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Jozef Maria BOCHENSKI (1902-1995)


Dominican brother (assumed name Innocenty), logician and philosopher, elder brother of Aleksander and Adolf Bocheñskis. B. Aug. 30, 1902, Czuszow (Cracow region). After taking part in the 1920 campaign against Bolshevik Russia, he took up legal studies in Lvov; then he studied economy in Poznañ. Having received his doctorate in philosophy (studied in Freiburg, 1928-31) and theology (Rome, 1931-34), he lectured in logic at the Collegium Angelicum in Rome (until 1940). During World War II he served as a chaplain for Polish forces fighting in the Sep. 1939 campaign; taken prisoner of war, he escaped the Germans and reached Rome. He joined the Polish army and served as chaplain first in France, and then in England. Fought as a soldier in 1944, in the Italian campaign of the II Corps at Monte Cassino. In 1945 he received the chair of history of twentieth-century philosophy at the Freiburg University (of which he was Rector in 1964-66); he founded and ran the Institute of Eastern Europe in Freiburg, published the journal Studies in Soviet Thought and a book series concerned with the foundations of the Marxists philosophy (Sovietica). Before 1989 none of his works had been published officially in Poland, since he was regarded as a belligerent anticommunist. He lectured at many European, American, and African universities; he was chairman of the Union of Logic and Methodology of Science Societies, and as late as 1994 he was admitted to the Polish Academy of Sciences. Highly regarded as a Sovietologist, Bocheñski served as consultant to several governments: West Germany (under K. Adenauer), South Africa, USA, Argentina, and Switzerland. His works include: Europäische Philosophie der Gegenwart (1947); Der sowjetrussische Dialektische Materialismus (1950); Die zeitgenössischen Denkmethoden (1954); Die kommunistische Ideollogie und die Würde, Freiheit und Gleichheit der Menschen im Sinne des Grundsetzes für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland vom 23.5.9149 (1956); Der sowjetrussische dialektische Materialismus (Diamat) (1962); The Logic of Religion (1965); Was ist Autorität? (1974); Marxismus-Leninismus. Wissenschaft oder Glaube (1973); Sto zabobonów. Krótki filozoficzny słownik zabobonów ("One Hundred Superstitions. A Short Philosophical Dictionary of Superstitions", 1987). D. Feb. 8, 1995, Freiburg (Switzerland).

The selected fragments are from Lewica, religia, sowietologia ("The Left, Religion, Sovietology"), Warsaw 1996, pp. 232-269.


Four Meanings of "Communism"

The word "communism" has at least four different meanings. Firstly, it is used in reference to the social conditions which according to Plato should prevail among the "guardians" of his "Republic"; secondly, in reference to every social and economic system which is based on common ownership and on the control of the individual by society; thirdly, in reference to the state described by Marx in his eschatology; and fourthly, in reference to the broad movement whose core is the party founded by Lenin.

These four meanings may be interrelated, but it is important to distinguish between them clearly. Many misunderstandings about communism stem from overlooking differences between them. Here we are concerned mostly with communism in the fourth sense of the term, with what has arisen from the teaching and political activity of Lenin. Hence one could say that we are discussing Leninism, provided that by this term we understand not only the views of Lenin, but also all aspects of the Leninist movement in its historical development. Leninism can be broken down into sub-elements. It is composed of (a) a certain doctrine, (b) a certain organization, and (c) a certain mode of action. Each of these elements can in turn be broken down into further components.

a) Within the communist doctrine we can distinguish several elements: first, an eschatology, that is a description of a mythical future society towards which people are supposed to be naturally driven; second, a general philosophy describing the laws governing the development of the world and of human society; third, a theory of the intermediate goals which must be achieved before the ultimate goal is reached and without which it cannot be reached; and fourth, a methodology of action which teaches how to win and exercise power.

b) The organization of communism is also complex. It consists, first, of the party itself, secondly, of the empire - now embracing the Soviet Union, China and the "people's republics" - and finally, a network of various organizations overseen by the party.

c) In its actions communism exhibits a truly amazing variety of methods and ways of conduct. It is fair to say that communists in a given country and a given period often say and do things quite contrary to the things said and done by communists in a different country and a different period. Well-known examples are the "reaching out" to Buddhists and Christians, the alliance with Hitler in 1939, and inciting nationalist sentiments in various countries. Communists are not allowed to regard religion, Nazism, or nationalism as good and valuable, since they undoubtedly stand in direct opposition to the values which they uphold. Nevertheless, in some countries and in some periods the communists did everything in their power to support these three things.

This tactical variety is exemplified by changes in attitude towards people and things which at one time are regarded as good and highly desirable, and at another time are brutally condemned. This may be confusing for a communist scholar, all the more since various communist actions display apparently sharp contradictions. Some of them are quite real, for example those which lie at the heart of the communist philosophy. This philosophy, being an artificial combination of two opposed philosophical outlooks (Hegelianism and materialism), is obviously incoherent. Most striking is the contradiction between the assertion that everything will inevitably go the way predicted by the communist philosophy and the assertion that people should mount a heroic struggle for the achievement of these goals, as if they could not otherwise be achieved.

In general, however, people are most struck by the contradictions which come to light when the practice of communism is set against its fundamental doctrines. Furthermore, communists often voice doctrines and causes not only unrelated to their true convictions but also contradicting them.

Apart from these systematic observations one must take note of the historical complexity of communism. Being a human product, communism is a historical phenomenon, affected by particular circumstances and developing in time. For example, there can be no doubt that the ethnicity of members of the communist party from different regions influences their activity to a certain extent. It is also clear that communism could not be unaffected by the passage of time.


What Communism is Not

The fact that communism is both complex and unified leads to fallacies consisting in (a) perceiving only one aspect of its structure, which is seen as determining its unity; or (b) in denying any unity to communism and regarding it as a random collection of practical tendencies. One should also mention a third, perhaps even more serious fallacy - namely taking the propagandist slogans for the true essence of communism. In order to understand how this fallacy comes about, we must further consider the communist code of action.

a) Many people perceive the essence of communism in just one aspect of its doctrine, organization, or activity. The most frequent fallacy here is confusing two meanings of the word "communism" - the narrower one where it signifies only the collectivist economy, and the wider one, referring to the entirety of doctrines, organizations, and methods of action represented by the communist party. Those who succumb to this fallacy are prone to think that contemporary communism is nothing more than the outlook of people who would like to implement a collectivist economy. Such elements as communist philosophy, communist dictatorship, the communist party, the communist empire, and so on are regarded as unimportant.

A similar mistake is made when communism is identified with the mythical "classless society" of the future (and thus with something more than mere collectivism). This is a fallacy also because in order to be a communist it does not suffice to believe in the communist eschatology, but one must also be a party member and act towards achieving intermediate goals, using the recommended methods. Moreover, eschatology - as we shall see - now plays a relatively minor role in the communist doctrine.

Another fallacy is to identify communism with its brutal methods of action, while disregarding the eschatology and philosophy. Fallacies of a similar kind also abound.

b) Intellectuals and politicians often mistakenly perceive communism as nothing but cynical politics and ignore the ideology behind it. Communists are for them practical politicians, interested only in acquiring power. Now communists indeed are such politicians; but they are also something more, because they act in the name of a certain doctrine (which cannot be said of a mere cynic) and have a certain modus operandi based on this doctrine, while non-communists usually do not have a doctrine.

The difference lies in the fact that those who commit the first type of fallacy grant doctrinal unity to communism, while those who are guilty of the second type of mistake, project their own attitude, ascribing to communism their own lack of doctrine and remaining blind to its doctrinal component.

c) Finally, the most frequent and the most naive mistake in the appraisals of communism is believing in what is being said about it in a given country and at a given time by its upholders. The evidence presented below shows clearly that this is a fallacy. Firstly, the communists themselves admit that they regard every kind of lie as moral if it serves the needs of the party; secondly, they tend to see things "dialectically", that is to claim that they already are what according to the communist doctrine they are to become in the future; thirdly, in practice they have taken recourse to lies an unprecedented number of times; and fourthly, they spare no effort to hide or misrepresent the true conditions in the countries governed by them.

The greatest difficulty posed by communist falsehoods is that they are so vast and so consistently used that a non-communist may find such a complete disregard for truth hard to believe. Yet there are facts which provide so ample evidence that the matter is beyond question. Furthermore, it involves a principle arising from Lenin's ultimate political immorality.


What Communism Is

Communism is a doctrine, an organization, a system of action, and an attitude characterized by extreme monism and totalitarianism. By "monism" (a) we mean that it is focused on one goal, one science, one authority, and one method; by "totalitarianism" (b), that it subjects everything to one goal.

a) Communism is, first, monistic in the extreme. Only one end is worth achieving - the end indicated by the communist eschatology. All other values and goals must be regarded as means, and never as ends in themselves. There is only one true science: the communist philosophy; everything else is entirely false. There is only one group of people who know what to do and have the will to act: the communist party. Everything is good or bad depending only on how it serves the party. There is only one proper method of realizing the goals of the party: the one indicated by the communist methodology, formulated and disseminated by the communist party; all other methods are false. Furthermore, there is nothing intermediate between communism - true, good, and admirable - and anticommunism - false, bad, and abominable. One must make a clear choice and become either a communist or an "enemy of the people."

b) Secondly, communism is totalitarian through and through. It subsumes absolutely everything, without exception. The party believes that it is possessed of the absolute truth and therefore can never be mistaken. And since it is an embodiment of the absolute, no one is allowed to doubt the party or be opposed to it; it is owed blind obedience and every act of disobedience is a crime. The aim of the party is to rule over everything. This should be understood first in the geographical sense: the party must eventually govern in every single country; it must conquer the entire world. However, it should be also understood in a deeper sense. The rule of the party extends to everything: to political problems, law, nationalities, economy, intellectual life, arts and sciences, and religion [1] . Even the most intimate human matters must be controlled by the party and thus be adapted to communist teaching. Furthermore, in accordance with the principle of monism, all these actions are regarded only as instruments serving the achievement of the ends of communism.

[1]      The historical originality of communism consists not so much in economic, social, and constitutional transformations: these have numerous archetypes and analogues in previous and ancient times. It consists not so much in conjoining these transformations in their scale, in imbuing them with a sacred character and cocooning them in the epoch of progress. For these have also occurred, especially in the Oriental despotisms, the oldest totalitarian empires.

      The historical originality of communism consists above all in its being the only historically recorded large-scale enterprise of completely perverting language, of debasing and corrupting human language:

      1) Through the rigorous classification, systematization, and codification of language for specific practical purposes;

      2) Through the imposition of a perverted language, by means of total Terror, as universally valid;

      3) Through the totalitarian character of this perverted semantics, taking under its jurisdiction the entire language, all words endowed with some meaning and all relations of words to things (their so-called denotations);

      4) Through the detachment of communist semantics from socially and historically developed, that is natural, semantics.

      These attributes make language under communism essentially different from lying, with all its forms and adjuncts (hypocrisy, malice, bluster, etc.). People have always lied sometimes. However, at first everybody lied in their own fashion; they lied sometimes, that is occasionally, spontaneously, or under the pressure of circumstances and adequately to them. Secondly, it did happen and still happens that some specific lies are obligatory in this or that community or civilization, but they stem from a natural predisposition of the soul, they are not enforced from the outside, and therefore they have not (as yet) become self-conscious as lies. Thirdly, they were sometimes enforced, but even then it was limited to a defined, small nexus of words and sentences from a classified zone, a zone of religious or ethnic taboos, while the countless remainder of words was free, wonderfully free - for poets, philosophers, for people in general. A Cretan, after all, could say (truthfully) that all Cretans lie without risking that he and his family would be exterminated. Giordano Bruno died when he remained obstinate in undermining articles of faith still shared by contemporary humanity (la bestia trionfante), but his demise was an isolated vestige of a dark age and became a symbol of new times. In the twentieth century millions of "Brunos" died for saying that there is no butter in Saratov or Issyk-Kul. In the heyday of communism, during the interval between the Great Purge and the seizure of new territories together with their inhabitants, prisons and gulags were populated mostly with boltuns - "blabbermouths." Sinning against the lawful language was punished more severely than murder, robbery, or embezzlement. One fellow prisoner from Saratov, a machinist in a ball-bearing factory, was serving time for confiding to a man staying overnight in his apartment: "I haven't tasted butter for several years." Another fellow prisoner from Lubyanka, a young talented engineer, was serving time for telling an old lady that he rented a room from General Golikov, who was a drunkard.

      Butter "couldn't" not be in the shops, though sometimes it wasn't. A Red Army general couldn't be a drunkard, though sometimes he was. Rather he was supposed not to be, he "shouldn't have been" (but he was). That which "should have been" was decreed as that which is, once and for all.

      This encapsulates the entire program of socialist realism. All this output, unless it was a cunning escape into the pre-Bolshevik past or into nature or folklore, all those Wastelands Brought Under Cultivation, Bread, The Second Day of Creation, How Steel Was Tempered, The Young Guard, Communists, Citizens, e tutti quanti, did fulfill their political and educational tasks, sometimes with a vengeance, but they belong to the dustbin of literature. It could not have been otherwise: no authentic literary work can be created in an imposed and perverted language. The suicide of the dangerous Fadeyev put a symbolic seal on the bankruptcy of socialist realism and its language, as did the suicide of Borowski in Poland a few years earlier. Moreover, the suicide of Mayakovsky a quarter century back symbolized the bankruptcy of the communist Illusion - as a semantic error. (Aleksander Wat, Œwiat na haku i pod kluczem ["The world on a hook and under lock and key"], Kraków, 1988, p. 28-29).

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