Lunacharsky - Proletarian ethics

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Proletarian ethics

In Vestnik Zhizn, No. 1, in an article on Kautsky's Ethics, 1 we pointed out that, along with the task of scientific-historical analysis, the origin and development of every kind of morality, the ideologist of the proletariat may set himself the task of systematizing those assessments which the conscious proletariat applies to the phenomena of life, to subordinate them to general principles and a common ideal, to give them harmony and integrity, and so on. arr. to create a proletarian evaluative philosophy, side by side with a proletarian scientific philosophy, to create a very valuable, but recognized by Kautsky himself, weapon in the ideal struggle of the proletariat.

This approximate task is approached by NN in the pamphlet Proletarian Ethics published by Kolokol.

The pamphlet is written in a sympathetically ardent tone and expresses many correct thoughts. However, it seems to us that the author still did not think enough about his task and, despite his tendency to rather suspiciously note “bourgeois” shades in various areas of socialist thought, he himself still remains under the spell of the semi-metaphysical and undoubtedly bourgeois theory of objective ethics. certainly due , etc.

Scientific ethics, if one understands by scientificity a possibly greater degree of general obligatoriness, is conceivable only in the sense in which Kautsky puts it forward: in the sense of the natural history of moral forms. Scientific ethics has no right to praise and blame, it has no right to consciously introduce an element of evaluation into its field. Scientific ethics cannot talk about what is good and what is evil, but only about how various concepts of good and evil arise and change in history, that is, in the world drama of the class struggle.

NN believes, as his pamphlet makes clear, in the existence of an objective scientific ethic capable of prescribing what is due.We will return to this circumstance, while we are only interested in this fundamental error in the formulation of the problem itself. NN did not understand that evaluation, the main criterion for judgments about good and evil, can never be scientifically universally binding. NN himself considers “the vital in life” as such a criterion, that is, he is inclined to call good only that which leads to the maximum flourishing of human life. In itself, this criterion is very sympathetic, and there is no doubt that classes full of vigor and life, classes that have developed collectivist tendencies in struggle and labor, have been and always will be inclined precisely towards this criterion. It is no less certain, however, that the dying classes, the despairing classes, and also the classes in which their social position has developed a narrow individualism, will never adhere to this criterion. It can only be judged in terms of good or evil. harm or benefit to well-defined individuals or groups with a well-defined way of feeling. The matter does not change at all because I talk about good and evil for all mankind, I can only understand what is onmy opinion, according to my judgment, is for humanity, good or evil. This judgment of mine may coincide with the judgment of the class of which I am a typical representative or ideologue. There is no universal human ideal now and cannot be, because humanity is divided into classes, there can only be class ideals for all of humanity , i.e. ideals that a given class seeks to put before all of humanity.

If NN had clearly understood this, he would also have understood that, just as in science, in the field of systematization of facts, we strive for monism, for the unity of principles and methods, so we must also strive in the field of systematization of estimates, where for bourgeois thought everything there are still impenetrable boundaries between ethics and aesthetics, between egocentrism and broad humanism.

To find a common principle for all assessments, to combine ethics and aesthetics together - this is the task facing the theory of assessment. I do not know how the author of the pamphlet regards attempts at such a union in general, but he is extremely severe about the attempts of some Russian Marxists to effect such a union by subordinating ethical assessments to aesthetic ones. In such attempts NN sees something sinful and even "bourgeois".

For bourgeois thought, the unification of both areas of evaluation is just completely inaccessible. What was the aim of bourgeois ethics? - Dictate the rules of the hostel. Bourgeois morality is an eminently practical thing, directly useful and even necessary for the bourgeois, it is an essential addition to the law, it lives in the real world, striving to mitigate "the grave collisions of people and things in space." When bourgeois ethics makes its flights, when it tries to draw its ideal to its full height, in a word, when its philosophical idealism outgrows the limits of what is possible in a philistine society, it declares with pathos and with bitter pride that the ideal is completely unattainable in life. In bourgeois ethics, the ideal stands behind the door of life, like the phantom of a sad angel; inside life, morality takes the form of a walking small coin.

What is the purpose of bourgeois aesthetics? - Creation of some rules for art, free as a game, for the free enjoyment of fiction. In the boundless fields of the imagination, as Schiller taught, neither the laws of gravity nor the laws of morality are obligatory. This is the world of freedom. Bourgeois art preserves its "freedom" precisely by eschewing living life, from struggle; Because the bourgeois artist strives to paint beauty on the canvas, it would seem ridiculous and wild to him who would tell him that the first task of the artist should be to embody beauty in life itself.

On the contrary, for the conscious proletariat there is no unattainable, transcendental, illusory moral ideal at all, its ideal is the plan of its work , its ideal must be embodied, it materializes before its eyes and its hands. That is why the proletariat does not need a small change of applied morality: the constant striving for the realization of its ideal, the constant struggle for it fills the life of the proletarian creator with warmth and light.

But what is the "ethical" ideal of the proletarian? after all, this is the ideal of the maximum of life, the enormous wealth of life with its full harmony; but everything that expresses the richness of life in its harmony is beautiful; beautiful also is that which expresses a passionate striving for the bright ideal of the universal beauty of life. Therefore, the ethical ideal of the proletariat, glimpses of it in life and art, the struggle for it - this is the only beauty, this is the realm of proletarian aesthetics, proletarian art. For the proletarian, art, without ceasing to be free, serves the growth of life; struggle, feat without ceasing to be expedient - beautiful and full of inspiration. That is why for the proletarian, for the social-dem. there is not and cannot be a difference between good and beauty.

Art, which in no way contributes to the growth of life, is always recognized by the conscious proletarian as pseudo-art, for him there can be no beauty outside the growth of life; on the other hand, apart from human actions, directly or indirectly leading to the growth of life, there is nothing morally positive for the proletarian. Both in life and in art, in a word, in evaluating all the phenomena of the surrounding world, the conscious proletarian applies the same criterion, the criterion of the maximum of life, which NN has not yet adequately evaluated.

But, we will be told, having recognized the unity of ethics and aesthetics, we have not yet recognized the need for ethics to be absorbed by aesthetics, and not vice versa. From the unity of the supreme principle of evaluation you draw, we will be told, the following conclusion: “the proletarian approves only such motives and actions that are beautiful, he is guided by an aesthetic principle, all the so-called ethics and moral systems of other classes and cultures were perversions of the same principle, as a result of which the unified aesthetic essence of all assessments remained unclear.” But why not draw the opposite conclusion: in art, the proletarian values ​​only the moral, all previous aesthetic theories were a distortion of this principle, etc.

Indeed, formally, we could draw both conclusions. Modern scientific monism makes it possible, with almost equal right, to consider all phenomena as data of mental experience, and to call them all purely physical phenomena. Kautsky in his "ethics" quite correctly points out that Marxist monism is fundamentally different from the materialism of Marx's predecessors, but he insists on using the term materialism, since certain militant traditions are associated with this term, while other suitable terms are less bright and can cause misunderstandings.

We have a lot against the terms "ethics", "morality", etc., because until now ethics and morality have always been built on the principle of subordinating a person who is bad by nature to a more or less coercive, more or less sovereign law. Aesthetics, on the other hand, has always been an area of ​​unconditional freedom and individual creativity of the ideals of beauty.

NN has a very pernicious tendency towards ethicism, even absolute obligation, and this unpleasant adherence leads him to rather amusing positions. Thus, for example, NN asserts that the bourgeois is essentially aesthetic, while the conscious proletarian is ethical. Where did NN get his faith in the fundamental and basic aesthetics of the bourgeoisie - I'm perplexed. True, in the old days of the flourishing of urban communities, the bourgeoisie was aesthetic, but this bright time has passed, just as the former revolutionary spirit of the bourgeoisie has also passed. To say that the modern bourgeois, this dry accountant, this huckster in cheap and rotten factory goods, this parvenu flaunting ridiculous luxury, is aesthetic, it is downright wild. Let NN look into the works of any socialist who dealt with questions of art, let him take at least the works of Morris recently translated into Russian, Vandervelde, Destre—they all unanimously assert that in the entire history of human civilization there has never been an epoch less aesthetic than the epoch of the triumph of the bourgeoisie. The same thing is said with horror and curses by such renegades of the bourgeoisie as Ruskin, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Maupassant and many others. NN is directly the only person who discovered the aesthetic nature of the bourgeoisie. No one, of course, will dare to assert that the proletarian, as he is, crushed by labor, or who has given himself over to the hard struggle for freedom and daily bread, is primarily aesthetic. But Hobson was an echo of the opinion of hundreds of advanced artists and art theorists when he pointed out that the main goal of the proletariat is to free the masses of mankind from the need and burden of mechanical labor, create for them a wide leisure and open the way for them to broad and popular artistic creativity and unprecedented on earth in intensity and extensiveness - the enjoyment of art. The proletarian self-consciousness, when it finally takes shape, cannot but be deeply aesthetic.

The dominance of ethics, the triumph of morality was proclaimed with unheard-of pomp by the ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie. Rousseau, Kant, Fichte - these are the ones who, with dazzling brilliance or overwhelming thoroughness, developed moralism as the basis of philosophy and life, but even in. in their great creations the ideologists of the proletariat succeeded in recognizing the gigantically enlarged and painted reflection of the philistine. If in revolutionary epochs the philistine proclaimed his morality with trumpet blasts, then in epochs of relative decline he made himself a shield against the truly revolutionary class out of this Morality, built up obstacles to it. Of late, ethicism has been the main weapon of bourgeois ideology; against its infiltration, amoral scientific socialism raised its tried sword and Karl Kautsky. Morality is the necessary spike for the atomistic, for an individualistic petty-bourgeois society crumbling like sand. A man of the proper (“that is impossible, but that is possible”) is a tradesman, he is a man of customs, decency, remorse and other ethical delights. The bourgeois is essentially ethical, that is, the main mass of the bourgeoisie is philistinism; and the fact that the tradesman always, whenever possible, violates his morality is quite ethical, for ethics, like Christ, exists in the world for sinners, and not for the righteous. The conscious proletarian is a man of unconditional freedom; nothing is due to him. If he acts in a certain way, it is not because he when possible, he violates his morality quite ethically, for ethics, like Christ, exists in the world for sinners, and not for the righteous. The conscious proletarian is a man of unconditional freedom; nothing is due to him. If he acts in a certain way, it is not because he when possible, he violates his morality quite ethically, for ethics, like Christ, exists in the world for sinners, and not for the righteous. The conscious proletarian is a man of unconditional freedom; nothing is due to him. If he acts in a certain way, it is not because heshould do so, but because he wants to do so, because he finds it expedient.

NN can tell us that this is a sophism, that he is not talking about philistine morality with its commandments and prohibitions, but about free morality, about morality that a person creates for himself, developing his ideal, and subordinating his behavior to it. But why use an old, dirty term for this completely new phenomenon? Why pour new wine into old wineskins? Where there is no coercion, even internal, there is no morality and ethics, there is a free passion for what is directly beautiful, there is a rise of life to the highest limits of admiration and creativity, there a person enters the world of art in a broad sense, because to create a beautiful ideal and to strive to embody it is to be an artist, again in the broadest sense. If NN had weighed all this, he would not have fallen into contradiction and would have stopped pouting at those Marxists who want to aestheticize ethics.

However, in his criticism of the aesthetic side of life, NN beats himself. In the text of the pamphlet, he states menacingly: “In modern literature, there is a tendency to identify ethics with aesthetics, to prove, so to speak, the uselessness of ethics. But this undoubtedly shows the tendency of the bourgeois individualistic psyche and the dominant influence of bourgeois ideology. The aesthetic sense is ego-centric; the ethical is exo-centric. Aesthetic feeling is a feeling of experience, a passive feeling; ethical feeling, volitional feeling, motor, creative feeling. The ethical sense is primary; aesthetic secondary. Aesthetic feeling is a consequence of the ethical. Pleasure comes with activity."

And in a note, he teaches: “The difference between bourgeois aesthetics and socialist aesthetics is that bourgeois enjoyment is built on the principle of exploitation of foreign forces, while the aesthetics of a socialist is based on the principle of solidarity activity in the struggle either with nature or with class exploitation. Social aesthetics is the enjoyment of creative activity.

Both the text and the note are a complete misunderstanding and a complete contradiction. They clearly prove that NN did not at all try to think about the nature of the various evaluations and their relation to each other. NN manipulates the words aesthetic and ethical as if he were using strictly established scientific terms, while in reality he gives only his own, extremely unsatisfactory and shaky definitions.

First of all, we learn that the word "aesthetics" has two meanings, one bourgeois, the other proletarian; Who made NN think that the adherents of the primordial nature of the aesthetic principle use the word aesthetics precisely in the first sense? According to NN, aesthetics is egocentric, but NN immediately breaks this ridiculous statement with another statement that "the aesthetics of the socialist is based on the principle of solidarity". In addition, let it be known to NN that psychologists and aestheticians, if I am not mistaken without exception, from Nietzsche to Tolstoy, from Kang to Ribot, assert the opposite, namely, that aesthetic admiration is the least egoistic feeling. Ernst Mach even asserts that the consciousness of one's ego at the highest stages of aesthetic contemplation disappears altogether, the same opinion is held by Comrade. Bogdanov. Further, NN asserts that the aesthetic sense is passive, and beats himself in his footnote with the proposition that aesthetics is "the enjoyment of creative activity." How absurd the assertion that the aesthetic sense is always passive is evident from the fact that, wishing to characterize “revolutionary” creativity as vividly as possible, NN himself exclaims: “the passion of an active fighter is the passion of an artist.” Tell me for everything in the world didn't you involuntarily interpret "proletarian-ethical" activity here in terms of aesthetic activity? And let it be known to NN that evaluation, as such, is always passive: whether I evaluate something as good or evil, or as beauty or ugliness, while I evaluate - I am passive, when I do good or beauty, I am equally active. NN's general assertion that "pleasure follows activity" he destroys by arguing that "bourgeois enjoyment is built on exploitationstrangersforces." In a word, in this important part of the pamphlet, every line is an obvious mistake. But the worst thing is that, while declaring the concept of "socialist aesthetics" in a footnote, NN showed a misunderstanding of the essence of proletarian aesthetics. According to him, "the aesthetics of the socialist is based on the principle" of a solidarity struggle with nature or "class exploitation". We ask NN whether a proletarian, a conscious socialist, can admire the sunrise on the sea, or the snowy mountains? And what does this admiration of his have to do with the “solid struggle?” Does NN think that it is shameful for a conscious proletarian to love, say, Beethoven's sonatas, or to admire the Venus de Milo? But it is necessary to excel in the most shaky sophisms in order to prove the connection of "Quasi una fantasia" or Venus with "struggle". To be a hammer, large masses of the proletariat, and partly its social-dem. vanguard, Unfortunately, they do not have time to develop a love for the artistic, but, however, the most developed elements of the proletariat, no one will deny this, are drawn to art, invariably introducing into their judgments a mass of healthy instinct and the same obvious or as yet obscure criterion. . The proletarian wants from art to increase the tone of his life, new impulses, a reflection of his ideal of a beautiful and free humanity, vital and strong unrest, whether tragic or majestically epic in nature. In the thirst for an increase in life, the thirst inherent in everything healthy, in the view of art as a living element of living life, in the deep unity of beauty and reality - in the sense that reality must become entirely beautiful, and that elevated revolutionary impetuous life is inseparable with beautyadds to the energy of mental life - this is the essence of proletarian aesthetics, which begins to take shape in life and be formulated in books.

As far as bourgeois aesthetics is concerned, quite different demands are placed on art. For a healthy bourgeois, a complete lack of aestheticism is typical. If a modern "healthy" manufacturer or merchant buys a work of art, then in order to show off the amount of money paid.

The less healthy bourgeois, in whom "man" is not completely dead, see in art an area of ​​freedom and beauty, which, in their opinion, has no place in reality. Beauty for them is an otherworldly kingdom, something like a Christian paradise, and they run away there to rest from the vulgar predation of their real life. Therefore, they crave art, perhaps more out of touch with life, they want a brilliant game. The completely sick epigones of the bourgeoisie yearn for a lulling art, an art that harmonizes life through its deep humiliation.

I have already said about NN that, in the absence of an understanding of the aesthetic, he has a noticeably unpleasant inclination towards a semi-metaphysical ethicism, which clearly manifests itself, for example. in a paragraph like this:

“Of course, the results of the impact of the principle of “due” (as the conclusion of ethical science) will depend on the balance of forces of ideological influence and materialistic opposition; the less "due" will encounter obstacles in the materialistic interests of the individual, the stronger its influence will be; the more - the influence - is negligible. That is why, speaking of the proletariat, we call this class ethical but in essence, because "the proper", as an objective ethical principle, follows from its very materialistic nature, from its socialist instinct.

Thus, according to NN, "ethical science" develops "due" as a completely "objective" principle and then preaches it. At the same time, the good seed strikes now on the dry soil of "opposing" material interests, now on such receptive soil as the proletariat. The proletariat is patted on the head for its susceptibility to the “proper” worked out by ethical scientists. Let us remind NN that this was precisely the point of view of N. Berdyaev in his book against Mikhailovsky. This point of view is typically intellectual, easily able to lead to a position at the time abandoned by Comrade. Nezhdanov and now a comma by Mr. Davydov. NN has one curious note. We can't help including it here:

“The Social Democracy is divided into factions, as, for example, in Germany the Bernsteinians and the orthodox Marxists; in France, the Guessists and Jauresists, and in Russia we have “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks”. Each of these factions has its own peculiar physiognomy. But, in a general philosophical justification, we would reduce them to two groups: one of them, in understanding the life process, emphasizes mainly the consciously creative moment and draws inspiration from it in its activity; the other focuses its attention on spontaneity and, because of this, refusing conscious creative activity, places its hopes on the mechanical development of life. Such admiration for spontaneity, to the detriment of consciously creative activity, is called opportunism, that is, adaptation to inertia, to the elements. To the last group belong: the Bernsteinians,

NN is wrong. The writer of these lines is entirely on the point of view of the "Bolsheviks", but in no way can he agree with the characteristics of NN. It is the Joressists and Bernsteinians who are imbued with the spirit of idealistic ethics, it is they who seek to weaken the purely scientific, completely amoralistic historical materialism of Marx. Is it typical for Jaurès and Bernstein to believe in the elements? For Ged and Kautsky, into the conscious creativity of advanced groups? Nothing of the sort When Kautsky, in his recently published remarkable pamphlet The Russian and American Worker, praises the "romanticism" of the Russian worker, he is not speaking of romanticism in the spirit of the anarchists, not of romanticism in the spirit of the sentimental phrases of Jaurès or Dr. Friedeberg—no, under the word " romanticism," he understands just a deep trust in the elements, the ability to capture a broad historical perspective, the ability to sensitively hear the beating of cardinal underground economic forces; he contrasts this romanticism with a dry and prosaic sobriety, petty and short-sighted grasping at the superficial features of the moment, cautious, squinting at the masses with distrust, eternally thinking of educating them better, and eternally lagging behind, eternally taken by surprise by the erupting revolutionary elements. Such political impressionism is indeed characteristic not only of the Bernsteinians, but also of the Russian Mensheviks, but this has little to do with the question of ethics. gazing with distrust at the masses, always thinking about how to better educate them, and always lagging behind, always taken by surprise by the erupting revolutionary elements. Such political impressionism is indeed characteristic not only of the Bernsteinians, but also of the Russian Mensheviks, but this has little to do with the question of ethics. gazing with distrust at the masses, always thinking about how to better educate them, and always lagging behind, always taken by surprise by the erupting revolutionary elements. Such political impressionism is indeed characteristic not only of the Bernsteinians, but also of the Russian Mensheviks, but this has little to do with the question of ethics.

As for the notorious foreign and Russian opportunists, we repeat that they have an undeniable tendency towards ethicism and an exaggerated idea of ​​the role of conscious creativity. NN writes, after stating the presence of a sharp class struggle:

Whose side is moral right on? Which class remains ethical in its struggle? To answer this question means to solve the problem of the objectivity of the ethical, it means to recognize the interest of the universality of life, it means to get out of the narrow framework of the egoism of one's personality, family and class; it means to indicate which class is the true bearer of universal ideals!”

In my first article in Vestnik Zhizni, I already pointed out that the very question of "moral law," the very hope of backing up the demands of the proletariat with reference to "ethical science," is completely untenable. Let's leave this occupation to Berdyaev and Davydov.

The class ideal of the proletariat need not be weakened by references to a metaphysical "universal" due. It is another matter to appeal to science, not to ethics, but to political economy, since it criticizes the vices of modern economic organization and points to measures for its harmonization; also on hygiene, since it establishes the norms for a healthy private and social life.

Of course, these references do not turn the socialist ideal into an absolute one, they do not force everyone to bow before it, but they give it and the agitation for it strength and strength, harmony and brilliance, enhancing its aesthetic charm to the highest degree , thus sharpening the ideological weapon of the proletariat in its struggle for ideological hegemony against hostile ideologies.

We also note the confusion introduced by NN into the question of the personal and the universal, of death and immortality, which is extremely important for proletarian evaluative philosophy. Having expounded those views on this question which were put forward and emphasized especially by the Russian Marxist-realists, N. N unexpectedly strayed into the “tragedy” kindly by Bulgakov and Berdyaev and declared that the secret dream of every person is the thirst for personal immortality in the most vulgar sense, that immortality which Ernest Mach called Eskimo . Through the music of absorption of the individual by universal and higher social-individualism, a trembling note of petty-bourgeois fear of death suddenly sounds false.

We repeat, NN's pamphlet contains a lot that is true and sympathetic, but in order to have at least half the right to that decreeing tone that NN has adopted for himself, he still needs to think a lot and carefully.

A. Lunacharsky.