Dogmatism

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Dogmatism

 

a method of thinking by which certain propositions are turned into rigid conclusions that are applied without regard for the concrete conditions of life. Dogmatism interprets all truths as absolutes. Unlike dogmatism, dialectics includes in the concept of truth not only the aspect of absoluteness but also that of relativity, and it demands the enrichment and development of all truths and a concrete approach to their practical application. Marxism demands that its adherents endeavor to ’’prevent science from becoming a dogma, in the bad sense of the term, from becoming something dead, frozen, and ossified” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18, p. 138).

The term “dogmatism” was introduced by the ancient Greek skeptics Pyrrho and Zeno, who denied the possibility of achieving true knowledge and referred to philosophers who drew any affirmative conclusions about the substance of things as dogmatists. In the Middle Ages the followers of Pyrrho charged the peripatetics (followers of Aristotle) with dogmatism, advancing a purely relativistic principle: one must say “it seems to me” about everything knowable, but that which exists in reality cannot be affirmed. Kant believed that dogmatism refers to any cognition that proceeds without preliminary analysis of its possibilities and preconditions. Hegel understood dogmatism to be metaphysics or one-sided rational thought: “in the narrowest sense, dogmatism consists of the retention of one-sided rational definitions and the exclusion of opposing definitions.” On the other hand, Hegel asserted that in contrast to dogmatism, dialectical thought “does not contain such one-sided definitions and is not exhausted by them, but as an entity, it contains combined within itself those definitions that dogmatism recognizes in their separateness as unshakeable and true” (Soch., vol. 1, Moscow-Leningrad, 1929, p. 70). Marxist materialist dialectics, with its principle that “there is no abstract truth, truth is concrete,” is the antipode of the metaphysical rationality of dogmatism.

E. P. SITKOVSKII

Workers’ movement. In the workers’ movement, dogmatism is characterized by the alienation of theory from life and from the concrete historical setting in all its complexity, diversity, and continuous changeability, by disregard for those tendencies or features of the workers’ movement that are specific characteristics of a given period and given conditions of activity for the working class in various countries.

Dogmatism is inherent in both right-wing opportunism and so-called leftist opportunism, which merges in practice with political adventurism. To a great degree, the revisionism of the leaders of the Second International was connected with a dogmatic understanding of Marxism. The opportunists of the Second International turned into lifeless dogma the proposition expressed by Engels in 1847 and subsequently supported by Marx, that the victory of the socialist revolution depends on its triumphing simultaneously in all the most developed capitalist countries of the world. Lenin, demonstrating the acute aggravation of the uneven economic and political development of capitalism in the age of imperialism, proved that the socialist revolution could triumph initially in several or even in one isolated capitalist country.

Dogmatism was also inherent in the opportunistic views of the Mensheviks. Clinging to various propositions of Marxism that did not correspond to new conditions and that required elaboration, the Mensheviks waged a struggle against Marxism as a whole and above all, against its creative development, Leninism. Referring to the experience of the 19th-century bourgeois revolutions in Western European countries, in which the bourgeoisie had acted as the leading force, the Mensheviks rejected the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution of the age of imperialism and denied the necessity of an alliance of the working class and peasantry.

Within the RCP (Bolshevik) “left-wing communists” maintained dogmatic positions. Juggling phrases about revolutionary war, they opposed all compromises with the international bourgeoisie. “By revolutionary phrase-making,” Lenin wrote at that time, “we mean the repetition of revolutionary slogans irrespective of objective circumstances at a given turn in events, in the given state of affairs obtaining at the time” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 35, p. 343).

Sectarianism is one of the outgrowths of dogmatism. In the period of the revolutionary upsurge that began under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, sectarian-dogmatic errors were made by figures in the Communist parties of Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and several other countries. These party figures had not yet learned to apply Marxism creatively to specific conditions in their countries, and they were unable to combine the international and the national in the policies of their parties. They mechanically copied previous revolutionary experience, failed to understand the necessity of patiently preparing and bringing the masses to revolution, underestimated work in trade unions and parliaments, and were opponents of necessary compromises and flexibility in tactics. Maintaining ultraleftist positions, they defended the line calling for the immediate overthrow of capitalism, without taking into account the real arrangement of class forces in their countries.

In the work “Left-wing Communism,” an Infantile Disorder (1920) and in speeches at the Second Congress of the Comintern (1920), Lenin presented a comprehensive analysis and profound critique of the sectarian-dogmatic errors in the activity of a number of Communist parties, thus initiating an active struggle against “leftism” in the Communist movements. The danger of sectarian tactics, which were repudiated by the Comintern, became increasingly apparent during the ebb in the revolutionary wave between late 1920 and 1921. During that period, leftist elements tried to bind Communist parties to the “theory of the offensive,” which was clearly adventuristic. Strongly condemning this theory, Lenin and the Comintern turned the attention of Communist parties to the transition from the tactics of an immediate assault against bourgeois power to the gathering of revolutionary forces and the use of all means of leading the masses to revolution. In the struggle against “left opportunist” views, the Comintern developed the principles of correct strategy and tactics. However, at subsequent stages in the Communist movement, during the period when the goals of the antifascist struggle were the most important, new sectarian-dogmatic errors appeared.

The Seventh Congress of the Comintern (1935) was an important landmark in the struggle of the Communist parties against dogmatism and sectarianism. It laid down a clear line of struggle for a unified workers’ front and a broad popular front against fascism and war. The implementation and subsequent creative development of this line brought notable victories for the antifascist forces during World War II (1939-45). The highest achievements of the policy of rallying all democratic forces under the leadership of the working class were the popular democratic revolutions in the 1940’s in a number of European and Asian countries and the formation of the world socialist system. However, the construction of socialism in certain countries was complicated by manifestations of dogmatism and the mechanical copying of previous experience. Dogmatic-sectarian errors also occurred in certain Communist parties in capitalist countries, as well as in countries that had liberated themselves or were struggling against colonial rule.

Marxist-Leninists struggle against all manifestations of dogmatism. However, they distinguish the dogmatic errors of certain participants in the revolutionary movement, which result from political inexperience and immaturity or inability to determine the tactical line with regard to changes in political circumstances, from the dogmatism of enemies of Marxism-Leninism, who attempt to use various Marxist-Leninist propositions, which they have falsified for purposes that have nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism. Enormous harm is inflicted on the international workers’ and national liberation movements by the divisive anti-Soviet line of the Maoist leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, which covers its great-power nationalist goals with pseudo-Marxist, “leftist” phraseology. In order to achieve their goals, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party resort to the oversimplification and distortion of the fundamental tenets of Marxism-Leninism in a leftist-dogmatic, nationalistic spirit.

All the practical activity of the CPSU and the successes of the world communist, workers’, and national liberation movements are graphic evidence of the bankruptcy of the antiscientific, anti-Marxist “theories” of past and present dogmatists. The necessity of struggling against dogmatism and sectarianism was emphasized at the Moscow Conferences of Representatives of Communists’ and Workers’ Parties in 1957 and 1960. The International Conference of Communists and Workers’ Parties in 1969 stressed that Communists will “consistently defend their principles, strive for the triumph of Marxism-Leninism, and fight in accordance with concrete circumstances against right- and left-opportunist distortions of theory and politics, against revisionism, dogmatism, and leftist adventurism” (International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Dokumenty i materialy, Moscow, 1969, pp. 328-29).

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Pis’ma o taktike.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 31, pp. 131-44.
Lenin, V. I. “Detskaia bolezn’ ’levizny’ v kommunizme.” Ibid vol. 41, pp. 46, 74, 78-79, 87-89.
Lenin, V. I. “O nashei revoliutsii.” Ibid., vol. 45.
Lenin, V. I. Inesse Armand. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 49, pp. 328-29.
Lenin, V. I. Protiv dogmatizma i nachetnichestva. (Collection of articles.) Moscow, 1957.
Kommunisticheskii Internalsional v dokumentakh, 1919-1932. Moscow, 1933.
“O preodolenii kul’ta lichnosti i ego posledstvii.” In KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, part 4. Moscow, 1960.
Programmnye dokumenty bor’by za mir, demokratiiu i sotsializm. Moscow, 1964.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1969.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1971.

P. V. KUTSOBIN

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