Monday, December 17, 2018

Jordan Peterson attacks Jeremy Corbyn - We reply to Jordan Peterson's with something awful

For those interested in Lobsters visit here:

"In this age and time, men have nearly no rights," Peterson explained to me. "We cannot be served in restaurants. We cannot legally drive cars. 

We are routinely shot at by police helicopters if we are seen breaking our 8:00 PM curfew.. 

This is why society is decaying and now, more than ever, needs men who can be men.

" But what does "being a man" entail to Peterson? "Let me give you an analogy. 

Hundreds of years ago, there were pirates, They were primarily men, and they banded together to fight the Kraken. 

Now they would dock in Atlantis, and Neptune, the king of Atlantis who had the Little Mermaid as his daughter, would praise them for their efforts.

He would allow the sailors to run a train on Ariel, as he secretly watched and filmed the entire thing from behind curtains. 

But then the sirens heard of this, and they invented the Bermuda Triangle, which, if you look at it on a map, appears to exactly resemble a woman's vagina. 

The Bermuda Triangle swallowed up Atlantis and everybody there, dooming them to a watery grave.

Masculinity has been dead ever since." 

When I pressed Peterson for more detail regarding Neptune and Atlantis, he changed the subject. 

"Look over there, where I am pointing," he demanded. I turned my head to see.

 "That's the direction I'm pointing," he triumphantly proclaimed.





Huawei and the Eclipse of US telecommunication dominance - a precursor to China taking particle physics and AI global leadership

The Clash of Titans the Western Way - No - the Art of War - Yes 


PS:  We still think War on balance is inevitable as we are Leninists of the Western Way !

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union by V Molotov 1929

For the text of this pamphlet on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union visit here

Comrade Molotov served a Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars - basically PRIME MINISTER from 1930 to 1941 

An Essential Work for those interested in real and not just Anti Soviet History of the Soviet Union

Medea Benjamin busts many anti Iranian Myths

Democracy and Class Struggle says that genuine anti Imperialism has only one road and that is the socialist road - whatever the contradictions Iranian revolutionary forces have they must not ally with their enemies enemy the United States like the MEK does.

The Iranian people are some of the nicest and smartest people on the planet and we are with them in their existential battle with US Imperialism and have confidence in their ulimate victory - a victory that can only be consolidated by Socialism.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Happy Christmas Britain SNL

Freud. A Study in Bourgeois Psychology by Christopher Caudwell

Freud is certain to be remembered and honoured as one of the pioneers of scientific psychology. But it is probable that like Kepler he will be regarded as a scientist who discovered important empirical facts but was unable to synthesise these discoveries except in a primitive semi-magical framework. 

Kepler with his divine Sun God, lived in the religious age of physics, Freud for all his honesty lives in the mythical era of psychology:

  ‘It may now be expected that the other of the “two heavenly forces,” eternal Eros, will put forth his strength so as to maintain himself alongside of his equally immortal adversary.’

  This is Freud’s prognosis of the future of our civilisation. It is no bad symbolisation of the psychological trend of the present, but it will be seen that it is mythological symbolisation. Examination of the remainder of his psychology shows that it is generally religious in its presentation. It is a psychology of forces and personifications. Freud is no exceptional psychologist here. 

Psychology still awaits its Newton. 

At least Freud has refused to accept the outworn shams of Christianity or of idealistic metaphysics. In The Future of an Illusion he maintains the fruitful materialistic traditions of bourgeois science, which bourgeois science itself to-day as it loses its grip is deserting. The metaphysical psychology with its memory, reason, conation, perception, thought and feeling which Freud helped to destroy is more mythological than Freudism. This psychology, of which Freudism is an enemy, belongs to an even earlier age of science. 

It reduces mentation to verbiage, and then the organisation of this verbiage is called thought. It is, however, real mentation with which Freud deals always, only he symbolises the inner structure of this neurological behaviour in terms of real entities as glamorous and personal as the Olympian gods of old. The Censor, the Ego, thc Super-ego, the Id, the Oedipus complex, and the Inhibition are mind-deities, like the weather deities who inhabited Greek Olympus. Freud’s picture of a struggle between eternal Eros and eternal Thanatos, between the life and death instincts, between the reality principle and the pleasure principle, is only the eternal dualism of reflective barbarians, carried over by Christianity from Zoroastrianism, and now introjected by Freud into the human mind. It represents a real struggle but in terms of a Western bourgeois myth.

  As confirmation of his fable about Zeus, the Greek could point to the thunder and lightning. As confirmation of the endless war between Ormuzd and Ahriman, the Parsee could remind the sceptic of the endless warfare that tears life in twain. Freudians point to the psychic phenomena of dreams, hysteric and neurotic symptoms, obsessions and slips of the pen and tongue as confirmation of their intricate mythology. The early scientists could claim the fall of every stone as the evidence of the mysterious force of gravity and all phenomena of heat and cold as testimony to the passage of a mysterious ‘caloric’. 

In Freudism ‘libido’ plays the part of the mythical ‘caloric’ of eighteenth-century heat mechanics, or of the ‘gravity’ of Newtonian physics.

  It may be urged with some reason that psychology is an appropriate sphere for fables and emotive symbolisation, but this claim withdraws it from the circle of science to that of art. It is better to demand that mythical psychology should exist only in the novel and that psychology should be a science. If so, the obligation falls upon psychoanalysts either to leave any empirical facts they have discovered in thin air for some abler mind to fit into a causal scheme, as Newton co-related Kepler’s separate and arbitrary laws of planetary motion, or else they must clearly exhibit the causality of their discoveries without recourse to mythological entities. This Freud and his followers have failed to do. Thus instead of being causal and materialistic, their psychology is religious and idealistic. Yet Freud is a materialist and is clearly aware of the illusory content of religion. 

But he is also a bourgeois. This class outlook affects his psychology through certain implicit assumptions from which he starts, assumptions that appear in all bourgeois culture as a disturbing yet invisible force, just as Uranus until discovered was for us only a mysterious perturbation in the orbits of the known planets. 

These implicit assumptions are firstly that the consciousness of men is sui generis, unfolding like a flower from the seed instead of being a primarily social creation, and secondly that there is a source of free action in the individual, the ‘free will’, the ‘wish’, or the ‘instincts’ which is only free in proportion to the extent to which it is unrestrained by social influences. These two assumptions are of vital significance for psychology, and just because they are implicit, they act like buried magnets, distorting all Freud’s psychology and making it an unreal kind of a science tainted with wish-fulfilment.

  Freud has been exceptionally unfortunate in that his school of psychology has been rent repeatedly by schisms. Jung and Adler are the most notable schismatics, but almost every psychoanalyst is a heretic in embryo. 

Now this must necessarily have been a matter for sorrow to Freud although he has borne it as calmly as he has borne the numerous attacks from all with vested interests in contemporary morality whom his discoveries seemed to menace. 

The Freudian schisms are not paralleled in other sciences. The disciples of a discoverer of new empirical principles, such as the disciples of Darwin, Newton and Einstein, do not as a rule turn and rend him. They work within the general limits of his formulations, merely enriching and modifying them, without feeling called upon to attack the very foundations on which the structure is based.

  Freud is himself indirectly to blame. Schism is the hall-mark of religion, and a man who treats scientific facts as does Freud, in a religious way, must necessarily expect the trials and tribulations, as well as the intense personal relationships, of a religious leader. In approaching science in a religious spirit, I do not mean in a ‘reverent’ spirit. 

The scientist necessarily approaches reality, with all its richness and complexity, with a feeling of reverence and insignificance which is the more intense the more materialistic he is, and, the less he feels that this reality is a mere offshoot or emanation of a Divine friend of his. I mean by a ‘religious’ approach, the belief that scientific phenomena are adequately explained by any symbolisation which includes and accounts for the phenomena. Thus ‘caloric’ accounts for temperature phenomena. None the less, no such mysterious stuff exists.

 In the same way Freud supposes that any fable which includes a connected statement of genuine psychical phenomena is a scientific hypothesis, whether or no it exhibits in a causal manner the inner relations of the phenomena. Of course such explanations break down because they do not fit into the causal scheme of science as a whole.

  Now this is precisely the way religion sets about explaining the world, thunder and lightning are caused by deities. The world exists because it was created by a God. Disaster is the will of an omnipotent deity, or the triumph of an evil deity over an omnipotent deity. We die because we sinned long ago. 

Moreover, religion naively supposes that the fact that there is thunder and lightning, that the world exists, that disaster occurs in it, and that we die, is a proof that deities exist, that God created the world, and that we sinned long ago. 

This is what theologians mean by the Cosmological and Teleological proofs of God’s existence. 

But this kind of ‘proof’ was long ago banished from science, and it is strange to see a man of Freud’s intellectual gifts impressed by it. 

It is a sign of the crisis reached in bourgeois culture when psychology cannot escape from this kind of thing.

  It follows from presuming that an adequate explanation of certain facts will be furnished by any fable connecting there facts, that for any group of facts an indefinite number of myths can be advanced as an explanation. 

Thus an indefinite number of religions exist which explain with different myths the same facts of man’s unhappiness, his cruelty, his aspirations, his sufferings, his inequality and his death. Religion by its method of approach spawns schisms. The only reason that Churches can exist without disintegration is because of their material foundations in the social relations of their time.

Science can recognise only explanations which with as little symbolisation as possible exhibit the mutual determination of the phenomena concerned, and their relation with the rest of reality. Thus one scientific hypothesis is intolerant. It drives out another.

  Scientific explanations, because of their austere structure, are not equally good, as different religions are equally good. One or other must go to the wall. And the test is simple. If, of two hypotheses one exhibits more comprehensively and less symbolically the structure of the determinism of the phenomena it explains and their relation to the already established structure of reality, that hypothesis will be more powerful as an instrument for predicting the recurrence of such phenomena in real life. 

Hence arises the crucial test, which decides between one hypothesis and another. For example, the crucial tests of the Einstein theory, as compared with the Newtonian, were the bending of light, the perturbation of planetary orbits, the increase of mass of alpha particles, and the shifts of the spectra of receding stars. But it is never possible to demonstrate by a crucial test the rival truths of the Protestant and Catholic theories, simply because they deal with entities assumed to be outside the structure of determined reality. The crucial test of the two theories is presumed to occur at the Last Judgment, that is, never in this life. 

The theories are expressly so formulated that it is not, for example, possible to test the Eucharist by chemical analysis. The Catholic theory states that in being turned into Christ’s body the bread retains all the chemical and physical properties of ordinary bread. In the same way the Protestant theory makes it pointless to test for the salvation of a soul, precisely because the soul is asserted to be completely non-material and therefore inaccessible to determinism.

  No hypothesis, religious or scientific, can have any meaning unless it can give rise to a crucial test, which will enable it to be socially compared with other hypotheses. Thought must interact with external reality to be of value or significance. Capitalist and socialist economists dispute as meaninglessly as theologians as long as they base their defences of the rival systems on justice, liberty, man’s natural equality, or any other ‘rights’. No one has yet devised an instrument to measure or determine justice, equality, or liberty. 

The Marxian can be concerned only with the structure of concrete society and he will on this basis advance socialism as a superior form of organisation at a certain period of history because it permits a more efficient use of the means of material production. 

This makes possible the crucial test of practice – is communism more productive than capitalism? Thus economics remains scientific because it remains in the sphere of reality and does not deal with entities that cannot be determined quantitively. 

For this reason, historical materialism has not given rise to as many brands of socialism as there are theorists. It can only be opposed by an hypothesis more penetrative of reality. The cast-iron inflexible dogmatism of the communist corresponds to the scientists’ rigid and universal adherence to a methodological principle, such as the conservation of energy, until a fresh hypothesis, capable of a crucial test, has shown the need for its expansion or modification.

  When we see a scientific ‘school’ rent by schism, or engaged in vigorous persecution, we may assume that a certain amount of the religious spirit has entered its science. Science has never been wholly free of it, but it has rent psychoanalysis into fragments.

  Adler, Freud and Jung deal with the same mental phenomena. They are as follows: Psychic phenomena consist of innervations of some of which we, as subjects, have a privileged (subjective) view. Some of these innervations, the smallest and most recent group phylogenetically, form a group often called the consciousness, the ego, or the subject. This group appears to be more self-determined than the other groups but all affect each other and form a kind of hierarchic process. Those which do not form part of the consciousness are called unconscious. At the moment of birth the neurones capable of innervation exhibit certain specific patterns of innervation, involving certain specific somatic behaviour, as a result of internal and external stimuli. These patterns are known as ‘the instincts’. 

But the experience resulting from the awakening of these patterns modifies, by means of a phenomenon which may be called memory but is not peculiar to consciousness, the patterns themselves. At any moment of time, therefore, the system as a whole has a slightly different resonance or totality of patterns as a result of previous behaviour due to the then totality of patterns. The result will be to increase with lapse of time the range and complexity of the behaviour response to reality, and the hierarchy of groups of possible innervation combinations. We say, therefore, in ordinary language, that in the course of life a man learns by experience, or, a little more technically, that his instincts are modified or conditioned by situations. Such expressions contain a certain amount or mythology, perhaps at present unavoidable. In particular the more autonomous group called the ‘consciousness’, in whose language all explanations of other less autonomous groups must be phrased, will necessarily tend to write everything from its angle, and give a peculiar twist to the description. Science itself is a product of consciousness.

  Experiment leads us to believe that the innervations concerned in consciousness are phylogenetically the most recent in evolution, and that the older the neurone groups, the less modifiable they are in their behaviour, i.e. the less they are able to ‘learn’ by ‘experience’. Hence they may be described as more infantile, bestial, archaic or automatic, according to the mythological language one is adopting at the time.

  In every innervation, however simple, the whole system of neurones is really concerned. If we play a chord on the piano, the strings we do not strike are as much concerned as those we do, because the chord is what it is being part of the well-tempered scale, and to the chord contribute also the wood, the air of the room, and our ears. Though consciousness deals with psychic phenomena in its own terms, yet in all conscious phenomena the innervations of the rest of the system are concerned and their innate responses, modified or unmodified, give all behaviour, including conscious phenomena, the ‘ground’ of their specific pattern. Hence we may say that the Unconscious modifies all behaviour, including consciousness; that is, that unconscious innervation and experience are a part of consciousness.

  The study of this modification of the consciousness by the unconscious is naturally of great interest to our consciousness. To understand it we must know accurately the innate responses of all parts of the nervous system, and the laws of their harmony. Sometimes as a result of the temporary instability of the conscious innervation pattern (e.g. in situations of emergency or difficulty or in sleep), the tune of behaviour is called chiefly by the phylogenetically older neurones, and these, as we saw, were less teachable than the newer groups. We then have behaviour in which there is a return to the earlier and less experienced state, the so-called infantile regression. In it some of life’s experience is thrown away. We may also call this behaviour instinctive.

  Now these disturbances have been studied by Freud, and he has made some interesting empirical discoveries about them. He has shown how much more common they are than we suspect and has elaborated a technique for detecting them. All his discoveries have been embodied in an elaborate and ingenious myth, or series of myths. This is due partly to the fact that he has not taken his own doctrine seriously.

 He has not realised that, since it is consciousness which is formulating psychoanalysis, all unconscious phenomena are likely to appear as seen by consciousness, not as causal phenomena with the same physiological basis as consciousness and ultimately homogeneous with it, but as wicked demons which burst into the neat ordered world of consciousness. Just as causal phenomena, such as thunder and lightning, which burst into the accustomed world of the primitive, were attributed to the arbitrary acts of deities, so unconscious ‘influences’ causing perturbations in the conscious world, are by Freud called by such rude names as distortion, inhibition, regression, obsession, the id, the censor, the pleasure-principle, Eros, libido, the death instinct, the reality principle, a complex, a compulsion. Freud does not perceive the implications of the physiological content of his theory. All innervation patterns consist of an innate response (instinct) modified by experience (inhibition), and thus all innervation patterns contain varying proportions of conscious and unconscious elements, connected in various ways, but all forming the one circuit, overtly visible in behaviour.

 Freud has accepted for this part of his theory the prejudiced view of consciousness. He treats all unconscious components of behaviour as perturbations, distortions, or interferences, just as the treble part in music might regard the bass as distortion by some primitive unconsciousness. Just as mythological and consistent a psychology as Freud’s might be written from the point of view of the ‘unconscious’ in which, instead of the ‘instincts’, the ‘experiences’ would now play the part of energetic imprisoned demons distorting or inhibiting the stability and simple life of the innate responses. And, in fact, when Freud comes to treat civilisation and man as a whole, he does swing over to this point of view. It is now experience or consciousness (culture) which is thwarting or distorting instinct (the unconscious). Naturally, therefore, Freud’s doctrine contains a dualism which cannot be resolved.

  But of course both consciousness and unconsciousness, as sharply distinct entities, are abstractions. In all the innervations which are part of behaviour, a varying proportion make up the group which at any time we call the consciousness or the ego. And they are not separate; consciousness is made vivid and given its content by the unconscious innervations, whose contribution we know consciously only as affect. A thought without affect is unconscious; it is simply one of the cortical neurones mnemically modified, but not at that moment affectively glowing, and therefore not part of the live circuit of unconsciousness. It is only an unconscious memory. 

Equally an unconscious innervation or affect without memory is not an affect at all, but simply an instinctive reflex, a tendency unmodified by experience. Consciousness and unconsciousness are not exclusive opposites, but in any hierarchy of innervations forming the behaviour of the moment we have a certain amount with high mnemic modifiability and others with high innate predisposition, and the proportion of these may be varying. But they are in mutual relation, like the positive and negative poles of a battery activating a circuit, and it is only by abstraction that we separate out the complex called consciousness, as we might separate out the threads forming the pattern on a tapestry. The same threads pass through to the other side and form the reverse pattern there, the unconscious, and each pattern determines the other.

  Freud gave to these discoveries of his, which were founded on the previous work of Charcot, Janet, Morton Prince, and Bleuler, formulations drawn from his consciousness, without the rigorous causality demanded in physical or chemical hypotheses. 

As a result Freud’s terminology consists of little but the abusive names coined by the consciousness for its distortion by the unconscious, or of the pitiful complaints by the unconscious of its modification by the experience embodied in conscious innervations. On the whole our sympathies will be with the consciousness, for the consciousness represents recent experience, and recent experience is the richest; but reality reminds us that we cannot simply live in the new experience of the present. 

If we do, we shall be unable to advance beyond it; we shall be trapped in the limitations of the present. We must accept the present more thoroughly than that, we must accept the past included in the present. That does not mean that we must accept the past as the past, for, in being included in the present, it is changed. That indeed is what each present is in relation to the precedent past, it is that precedent past modified by the impression of an additional experience; and that present itself becomes the past when it is synthesised in a new present. This may sound metaphysical, and yet in the human body we see it given a ‘crude’ and material physiological basis. Everything below the optic thalamus represents the inherited experience of the ancestral past. The cerebrum is the organ for storing each present as it becomes the past, and sensory perception is the process by which the past, acquiring new experience, becomes the present. This ingression gives rise to the will, to the future.

  Thus though we accept consciousness as latest and richest, we must not reject the Unconscious, as the worship of the consciousness may too easily lead us to do. Those who accept consciousness only are entrapped in immediate experience, and can never progress to a richer consciousness; just as those who ignore the past in the present in the form of history are unable to grasp the richer future, which they write only in terms of the barren present. This is the lesson of historical materialism, that the future is not contained in the present, but in the present plus the past.

  Still less can we accept only the past. That is worse than the other, it is a return to outworn things, it is infantile regression. It is the path that perpetually appeals to man when, as to-day, his consciousness seems to fail him at the tasks with which he is faced, but it is the way of defeat. The Unconscious has its wisdom, certainly, for it contains the condensed experience of ages of evolution, stamped in by natural selection. Our life is built on the foundations of the somatic wisdom of unconscious innervations. None the less, the spearpoint of life’s insertion into the reality is the present, it is new experience and this new experience is unseizable by unconsciousness. It is consciousness.

  Freudism does not accept the story of one party to the exclusion of the other’s. It accepts both uncritically, and so involves itself in an irreconcilable dualism. After showing how the wicked complex-devils of the Unconscious distort and obsess the consciousness, Freud goes over to the other side and paints the Unconscious as it would like to paint itself. He shows us the Instincts tortured by the inhibitions of culture, martyrs to the present and to consciousness. Yet the scientist ought in these matters to be impartial, otherwise he will never synthesise these two opposites, past and present, new and old. Freud raises only the barren trichotomy of metaphysics: (i) infantile regression (or worship of the past); (ii) conservatism (or blind acceptance of the present); (iii) dualism (the conception of present and past as eternal antagonists). Only the man who sees how the past is included in the present, can proceed to the future, child of a ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. They are included in the primary process of becoming, exhibited in the organism as active behaviour, in which unconscious and conscious innervations are the bass and treble of the innervation harmony in whose theme we distinguish instinct, thought, feeling and conation.

  Directly Freud clothed the elements of this harmony in the fabulous and emotional symbols of psychoanalysis, Freud invited schism. Jung and Adler have invented symbols which are at least as good explanations of the same phenomena, and yet they are totally opposed to each other and to Freud’s in their significance.

 In Adler’s fable the sexual instinct makes hardly any appearance, yet his ‘instinct’ of ‘self-preservation’ explains everything as satisfactorily as Freud’s ‘libido’. Since separate entities – such as an instinct of self-preservation or a Censor – are fabulous descriptions of certain innate physiological responses, it is not possible to find a crucial experiment to judge between Adler and Freud. They are disputing about myths, though the myths refer to real phenomena. In the same way Grecians might have disputed about inconsistencies in rival accounts of the birth of Athene from Zeus’s head. What was actually being discussed by them was the modification of behaviour by experience or – more picturesquely – the Birth of Wisdom. Since both Athene and Zeus were mere symbolic fictions, such disputes about them were wasted time. Adler, Jung and Freud have wasted much of their time in precisely the same way.

  Of them all Jung is perhaps the most scientific theoretically, even if he has made the fewer empirical discoveries, because he does realise the dualism inherent in Freud’s approach. But he never escapes from that dualism. On the contrary, he makes it the foundation of his theories.
* * *
  So far we have been concerned with psychology as shown by the organism’s behaviour, and have neglected the environment except as simple stimulus. Restricting our study to the organism, we regard all psychic phenomena as simply certain patterns of innervations. Some of these innervations in ourselves are consciousness. As a whole they are part of a body’s behaviour and we see part of this behaviour overtly as action, in ourselves or others. 

In the act of behaviour, the basic innervation patterns become modified. Thus the tune of a man’s life begins with a simple hereditary phrase, on which experience plays endless variations, continually increasing in richness and subtlety. This is part of the fact that a man’s life is lived in Reality, whose nature it is that each new present includes the previous past, so growing increasingly in complexity.

  But all behaviour is interaction between body and stimuli from outside, or between one part of the body and another. The organism never behaves alone; there is always an ‘other’, the environment, which is a party to its behaviour. Moreover the environment too has its history, for it is subject to time. Thus it is never the same environment, and each transaction the organism has with it is subtly different because since the previous transaction it has become more full of history. 

Hence the behaviour of the organism is a counter-point, in which the organism furnishes one part and the environment the other part. We may for purposes of analysis consider the melody of each separately, but actually behaviour is not a melody but a harmony. Thus the harmony of the psyche is itself a reflection of the harmony of the body’s being in reality. The treble of the consciousness is a reflection of the melody of the environment; the bass of the unconsciousness is a reflection of the melody of the organism The fundamental principle of physics is that each action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

Thus, after each act of behaviour, in which organism and environment interact, environment has affected organism and organism environment, and the resulting positions of each are different. Indeed that is why there is history, for the environment itself is simply a collection of mutually-interacting bodies. In between the act of an organism one moment and its act the next, the environment has changed, simply because the elements of which the environment is composed have interacted and changed each other.

  Now of all known organisms, the human organism is the most elaborate in its melody and the most sensitive in its reaction to intercourse with reality. It is the organism which learns most from behaviour, from experience. Nothing changes so quickly as the human organism. In the same way the social environment, because the organisms of which it consists are chiefly human beings, also changes most quickly in between the acts of a human being. The study of this dialectic change is psychology from the point of view of the individual; but from the point of view of the sum of human beings it is sociology or history, and in its causal statement it must include all portions of the environment with which human beings interact, even the fixed stars. But since in the short periods usually studied, cosmical conditions do not change importantly, they may be neglected. They might become important in a study of humanity which included the Ice Ages. 

Of primary interest to history are however the material elements in the environment that do change rapidly in the periods generally studied, i.e. machines, transport, cities, and, in brief, all the social relations arising from social production, for the change in the organism will necessarily be related to these changing features in its environment. The organism does not enter consciously or of its own will into these relations. 

They are prior and determine its consciousness and will. It is in fact impossible to study psychology without a background of sociology. If one does do so, either it is impossible to find the causal connexion in the change of the human psyche, or else one accepts the human psyche as unchanging and all laws discovered from a study of contemporary psyches seem true for all time.

  As it happens, no modern school of psychology has ever studied social relations as primary, as conditioning the consciousness which is generated by them. None study concrete society and its non-psychical basis. No modern school of psychology has ever yet got so far as to formulate its basic approach to the environment of the psyche it studies, continuous interaction with which is the law of psychic life.

  Freud approaches his psychological problems with the assumptions of a bourgeois idealist, to whom nothing exists of reality save an unchanging backcloth before which the ideas play their parts. It is true that these ideas are now rather like the ‘ruling passions’ of older philosophers, and have been given the name of ‘the instincts’ or ‘Libido’ but the story is still the same fabulous drama, in which are performed the ‘miracles’ of inhibitions, sublimation, cathexis, narcissism, transformation and displacement, by those good and bad fairies, the censor, the ego, the super-ego and the id. There are even cannibal instincts and incest instincts, though it staggers the imagination of the biologist to infer how these variations evolved and became hereditary. There is no causality.

  Freud imagines a pleasure-principle attempting to gain freedom for its pleasures within the bounds of the prison house of reality. Beyond those bounds of causality we must not stray, Freud admits, but inside their ever-contracting boundaries there appears to be true freedom. It is a fine fable. The instincts, like bourgeois 
revolutionaries, desperately attempt to gratify themselves, oppressed by the tyrant Reality’s laws. Has such a conception any place in science?

  Freud, like all bourgeois intellectuals, like Eddington, Russell and Wells, cannot lose his faith that there is a separate cell called liberty, mysteriously existing in the granite of scientific causality. Scientific thought is continually (it is supposed) contracting the dimensions of this chamber of little ease, but still it exists.

  In particular, these thinkers suppose that man is more free, more at liberty, the more he is free from the pressure of culture, consciousness, and social organisation. Russell, Eddington, Freud, and Wells are alike in this supposition, which, carried (as they do not carry it) to the logical conclusion, means that the only beings with real liberty are the unconscious brutes.

  But the truth is, the world is not a prison house of reality in which man has been allotted by some miracle a honey cell of pleasure. Man is a part of reality, in constant relation with it, and the progress of consciousness, in so far as it increases his knowledge of causality, increases his freedom. In the same way, civilisation increases his freedom, in so far as it increases his causal control over reality, including himself. In this last, in the self-control of men as compared with their environmental control by machines, we are least advanced, and this is precisely because psychology, which would show us how to control ourselves, is always trying to evade causality. 

Science does not seem to be telling man about freedom.

 On the contrary, it seems only to be discovering cast-iron laws, of whose existence and rigidity he did not guess.

 But is an animal in a cage free because it does not realise it is a cage? 

Will it not only become free when it realises that a locked cage completely restricts its movements and that to be free it must necessarily unlock the door?

  Bourgeois civilisation is built on this rock, that complete freedom consists in complete personal anarchy, and that man is naturally completely free. 

This Rousseaudism is found distorting all bourgeois thought. Freud cannot help visualising civilisation as the enslavement of the completely free instincts by culture.

Hence the honest bourgeois is always either pessimistic or religious. 

Man must have some conscious social organisation to exist socially (police, judges, factories, education), and all these seem to him so many limits to his freedom, not because of the imperfection of the organisation, which is the communist criticism, but because there is organisation at all. 

Thus to the bourgeois civilisation seems damned by its premises and there is no hope in this life of attaining freedom. All organisation, all consciousness, all thought eventually seem to the bourgeois intellectual the corruption or inhibition or repression of the completely free natural man; but this natural man is an anthropoid ape, for man without society is a brute.

  Can we talk of the inhibition or repression of that which is not free? And are the instincts free or are they, as we see so clearly in the insect, blind mechanical enslavements, deaf to individual learning, heeding only the slow ancestral experience of the species? Then society, creating by its inhibitions and repressions consciousness, is leading the instincts on the path not of slavery but of freedom. 

To call, as Freud does, that which frees the enslaved instincts ‘inhibitions’ or ‘repression’ is prejudiced.
Freud sees in the evolution of each individual psyche nothing but the drama of the instincts fighting among themselves, and so giving rise to the repressions of culture. He sees in culture nothing but the projection of this drama into the environment, on a collective scale: ‘And now,’ he says, ‘it seems to me, the meaning of the evolution of culture is no longer a riddle to us. It must present to us the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instincts of life and the instincts of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species.’ 

Thus to him culture is autonomously psychic, and without internal causality, just because it has no external connection. The material environment is ignored.

  In another passage he attributes the organisations of society to the identifications of all individuals with each other through the father, thus explaining both social cohesion and leadership. And he adds (explaining our present discontents):

 ‘This danger (i.e. social discontent) is most menacing where the social forces of cohesion consist predominantly of identifications of the individuals of the group with one another, whilst leading personalities fail to acquire the significance that should fall to them in the process of group-formation.’ 

Here bourgeois idealism, long before the advent of Hitler, unwittingly writes the charter of barbarous Fascism, Fuhrership, and the Corporate State. Withdrawing from the future, Fascism appeals to a savage past for salvation. 

By a strange irony, Freud becomes the apologist of the Fascist philosophy which rejects him, which burns his books, and seems repugnant to him. Yet this is the irony of all bourgeois culture, that because it is based on a contradiction, it gives rise to the opposite of what it desires. It desires freedom and individual expression, but, because it believes freedom is to be found in abolition of social organisation, it gives rise to all the tyrannies and blind crippling necessities of the modern world. Freudism, attempting to cure civilisation of its instinctive distortions, points the way to Nazism.

  Is Freud, then, an ally of Fascism, whose psychological mechanism in the individual his theory explains and condemns? In one sense, yes! As bourgeois consciousness breaks down before new reality, it is aware of its failure and this sense of failure is itself a disintegrating force. It is part of the rôle of Freud to make overt the rottenness in bourgeois social relations, but there are no absolutely hopeless situations, and bourgeois culture defends itself from these humiliating awarenesses by the mechanism of barbaric pseudo-religious constructs, such as that of Fascist ideology. 

When consciousness reveals its inadequacy to a situation, one can either advance to a wider consciousness which will include the new situation that brought about the crisis, or one can regress to a former solution of a similar problem in the childhood of the individual or the nation. This is the mechanism of neuroses. But this is no solution, for the old situation is not the same situation, and the mind that faces it too has changed. 

So one gets only a false and pathological infantilism, full of illusion and phantasy. Freudism can point this out but, because of its lack of a scientific basis, it cannot show the way to attain the wider consciousness. Thus, after all, it is not a therapy, it is only a diagnosis. The analyst vainly exposes the regressive nature of the neurotic’s solution, if he cannot himself provide a better solution. And Freud cannot. We can only cast out error with truth, and Freud had no new truth to offer, only a fairy-tale recording the breakdown of bourgeois civilisation as seen in its own mythological terms.

  In answer to criticism of Freud’s mythology, it has often been urged that Freudism is a therapy, not a science. Such defenders admit that emotively-charged concepts such as libido, the censor, the Odipus complex and inhibition have no place in a scientific hypothesis. But (they argue) the neurosis is an emotional crisis, and the neurotic can only be cured emotionally. It is no use talking to him about conditioned reflexes. His emotions must be stirred, and this justifies the myths of psychoanalysis, by which truths are conveyed to him fabulously but vividly.

  But just because Freudism is not a science, it fails as a therapy. Granted that the neurotic must be touched emotionally, are individual psychoanalysts really arrogant enough to believe that the enormous, creative force of emotion, the dynamism of society, can be directed by them, as individuals, and by means of such arid concepts as those of Freudism? Emotion, in all its vivid colouring, is the creation of ages of culture acting on the blind unfeeling instincts. All art, all education, all day-to-day social experience, draw it out of the heart of the human genotype and direct and shape its myriad phenomena.

 Only society as a whole can really direct this force in the individual. To imagine that one psychoanalyst can shape it is to believe that one can bring down the houses of London with a shout. Could any discipline rooted in scientific causality have made so rash a misjudgment of the powers of the individual, as to believe that the mighty social force of emotion could be harnessed by ‘Transference of libido’ to the earnest, middle-aged and bald physician? At least the Victorian heroine who wished to reform the sinner by a good woman’s love had personal charm and unlimited opportunity.

  The innate responses of an organism, the so-called instincts, as such are unconscious, mechanical, and unaffected by experience. Psychology therefore is not concerned with them, for they are the material of physiology. Psychology, in its study of consciousness or unconsciousness, can only have for its material all those psychic contents that results from the modification of responses by experience. It is this material that changes, that develops, that is distinctively human, that is of importance, and psychology should and in practice does ignore the unchanging instinctual basis as a cause. It concerns itself with the variable, which changes not only from age to age but from individual to individual and in an individual from hour to hour.

  Reflexes are conditioned by experience, by action upon the environment. In man the environment consists of society, and action of education, daily work, daily life, what man sees, eats, hears, handles, travels in, co-operates in, loves, reverences, is repelled by – the whole fabric of social relations. These in the developing instinctual organism, produce the psyche, give consciousness its contents and the unconscious its trend, and make man what he is. Consciousness is the organ of social adaptation, but society is not composed of consciousnesses.

  It is true that each contact of organism with the environment not only affects the organism but also affects the environment. But in studying any one psyche, which is the task of individual psychology, we see on the one hand a naked genotype, dumb, ignorant and without tradition, whereas, on the other hand, forming its environment, we see not only millions of other individuals but the formulation in bricks and mortar, in social organisations, in religions, sciences, laws and language of the experience of æons of human activity. 

Consequently the action of the organism upon this mass of consciousness is minute compared with its reaction upon the organism, except in those cases where, owing to its own instability, the smallest touch is already sufficient to send it over violently into a new position. Such touches are administered by Marx. But in formulating, a scientific psychology as in formulating a mechanics, the spectacular side is of no importance compared to the underlying causal laws, good for the ordinary as well as the exceptional event. The fact that in certain conditions of instability a cricket ball could cause the sun to explode, does not justify us in imagining that cricket balls exert forces greater than suns. In psychology, as in mechanics, the reaction of a body on its cosmic environment can be neglected, as compared to the effect of the world on the body.
Thus psychology must be extracted from sociology, not vice versa. For sociology, if scientific (and the only school of scientific sociology was founded by Marx), already includes the conscious formulations and the material accretions, arising from the dialectic of social relations, which provide the environment of the developing infant psyche. These are the social relations into which the organism enters irrespective of its will. The single organism is a slave to its environment, just as the particle is a slave to time and space, in spite of the fact that the social environment is composed of the activities of human organisms and time and space are the sum of the relations of particles. 

We must establish sociology before we can establish psychology, just as we must establish the laws of time and space before we can treat satisfactorily of a single particle. This is not to say that psychology and sociology are the same. Psychology has a province of tremendous importance to the human race, bat it can only be studied scientifically on a background of more general laws, just as biology is impossible without the prior laws of physics and chemistry. Sociology is the foundation of psychology.

  This Freud has failed to see. To him all mental phenomena are simply the interaction and mutual distortion of the instincts, of which culture and social organisations are a projection, and yet this social environment, produced by the instincts, is just what tortures and inhibits the instincts. Freud is powerless to explain causally the intricate and rich movement of cultural development, because he is in the position of a man trying to lift himself off the ground by his bootlaces. All this rich culture, its art, its science, and its institutions, is to Freud merely a projection of man’s instinctive turmoil into unchanging reality, and yet this projection continually changes, although the individual instincts and reality remain the same 

Why do social relations change? Why do psyches alter from age to age? Freud, like all modern psychologists who base themselves on the unchanging instincts of the genotype, is powerless to explain the only thing that interests psychology, the thing that constitutes psychology, the perpetual variation and development of the mental phenotype. Like Plato’s men in the cave, psychoanalysts try to deduce from shadows what is happening outside. Looking into the psyche, they are mystified by the movements caused by currents in outer reality and mistake them for the distortions of the cunning and oppressed instincts, or for the interventions of mysterious forces that are generated by the instincts. Seeing the shadows make a circular detour round one place, they assume this to be an eternal law of the psyche, the Odipus complex. It does not occur to them that it may be due to an obstacle in the environment, round which the shadows have to move, and that the complex will alter if the obstacle is moved.

  Unable to see psychology causally simply because they cannot see it sociologically, Freudism can attain to no psychology beyond bourgeois psychology. They never advance beyond the view-point of the ‘individual in civil society’. Whether they study primitive man or lay down general laws of the soul, it is always with ideas formulated from a bourgeois psyche studying other bourgeois psyches, and so the instincts play always the part of splendid and free brutes, crippled by the repressions of a cruel culture. It is true that to-day the system of production relations is crippling man’s splendid powers, but Freudian ‘libido’ in bondage to repression is a very inadequate myth to convey this reality. It is a pale subjective reflection of the vital objective situation. The old bourgeois symbol of ‘original sin’ is better.

 The psyche, a creation of its environment, becomes to Freud, who ignores the environment or is ignorant of its mode of change, a creature whom mysterious self-generated entities force to become an unhappy bourgeois psyche. 

It is as if a man, seeing a row of trees bent in various ways by the prevailing winds, were without studying the relation between growth and environment to deduce that a mysterious complex in trees caused them always to lean as the result of a death instinct attracting them to the ground, while eternal Eros bade them spring up vertically. Freud’s error is so much the worse because the psyche, studied by psychology, is far more the result of environmental conditions than the whole tree. The psyche is the organ of adaptation to social relations, therefore for psychology the laws determining social relations are fundamental.

  Thus Freudism, like all individual psychologies, breaks down in the most elementary scientific desideratum, that of causality. Though evolved as a therapy, it turns out to be the creed of undiluted pessimism. If we do not know the laws of our environment, we cannot know ourselves, and if we cannot know ourselves, we can never be free. If we are full of bitterness, and this bitterness is the outcome of an inevitable instinctual strife, our hearts can never be sweetened.

 If we owe no vital part of our consciousness to our environment, it is of no value to change it. ‘New skies,’ said Horace, ‘the exile finds, but the same heart.’ – If we regard the categories of the present as final, and the present is full of despair and neurosis, of slumps and wars, we can never pass beyond them to a successful issue. At the best, like the neurotic, we can only return to a former successful solution at an infantile level – to feudalism, barbarian group-leadership, unanisme, Fascism. 

Indeed Jung invokes as our only salvation this very regression, appealing to the old barbarous mythologies to come to our aid. 

Freud at least has the courage to spurn this way of escape, and so, like a Roman stoic, in decaying classical civilisation he treads the die-hard path, and drinks the cup of poison to its dregs.

  This conception, apparently refined, of the last fatal battle of the gods, is really barbarous, and the first step in the path to Hindoo resignation and vegetable sanctity. Spengler is the prophet of this resignation to one’s own limitations:

  ‘Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. We are born in this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the last position, without hope, without rescue.’ Freud, too, in The Future of an Illusion and Group Psychology, sees little hope for culture. Yet he is, in spite of this, more optimistic than the Communist in that he believes that while society rushes downhill, the psychoanalyst, as an individual, can do what all society fails to do, and cure the neurotic produced by modern conditions. This contradictory belief that the individual can do what the sum of individuals, of which he is one, cannot do, is characteristic of all these bourgeois pessimists, and makes it difficult to take their pessimism as completely sincere.

  It is generally believed that the relation between environment and individual is correctly expressed in Adler, exponent of Individual psychology, and Freud’s former pupil. Let us therefore hear him:

  ‘In a civilisation where one man is the enemy of the other – for this is what our whole industrial system means – demoralisation is ineradicable, for demoralisation and crime are the by-products of the struggle for existence as known to our industrialised civilisation.’

  Surely, it will be said, Adler has escaped from the bourgeois cage. Surely he has realised that it is the environment, bourgeois capitalism, that produces our present discontents, and not the struggle-for-existence of the organism, pushed on by its instincts, that produces bourgeois capitalism. True, he here confuses industrialisation (machine technique) with the competition of capitalism which gave rise to it, but is separable from it. He is confounding productive forces and productive relations. Yet, at least (it will be urged), the root of the matter is in him. Let us therefore continue the quotation and see his remedy for this ineradicable demoralisation: ‘To limit and do away with this demoralisation, a chair of curative pedagogy should be established.’

  This is the logic of Individual Psychology! Man’s demoralisation, his neurosis, his discontent, his despair, are correctly seen to be due to his environment— capitalist social relations. To cure it, however, his environment is not to be changed, for the environment is always in all bourgeois economics and sociology and in spite of history presumed to be unchangeable. 

Rather, man is to lift himself off the ground by his bootlaces; to take pedagogic pills to cure the earthquake of capitalism’s collapse. The pill takes various forms: It is a chair of curative pedagogy with Adler. With Freud the sufferers, if rich enough, are to go to an analyst for a course of treatment. 

This is impracticable, Jung realises, for the poorer classes, so we must re-introduce the old myths, of the archetypal hero swallowed by the giant fish ('Psychology of the Unconscious’.) These are the doctors who stand by the bedside of society in its most gigantic agony! 

Is it surprising that the criticism of the Marxist sometimes contains a tinge of contempt?

  The Marxian has been often reproached for his antagonism to psychoanalysis. It is even asserted that the founder, it is said, has no bourgeois illusions; he is a thoroughgoing materialist. But he is not. Freud is still possessed by the focal bourgeois illusion, that the individual stands opposed to an unchanging society which trammels him, and within whose constraints his instincts attempt freely to develop the rich and varied phenomena of the psyche. 

Because of that illusion Freud thinks society itself is doomed to frustration, and yet thinks that one individual can cure another. He is never able to see that just as man must have a fulcrum outside him to lift himself, so the individual must act on the environment which created his consciousness in order to change it. 

We owe much to Freud for his symbolic presentation of the discord between the deep and recent layers of men’s minds; but he cannot heal us, for he cannot even teach us that first truth, that we must change the world in order to change ourselves.

  The revolt of all the instincts against current social relations, which to Freud is everything and obscures his whole horizon, so that he writes all psychology, art, religion, culture, politics and history in terms of this revolt, is only one of many signals to the Marxian that, behind the decayed façade, a new environment is being realised and in man’s troubled soul a wider consciousness, too, awaits delivery.




The Dostoyevshchina - Plurality of Voices by A V Lunacharsky 1929

                                                           Comrade Lunacharsky

Democracy and Class Struggle note the influence of Dostoyevsky on the new reactionary current and in particular on Jordan Peterson who promotes the Dostoyevshchina which in reality implies the rather superficial imitation of a great man’s more extravagant ideas and eccentric qualities rather than a true work or doctrine.

Marx's insights into alienation under capitalism are absent from Jordan Peterson so we are just left just with his irrationalism of the perverse man ( is it his mirror image ?)  thankfully Lunacharsky fills in the social context of Dostoyevsky and makes him more complete rather than just an isolated individual...

Note will will be covering more right wing and fascist thought in coming months - we will get deep inside the enemies mind see 
Destruction of Reason : Lukacs on Heidegger

A. V. Lunacharsky 1929
Dostoyevsky’s Plurality of Voices
(Re the Book Problems of the Works of Dostoyevsky by M. M. Bakhtin)

Written: 1929;
Translator: Y. Ganuskin;
Source: A. Lunacharsky: On Literature and Art Progress Publishers, 1973;

Transcribed: Harrison Fluss for, February 2008.

In this interesting book M. M. Bakhtin treats only a few of the problems of Dostoyevsky’s writing, specially selecting certain aspects of it and approaching them primarily – indeed, almost exclusively – from the point of view of form. Bakhtin’s interests focus on certain basic features of Dostoyevsky’s method of constructing his novels (and short stories), features which appear to arise naturally – involuntarily, as it were – from the socio-psychological nature of the novelist and which have a decisive effect on the general character of his books. 

Essentially, the formal methods discussed by Bakhtin all have their origin in one basic phenomenon which he considers particularly important in all Dostoyevsky’s work. 

This phenomenon is “plurality of voices” – polyphony. Bakhtin is even inclined to consider Dostoyevsky as the “originator” of the polyphonous novel.

  What, then, does Bakhtin mean by this plurality of voices?

  “A multiplicity of independent and unblended voices and minds? a genuine polyphony, in which each ‘voice’ bears a part complete in itself, is in truth the basic distinguishing feature of Dostoyevsky’s novels,” he says.

  And, further “... The consciousness of the hero is represented as a distinct, other consciousness. At the same time, it is not objectivised, not confined to itself, not reduced to the status of an object within the consciousness of the author.”

  And this applies not only to the hero but to all the characters, or rather, to all the dramatis personae of Dostoyevsky’s novels.
  What Bakhtin is trying to say is that Dostoyevsky neither makes the characters he creates into masks for his own ego, nor arranges them in a planned system of relationships designed, in the last analysis, to fulfil some task which he, as the author, had set himself from the beginning.

  Dostoyevsky’s dramatis personae develop quite independently and say what they have to say (and, as Bakhtin quite rightly points out, what they have to say provides, as a rule, the key to the whole novel) without reference to the author, obedient only to the promptings of whatever basic principle of life is dominant in their own character.

  Dostoyevsky’s dramatis personae live, struggle and, most of all, argue, expound their credos to one another, etc., free from all arbitrary interference on the part of the author. According to Bakhtin, it is as though the author granted complete autonomy to every character and, as a result, the whole texture of the novel is woven from confrontations between these autonomous characters, confrontations which seem to occur independently of the author’s volition.

  Naturally, given this method of construction, the author cannot be certain that his work will, in the last analysis, go to prove what he would like it to prove. 

In this context, Bakhtin even goes so far as to claim that “at the present time it may be that Dostoyevsky is not only the most powerful influence in Russia, where almost all new prose derives, to a greater or lesser degree, from his works, but in the West also. 

As an artist, Dostoyevsky is followed by people of the most diverse ideological convictions, many of whom are profoundly opposed to his ideology: his artistic will irresistibly subjects everybody to itself...

This artistic will does not achieve precise theoretical consciousness. It seems as though all who plunge into the labyrinth of the polyphonous novel lose their way in it and cannot hear the whole for the clamouring of the separate voices.

 Frequently, there is a failure to make out even the haziest outlines of the whole. The artistic principles which organise the commingling of the voices escape the ear completely.”

  To this it might be added that these principles do not only go unperceived but are, in fact, most probably absent. This particular orchestra not only lacks a conductor, but even a composer, whose score a conductor might have followed. 

What we have here is a clash of intellects, a clash of wills in an atmosphere of complete laissez-faire on the part of the author. 

This is what Bakhtin means by the term “polyphony” when he writes of the polyphony of Dostoyevsky.

True, Bakhtin does appear to admit some higher order of artistic unity in Dostoyevsky’s novels, but in what this consists, if Dostoyevsky’s novels are polyphonous in the interpretation of the term we have suggested, it is not easy to understand. 

If we are to allow that Dostoyevsky, from his previous knowledge of the inmost essence of each of his characters and of the material results to which the conflicts between them are bound to lead, could combine these characters in such a way as to form an intrinsically welded whole while preserving the absolute freedom of the individual voice, then it must be admitted that the whole principle of the “self-sufficiency of the voices” of the various characters, that is, of their absolute independence from the author, can only be accepted with certain very important reservations.

  I am rather inclined to agree with Bakhtin that Dostoyevsky -if not at the stage of completion then certainly when working out the first ideas of his novels and the gradual evolution of their plots – hardly ever kept to any preconceived constructive plan, that his method of work was indeed polyphonic in the sense that it was a commingling and interweaving of absolutely free individuals. 

It is even possible that Dostoyevsky himself was excessively and most intensely interested in the outcome of the ideological and ethic conflicts between the characters which he created (or which might rather be said to have created themselves through him).

  I concede, therefore, that Bakhtin has succeeded not only in describing more clearly than anyone has ever done before the immense significance of this plurality of voices in the Dostoyevsky novel and the part played by this plurality as a most vital distinguishing feature of this novel, but also in defining the extraordinary individual autonomy and self-sufficiency of voices – quite unthinkable for the vast majority of other writers – which Dostoyevsky developed with such shattering effect.

  I would also like to stress how right Bakhtin is in another of his contentions, when he notes that all those “voices” which play a truly important part in any of the novels represent distinct “convictions” or “ways of looking at the world.” These, of course, are more than just theories; they are theories which are as much a part of their exponent as his particular “blood group,” inseparable from him, his own basic nature. 

And what is more these theories are active ideas, they drive the characters to commit definite actions and provide the motive forces for distinct patterns of behaviour, individual and social. In a word, they are of a profoundly ethical and social nature, either positive or negative, for they do in fact serve to attract the individual towards society or – as so often happens in

  Dostoyevsky’s novels – to draw him away from it.

  Dostoyevsky’s novels are superbly staged dialogues.

  In these conditions the profound independence of the separate voices becomes, one might even say, peculiarly piquant. One is forced to the conclusion that Dostoyevsky deliberately puts certain vital problems up for discussion before these highly individual “voices,” trembling with passion and flickering with the flame of fanaticism, while he himself remains a mere spectator of the convulsive disputes which ensue, a curious looker-on wondering where it is all leading and how it is going to end. To a great extent, this is a true picture.

  Although Bakhtin’s book centres mainly round the formal analysis of Dostoyevsky’s techniques, the critic is by no means averse to embarking on an occasional excursion into their sociological interpretation. 

He quotes approvingly from Kaus’s Dostoyevsky and His Fate (Dostojewski und sein Schicksal) and, in general, agrees with his opinion. Let us examine, in translation, some of Kaus’s contentions as quoted by Bakhtin.

  “Dostoyevsky is master in his own house, a host who knows how to cope with the most motley crowd of guests, who can manage any company, however wild its composition, control it and keep it in a state of tension...Health and strength, the most radical pessimism and the most fiery faith in salvation, thirst for life and death – all these are locked in a struggle seemingly without issue; violence and kindness, arrogance and selfless humility, the inexhaustible fulness of life, etc. 

He has no need to coerce his characters, he has no need to pronounce the last word as their creator. Dostoyevsky is many-sided and unpredictable, his works are packed with forces and intentions which one would think were separated from one another by impassable chasms.”

  Kaus assumes that all this is but the reflection, in Dostoyevsky’s mind, of the contradictions of the capitalist world. Bakhtin gives an excellent exposition of Kaus’s basic thesis.

  “Kaus maintains that Dostoyevsky’s world is the most unadulterated and genuine reflection of the spirit of capitalism. The diverse worlds and spheres – social, cultural and ideological – which are brought into head-on collision in the works of Dostoyevsky, were formerly self-contained, isolated from one another, stabilised and justified from within as distinct and separate units. 

There was no real, material area in which they could, to any appreciable degree, meet and interpenetrate. Capitalism broke down the segregation of these worlds, destroyed the exclusiveness and the inner, ideological self-sufficiency of these social spheres. 

In accordance with its tendency to level things out, leaving no barrier other than that dividing the proletarian from the capitalist, capitalism tossed these worlds into a common melting-pot as a part of the process of bringing unity out of contradiction. 

These worlds had not yet lost the stamp of their own individuality which each had acquired in the course of centuries, but they could no longer remain self-contained. 

The period of blind coexistence, of calm, untroubled mutual ignorance, was at an end, and their mutual contrariety and, at the same time, their interdependence, became increasingly perceptible. 

In every atom of life trembles this contradictory unity of the capitalist world and of capitalist consciousness, making it impossible for anything to feel comfortabre in its isolation, yet offering no solutions. 

The spirit of this changing world was more fully expressed in the works of Dostoyevsky than anywhere else.”

  He himself adds that Dostoyevsky’s Russia was the ideal forcing-house for the growth of the polyphonous novel. For “here capitalism was establishing itself with almost catastrophic suddenness and had surprised an untouched diversity of social worlds and groups, which had not, as in the West, suffered a slow sapping of their individual exclusiveness in the process of the gradual advance of capitalism. 

Here, the contradictory essence of this society in the process of formation, which resisted all attempts to bring it within the framework of a quietly contemplative, assured monological scheme of things, must have been particularly evident while, at the same time, the individuality of these worlds which had suddenly been confronted one with another and knocked off their ideological balance must have shown up exceptionally vividly and fully.”
  All this is very good and quite true.

  What general conclusion is there to be drawn from the opinions of Bakhtin and of Kaus, the former’s authority for the sociological part of his analysis? Dostoyevsky, being the child of his time and therefore reflecting in his own personality the colossal ethical shambles brought about by the violent eruption of the complexity of capitalist social relationships into pre-reform Russia [1] provided in his art a true mirror, an adequate reflection of all this complexity. Life was seething with contradictions. 

Various individual philosophies of life were coming into collision; various individual moral codes, sometimes consciously worked out as full-fledged theories, at others manifesting their almost entirely subconscious nature through actions and discordant talk, were being brought face to face.

 In Dostoyevsky’s novels a similar dialogue is in process, an identical struggle. It is as though there were no tuning-fork to set the right pitch to all this cacophony, as though there were no harmony which might have overcome and, as it were, absorbed it, no force strong enough to discipline it into something resembling a chorus.

  Bakhtin, however, understands that such a view of Dostoyevsky would not be altogether correct.

  Before we go on to set out our further thoughts on the significance of Dostoyevsky’s polyphony or attempt to modify or explain further certain interesting points touched on by Bakhtin, let us make a brief comparison between Dostoyevsky the polyphonist and some other polyphonous writers.

  Bakhtin maintains that Dostoyevsky’s type of polyphony is incompatible with drama. Drama, he believes, cannot under any circumstances be polyphonous, and certain specialists’ classification of Dostoyevsky’s novels as a new form of drama strike him as completely false.

  Bakhtin’s grounds for objecting to this classification are most profound. He considers that, although, in drama, there are characters who act and speak in a way which implies a certain clash of personalities, they nonetheless remain basically mere puppets in the hands of the author who will inevitably direct them according to some preconceived plan.

  Is this really so?

  Naturally, it is scarcely possible to suspect Bakhtin, who shows sufficient subtlety of judgment in his book, of presupposing all drama (tragedy, comedy, etc.) to consist of plays with a message. 

The question of the play which seeks to get across some definite message and of the “free play,” which is simply a dramatised, firmly carpentered slice of life, is an old one which we have no intention of going into here. 

Yet it does appear strange that Bakhtin, in insisting on the unfeasibility of polyphony in drama, clearly leaves out of account the greatest of all dramatists – Shakespeare. 

Of course, it is impossible that Bakhtin should really have forgotten about him. Of course, we repeat, Bakhtin does not really think that all drama is automatically “tendentious.” 

He merely assumes that, since every drama is necessarily a harmonious whole which develops according to certain strict rules, it would be extremely uneconomical, and, indeed, impossible for the author to permit every “voice” to bear its own independent part. 

This, at least, is the way in which I explain to myself Bakhtin’s uncompromising statement on the necessity of monism in drama.

  On this point, however, I permit myself to differ radically from Bakhtin, first and foremost on the evidence of Shakespeare.

  Is it not indicative that, for a very long time indeed, it was generally accepted that Shakespeare’s plays were utterly devoid of any guiding ideas or principles? As a playwright, Shakespeare is the most “impersonal” of authors; it is scarcely ever possible to say anything about the tendencies he represents. What is more, in the great majority of his works he is so alien to all tendentiousness that we involuntarily begin to suspect him of a great conscious or unconscious revulsion to such tendentiousness.

 It is as though Shakespeare were crying out in his every work that life is immense and splendid in itself, even though it does abound in sorrows and catastrophes, and that any opinion expressed on this life must of necessity be insufficient and one-sided and cannot be expected to embrace all its variety, all its dazzling irrationality.

  Being thus totally untendentious (according, at least, to long-established opinion), Shakespeare is extremely polyphonic. Here we could cite many extracts from the works of distinguished Shakespearean scholars, and from the sayings of Shakespeare’s imitators and admirers, to show their profound admiration for this very ability to create characters who appear to have a life of their own outside the mind of their author, an endless procession of characters moreover, of an incredible variety, all of whom remain incredibly true to themselves in all they say and do.

  Gundolf, to whom, at one point, Bakhtin refers, asserts, in drawing a comparison between Goethe and Shakespeare, that the source of Goethe’s works (at any rate of the most significant) was always his own experience, while his heroes always embodied aspects of his own personality. 

In this he sees a contrast to Shakespeare who, in his opinion, was able to create human beings quite independent of himself and of his own experience, who seemed to have been created by Nature herself.

  It cannot be said of Shakespeare either that his plays were intended to prove some particular thesis or that the “voices” in the great polyphony of Shakespeare’s dramatic world are deprived of their self-sufficiency for the benefit of the dramatic plot, of construction as such.

  Yet, when we take a closer look at Shakespeare (helped, perhaps, by the still unproved but very probable hypothesis that Shakespeare was in fact Rutland), we see that his polyphonism is not devoid of a certain organising principle – that he remains, to use Kaus’s simile, “master in his own house.”

  True, everything about Shakespeare is extremely obscure, and this obscurity greatly impedes analysis (which only goes to prove once again how mistaken is the attitude of those historians of literature who maintain that an author’s personality and biography are of no help in the interpretation of his works). 

We cannot even say for sure whether there was in fact one single master-mind behind Shakespeare’s dramatic world. Leaving aside the numerous borrowed passages, the rewriting of other men’s plays and the question of other men’s plays which have been attributed to Shakespeare, it is impossible to ignore Gordon Craig’s original and profound hypothesis, which attributes a quite peculiar form of polyphony to Shakespeare by distinguishing in his plays the voices of more than one author. 

All this greatly confuses the question of Shakespeare’s polyphony. However, I repeat, if we subject this vast literary phenomenon to closer scrutiny, then we cannot but admit that, behind the works of Shakespeare, we do feel the presence of a personality of some sort, even if it is so many-faceted and titanic as to be hard to define.

  What were the social factors reflected in Shakespeare’s polyphonism? 

Why, of course, in the last analysis, precisely those we find in Dostoyevsky. 

That colourful Renaissance, broken up into a myriad sparkling fragments, which had given birth to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, was, of course, also the result of the stormy irruption of capitalism into the comparative calm of medieval England. 

Here, as in Dostoyevsky’s Russia, a gigantic break-up was getting under way. The same gigantic shifts were taking place and the same unexpected collisions between traditions of social life and systems of thought which had previously had no real contact with one another.

  How did the man we assume to be Shakespeare react to all this? 

Was he nothing but a passive mirror, capable only of reflecting all this tangle of unprecedentedly diverse forces which existed outside himself? I have already said that this is an idea of Shakespeare which has frequently been advanced. 

We must, however, bear in mind that if a great writer, equipped with exceptional sensibility and understanding, is to remain true to the very nature of the human mind with its irrepressible inclination to synthesise separate ideas and facts, to create some system of ideas and critical values, he must, inevitably, seek not only to reflect the world but to bring order to it, and harmony, or, at least, to illumine it from some definite point of view.

  If this premise is not always borne out by the study of individual great writers, it is because we often leave out of account the variety of forms which this process of synthesis may take. If a writer is also a poet he is, of course, under no obligation to impose unity and order on society and Nature in practice, or even to reduce them to any kind of monism by means of philosophic interpretations. 

He may, for instance (as, for that matter, the philosopher may also) admit the existence of an irreconcilable pluralism. 

He may consider irremediable the tragedy of the human condition, which he may be convinced is the inevitable product of a world of warring principles. With great sorrow, he may determine the existence of this universal lack of harmony, he may see no way out. 

Yet even such a diagnosis as this, to whatever conclusion it may lead – whether the inference is that life is not worth while since the world itself is an absurdity, or that, in spite of its disharmony, or even perhaps, because of it, the world is beautiful in its very irrationality, or that life should assert itself heroically in the face of surrounding chaos – even such a diagnosis is, essentially, a synthetic conception or a synthetic emotion. 

Without this capacity for synthesis, it is almost impossible to imagine a truly great personality.

  As I shall make clear further on, I have no desire to suggest that such great personalities may not themselves be split, either simultaneously or at different periods of their life, so that their various aspects might almost seem to belong to separate people. 

When Shakespeare’s Hamlet exclaims:

The time is out of joint! O, cursed spite, 
That ever I was born to set it right

  he is, in my opinion, expressing a profound lyrical impulse on behalf of the author; it must have been Shakespeare’s dream to set his time to rights – again or anew. 

This is his genuine inner aspiration and in every play which does not end in a reconciliation, it is as though he suffers a defeat.

  But let us now leave Shakespeare, merely noting that, while he is undoubtedly no less polyphonic than Dostoyevsky and grants an equal autonomy to the self-sufficient individual voice (something which, it seems to me, Bakhtin should find it impossible to deny), his tendency to pronounce judgment on life, even to change it, shows itself in a manner far removed from all direct contact with the reader.

  But is it not clear that such tendencies likewise exist in Dostoyevsky? Once again, Bakhtin will hardly find it possible to deny this. 

He himself understands that not only Dostoyevsky’s characters but their author, too, aspire to the establishment of some new kind of society. 

He himself writes of this, he himself stresses that Dostoyevsky was characterised by certain ideas on coinherence[2] and harmony – albeit metaphysical and other-worldly harmony. Dostoyevsky is not just a mirror giving a concentrated and magnified reflection of life and its agonising conflicts. 

These conflicts are profoundly distressing to him, he has a strong inner desire to resolve them and, for that matter, he is much more concerned with this business, certainly more noticeably so, than is Shakespeare. True, his labours are not crowned with success. But we shall be coming back to that later.

  Here, I should like to introduce one more name which Bakhtin does not mention – the name of Balzac. Marx had the greatest regard for Shakespeare as the bard of developing capitalism and of all the infinite variety of the capitalist epoch. 

He had also a profound admiration for Balzac. Balzac has much in common with Shakespeare. It should not go unnoted that Dostoyevsky, in his turn, was a great admirer of Balzac and translated his works. Balzac’s kinship with Shakespeare lies not only in the extraordinary variety of colours in the world around him, where the capitalist order was establishing itself in its more or less final form after the storms of the Great Revolution, but also in his polyphonism, in the freedom and self-sufficiency of his “voices.” 

This again is so true that, although we are thoroughly well informed as to Balzac’s biography, it is quite impossible to reconstruct his private opinions. His philosophical and political convictions are of less interest than Dostoyevsky’s. 

It would be permissible to say that Balzac is a thinker of lesser stature than Dostoyevsky. At the same time it is typical that, whereas in Dostoyevsky’s novels the author never comes forward as mentor and we never hear his voice pointing a moral, in Balzac’s novels we frequently come across long discourses on the facts they describe, woven into the fabric of the story and often making rather dry reading of it. 

In spite of this, Balzac is far less tendentious than Dostoyevsky. 

Is it thinkable to maintain that Dostoyevsky has no “God” in the Chekhovian sense? (I am referring to Chekhov’s letter to Suvorin on the absence of God, the absence of any object of reverence or love in the world of the modern writer.) 

Can it be denied that there is at least a colossal will towards such a “God” in Dostoyevsky and, at certain moments, the conviction that he does indeed possess one? 

It can be said of Balzac, however, that it is normal for him to drift from one point of view to another and that those points of view are chance – found and even not particularly interesting. 

Balzac owes his greatness almost exclusively to his polyphonism, that is, to his extraordinary objectivity, his protean ability to imagine himself in the skin of the most diverse types of the society which he had the opportunity to observe.

  This, of course, is why Bakhtin is wrong when he says that Dostoyevsky was the originator of polyphony, or even of the polyphonous novel, and of that plurality of voices which allows for the autonomy and self-sufficiency of individual parts.

  From this point of view, Balzac undoubtedly goes further than Dostoyevsky. 

This can, of course, be explained not only by certain distinguishing features of Balzac’s talent, but also by many aspects of the society in which he lived, aspects which affected both the material which he gathered from his surroundings and the structure of his own mind and sensibility. 

As for Shakespeare, whilst perceiving quite definite individual “tendencies” breaking the surface here and there in the works of this great bard of the era of the origins of English capitalism, we are also bound to emphasise his quite exceptional polyphonism according to the definition we have given in this article.

  Let us return to the task which we set ourselves before drawing the above comparisons.

  We have seen how in Shakespeare, for all his polyphonism, there is an attempt, of profound and anguished concern to the author, to arrive at some kind of objective or even subjective monism. In Balzac we do not even feel this tendency. We feel his works as polyphony in its purest form.

  But Dostoyevsky who is, at the moment, of more immediate concern to us than the two West European titans – what about Dostoyevsky? Apart from the polyphonous principle, the desire to assure the free development of independent voices, is he so entirely free from all tendentiousness?

  We have already pointed out in passing that Bakhtin himself does not and, indeed, could not deny that there is evidence of tendentiousness in Dostoyevsky’s books and that, even if he does not, as author, address himself direct to the reader, the reader is nevertheless quite well aware of the presence of his “host,” and perfectly understands on whose side Dostoyevsky’s sympathies lie. Bakhtin himself distinguishes, among the other voices, prescient voices which, undoubtedly, in Dostoyevsky’s opinion, advocate a higher truth, voices “close to God” – that is, as Dostoyevsky understands it, close to the fountain-head of all truth, “God-bearing” voices.

  However, even in the cases when these voices are not in evidence, the whole construction of the novel is worked out in such a way as to leave the reader in no doubt as to Dostoyevsky’s own views on what is taking place between its pages. 

It is, of course, a magnificent illustration of his art that Dostoyevsky does not express these views directly, but we never lose our awareness of the beating of the author’s heart, of the spasmodic irregularities as it contracts over what he is writing.

  Our formalists keep on dinning into the reader of today – whom they have not the remotest chance of ever convincing – that writers in general, and even the greatest among them, stand quite aloof from their own works, look on them as an exercise in craftsmanship and are interested in them only from the point of view of form. 

In respect of Dostoyevsky this kind of assertion sounds particularly monstrous. It is evident that Bakhtin has no intention of making any such assertion. 

Dostoyevsky listens to the great disputes which take place in word and deed in his novels with the most intense excitement, with love and hatred.

  Why, then, are we forced to admit a very considerable degree of truth in Bakhtin’s contention that it is difficult to formulate Dostoyevsky’s final conclusions, if not as a theoretician and a publicist then in that aspect of his work with which we are dealing here, as a novelist and a writer of fiction? 

Why did his novels produce on Kaus also the impression of “unfinished arguments"? 

Why is it as though no one ever carries off the final victory? 

Why, in Dostoyevsky’s conception of the independence and self-sufficiency of voices, is there this deliberate element of withdrawal? 

Why is it as though Dostoyevsky were to say “I pass” when his turn came to raise his own voice among these other voices which are so far from corresponding to his own convictions, or, rather, to those convictions which he would have liked to have held and which he ascribed to himself? 

Why, on the other hand, do those voices which obviously command his sympathy (Sonya, Zosima, Alyosha, and others) apparently fail to carry final conviction and so utterly lack the ring of triumph, perhaps even to the considerable exasperation of Dostoyevsky?

  In order to explain this phenomenon, without which, of course, Bakhtin’s assertion of the self-sufficiency and independence of Dostoyevsky’s “voices” would be false, we have to take into account not only the fragmentation of the world through which Dostoyevsky’s characters move but also Dostoyevsky’s own split consciousness.

  Without claiming to give an answer to all the “problems of Dostoyevsky’s works” in so short an essay (a task of too great a compass, of course, even for Bakhtin’s entire book), without claiming to give so much as an approximately exhaustive idea of this split in Dostoyevsky’s consciousness, we would like to call attention here to one basic irregularity – a morbid and horrifying irregularity which, at the same time, made Dostoyevsky profoundly typical of his epoch or, more exactly, of several decades in the history of Russian culture.

  The excessive contrast between the social realities of Russia and the intensified awareness which gradually came into being amongst the best people of the educated classes, first among the nobility and then among the raznochintsy, and which was most typical, of course, for the great writers and the other leaders of the intelligentsia, was an extremely widespread phenomenon the results of which left their mark on over a century.

  Leaving aside Novikov and Radishchev, let us recall Pushkin’s horrifying exclamation: “It must have been the Devil’s own idea to have me born in Russia with brains and talent.” Although Pushkin was a man of exceptional adaptability who could get on in any company and showed himself capable of a remarkably supple policy of spiritual and material opportunism, his life was poisoned, and the social scandal to which he fell victim was the natural result of his whole position between the Decembrists, on the one side, and Nicholas the Gendarme on the other.

  In this, it goes without saying, Pushkin was not alone. On the contrary, round about him others were suffering even more, and suffering not only in spirit, but in body. That is common knowledge.

  The forerunner of the great wave of intelligentsia recruited from outside the nobility was Belinsky. He, too, was distinguished by a full awareness of the horror of his position. He frequently mentions the horror of waking up in full possession of one’s faculties in a land exhausted by suffering, in a land ruled by profoundly ignorant and self-assured sergeant-majors, in a land in which there is no serious opposition, no serious support for the few who are sufficiently mature to criticise and protest.

  If Belinsky remained true to his vocation in spite of all this, he was by no means free of hesitation and doubt: the article on Borodino – however one may explain it by an incorrect interpretation of Hegel, though actually one can only speak here of an incorrect application of Hegel’s doctrine – is in fact a profound analogy to the political moods and beliefs of Dostoyevsky. Belinsky very nearly took a header over that same precipice of spiritual opportunism which consists in the acceptance of a series of generalisations and emotional evasions in order to justify one’s own reconciliation with the “reigning evil.” To this it must be added that Belinsky literally had the good fortune to die before he was faced with the terrible trial which fell to the lot of Chernyshevsky and Dostoyevsky.

  I shall not try to assert here that Gogol was, at any period of his life, militantly and consciously protestant in his attitude to everything that was going on around him. 

Nevertheless, Gogol’s unmistakable if gradual transition from satire to the glorification of autocracy and orthodoxy was a spectacle which, we know, Belinsky and society at large contemplated with deep shame and sorrow.

  Psychologically, of course, all this came about in quite a different way from that indicated by superficial students of Gogol’s life. It is completely misleading to suggest that Gogol thought like a died-in-the-wool conservative landlord from the very beginning. Gogol undoubtedly rose to considerable heights of criticism although, understandably, he did not dare to touch on the highest ranks of society. 

His renunciation of the role of ideological leader in his own country and the unconvincing, essentially unsatisfying even to himself, exchange of this role for that of faithful subject-cum-religious maniac were, undoubtedly, not only the result of his morbid depression but, at the same time, its most profound cause.

  The whole epoch was, one might say, strewn with corpses and semi-corpses, some of whom had resisted and been broken, whereas others had compromised and remained alive, surviving as spiritual cripples with clearly expressed pathological tendencies.
  Chernyshevsky, a very powerful, lucid personality, who, although the stand he adopted was extremely radical, was never in so isolated a position as Belinsky, was nonetheless very sceptically disposed to the idea of establishing a revolutionary order in his own time. 

A brilliant and heartbreaking monument to these doubts, to this scientific scepticism of Chernyshevsky’s is his novel Prologue – which has met with so little appreciation from our historians of literature. 

In spite of everything, Chernyshevsky was doomed to the role of redeeming sacrifice, but he tried to do everything in his power to preserve his strength, the strength of one who has deliberately set out to prepare men for a direct struggle the time for which has not yet arrived. 

Although Chernyshevsky bore heroically with the trials of forced labour and exile, the contrast between the Chernyshevsky who left for Siberia and the Chernyshevsky who returned is no less deplorable than the collapse of any other giants of our thought and literature.

  This list might be prolonged ad infinitum. It is always possible to find people who, having woken up in full possession of their faculties, have taken their bearings in the surrounding darkness and, in some way or another, offered battle to their environment, and in some way or another, been crushed by it – whether physically, or morally and politically, or both.

  Here, however, it is impossible to pass over the sad figure of Nekrasov. When all’s said and done, Nekrasov did a great deal for the development of the revolutionary movement, of revolutionary thought in our country; but the degree of his civic consciousness urged him to a far more vivid protest which he failed to deliver – in part from weakness of character, but much more because the sacrifices involved appeared almost self-evidently useless. 

Nekrasov’s penitential chant rose to the verge of self-torture after one of his particularly striking and notorious “falls” – his glorification of Muravyov the hangman. 

This, one might say, is a startling witness to the tyranny which bent and broke those citizens who had but recently awakened to a realisation of their position in their own country and, first among them, the writers of that country! It was apropos his ethico-political portrait of Nekrasov that Mikhailovsky spoke of these Russians who were “sick in conscience.” These men who suffered from a “sick conscience” were all more or less deliberate opportunists who had worked out two formulas: either “I see the horror, but I cannot fight it,” or “I see the horror, but I wish to see some blessing in its stead which would allow me not to fight it and, at the same time, not to lose my self-respect.”

  Gleb Ivanovich Uspensky had a wonderful gift for portraying such “sufferers.”
  “Defaulters” was his word for the majority of the intelligentsia.

The most terrible thing was that he himself died with a split personality, announcing that he was possessed, on the one hand, by the holy martyr Gleb, and, on the other, by a cowardly and egoistic little man called Ivanovich. 

And this in spite of the fact that Gleb Uspensky was the favourite of the progressive public and in the course of his literary career had done a colossal amount for the cause which he considered it his duty to further.

  Even Lev Tolstoi looms up before us like a crippled titan. His non-resistance to evil is in fact the same old self-defence against conscience advanced by a man who, in his heart of hearts, is perfectly well aware of all the wicked injustice of life, but cannot make up his mind to commit himself to the direct, total struggle which he knows to be beyond his strength.

  It is within the framework of this phenomenon – extremely widespread, as the reader cannot but see even from the incomplete list of relevant facts cited here – that we must place Dostoyevsky.

  The social position of Dostoyevsky which reduced him to the status of the lowest of the low, acquainting him with the bitter lot of the injured and insulted, taken in conjunction with his exceptional sensibility, his gift for suffering and compassion, could not fail in his youth to put him on the road to a sufficiently vivid form of protest, on the road to dreams of a radical reformation of the whole social system. 

Attempts are often made to represent Dostoyevsky’s affiliation with the Petrashevsky circle as a superficial and passing- aberration, and the fact that he was condemned to death for his connection with this circle as just another, completely unprovoked, absurd juridical atrocity on the part of the autocracy. 

Such an explanation will simply not do, however. One would have to be completely devoid of all psychological sensibility and, moreover, have a whole series of politically responsive strings missing in the instrument of consciousness, in order to doubt (even in the absence of direct proofs) that the young Dostoyevsky was among those who “sought for a city.” 

He was indubitably full of anger against social injustice and so profoundly so that, at some half-hidden subterranean level, this anger continued its volcanic work throughout his existence. Its grumblings and rumblings can only be ignored by the politically deaf, and the glow it throws up – only by the politically blind.

  Dostoyevsky’s clash with autocracy took place in the most violent fashion imaginable. To be condemned to be hung – what could be more violent than that! Forced labour came as an “easing” of situation.

  The question of the physiological causes of Dostoyevsky’s illness and of its first origin has still to be solved. While we are on the subject we note in passing that, in this field, Marxist criticism will have to cross swords with modern psychiatry which always interprets what we choose to call morbid phenomena in literature as the result of hereditary diseases or, in any case, of causes which bear no relationship to what might be described as the social biography of the writer in question. 

Of course, we do not mean by this that Marxists should deny the existence of disease or the influence of mental illness on the works of this or that writer, if he happened at the same time to be a psychiatrist’s patient. It is merely that all these purely psychological factors do seem to follow very logically from certain sociological premises.

  In our own good time we shall return to this rich and interesting theme, but we thought it necessary to mention it here in connection with this brief analysis of Dostoyevsky’s split consciousness, which is in itself as important a cause of his “plurality of voices” as were the social conditions during the epoch of the tempestuous growth of capitalism. 

After all, other writers, Dostoyevsky’s contemporaries, lived under the same social conditions, whereas here we have Bakhtin maintaining that Dostoyevsky was the originator of the polyphonic novel – at least on Russian soil.

  According to Dostoyevsky himself, his first attack of epilepsy occurred while he was still doing forced labour and took the form of a kind of revelation from above after an argument about religion and his agonised and passionate opposition to the atheist: “No, no, I believe in God!” 

This fact is in itself most revealing. Here, too, the social and the biological subsoil seem to bring forth the same fruit, or, rather, combine to bring it forth, without clashing with each other. 

Driven off to forced labour, Dostoyevsky, who, like Gogol, was extremely conscious of his own genius and of the special role he was called upon to play in life, felt with all his being that autocracy was eating him alive. 

He did not wish to be eaten. He had to adopt a position which would preserve his prophetic calling and yet not lead to further trouble with the authorities, which could only have ended in immediate catastrophe.

  I do not mean that Dostoyevsky tried consciously to become a monarchist, adapting himself to the powers that be. Such an assumption would be but poor psychology.

  Of course, Dostoyevsky passed through terrible storms of doubt, but “expediency” helped to eliminate, to blur and to weaken the “voices” which called him to protest, struggle and sacrifice. 

The voices which presented the case for the opposition – not those which were over-frank, nor those which retained the taint of self-preservation, nor even those which cried “in our present conditions this sacrifice will be in vain,” but those which justified a certain opposite position – were, on the contrary, sublimated by this apparently modest and retiring “expediency.”

  With the hand of a skilled conjuror, “expediency” illuminated even Dostoyevsky’s instinct for self-preservation and the conservative romanticism born of this instinct in a heroic light. Indeed, did not Dostoyevsky have ahead of him a fearless struggle against the radicals and all progressive society? After all, this, too, requires courage.

  So the basic foundation of Dostoyevsky’s future conciliatory position in relation to the autocracy and the social order was laid in tempests and inner conflict. Dostoyevsky went through hell. 

To the day of his death he could not convince himself – not only his conscious mind, but his subconscious, his mighty social conscience – of the Tightness of this position.

  The most superficial analysis of epilepsy, particularly in the form suffered by Dostoyevsky, shows us that aspect which involves a heightening of the sensibility, a kind of exposure of the nerves, and hence, particularly in the difficult conditions of the society in which he lived, constant suffering, often petty in origin, but magnified by the nervous condition. 

On the other hand, the epileptic attack itself is felt, according to Dostoyevsky’s inside evidence, as the onset of the macrocosm, of a feeling of harmony, of oneness with the whole creation. In other words, it represents the triumph of a kind of emotional optimum.

  But how else is it possible to imagine Dostoyevsky’s psychology at that time? What poles of thought and feeling must have manifested themselves in this constant battle? On the one side – disgust and indignation in the face of reality; on the other – a passionate hope in the reconciliation of all contradictions, even if only in the next world, even if only in the sphere of mysticism.

  Dostoyevsky’s gifted and passionate nature intensified the first aspect of his condition to that terrible torturing of himself and of others which is one of the dominant features of his writing. The second aspect it raised to the point of ecstasy.

  In this way, social causes led Dostoyevsky to the “sacred illness” and, having found, in prerequisites of a purely physiological nature (bound up, undoubtedly, with his very giftedness), a suitable subsoil, proceeded to cultivate in him a particular view of life, a particular style of writing – and his illness. 

By this, I do not in the least mean that in other circumstances Dostoyevsky would never have suffered from epilepsy. I am referring to that extraordinary coincidence which makes us think of Dostoyevsky as being so exactly suited to the role which he in fact came to play. 

At the same time, Dostoyevsky, the first great petty-bourgeois writer in the history of our culture, reflected in these moods of his the confusion of a wide section of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia and of the more educated members of this class. 

To them, he was a very powerful and much-needed organiser, the source of that Dostoyevshchina[3]which continued, for certain wide sections of that petty bourgeoisie, to provide one of the main ways of self-preservation right until the time of Leonid Andreyev and even on into our revolutionary days.

  Religion was bound to play an important part in Dostoyevsky’s work, if only because of this “epileptical” character of his social experience and thought. 

Any mystic system, however, might have served this purpose. Dostoyevsky’s choice fell on Orthodox Christianity. It would be interesting to make a brief digression on this subject.

  The Orthodox Church, for all the rough-hewn quality of its dogmatic structure (if we are to compare it with the refined and durable theory of Roman Catholicism or the sharp spirit of rationalist criticism inherent in Protestant creeds), still managed to play a certain positive role in support of Russia’s ruling classes – not only as a basic form of ideological deception for the uncultured masses but also as a kind of pons asinorum on the basis of which people of high culture and refined opportunism could work out a philosophy capable of reconciling them with reality. 

After all, the Christian religion, even as expounded by the Orthodox Church of that time, spoke of love, of equality and of brotherhood. Orthodoxy was understood as an abstraction, as something above and largely beyond mundane life, but, nevertheless, as something which introduced a certain modicum of light, truth and humanity into earthly relationships.

  For the ruling classes, the most agreeable aspect of all this was that it required no actual reforms and sought no real reflection in life apart from such trifles as alms-giving, the exercise of charity, monasteries, etc. Everything in life could and should remain as it was: an Orthodox tsar, Orthodox policemen, Orthodox landowners and industrialists, Orthodox workmen and peasants. The former in all the glory of their function as exploiters; the latter – in all the horror of their position as the exploited; but, all together, “brothers in Christ*’, reconciled, according to the Orthodox Church, by a common ideology, a belief in “divine justice,” which makes itself felt both in the torments of this life on earth and in the punishments to be meted out in the world to come.

  Now that the standard of thought in our society is so far removed from what it was in Dostoyevsky’s time, this whole concept appears so childish and, indeed, barbarous, that at times one asks oneself: However was Orthodoxy able to satisfy the ideological requirements even of the uncultured masses? But this line of thought, is, of course, largely artificial. 

For example, on my last visit to Switzerland I caught myself in a state of what I can only call profoundly naive astonishment that in this country churches are being built and believers are conducting religious services according to the rituals of their various cults. 

I could not resist laying hands on a specifically ecclesiastical journal and was involuntarily shaken with laughter – once again, very naive laughter – to find myself, in this European atmosphere, reading the foolishly contrived arguments and the stale repetitions which flow from the pens of believers. 

Yet religious thought and feeling show no signs of dying out in Europe; on the contrary, there are even symptoms of a revival in certain circles, particularly amongst the bourgeois youth of France, Italy, etc.

  Be that as it may, the idea of heavenly justice, cunning in its very naivety, was able, in the view of many, to justify all earthly injustice and even to provide some genuine relief (mainly in words but occasionally by “charitable actions”). Thanks to this, it could reconcile to reality minds which had just awoken to sharp criticism, hearts which had begun to contract at the sight of social evil but which, in order to avoid a fatal clash with the powers that be, found it expedient to paralyse such contractions or, at least, to modify them.

  If we take, for example, three stages of religion’s being used in this way in Russian literature and choose Gogol, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoi to illustrate our point, then we obtain the following gradation:

  With Gogol the whole business is perfectly straightforward. One has only to think of the great satirist’s famous recommendation in his Selected Passages from a Correspondence with Friends, in which he advises landowners to read the Gospel to their peasants in order that the latter, having absorbed the word of God, might serve their master the more selflessly and understand that this service is the purpose of their existence. 

I do not believe that Gogol’s faith was altogether free from flaw, untroubled by inner doubt -perhaps well hidden, or perhaps, only very occasionally troubling his conscious mind – a doubt as to whether all this were really so, as to whether the “word of God” were not, in fact, a handy invention for the benefit of the landowners. 

As far as I know, there is no direct evidence for this. If anyone really wants to accept Gogol’s faith as something monolithic, there is nothing to prevent him doing so. But even a monolithic faith is still a form of inner social adjustment to the outer world and, for Gogol, whose critical genius, winged with laughter, might at any moment have brought him into violent collision with autocracy and the landowners, it was in the highest degree essential to find a reconciliation with reality, particularly one so sweetly scented with frankincense and myrrh. [4]

  At the other extreme of the period we have selected – in the words of Tolstoi – we apparently have something totally different. Tolstoi discards Orthodoxy as such and takes the field as the declared enemy of the Established Church. 

He is not only fully aware that this Church acts as an apparatus for the stabilisation of slavery, but it is for this reason that he detests it.

However, it must be borne in mind that the chief purpose of religious adaptation in such cases is to paralyse, or at least to modify, any possible conflict between conscience and evil. Tolstoi leaves precisely as much religion as will serve to justify his theory of non-resistance. A consistently rationalist view of life (had Tolstoi ever got that far) could not possibly have served as a logical basis for this doctrine, which is in fact an outright rejection of all violent forms of combating evil.

  To a certain extent, Dostoyevsky occupies a position betwixt and between. He is much less naively Orthodox than Gogol. On this point it will not even occur to anyone to deny whole simooms and sandstorms of doubts and agonising inner debates.

  Dostoyevsky very seldom seeks support in the outward forms of Orthodoxy. This is not important to him. Important to him is the more profound, “inner” understanding of the Church which opened the way for him to contrast it, at least partially, to the state. 

Indeed, in Dostoyevsky’s books, the Church does not only justify the state by its very existence, the altar does not only hallow and justify the palace, the dungeon, the factory, etc., but it is also shown as a power which, in many things, is opposed to all the rest of life.

  Dostoyevsky is, of course, perfectly well aware that the Synod and all the priesthood are officials in the service of the throne, but it is not enough for him that these priests hallow the activities of ministers and district superintendents. It still seems to him that at least the best of these officials of the priesthood and the very “spirit” which informs them are, in their own way, “revolutionary.”

  “Let it be!” exclaim the inspired monks of Dostoyevsky’s works. What is it they thus invoke? What is “to be” is that the Church, with its love and brotherhood, will, at some stage, overcome the state and all society founded on private property, that – at some future time – the Church will build a special, almost unearthly socialism. 

This ecclesiastical Utopia will be based on that coinherence of souls by which Dostoyevsky tries to replace the once-glimpsed and later rejected ideal of socialism to which he was introduced by his friends in the Petrashevsky circle.

  However, Dostoyevsky’s “ecclesiastical revolution” takes place in an atmosphere of even greater humility than Tolstoi’s sectarian revolution. It is a task which will take many hundred years, a matter for the distant future, perhaps even for the next world. It is possible that Dostoyevsky, like Tolstoi, is led by the very logic of his thought to perceive this harmonious coinherence as a purely nominative ideal, as something which will be realised only in eternity, in infinity, in the sphere of metaphysics.

  In this way, God, Orthodoxy, Christ as a democratic, individual, purely ethical principle of the Church – all this was quite essential to Dostoyevsky, for it gave him the opportunity to avoid a final spiritual break with socialist truth while, at the same time, anathematising materialist socialism.

  These positions also gave him the chance to assume a profoundly loyalist attitude in relation to the tsar and to the whole tsarist regime. 

At the same time, from the altar end of the Church, the end facing the congregation, it was possible to embellish these ecclesiastical modes with all kinds of effective graces. 

In this way, Dostoyevsky’s Orthodoxy is at once a profoundly conservative principle and, at the same time, a kind of maximalism. Maximalists in the sphere of religion have always been in a position to say to materialists: “You will never dare to include the right to immortality in your programmes, will you? You will never be able to demand absolute bliss and the merging of all men into one ‘all-spirit’, will you? We, on the other hand, can manipulate these beautiful, delicious things as much as we like, representing them as the true reality.”

  A less tragic nature than Dostoyevsky’s might, perhaps, have been quite satisfied with this kind of cunningly worked-out self-comforter. 

But Dostoyevsky, a genius of fathomless profundity, was tormented by his immense conscience, by his acute sensibility. Dostoyevsky challenges his foes again and again under various guises, and these foes are not only philistinism, not only vice in all forms but, first of all and above all, this damnable, self-assured materialism. In his own soul he has killed it, buried it, rolled great stones across the entrance to the tomb. But it is not a corpse which is immured behind these stones. Someone is always moving about, someone’s heart is beating loudly, giving Dostoyevsky no peace. Dostoyevsky continues to feel that it is not only the socialism outside of himself which will not let him rest, not only the developing revolutionary movement in Russia, Chernyshevsky and his theory, the proletariat in the West, etc.; above all he is tormented by materialist socialism in his own self, which must on no account be allowed to emerge from the underground, which must be spat on, trodden into the mire, humiliated, made to look insignificant and ridiculous even in his own eyes. 

This is what Dostoyevsky does to it. Not once and not twice. In The Possessed he loses all self-control in this respect. And so what? A little time goes by, the smoke of argument dissipates, the mud of insinuation wears off, and the uncompromising disk of real truth begins once again to shine and to beckon.

  Of course, after his experience of forced labour, Dostoyevsky did not for one moment have a genuine faith in his materialistic phantom. 

Yet it was enough for him to feel the stirrings of doubt to lose all peace of mind. On the other hand, he devoted all his genius for thought, feeling and character – drawing to the erection of altars rising to heaven. There is something of everything: the subtlest sophism and the faith of a charcoal-burner; the frenzy of the “fool in Christ” and refined analysis; the poet’s facile gift of winning over the reader by the acute insight attributed to the religious characters, etc. 

Yet Dostoyevsky returns in doubt again and again to survey his many-storied edifices, understanding that they are not built to last and that, at the first underground tremor caused by the movement of the fettered Titan whom he has buried in his own heart, the whole pile of spillikins is going to collapse.

  It seems to me that only if we adopt this approach to Dostoyevsky will we understand the true substructure of that polyphony which Bakhtin has noted in Dostoyevsky’s novels and stories. Only Dostoyevsky’s split consciousness, together with the fragmentation of the young capitalist society in Russia, awoke in him the obsessional need to hear again and again the trial of the principles of socialism and of reality, and to hear this trial under conditions as unfavourable as possible to materialist socialism.

  However, if this trial is not given at least an appearance of unbiassed fairness, the hearing of it loses all its comforting, soothing properties and cannot be expected to calm the tempest of the soul. So a long line of characters – from revolutionaries to the most superstitious reactionaries – as soon as they emerge from Dostoyevsky’s inner world and are allowed to run free, immediately get out of hand and begin to argue each in his own voice, and to prove each his own thesis.

  For Dostoyevsky this is a pleasure, an agonising pleasure, all the more so because he realises that, as the author, he retains the conductor’s baton, remains the host in whose home all this ill-assorted company have foregathered, and can, in the end, always restore “order,” 

In that higher artistic unity which Bakhtin senses in Dostoyevsky’s works, but does not define and even appears to consider almost beyond definition, there is always this juggling with the evidence – delicate, subtle, fearful even of itself, then, suddenly, at various points in this trial which goes on and on through every novel and every story, a quite uncamouflaged, coarse policeman’s trick.

  Nevertheless, the unheard-of freedom of “voices” in Dostoyevsky’s polyphony which so strikes the reader is in fact a result of the limitations of Dostoyevsky’s power over the spirits he has conjured. 

He himself guesses this. He himself realises that, although it is within his power to restore “order” for the benefit of the reader on the stage of his own novels, behind the scenes there is still absolutely no way of telling what’s what. There, the actors may escape his control, there they may continue to develop the contradictory lines of thought which they began to trace on the visible horizon and may, in the long run, tear their author to pieces.

  If Dostoyevsky the writer is host to his characters and master in his own home, is it possible to say as much for Dostoyevsky the man?

  No, Dostoyevsky the man is not master in his own home, and the disintegration of his personality, its tendency to schizophrenia, arises from his desire to believe in something not suggested by what he really does believe and to refute something which refuses to be finally refuted. All this together renders him as an individual peculiarly suited to create the agonising and essential image of the confusion of his epoch.

  In order to judge Dostoyevsky we must turn not to any contemporary writer nor, as yet, to any later writer, but only to the events in the world after his death, to the entrance of new forces onto the social arena and to the creation of a completely new historical situation.

  However, even our present situation, in which we see all problems from a different angle, does not leave us indifferent towards Dostoyevsky. If we ourselves find no positive ideas in Dostoyevsky we must remember that we are not as yet a majority in the country. 

Many groups and strata of our society will continue to seek support for their ideas in Dostoyevsky and to suffer from his illnesses. Dostoyevsky is not yet dead, either here or in the West, because capitalism is not yet dead, still less the survivals of capitalism (if we are to speak of our own country). 

Hence the importance of devoting careful study to all the tragic problems of Dostoyevshchina.

1. Lunacharsky is referring to Russia as it was before the emancipation of the serfs and other reforms of 1860s. – Ed.
2. Lunacharsky uses the Slavophile expression sobornost, the root of which is sobor – Eng. “Council.” Sobornost implies “togetherness,” “exchange” and “interdependence.” – Ed.
3. The suffix “shchina” means much the same as Eng. “ism” but always carries derogatory overtones when added, as here, to a proper name. It implies the superficial imitation of a great man’s more extravagant ideas and eccentric qualities rather than a true cult of his work or doctrine. – Tr.
4. Dostoyevsky, whose whole approach to the matter was more complicated, made fun of Gogol’s prophetic mission and, in particular, of these lines from the Selected Passages from a Correspondence with Friends, putting them, almost word for word, into the mouth of Foma Opiskin in Selo Stepanchikovo (The Friend of the Family). – Author’s note.