But on Other Terms

But on Other Terms

Mr. Deutscher’s article provides so welcome a relief from the tedious speculations, prophecies, and ritualistic expressions of horror which nowadays pass for analysis of Russian society in the pages of American publications, that one is tempted to relax into unqualified assent. Here at least is an effort to deal with Russian affairs in terms of social and economic trends rather than personality traits and devilish essences.

Yet, despite the brilliance and persuasiveness of his thesis, I am not convinced by much of it.

Mr. Deutscher is misled in part by a traditional method of analysis by which all of us who have been raised in a Marxist tradition have at times been affected, but which needs serious reconsideration if we are to understand Russian society—in fact all contemporary societies. There is no point here in going into a discussion of What Marx Really Meant, but it seems to me that throughout the greatest part of its history the Marxist movement has had a tendency to assume that an increase in productivity and economic production would of necessity lead to an increase of the social and cultural level, of class awareness and consciousness among the masses of the population. True, the more refined Marxist theorists were wont to remark that Marx had made a difference between “Klasse fuer sich” and “Klasse an sich,” i.e., that he had stressed that classes would become history-making entities not automatically but only if and when they had become conscious of themselves. Yet in the practical day to day thinking of Marxist parties it generally was assumed that given a higher development of productive forces there would also follow a higher development of proletarian class consciousness