The Suppression of Philosophy in the USSR (The 1920s & 1930s)
Originally published in Russian in 1981, this unique history of early Soviet philosophy is now available for the first time in English, translated by Frederick Choate.
Yehoshua Yakhot (1919-2003) was a professor of philosophy in the Soviet Union until forced to emigrate to Israel in 1975. While in emigration, he finished writing the book begun in Moscow years before.
Yakhot’s book is essential reading for an understanding of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism and its devastating impact on every aspect of Soviet thought. Rare among works dealing with this period, Yakhot presents an objective account of the theoretical role of the major figures in the early Soviet Union—including, most significantly, that of Leon Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of October 1917.
The book describes the flourishing of philosophical discussion after the revolution and ensuing Civil War. By 1922, the major theoretical journal Under the Banner of Marxism had been founded at Trotsky’s urging. The first two issues contained letters from Trotsky and Lenin that constituted the program of the journal.
By the mid-1920s, two contending camps had formed in philosophy: the mechanists and dialecticians. The relatively free debate between them on many complex issues was followed by Stalin’s intervention in December 1930. In a ferocious reaction against the theoretical foundations of the October Revolution, Stalin sent countless genuine Marxists to their deaths during the Great Terror of 1936-1938.
Prior to the opening of the archives in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yakhot presents the largely unknown history of many of the Marxist philosophers victimized by Stalinism.
The subjects covered in the book include: the subject matter of Marxist philosophy; the problem of contingency; the principle of partisanship in philosophy; Hegel and Marxist dialectics; Spinoza’s place in the discussions of the 1920s and 1930s; the rejection of ideology by Marx and Engels; the influence of Bogdanov’s ideas; the inevitable crisis of Soviet ideology; and continued attempts to conceal the crimes of Stalinism in the USSR.
This new English edition contains photographs, biographical information, an index and two letters by Trotsky and Lenin.
Yehoshua Yakhot [Иегошуа Яхот
(Овший Овшиевич Яхот)] was born on
2 March 1919 in Yaryshev, in the Vinnitskaya
area, now in Ukraine. He volunteered
with a group of students from the Moscow
Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History
[IFLI] on June 22, 1941, the day that
Hitler’s armies invaded the Soviet Union.
Poorly trained and equipped, lacking even
shovels, they were sent directly into battle.
In March 1942, Yakhot was wounded and
was one of the very few who survived when
attacked by the German Luftwaffe near the
town of Ostashkov, not far from Moscow.
Yakhot completed undergraduate study in philosophy at Moscow State
University in 1943, became a member of the CPSU in 1946, and finished
graduate study at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute in 1947. From
1947, He taught at the Moscow Finance Institute. He became a Doctor of
Philosophical Sciences in 1965, and a Professor in 1966. His areas of scholarly
research were problems of dialectical materialism and philosophical
problems of social statistics.
Yakhot enthusiastically embraced the partial de-Stalinization that began
with Nikita Khrushchev’s speech to the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU
in February 1956. During the “thaw,” he parted ways with some of his pro-
Stalin friends could not accept the change in party line.
Yakhot not only
rejected Stalin politically, but saw him as a poor philosopher.
Yakhot was a devoted Marxist and thought that Marxist philosophy was
a great achievement of the human mind on the level with Kant’s and Hegel’s.
He never renounced these convictions to the end of his days.