophy that appeal to archaic levels of consciousness and promote the antiscientific idea of "multiple truths" take the opposite stance.
Evolutionary Marxism is called on to defend scientific thinking on the important front of history in this great battle for the minds of humanity. The contest between the self-emancipating individuality and the archaic impulses of the psyche that counteract this natural-historical process is the deep content also of the period of Russian history we are living through: reforms are resisted by the vestiges of primitive collectivism. Revolutionary Marxism also owes its entrenchment Russia largely to the psychological phenomenon under discussion. ("The individual is a zero," people of my generation used to repeat after the poet.) Thus, nostalgia for life before perestroika at times takes the form of neurosis. Becoming aware of the historical regularities that made perestroika inevitable, whether we like "really existing socialism" or not, can in these conditions serve as social therapy (the analogy with the treatment of neuroses by the methods of psychoanalysis is obvious).
To reject a transition period is typical of the Utopian thinking long characteristic of our society. According to one definition, Utopian thinking is distinguished by the fact that it presupposes the sudden emergence of something qualitatively new that has not been prepared by the preceding development.36 This is, in essence, a vestige of the ancient faith in miracles. For evolutionary Marxism, the extended transition period is a direct consequence of the individual's involvement in the definition of the mode of production. According to the ideas of "Formations," civil society can arise in Russia only after private property has washed away the bastions of the collective mentality, has called to life a free democratic personality, and has established at last in Russia a new (three-element, including the individual!) mode of production, for "democracy lives not in laws, but in people." The attempt to pass from primitive Russian collectivism directly to socialism, jumping over the stage of private property, fits perfectly Marx's well-known formula about "the unnatural simplicity of the poor person without needs who has not only not risen above the level of private property, but has not even reached that level."37
The conception of history at the basis of evolutionary Marxism is that of an ordered sequence of social systems (socioeconomic formations) each of which possesses a unique system-forming mode of production. This conception excludes the coexistence in arbitrary proportions of planned (state) and market components of the economy, often advocated in political programs. At the close of the transition period, only one competing form of economic life takes on a systemic determining character while the other retreats to the periphery and becomes an extrasystemic element (as was, for instance, the "collective-farm market" under socialism). The planned economy replaced NEP due not so much to the ill will of certain groupings within the party as to the development of the inner contradictions in "market socialism."38 "NEP Russia" could have become either socialist or capitalist: the "socialist market" that is discussed in contemporary China is merely a transitional form.
Evolutionary Marxism and history
In the foregoing, I have assumed that the world historical experience in the interpretation of evolutionary Marxism is applicable to Russia as well. But sometimes the idea of Russia's uniqueness gives rise to a negative attitude to Marxism (in all its varieties) as a ''spectre'" from the West for which there should be no room in our boundless spaces. Disputes about Russian uniqueness have a direct bearing on the problems dealt with in "Formations." According to Marx, each of the precapitalist modes of production has its special type of commune: the Asiatic (or oriental), the ancient, and the Germanic. Mention is also made of the Slavic commune,39 which Marx regarded as a modification of the oriental commune.40 Differences at the stage of the commune could not but affect Russia's distinctive historical path. But how great were they?
The possible answers to this question cover a broad range from the concept of a "special Slavic mode of production" that grew out of the Slavic commune to the subsumption of Russia's history under the laws covering neighboring countries, whether in the West or in the East. Where then is the dividing line between national uniqueness (inherent in any people "by definition") and general historical laws? There is, it would seem, only one way to answer this question—to compare national history with the history of a sufficiently large region. Having thereby identified the "invariant historical core." one may then locate beyond its limits that which really is unique and distinctive of the history of only one people. Instead of doing this, some scholars try to find signs of Russia's special character by, as it were, introspection, by starting from Russian history alone and refusing any dialogue with other cultures without which genuine self-knowledge is impossible. (A typical example is the article by V.B. Pastukhov.)41
But after all. every ethnic group is unique, so we speak only of degrees of uniqueness. I shall attempt to determine how unique Russia is, considering the interformational transition not of one social organism but of a set of them and to take into account the region's special geographical characteristics. (Yet another step from the abstract theoretical level of analysis toward the concrete historical level, from the idealized social organisms we call formations toward civilizations and societies that have actually existed.) In the closing stage of its life, a social formation is conservative to the highest degree. Not only do the power structures and "the resistance of institutions of the superstructure built on the basis of a highly developed social organism"42 but also the "social character" shaped by the given society (a concept introduced by Fromm)43 work against innovation.
The closing stage is an evolutionary dead end. Only a new society can continue the natural historical process without losing its achievements, but for that it must absorb the wisdom of its historical predecessors (borrow their material and spiritual culture) and, at the same time, avoid their senile diseases (primarily, the power of the despotic state). In the European-Mediterranean region, history accomplished this task by means of a special mechanism of cultural inheritance at the level of social organisms.45 At the periphery of the old center of civilization arises a field as it were of cultural-influences—a contact zone in which the synthesis of a new society out of local and borrowed elements occurs. If the interrelation among these elements attains a certain optimum,46 the new society may become a leader of world-historical progress and be the first to make the intersystemic transition.
Having received the "baton" of culture and enriched it with its own achievements, the new leader in the course of time reaches the closing stage of its development and passes the baton on to others. The direction of this "relay race of progress" is determined in general outline by the correlation between the attained level of productive forces and the geographical environment.47 from the most ancient civilizations in the great river valleys through Crete, the Greek city-states, and ancient Rome to northern France, the Netherlands, and Britain. The transition periods in the schema of the relay race last a long time and have a complex structure: revolutions, wars, and foreign invasions alternate with periods of peaceful coexistence between elements of the old and of the new systems. The processes of synthesis are characterized by a highly complex dialectic of form and content and break down into a series of phases.48
The destruction and reconstruction of productive forces, the obliteration of people and achievements of spiritual culture, and the replacement of ruling elites have slowed down the course of history for long periods sometimes (the "dark ages" without written language that followed the Dorian conquest of Mycenean Greece and the settlement of Germanic tribes on the territories of the Roman Empire). A typical beginning of a transition period were the attempts to reform the parasitical regime of prerevolutionary France of the eighteenth century. This transition period ended with newborn capitalism, which in Marx's celebrated expression "exuded blood and dirt from every pore." The bloody disorders of the transition periods separate the "life cycles" of successive civilizations: Cretan-Mycenean, ancient, feudal, and classical capitalism, which ended "according to Lenin" in "imperialism as its highest stage," world wars, revolutions, and disintegration of the colonial empires.
The baton of progress bypassed Russia, but other European countries also remained on the sidelines of history, including those that now occupy a high place in the "table of ranks" of the contemporary economy (Germany and Italy). Together with them, Russia was later drawn into another historical stream: after Britain had become the center of world-historical development, a progressive advance of new forms of social life toward the west and south of Europe began. Unlike the relay race of progress, this process did not lead to a new formation: there was merely an equalization of cultural potentials within the limits of what had already been attained by history. The new was born not alongside the old but in its place. The main form of transformations in countries that are trying to catch up is "reform from above." Changes for which the ground has not been prepared by internal development and which are earned out, first of all. under pressure of external factors can be accomplished only by the state itself.
But the state does not by any means strive for profound transformations. On the contrary, the aim of reforms from above is to reinforce the existing order. For this reason reconstruction in these countries is rent with inner contradictions. The results often do not coincide with reformers' intentions and personal qualities. The new trends from abroad are absorbed first by social and intellectual elites, while the masses remain under the sway of the old ways. Here is what H. Buckle wrote about the Germany of his day: "The German intellect, stimulated by the French into a sudden growth, has been irregularly developed and thus hurried into an activity greater than the average civilization of the country requires. The consequence is that there is no nation in Europe in which we find so wide an interval between the highest and the lowest minds. The German philosophers possess ... a reach of thought that places them at the head of the civilized world. The German people ... are more really ignorant, and more unfit to guide themselves, than are the inhabitants of either France or of England." and so on—it is hard to refrain from further quotation of this roost topical text from the middle of the nineteenth century.49
Before us is an eyewitness description of German society experiencing the same schism that A.S. Akhiezer, 50 Y.B. Pastukhov 51 and many others regard not only as a very important feature (which it is), but also as a distinctive feature of Russian history, which supposedly defines her uniqueness. The historical laws of the transition period for the lagging countries of Europe were investigated in detail by Russian historians before the country entered the current period of reforms.52 At the start, reform is limited to the simple borrowing of new forms of political power from abroad, and society's economic structure begins to change only later. These transformations proceed with a special rhythm unlike that characteristic of the leading countries: different types of statehood and phases of economic development coexist, superimposed one on the other.
As a result, conflict between heterogeneous elements, which is unavoidable for any society giving birth to something new. is so acute here that it gives rise to extraordinary inner tensions and the attempt to relax these tensions under a democratic regime inevitably ends in the "social collapse" of totalitarianism. Transition periods (both in the relay-race schema and in the process of equalizing cultural potentials) were from the beginning a straggle between democratic forces (the primitive democracy of the barbarians, the revolutionary movement, or young bourgeois democracies) and antidemocratic forces (monarchies or authoritarian regimes). Now this struggle is becoming especially bitter and of a global scale. Neither nationalistic nor "class" totalitarian regimes in the lagging countries can count on victory in peaceful economic competition with leading democracies: war is their only chance. But after unleashing first a "hot" and, then, a "cold" world war, the totalitarian regimes meet their downfall. Russian history, starting with the Petrine reforms, fits the general pattern of the transition period for lagging European countries.53 Moreover, the current attempt to overcome the closing stage of Soviet socialism has followed the same pattern so far.
Once more we are trying to dock our vessel in the same port within sight of which the ship of imperial Russia sank in the waves of the storm of February—March 1917.54 And so for two centuries now, Russia has been forming the new mode of production (including, let me remind you, the formation of a new type of individual) on the European pattern. But perhaps the special character of the Russian path must be sought in a more clearly marked, by comparison with Western Europe, sequence of life cycles and of the ages of disorder between them? However, similar sequences may be traced even more clearly in the history of Asia.55 The displacement of centers of culture according to the relay-race schema is not characteristic of Asia: fitting the specific geographical features of the region, each new cycle unfolds here on roughly the same territory as the preceding one. At the same time, progress is minimal: the combination of conservative and progressive elements is excessively weighted in favor of the former.
The "classical case" embodying this Asiatic pattern of "running in place" is the history of China. Over the three and a half millennia of its existence, the Chinese people has lived through about a dozen life cycles and enormous disorders exceeding in losses anything we know in the history of Russia. The familiar image of historical development, the spiral, is for historians of China "compressed" and almost merges into a flat circle.54 The "superstructure" of Asiatic despotism, distinguished by its unusual tenacity, invariably reproduces itself after every upheaval, subordinates the economy to itself, and deforms historical development to such a degree that under the paralyzing armor of the state one cannot discover clearly marked social formations (so one has to introduce supplementary terms such as "Asiatic feudalism").
The difference between Western Europe and China is expressed, consequently, in the magnitude of the step of the historical spiral; Russia's step is somewhere in the middle, corresponding to its geographical position at the edge of Europe. The history of Russia resembles to a great extent the history of another country on the edge of Europe—Spain.57 And so the vast Eurasian spaces incorporated by means of internal colonization, the special features of the country's natural environment, the interweaving of the collective and individual principles, which is "qualitatively different from the 'classical' Western or Eastern type,"38 the "schism,"59 and much more that, in the opinion of numerous authors writing on these themes, distinguishes Russia from the rest of the world, in fact does not exempt Russia from historical laws that apply to the whole continent. How will these historical laws manifest themselves in the future?
The dynamically developing democracies of the Western type, having mastered the art of constraining the despotic power of the bureaucratic state by evolutionary7 means and without revolutionary upheavals, are clearly far from the closing stage of the economic formation. Above I mentioned the formation in contemporary democracies of the "true" needs of the individual, moving him forward in the direction predetermined by the whole history of the spiritual development of humanity. At the same time, the type of social character prevalent in Western societies, which is oriented toward material success, the manifestation of extreme forms of individualism, and other "birth defects of capitalism." may make it impossible for these societies to maintain their leading position "forever."
Then the relay race of progress may go on and the new leader will be a society that, having passed through the school of private property and mastered the achievements of the West, will enrich them with a collectivistic world perception, just as barbarian tribes have done twice in the history of Europe60 and as Japan is doing possibly now. In particular, Russia too ma}' claim the role of leader, if it manages in a short (by historical standards) time to overcome the current interformational period of disorder and to force the carriers of the Soviet social character to the periphery of public life. What spiritual benefits will Russia then bring to the world community?
Western minds are drunk with the "New Age" "spiritual cocktail" that claims to be the religion of the approaching century. Its foundation is irrational. Rational humanism, having drawn conclusions from the twentieth century's historical tragedies and winning back society's trust in scientific thinking and the idea of progress, could become a worthy opponent of the new spiritual fashion sweeping the world. Revealing the progressive meaning of history, scientific thinking makes possible a kind of extrapolation of the discovered historical regularities over time. In assuming that the nature of these regularities will not change in the future (that is, beyond the limits of our field of investigation), we find ourselves as it were on the borderline between science and faith. Here we may speak of the scientific worldview ("rational faith") as one of the foundations of spiritually in the new millennium. 61
1. V.I. Vemadskii, Pis'ma N.E. Vemadskoi (Moscow, 1988), p. 252.
2. L.S. Vasil'ev and D.E. Furman, "Khristianstvo i konfutsianstvo," in Istoriia i kul'tura Kitaia (Moscow, 1974), pp. 405-76.
3.The similarity between the initial stage of perestroika and the Reformation did not go unnoticed by our journalists. See Iu. Kashuk, "My, novyi chelovek ch-0301050900," Knizhnoe obozrenie, 1990, no. 7.
4. E. Fromm, Dusha cheloveka (Moscow, 1992), pp. 375-414.
5. K.Marks [Marx], "Formy, predshestvovavshie kapitalisticheskomu proizvodstvu," in Ekonomicheskie rukopisi 1857-1861 gg. (Moscow, 1980), pp. 466-514.
6. K. Marks [Marx] and F. Engel's [Engels], Sochineniia, vol. 13, p. 7.
7. F. Tekei, K teorii obshchestvennykh formatsii (Moscow, 1975).
8. Marks and Engel's, Sochineniia, vol. 20, p. 186.
9. Ibid., vol. 27, p. 403.
10. Marks, Ekonomicheskie rukopisi, p. 231.
12. K. Marks and F. Engel's, Iz rannik hproizvedenii (Moscow, 1956), p. 591.
13. Marks, Ekonomicheskie rukopisi, p. 481.
14. M. Veber, Izbrannye proizvedeniia (Moscow, 1990), p. 158.
15. Marks and Engel's, Sochineniia, vol. 29, p. 260.
16. Ibid., vol. 31, p. 257.
17. Ibid., vol. 30, p. 528.
18. Marks, Ekonomicheskie rukopisi, p. 231.
19. Ibid., p. 491.
20. Ibid., p. 497.
21. Marks and Engel's, Sochineniia, vol. 23, p. 346.
22. Ibid., p. 229.
23. E.D. Frolov, Rozhdenie grecheskogo polisa (Leningrad, 1988), p. 98.
24. A.I. Zaitsev, Kul'tumyi perevorot v Drevnei Gretsii VIII-V vv. do n. e. (Leningrad, 1985).
25. Ibid.; Zh.-P. Veman, Proiskhozhdenie drevnegrecheskoi mysli (Moscow, 1988).
26. N.N. Trukhina. Politika I politiki "zolotogo veka" Rimskoi respubliki (II vek don.e.) (Moscow, 1986).
27. LP. Veinberg, Chelovek vkid'ture drevnego Blizhnego Vostoka (Moscow, 1986), p. 39.
28. Marx notes that as in slavery and serfdom, the relations of domination and servitude, which are the "ferment of the development and decay" of social systems, are "in a mediated form" inherent also in capital (Marks, Ekonomicheskie rukopisi, p. 497). Thanks to the compromise between entrepreneurs and workers that has proven possible in democratic society, this tendency of the capitalism of Marx's day has been realized only in part, leading to the replacement of "classical capitalism" by its contemporary form.
29. Marks and Engel's, Sochineniia, vol. 10, p. 432.
30. V.Zh. Kelle and M.Ia. Koval'zon, Teoriia i istoriia (Moscow, 1981), p. 82.
31. G.V. Plekhanov, Sochineniia, vol. 3, p. 349.
32. E.Iu. Solov'ev, "Umer li marksizm? (Materialy diskussii)," Voprosy filosofii, 1990, no. 10, p. 31. "Communism ... is an ideal point of reference, the achievement of which is by no means guaranteed by the automatic flow of history. It may include therefore goals the realization of which is most improbable, but which we cannot renounce because of the moral cast of our being."
33. D.P. Gorskii. "Trudovaia teoriia stoimosti: kriticheskii analiz kontseptsii K. Marksa," Voprosy filosofii, 1992, no. 12, p. 127.
34. K. Popper. "Nishcheta istoritsizma," Voprosy filosofii, 1992, no. 8, p. 49 and no. 9, p. 22.
35. Fromm, Dusha cheloveka, pp. 47-52, 80-88.
36. E. Shatskii, Utopiia i traditsii (Moscow, 1990), p. 39.
37. Marks and Engel's, Iz rannikh proizvedenii, p. 58.
38. V. Krasnov, "Vozmozhen li rynokpri sotsializme?" Gorizont, 1990, no. 3.
39. Marks, Ekonomicheskie rukopisi, p. 49.
40. Ibid., p. 493.
41. V.B. Pastukhov, "Budushchee Rossii vyrastaet iz proshlogo," Polls, 1992, nos. 5-6.
42. X.D. Simoniia, Strany Vostoka: puti razyitiia (Moscow, 1975), p. 153.
43. Fromm, Dusha cheloveka, p. 335.
44. Simoniia, Strany Vostoka, pp. 145-53.
45. Ibid.; Iu.I. Semenov. "Teoriia obshchestvenno-ekonomicheskikh formatsii," Narody Azii iAfriki, 1970. no. 5.
46. E.V. Gutnovaand, Z.Y. Udal'tsova, "K voprosu o tipologii razvitogo feodalizma v. Zapadnoi Evrope," in Problemy sotsial'no-ekonomicheskikh formatsii (Moscow, 1975), pp. 107-23.
47. A.M. Sirota, "Ritmy istorii," Znanie-sila, 1992, no. 12.
48. N.A. Simoniia, "Formatsionnoe razvitie i gosudarstvennost'," in Evoliutsiia Vostochmkh obshchestv: sintez traditsionnogo i sovremennogo (Moscow, 1984), pp. 194-263.
49. G.T. Bokl', Istoriia tsivilizatsii vAnglii (St. Petersburg, 1895), pp. 97 ff.
50. A.S. Akhiezer, Sotsial 'no-kul' turnye problemy razviitiia Rossii (Moscow, 1992).
51. Pastukhov, "Budushchee Rossii." 52. Simoniia, "Formatsionnoe razvitie i gosudarstvennost'."
53. N.A. Simoniia, Chto my postroili (Moscow, 1991).
54. A.M. Sirota, "Smozhem my vybrat'ia iz kolei?" Polis, 1991, nos. 5-6.
55. Sirota, "Ritmy istorii." 56. L.S. Vasil'ev, "Traditsiia i probl'ema sotsial'nogo progressa v istorii Kitaia," in Rol' traditsii v istorii i kul'ture Kitaia (Moscow, 1972), pp. 24-60.
57. A.M. Sirota, "Nastalo vremia sopostavit' vremena," Znanle-slla, 1991, no. 6.
58.Pastukhov. "Budushchee Rossii."
59. Akhiezer, Sotsial'no-kul'turnye problemy.
60. Kautsky, one of the founders of evolutionary Marxism, wrote the following about this great historical mission of the barbarian periphery of Rome after its downfall. Progress could take place "only to the extent that there were still peoples who had not been exposed to the degrading influence of the state, who were still at the prestate stage, and at the same time possessed sufficient knowledge to establish as conquerors new states, to absorb albeit partially the knowledge that had been gained in the preceding states, and to pursue further development with the ultimate prospect of also sinking to the bottom" (K. Kautskii, Materiallstlcheskoe ponlmanle istorii [Moscow, 1931], vol. 2, p. 369).
61. A.M. Sirota, "Pis'mo v redaktsiiu zhumala," Znanie-sila, 1996, no. 12, p. 66.
Russian Studies in Philosophy, vol. 39, no. 4 (Spring 2001), pp. 54—79. © 2002 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved.
Translated by Stephen Shenfield.
English translation © 2002 by M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text © 1998 by "Voprosy filosofii." "A.M. Sirota. Neomarksizm: popitka reformatsii," Voprosy filosofii, 1998, no. 8, pp. 104-19.
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