LENIN AND PHILOSOPHY and Other Essays by Louis Althusser


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One of the resident philosophers of the French Communist Party, Althusser bares his ideological role much more clearly in these essays than in his larger works For Marx (1970) and Reading Capital (1971). His tasks are apparent: to set forth the party line on philosophical matters, including interpretations of Marx; to defend the official line against ""bourgeois"" scholars without and ""deviationists"" within, by making enough concessions to the intelligentsia to beautify the Party's image. In ""Freud and Lacan,"" for example, Althusser bravely attempts to reconcile the Party's traditional slanders against Freud by putting his work into the ""scientific"" category, a term the Party will buy. The three title essays on Lenin and philosophy represent an attempt to discipline a group of right-wing party intellectuals around Roger Garaudy and the journal Cahiers du Marxisme -- Garaudy, not mentioned by name, is anathematized as a ""humanist."" Althusser argues that all intellectuals are petit-bourgeois and therefore have wrong ideas. Marx and Lenin surmounted this condition only through the workers; otherwise they might have remained hapless Hegelians. This novel historical fabrication -- Marx and Lenin had extremely limited direct contact with the workers -- can be interpreted as a warning to Garaudy: if you leave the Party you will be cut off from the masses and become a total petit-bourgeois wreck. Althusser's ouvrierisme extends to his introduction to Volume I of Capital, which recommends that one skip the parts on money and commodities, too abstract; go instead to the empirical descriptions of exploitation and surplus value, which any worker can understand with his eyes closed. Taken as a whole, this collection casts an unwholesome, hack-like pall on Althusser's American reputation as a fashionable leftish intellectual rather than a mere Communist Party spokesman.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1972
ISBN: 1583670394
Publisher: Monthly Review Press