Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2.: Feuerbach's Theory of Religion and the Marxist Theory of Ideologies 10 - The Illusion of the Epoch: Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed
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2.: Feuerbach’s Theory of Religion and the Marxist Theory of “Ideologies” 10 - H.B. Acton, The Illusion of the Epoch: Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed 
The Illusion of the Epoch: Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Feuerbach’s Theory of Religion and the Marxist Theory of “Ideologies”10
Fundamental to Feuerbach’s argument is the proposition that to say something exists is not merely to say that it can be thought or conceived, but is to say that in addition to being thought or conceived it can also be perceived or sensed. “Existence, empirical existence,” he wrote in The Essence of Christianity, “is proved to me by the senses alone.”11 It follows from this, Feuerbach argued, that God’s existence can never be proved by arguments that do not lead up to some perception of him. Hence the arguments of natural theology fail because they remain mere arguments, mere thoughts, and do not lead to the only sort of situation in which existence can be proved, viz., perception. This is the foundation of the whole view.
“The fundamental dogmas of Christianity,” wrote Feuerbach, “are realized wishes of the heart.”12 Belief in God, he held, arises from man’s tendency to compare particular, imperfect human beings with the general notion of the highest conceivable human perfection. This latter conception, which is constructed from the particular admirable men we are acquainted with, is then “projected” outside the human sphere altogether, as though there really were a single particular being to which all the scattered human excellences belonged.13 Human predicates are thus attributed to a divine subject, whereas subject and predicate are really both of them human. “The identity of subject and predicate is clearly evidenced by the progressive development of religion, which is identified with the progressive development of human culture. So long as man is in a mere state of nature, so long is his God a mere nature God—a personification of some natural force. When man inhabits houses, he also encloses his Gods in temples. The temple is only the manifestation of the value which man attaches to beautiful buildings. Temples in honour of religion are in truth temples in honour of architecture. . . .”14 When they thus project or objectify human characteristics as a non-existent God, men frequently deny themselves real satisfactions and indulge instead in imaginary ones. The monk or nun who refrains from sexual enjoyment receives substitute satisfactions on an ideal plane: “. . . The sensuality which has been renounced is unconsciously restored, in the fact that God takes the place of the material delights which have been renounced. The nun weds herself to God; she has a heavenly bridegroom, the monk a heavenly bride . . . and thus in reality, whatever religion consciously denies—always supposing that what is denied by it is something essential, true, and consequently incapable of being ultimately denied—it unconsciously restores in God.”15 In a somewhat similar manner, Feuerbach goes on, belief in immortality and in the divine justice established in heaven compensates man in an imaginary fashion for the lack of justice in human affairs: “. . . The other world is nothing more than the reality of a known idea, the satisfaction of a conscious desire, the fulfilment of a wish”—and he illustrates this by quoting St. Augustine’s moving epigram: Ibi nostra spes erit res.16 (“There our hope will be a reality.”) Feuerbach, indeed, maintained that there is an important affinity between religious belief and dreams. “Feeling is a dream with the eyes open; religion the dream of waking consciousness; dreaming is the key to the mysteries of religion.”17 But it is not only dreams that throw light on the nature of religion, for according to Feuerbach the aberrations of religious fanatics and the religious extravagances of savages call our attention to what is at the core of the most developed forms of civilized religions.18 “The mystery of theology,” he wrote in the Preliminary Theses towards the Reform of Philosophy, “is anthropology.”19 That is, religion and the more or less naïve theorizing of it that is theology, can be seen for what they are if we come to understand how they emerge from the emotional and imaginative life of man. Once he understands this, and sees his religious imaginings for what they really are, man will no longer be obsessed by them, and will cease to be divided in his nature, with his ideals in one world and his failures in another: “. . . only the perception of things and natures in their objective reality makes man free and devoid of all prejudices,”20 he wrote in the Preliminary Theses, and in the Essence of Christianity he calls this freedom “the identity of the human being with itself.”21
According to the speculative philosophy of Hegel, the Absolute Spirit is self-conscious spirit, and self-conscious spirit is free. Feuerbach, it will be seen, gave a naturalistic, materialistic version of this theory. The free man, according to Feuerbach, is the man who has no illusions about himself. To man’s systematic study of his own nature Feuerbach gave the name “anthropology”—today we call it psychology—and Feuerbach’s view was that as men came to know more about themselves religion would lose its hold on them and cease to play any part in their ordinary calculations. In the Preface to the second edition of the Essence of Christianity he claimed “that Christianity has in fact long vanished not only from the Reason but from the life of mankind, that it is nothing more than a fixed idea, in flagrant contradiction with our Fire and Life Assurance companies, our rail-roads and steam carriages, our picture and sculpture galleries, our military and industrial schools, our theatres and scientific museums.”
This is by no means an adequate account of Feuerbach’s views on religion, but it is sufficient, I hope, to show their importance, both in preparing the ground for the Marxist theory of ideologies, and in setting in motion the naturalistic psychology that was later to undermine the religious faith of whole generations. It is important to notice, in the first place, how, in Feuerbach’s hands, certain of Hegel’s metaphysical conceptions were transformed into allegedly empirical ones. I have already indicated that Hegel’s conception of the free self-consciousness of the Absolute was the basis of Feuerbach’s conception of the free man who had cured himself of religious illusions. It should also be noticed that Hegelian conceptions form the basis of Feuerbach’s view that men attempt to cure their personal and social ills by unconsciously providing for themselves a projected compensatory world of imaginary satisfactions. Feuerbach talks of God as man “objectified” (vergegenständlicht). He says that religious satisfactions result from the “externalization” (Entaüsserung—literally “alienation”) of feelings. And he stigmatizes the division in man between his real needs and their imaginary fulfillment as human self-estrangement (Selbstentfremdung). There can be no doubt that the origin of these notions is in Hegel’s conception of nature as the Absolute Idea alienated from itself. Thus, in the Logic (Book III, I, i, B) Hegel refers to nature as “the ‘outside-itself-ness’ of the Notion.” He also uses the conception in a more detailed manner in the Phenomenology of Spirit, where he writes of the individual mind which is conscious of its self-estrangement (Selbstentfremdung) when it sees the effects of human thought and effort in the products of human culture. The individual is here regarded by Hegel as a mind confronted by an objective world in which it seems to recognize something that is both akin and alien to it. The resulting tension, Hegel holds, can only be removed by absolute knowledge in which the divorced aspects of mind are re-united. Whereas for Hegel man’s self-estrangement was ended in an experience that was rationally religious, for Feuerbach it was ended when religion was seen to be self-estrangement and was replaced by a clear-sighted recognition of the earthly tasks to which embodied human beings were committed. Marx, in the Preface to the second edition of Capital, said that he had turned Hegel’s dialectic, which had hitherto been standing on its head, the right way up, but Feuerbach had preceded him in this task.
No one who is acquainted with Freud’s account of religion in The Future of an Illusion can fail to be impressed by the similarities between it and Feuerbach’s views. There is the same refusal to believe that the existence of God—or of anything else—could be based on anything but the evidence of the senses. Like Feuerbach, too, Freud stresses three main tasks of religion: that of relieving men from their fear of natural forces they do not understand, that of reconciling them to their miseries, and that of “making amends for the sufferings and privations that the communal life of culture has imposed upon man.”22 Like him, again, Freud argues that as knowledge of nature develops, it is the last of these tasks that assumes the greatest importance. He is as unwilling as Feuerbach to accept the imaginary or substitute compensations that religion offers, and thinks that men could free themselves from this “universal obsessional neurosis” if they listened to the voice of the intellect—“in the long run nothing can withstand reason and experience.” At the end of the essay, indeed, Freud more than once refers to “our God Λόγος.” I suggest that these likenesses may even indicate that Freud was directly influenced by Feuerbach’s writings on this subject. “I have said nothing,” writes Freud, “that other and better men have not said before me in a much more complete, forcible and impressive way. The names of these men are well known . . . I have merely added a certain psychological foundation to the critique of my great predecessors.” Whether or not Feuerbach was one of these “great predecessors” that Freud had in mind, there can be no doubt that Feuerbach’s theory of religion contains ideas that adumbrate certain features of Freud’s system of psychology. There is the suggestion that the ravings of insane people and the beliefs of savages may provide clues that help us to understand the workings of more civilized and normal minds; there is the idea of the satisfaction in imagination of essential desires of which the individual is unconscious; there is the association of this process with dreaming; and there is the governing principle that when someone comes to know himself more fully, he will be less obsessed with thoughts of an imaginary world, and will be able to deal more adequately with the real one. Feuerbach’s observation that theology is pathology hidden from itself23 is most significant in the light of later theories. It should also be observed that notions such as that of “projection”24 and that of “self-consciousness” were metaphysical before they became scientific. Their history would suggest, therefore, not a metaphysical level of thinking followed by quite a distinct scientific level, but rather a development of one into the other. This, in its turn, suggests that perhaps science and metaphysics are more closely bound together than some positivists have allowed.
There is a further aspect of Feuerbach’s view which should be emphasized before I pass on to show how the Marxist theory of “ideologies” is formed from it. I said above that according to Feuerbach men who worship God and believe in his providence are in fact (a) unconsciously glorifying the highest achievements of mankind, and (b) obtaining imaginary satisfactions for needs that are real. Now Feuerbach did not think that (a) and (b) involved quite the same sort of illusion. He thought that (b) was just the mistaking of the shadow for the substance, but (a) was the misplacing of values that were real. Feuerbach had no doubts whatever about the genuineness of the human values themselves, but thought that people deceived themselves when they projected them on to a supernatural being. He emphasized this in The Essence of Christianity by saying that the true atheist is not the man who denies God as subject (i.e., the man who denies that there is a being with the divine predicates), but the man who denies the genuineness of the moral predicates that have been falsely attributed to God. “He alone is the true atheist to whom the predicates of the Divine Being—for example, love, wisdom, justice—are nothing; not he to whom the subject of these predicates is nothing. . . . It does not follow that goodness, justice, wisdom are chimaeras, because the existence of God is a chimaera, nor do they become truth because God exists.”25 Indeed, Feuerbach says, somewhat rhetorically perhaps, that when the divine predicates are seen to be really human ones, humanity is more deeply revered and human actions are sanctified. Feuerbach advocated disillusionment as regards God, immortality, and divine justice in heaven, but only so as to achieve a clearer insight into what love, goodness, justice, and wisdom are here below. He does not apply the method of disillusionment to our moral notions. On the contrary, he thinks that the destruction of religious faith will lead to a heightened sense of human worth and possibility.
Marx and Engels, as I have already pointed out, became enthusiastic admirers of what Feuerbach published in 1841–43. Marx’s “Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” which appeared in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher in Paris in 1844, is obviously written in this spirit. It is in this article that religion is described as “the opium of the people.” The whole sentence, however, reads as follows: “Religion is the sigh of the hard-pressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people.” It is clear from this that Marx thought that religion was the opium of the people in the sense that they use it to help them to bear their misfortunes, not in the sense that their rulers deliberately keep them quiet with it. In this article, too, Marx refers to the religious viewpoint as a “transposed (verkehrte) consciousness of the world,” and argues that it is thus misleading. “The criticism of heaven transforms itself into a criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into a criticism of law, the criticism of theology into a criticism of politics.” “It is evident,” he goes on, “that the weapons of criticism cannot take the place of criticism of weapons; material force can only be overcome by material force, but theory becomes itself transformed into material force once it penetrates the masses. . . . The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is, for man, the supreme being. It ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative of overturning all the relationships in which man is debased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible. . . .” The lesson to be drawn, therefore, from the criticism of religion is the need for a revolution in the social conditions that produce the religious illusion, and in this article Marx asserts that it is the proletariat, a class which is “the complete loss of man, and cannot reconquer itself except through the complete victory of man,” which will carry out this revolution. “Revolutions,” he continues, “need a passive element, a material basis. A theory is realized in a people only in so far as it is the realization of the needs of that people. . . . It is not enough for thought to seek (drängen zur) realization, but reality itself must seek the thought.” And so he concludes: “Just as philosophy finds in the proletariat its material weapons, the proletariat finds in philosophy its intellectual weapons.”26
Now Feuerbach had recognized that a consequence of his view of religion was that men should concern themselves with improving their life on earth rather than with hopes of a divine justice hereafter. In 1842 he had written: “Only when you have given up the Christian religion do you get, so to speak, the right to a republic: for in the Christian religion you have your republic in heaven, and therefore do not need one here. On the contrary, here you must be a slave, otherwise heaven would be superfluous.”27 According to Marx, such revolutionary observations, although they do occasionally occur in Feuerbach’s writings, “are never more than isolated surmises,”28 and in the event Feuerbach devoted most of his subsequent career to the “anthropological” analysis of religious belief, to uncovering its human and social origin, in the hope, presumably, that this would lead to greater moral enthusiasm in the affairs of this life. The passages just quoted from Marx’s article of 1844 show a very different attitude, since the emphasis is on transferring the criticism of religion from the intellectual to the social sphere. The argument is that the thinker who has “seen through” the religious illusion must find allies among those who, because they suffer most, have the strongest motive to press for real rather than for merely imaginary alleviations. Philosophers will never achieve justice by merely pulling off the illusions that are draped over injustice. They must transmit their instructions to the men who will push it away. Thus the proletariat was to be the “passive element,” the “material basis,” for the realization of a just social order. The passage in question almost suggests that the proletariat happened to be the most convenient agency for the philosophical ambition of destroying religious illusion. The expressions used by Marx here give the impression that he felt that the proletariat was a likely instrument for the exercise of philosophical reform. I do not know that he expressed himself in this way elsewhere, but Lenin in What is to be Done? (1902) wrote: “We said that there could not yet be Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. This consciousness could only be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness. . . . The theory of Socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals.”29
We have not so far made use of the word “ideology”—for the use of the word itself, as well as for discussion of the thing, we have to turn to The German Ideology, which Marx and Engels wrote in 1845–46, but which remained unpublished until 1932. What we have so far seen is that according to both Feuerbach and Marx religious and metaphysical ideas convey false views of the world, but that these false views arise from the aims and desires of men and from the social arrangements which prevent these aims and desires from being realized. Feuerbach thought that, once this was clearly recognized, men would free themselves from their obsession with another world, and would endeavor all the more strongly to realize love, justice, goodness, and wisdom in the human world. Marx, in 1844, held further that the instrument by which freedom from religious illusion and the resulting improvement in human living would be achieved was the proletariat, a class which, if its material strength were fortified with a correct philosophy, would change the conditions in which they and most men were forced to live lives that were “debased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible.” At this time both Feuerbach and Marx held that religion resulted from human failure both in the intellectual and moral spheres, but that it was no delusion that men with physical bodies live on this earth trying to achieve ideals of human perfection. In The German Ideology Marx and Engels not only used the word “ideology,” but also passed a long way beyond Feuerbach’s conception of the thing it stood for. This was because they had by this time definitely established their materialist conception of history. In this book they criticize Feuerbach, and by implication themselves too, for having falsely supposed that there is such a thing as “man” in the abstract rather than the different sorts of men who exist at different times and places. Men, they argue, are social beings whose nature changes with the sort of life they lead, and the sort of life they lead changes according to the way in which they get their living, according to the tools and organization of labor they employ to get food and shelter and to satisfy their other needs. As men have improved their tools, a division of labor has developed, so that some men live in towns, others on the land, some organize production and others carry out manual tasks under the supervision of masters. The division of labor leads to class divisions, and at different times different classes have dominated human societies in accordance with whatever was the predominant mode of production. For what the mode of production is and what sort of division of labor this requires determine which class shall dominate. There is also a division of labor between material and mental work. When this division has taken place within a dominant class, there will be a sub-class who specialize in the production of ideas. Since these ideas are produced from within the dominant class, they will be imposed upon the whole society. They will in fact be expressions of the needs and aspirations of the dominant class, though they will seem, both to those who frame them and to many others too, to be of universal significance. It is not only religious and metaphysical ideas, therefore, which reproduce a false consciousness of things, but other ideas, too, produced by specialists at the behest of a given class or within the framework of a given historical epoch. A given historical epoch is a period during which a given mode of production prevails. “If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects in the retina does from their physical life-process.”30 That is, it is in the nature of things that men should get distorted views of the world, just as it is in the nature of things that they should receive inverted images on the retina.
The following passages may serve to illustrate the notion of an “ideology” developed in The German Ideology. On page 14, Marx and Engels refer to “morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness”; on page 16, they say that the French and the English, though they have been “in the toils of political ideology, have nevertheless made the first attempts to give the writing of history a materialistic basis by being the first to write histories of civil society, of commerce and industry”; on page 20, they say that the division of mental from material labor leads “to the formation of ‘pure’ theory, theology, philosophy, ethics, etc.”; on page 23, they write that “all struggles within the State, the struggle between democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, the struggle for the franchise, etc., are merely the illusory forms in which the real struggles of the different classes are fought out among one another. . . .”; on page 30, they say that those who endeavor to understand any epoch of history in terms of political and religious issues “share the illusion of the epoch”; on page 40, they refer to the “active, conceptive ideologists” of a class “who make the perfecting of the illusion of the class about itself their chief source of livelihood”; on page 43, they write of “the illusion of ideologists in general, e.g. the illusions of the jurists, politicians (of the practical statesmen among them, too)” and to “the dogmatic dreamings and distortions of these fellows”; and on page 80, in criticizing the “true socialists,” Marx and Engels say that those theorists of socialism “have abandoned the realm of real history for the realm of ideology.”
The first feature that emerges from these passages is that Marx and Engels regarded ideologies as systems of misleading or illusory ideas. But no one can justifiably describe something as misleading or illusory except by comparison with something he thinks is not misleading and not illusory. What, then, according to Marx and Engels, is it that is not misleading and not illusory? In The German Ideology they state quite clearly what they think it is. “We set out,” they say, “from real active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises.” On the next page they say: “Where speculation ends—in real life—there real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical process of development of men.”31 That is to say, there is, according to Marx and Engels, a system of ideas (“the representation of the practical process of development”) about man, his religions and his societies, which is not illusory, which is not ideology. This system of ideas is the positive science of man and society, a science based on observation of men as they really are in their day-to-day concerns. Thus the positive science of man in society is contrasted with “ideological reflexes.” This is, of course, quite in accordance with Feuerbach. In his opinion, the only way to discover what exists is by means of sense observation, and since this does not lead rationally to a revelation of God, heaven, or immortality, the religious view of things needs to be explained in terms of what the senses reveal. Marx and Engels accept this, but proceed to argue that an empirical science of man must trace back all his other activities to the ways in which he gains a living, and to the social organization involved in this. This contrast between “ideologies” on the one hand, and “real, positive science” on the other, is clearly based, as was Comte’s contrast between positive science and theologico-metaphysical thinking, upon a distinction between what is held to be unverifiable and what is believed to be verifiable. And lest it be urged that The German Ideology, an early work, was later superseded in this respect, I refer also to the famous Preface to Marx’s A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (1859)—frequently cited by Marxists as fundamental for an understanding of the Materialist Conception of History—where we find the view of The German Ideology repeated as follows: “In considering such revolutions the distinction should always be made between the material revolution of the economic conditions of production which can be accurately substantiated in the manner of the natural sciences, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophical—in short ideological forms, in which we become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.”32 It should be noticed that the phrase I have translated by “accurately substantiated in the manner of the natural sciences” is, in the German naturwissenschaftlich treu zu konstatierenden and thus gives the idea of an accurate, honest natural-scientific procedure. “Ideology” was used in this sense right to the end of Engels’ life, since he wrote to Mehring on July 4, 1893: “Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all.”33 The fundamental idea is of a scientific procedure that enables its users to show what are the real aims of men who are conscious only of their own apparent aims.
A second important feature of the Marxist theory is that the “ideological” thinker is held to be not only theoretically, but also practically, misleading and misled. Feuerbach, Marx and Engels argued, was too sanguine about the results of unmasking the religious illusions. His books and lectures, they considered, opposed the religious false consciousness in a purely theoretical manner, whereas the only effective way of opposing it was to overthrow in deed as well as word the social conditions that give rise to it. I have already discussed, in Part One, the Marxist view that genuine science is a practical as well as a theoretical activity. Just as, on the Marxist view, the sciences of nature involve practice, in the form of experimentation and manufacture, so the science of society, properly understood, involves the transformation of human society, as well as understanding how it works. It should here be observed that one of the problems that caused the most puzzlement to nineteenth-century thinkers was how the methods and teachings of empirical science fitted into a society that had hitherto seemed to be based on religious belief and Christian morality. Some of the theories of the natural sciences—in geology, for example, and in biology—appeared to conflict with Christian dogmas, while the technological changes associated with scientific advance seemed to weaken the whole religious attitude, causing many people to adopt spontaneously the view that nature must be a self-regulating mechanism. Thus the question arose whether the science which was undermining the Christian view of things could also provide standards for human conduct. Comte and his followers thought that science itself was a moral enterprise; the qualities that led to successful scientific research were moral qualities of humility and disinterestedness that would also lead to the regeneration of human society. Marx and Engels did not share this view, but they did believe that, as a scientific understanding of physical processes was at the same time a mastery over them, so a scientific understanding of human society would involve the subjection of social forces to human control. On their view, pure theory is an abstraction, not something that could really exist and be true. Genuine theory, on the other hand, they held to be at the same time a practical mastery over events. Thus Feuerbach’s exposure of religion and metaphysics was, they held, an abstract, merely contemplative exposure, and therefore not fully scientific in the way in which the Marxist theoretical-cum-practical exposure is. It is clear, of course, that this view involves morality with empirical science as Comtism does, though in a different way, but before I can discuss the matter further, there are some other features of the Marxist theory of ideologies that need to be brought out.
A third aspect of the Marxist theory of ideologies concerns what is to count as an ideology. We began this account of the theory of ideologies with an exposition of the religious-theological-metaphysical one. The passages I have quoted from the writings of Marx and Engels show that they also included as ideologies, that is, as forms of “false consciousness,” “morality,” “ethics,” “political ideology,” and “legal,” “artistic,” and “philosophical” ideologies. We may suppose that the philosophical ideology is the same as the metaphysical, and that no important distinction is being drawn between morality and ethics. We must then ask in what sense ethics or morality, art, law, and politics are forms of false consciousness. The language used would suggest that we are as deluded when we make moral, aesthetic, legal, or political judgments as, on the Marxist view, we are when we make religious and metaphysical judgments, that, for example, the differences between right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, legal and illegal, constitutional and unconstitutional, are merely imaginary, and hide from us some real experienced need or desire. Feuerbach rejected God and heaven in favor, as he thought, of human love and justice, and for this was jibed at as “a pious atheist.”34 But Marx seems to have thought that moral ideas themselves were a sort of illusion the reality of which was something more fundamental in human life; and so too for art, law, and politics. People are only free from illusions, on this view, when their pronouncements on matters of morality, art, law, and politics are consciously related to the scientifically ascertainable realities which they reflect. But we cannot go further into this until we have looked more closely at the Marxist account of social reality.
Before we turn to this, however, there is a fourth aspect of the Marxist theory of ideologies that must be referred to. We have seen that Marx and Engels use the word “ideology” to refer to misleading or false views about the world of nature and society, and do not apply the word to scientific knowledge of things as they are. In contemporary Marxism, however, there is a tendency for the word to be applied to any sort of theory whatever, true or false. Thus, “Marxism-Leninism” is regarded as a scientific theory of nature and man, and would therefore, in the usage of Marx and Engels that we have been discussing, not be called an “ideology” at all. But in his report at the Seventeenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1934, Stalin referred to “our tasks in the sphere of ideological and political work,” and said that one of them was “to intensify ideological work in all the links of the Party.”35 By “ideological work” he clearly means education in principles that are not, on his view, illusory. In A Soviet History of Philosophy the authors write: “The struggle of the materialistic ‘line of Democritus’ with the idealistic ‘line of Plato’ was an ideological partisan struggle between a progressive slave-holding democracy and the reactionary landowning aristocracy.”36 Here, “ideological” seems to have the meaning given to it by Marx and Engels. On pages 43–44, however, they write: “It will be shown that Lenin and Stalin in their struggle against revisionism developed the materialistic conception of history and worked out the ideological foundations of the Party and questions about the mutual relation between spontaneity and consciousness in the workers’ movement, about economic and political struggle, about the formation of the socialist ideology of the proletariat, about the role of revolutionary theory. . . .” It is clear that in this passage the word “ideology” stands for ideas that are held to be neither false nor misleading. Again, in the article “Ideology” in their Handbook of Philosophy,37 Rosenthal and Yudin say it is “a term used during the past century to denote the whole complex of views, ideas, concepts, notions, functioning on a social level—a form of social consciousness. Political views, sciences, philosophies, ethical systems, arts, and religions are forms of ideology, in this sense of the word, regardless as to whether they are true or false, progressive or reactionary.”
This development in the terminology is, in my opinion, very important. I suggest that the juxtaposition of “partisan” with “ideological” shows how the development has taken place. According to Marx and Engels, “ideologies” were false thinking determined by class interests, but they also held that the final victory of the proletariat would bring into being a society not divided into classes. In declining capitalist society the rising, progressive class is that of the proletariat, and its views of social questions, being those of the class that will end all classes, are not limited in the way in which other class theories are. The class character and partisanship of “Marxism-Leninism” make it natural enough to call the theory an ideology, but it is at the same time “scientific” because it will ultimately cease to be limited to a single class, and will be accepted throughout a society the transformation of which will be the theory’s verification. It will be observed, furthermore, that Marxists do not clearly state that natural science is an ideology except in the sense that it involves theorizing. They talk about “bourgeois” science, but when they do I think they are suggesting that elements of distortion, arising from class interests, enter into the natural sciences. They can hardly mean that bourgeois natural science as a whole is distorted, since, for example, Engels was at great pains to support the theory of dialectical materialism by reference to discoveries made by bourgeois scientists in the nineteenth century. Again, it may be that the wider use of “ideology” has been adopted in order to evade the conclusion that would appear to follow from Marx’s account of ideological thinking, viz., that in communist society not only would religion disappear, but art and morality as well. (Politics and law, as we shall see, will, according to the Marxists, disappear in the classless society.) However that may be, a problem of very great importance for the understanding of Marxism emerges from our discussion of the theory of ideologies. For on the one hand Marx and Engels regard morality as an ideology and thus as involving false consciousness, and on the other hand they hold that a scientific understanding of human society would be at the same time its practical regeneration. But we cannot deal with this until we have considered in outline the social “reality” with which the ideological “reflexes” and “illusions” are compared. This brings us to the central ideas of the Materialist Conception of History.
[10. ]There is a good account of Feuerbach’s views in Sidney Hook’s From Hegel to Marx (London, 1936). I have also found the following particularly valuable: Hans Barth, Wahrheit und Ideologie (Zurich, 1945); Karl Löwith, Von Hegel zu Nietzsche: Der revolutionäre Bruch im Denken des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Zürich-Wien, 1941); Nathan Rotenstreich, Marx’ Thesen über Feuerbach, Archiv fur Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, XXXIX/3 and XXXIX/4 (Bern, 1951).
[11. ]Translated from the second German edition by Marian Evans (George Eliot), London, 1854, p. 200 (VI, 243). The references in parentheses refer to the collected edition of Feuerbach’s works by Bolin and Jodl (Stuttgart, 1903–11). That George Eliot should have published this translation at the time when she was helping to edit the Westminster Review shows that Feuerbach’s ideas had European influence. They fitted in, indeed, with the Positivism that George Eliot had adopted. “With the ideas of Feuerbach I everywhere agree,” she wrote in a letter.
[12. ]E. of C., p. 139 (VI, 145).
[13. ]Ibid., p. 13 (VI, 16).
[14. ]Ibid., pp. 20–21 (VI, 25).
[15. ]Ibid., pp. 26–27 (VI, 32–33).
[16. ]Ibid., p. 177 (VI, 215).
[17. ]Ibid., pp. 139–40 (VI, 169).
[18. ]Ibid., p. 178 (VI, 216).
[19. ](II, 222).
[20. ](II, 231).
[21. ]Ibid., p. 229 (VI, 279).
[22. ]The Future of an Illusion (English translation, second impression, 1934), p. 30. The other quotations from that work in this paragraph are from p. 76, pp. 94–95, p. 62.
[23. ]Werke, VI, 107.
[24. ]Schopenhauer’s metaphysical conception of the “objectification” of the will in the human body and in nature is also relevant here. Feuerbach had read Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea (the first edition of which had appeared in 1819) before he wrote The Essence of Christianity. This is not the place to discuss the respective influence of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer on modern thought, but it should be mentioned that the latter was a metaphysician who regarded consciousness and the intellect as a sort of self-deception.
[25. ]P. 21 (VI, 26).
[26. ]The quotations in this paragraph are from M.E.G.A. (I, 1, i) in the following order: pp. 607, 608, 614–15, 620, 615–16, 620.
[27. ]Werke, II, 222.
[28. ]The German Ideology, p. 34.
[29. ]The Essentials of Lenin (London, 1947), vol. 1, p. 170. Cf. pp. 176–77 where Lenin approves of Kautsky. The statements of Kautsky are “profoundly true and important” (p. 176). Kautsky is quoted as saying that “the Socialist consciousness” is introduced into the proletarian class struggles from without, and is not something that arose spontaneously within it.
[30. ]The German Ideology (London, 1942, reprint), p. 14.
[31. ]Ibid., pp. 14–15.
[32. ]Second edition, ed. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1907), pp. lv–vi. Also, translated by N. I. Stone (New York, 1904), p. 12. I have modified Stone’s translation to bring out the force of “naturwissenschaftlich treu.”
[33. ]Selected Correspondence, p. 511.
[34. ]Karl Löwith, Von Hegel zu Nietzsche, 2nd edition (Zürich-Wien, 1941), p. 363.
[35. ]Handbook of Marxism (London, 1935), p. 945.
[36. ]P. 8.
[37. ]New York, 1949. Translated from the Russian. The English translation of this book is described as having been “edited and adapted” by Howard Selsam, but the passage I have quoted is referred to in I. M. Bochenski’s Der Sowjetrussische Dialektische Materialismus (Berne, 1950), p. 138, and Bochenski made use of the Russian text.