Jozef Maria BOCHENSKI (1902-1995)
(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);
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,
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
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.
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
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
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. 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.
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:
the rigorous classification, systematization, and codification
of language for specific practical purposes;
the imposition of a
perverted language, by means of total Terror, as universally
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);
the detachment of communist
semantics from socially and historically developed, that is natural, semantics.
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.
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.
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).