Lecture #15 - October 29, 1979 - 50:16 min (mp3)
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Mosse begins by saying that the period we are about to study that (up to the 1920s) is not devoid of a certain amount of pain for the Left. His own analysis has little to do with the effect of the analysis of this history by the New Left in the early 1960’s, yet this part of the course is the part most directly influenced the American New Left. In fact, this course -together with the course taught by Carl Schorske at Berkeley- were the only courses in the U.S. that dealt directly with this history. (He and Schorske were fascinated by a problem in U.S. history: what is called “the great evasion,” the evasion of the effective influence of Marxism on American thought.) As a result, all of the journals and reviews that rediscovered Marx (the non-Soviet, non-Kautsky Marx) came out of Madison. If up to now, the course has dealt with the bourgeoisie and the opposition against bourgeois society that came from within the bourgeoisie itself, and out of which developed the artistic avant-garde, we now move to Marxist orthodoxy. This orthodoxy was not just German – Lenin was as influenced by Kautsky as anyone – we are dealing with the opposition within Marxism. What Mosse will discuss now is materialistic Marxism, and the Marxist revolution against materialism. What eventually triumphed was the orthodoxy.
What Mosse now means by Socialist intellectualism is what Socialists (who were themselves intellectuals, like Lenin) meant when they talked about intellectuals, namely, those that criticized orthodox Marxism. In Mosse’s view, the whole term “intellectual” becomes from the end of the 19th century to be equivalent to “a critical mind.” Coming from the bohemians, it was generalized, so that it is almost assumed by now that nobody in the establishment can be an intellectual. Mosse doubts that you will think of Kissinger as an intellectual, though of course he is; intellectualism became - and it still is today - associated with opposition, with those outside orthodoxy. (Mosse now interrupts himself to answer a student’s question on Mosse’s dislike of marching.)
There were three categories of opposition: the Kantian socialists, who would become left wing intellectuals; the utopian socialists; and the third category, with which Mosse will sum up the lecture, is the one that includes Brecht. The problem of the Kantians is the problem of ethics against economic determinism. The controversy began in the 1880s in an attempt to give Marxism an echo in philosophy. The consensus was that Marx and Engels fell under the influence of Hegel rather than Kant, which ended in determinism. (With Kant, they might have considered ethics and the categorical imperative). The connection between Marx and Kant led to the great debates that raised the problem of determinism and individualism. But, Mosse reminds the students that the people who lead the controversy were Marxists: they believed in class struggle and in the nationalization of production, but they also believed in ethical standards. In their view, the revolution could only come about through certain ethical imperatives. Moreover, they were not idealists in the way that they thought of immediate utopia; they were also part of a Hegelian revival. For them, the class struggle was a protest that would lead to the classless society, but a protest that had to take place according to the Kantian categorical imperative, meaning that no means could be used that were against personal freedom, or that implied tactics of discipline. The Socialism that they wanted was in reality a socialism of affinity.
The first great controversy took place between Kautsky and the leading theoretician of Kantian-influenced Austro-Socialism, Rudolf Most. Another controversy flared up in 1890 between Kautsky and Bruno Bauer. According to Bauer, it was not enough to be a proletarian; one had also to be right. According to Kautsky, if you were a proletarian you were already right because the proletariat was the innocent class not involved in the class struggle. Bauer meant “right” within the Kantian categorical imperative, because Bauer believed that the laws of morality were [inaudible, cough]. Like Kant himself, Bauer and his followers had an optimistic view of human nature, believing the basis of human nature to be reason and the laws of morality. The main problem of the revolution was to activate the categorical imperative that was in every man. Not according to Marx, who thought that man is simply reasonable. But, if morality is tied to class, how could there be a universal categorical imperative? Bauer answered that morality was relative in a given situation; human nature would triumph in a classless society. This reflected a mixture of Kant and Hegel: Hegel believed that as history went on, man would get closer and closer to the ideal. But by no means is the proletarian leading in Hegel’s theory. Kautsky insisted that ethics must be tied to a social analysis, which was wrong according to Kantian Socialists; for them, ethics went beyond the social. In this, they go back to Hegel, with the idea of an ever-present idea to which history strives. But according to the categorical imperative, the innate human nature must never be betrayed in the struggle. That is why Socialists discussed whether intellectuals should not have a one-year testing period before being admitted to the Socialist party.
The Kantian and Hegelian premise is important because Kautsky and Stalin omitted both. Neither Bolshevism nor Kautskyism gave room to a process that had to do with a process within human consciousness. For the Kantians, human consciousness stood still; for Marx, it progressed. At first, the Kantian renaissance was stronger than the Hegelian. The Hegelian renaissance of Marxism took place in Germany. All this is summed up in a famous essay of 1904 by Kurt Eisner, “Marx and Kant”: “Kant’s ethics is a form of human action that at one and the same time is outside and inside history. It is a permanent, internal standard of human action.” On the other hand, it is used in the class struggle. There is in every man a constant standard of what should be and thus no need for revolutionary tactics and discipline. All one should do is to awaken people’s categorical imperative. The revolution would follow. That is what happened in the Bavarian revolution of 1918. Eisner addressed a huge crowd, and, as Mosse puts it, “before he knew it, he found himself the leader of the revolution.” Eisner was eventually assassinated, though, and the Bavarian revolution became Bolshevik. His end was indicative of the constant problem of how to handle the counter revolution. Eisner could not bring himself to kill his enemies, and was himself killed in the end. The categorical imperative implies a consensus, as if we all agree on what should be.