The Soviets’ Spinoza

Conference Announcement. Spinoza and Marxism: “Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy”.

In the 1920s, the two main groups of the rising up Soviet Marxism clashed in the name of Spinoza, the “Deborinians” and the “mechanists”: the first one, grouped around A.M. Deborin, editor-in-chief of the Party’s Official Philosophical Magazine, “Pod znamen marksisma”, insisted on the dialectical Nature of Marxism, of hegelian derivation, while the “Mechanists”, headed by Ivan Skvorcov-Stepanov and Lyubov ‘Aksel’rod, emphasized Materialist orientations in the Natural Sciences and proposed a Mechanistic interpretation of the dialectic. 

For both currents, the evaluation of Spinozian thought arrised a central significance: the reliability of the Engelsian statement was at stake, which through Plekhanov and Lenin became a cornerstone of Soviet Marxist ideology, according to which two opposing fields have always existed in philosophy, the Materialism and Idealism, and the distinction between the two has always been the “fundamental question” of the relationship between Subject and Object. It therefore became of hight relevance to attribute Spinoza to the field of Materialism. 

The Deborinians saw the core of Spinoza’s materialism in the Theory of Substance as Nature and therefore, ultimately, as an extension, matter regardless of the theological terminology in which Spinoza expressed himself. 

According to the Mechanists, however, Spinoza’s “Substance” was to be understood as the universal conformity to laws, the mechanical causality that Governs the whole Nature; the identification of substance with matter, proposed by their opponents, seemed to them an unjustified forcing, since matter, extension, was rather only one of the many attributes of substance.