Author: Karl Korsch
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): Fred Halliday
Publisher: Aakar Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 93-5002-043-2
Marxism and philosophy might pose a very important theoretical and practical problem. For professors of philosophy, Marxism was at best a rather minor sub-section within the history of nineteenth-century philosophy, dismissed as ‘The Decay of Hegelianism’.
But ‘Marxists’ as well tended not to lay great stress on the ‘philosophical side’ of their theory, although for quite different reasons. Marx and Engels, it is true, often indicated with great pride that historically the German workers’ movement had inherited the legacy of classical German philosophy in ‘scientific socialism’. But they did not mean by this that scientific socialism or communism were primarily ‘philosophies’ .
They rather saw the task of their ‘scientific socialism’ as that of definitively overcoming and superseding the form and content, not only of all previous bourgeois idealist philosophy, but thereby of philosophy altogether.
Later I shall have to explain in more detail what, according to the original conception of Marx and Engels, the nature of this supersession was or was intended to be. For the moment I merely record that historically this issue simply ceased to be a problem as far as most later Marxists were concerned.
The manner in which they dealt with the question of philosophy can best be described in the vivid terms in which Engels once described Feuerbach’s attitude to Hegelian philosophy: Feuerbach simply ‘shoved’ it ‘unceremoniously aside’. In fact, very many later Marxists, apparently in highly orthodox compliance with the masters’ instructions, dealt in exactly the same unceremonious way not only with Hegelian philosophy but with philosophy as a whole.
Thus, for example, Franz Mehring more than once laconically described his own orthodox Marxist position on the question of philosophy by saying that he accepted the ‘rejection of all philosophic fantasies’ which was the precondition for the masters’(Marx and Engels) immortal accomplishments’.