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Re: [xmca] "The psyche of proletarian children" and language and thought

These are very useful thoughts, Ulvi. If I may supplement these with a couple more. I bring a few of my thoughts about these questions up here, not to try to achieve general agreement, but just to provoke more thinking. Many of us on xmca undoubtedly have many different ideas on these matters. It is not at all my intention to disrupt the plurality of views in this forum on such complex issues - just toss in a few thoughts of my own.

a. I certainly agree with your main point, Ulvi, that the proletariat of the USSR was very different from any other country. I think it is empirically indisputable that the bourgeoisie (capitalist class) was liquidated in what became the USSR, beginning as early as 1917-1918 and finishing off with eliminating the kulaks and related propertied classes and social layers in the countryside by the early 1930's (at horrible costs to the peasants and workers, but that is another story). Some Marxists and Bolsheviks have used the technical term "workers state" to describe such the Soviet socioeconomic system. As you point out, living in such a society, for a worker, was surely different in fundamental ways from living in a capitalist system.

b. Here us where I wish to draw a fine point. The question of whether the proletariat in the USSR achieved lasting **political** power in the USSR could be considered an entirely separate question. Leon Trotsky, as many know, argued that a parasitic bureaucracy emerged in the 1920's that usurped political power from the proletariat (as well as what was left of the propertied classes) and instituted a police state hostile to the workers, as well as the capitalists. To the extent one accepts that something like this is what indeed happened, this perspective suggests that the Soviet workers suffered a massive political defeat and historic alienation from their own workers state and their own proletarian, socialist revolution, despite their general class consciousness and understanding of class struggles around the world.

c. At the same time, despite these terrible obstacles, the Soviet workers, farmers and professionals performed incredible feats of heroism, hard work, unbelievable sacrifice and historic accomplishment for many decades - such as surviving the world capitalist crises and depression of the 1920's and 1930's, weathering the isolating defeats of revolutionary and socialist movements in Europe throughout the 1920's and 1930's, defeating the German invasion in WWII, emerging as a victorious superpower following WWII (alongside the US), industrializing the USSR, mechanizing agriculture, creating high levels of cultural and scientific achievement, etc. etc.

d. This perspective thus draws a picture of an incredibly contradictory and bewildering situation in the USSR from 1917 onward - an a) socialist-oriented workers state that was b) surrounded and strangled by a world capitalist system that was also c) simultaneously suffering under the iron heel of a dictatorial bureaucratic police state which d) hampered socialist development - yet, despite these terrible obstacles, this workers state and its proletarian, farming and professional classes and the Soviet people e) still accomplished multitudes of world-changing, historic achievements.

e. How does this relate to Vygotsky and CHAT? This perspective would place Vygotsky as having lived through four amazingly different and fast moving periods in Russian and Soviet history. He a) grew up in Czarist Russia, b) lived through the upheavals of WWI and the 1917 Revolution in early adult years, c) thrived as a leader in scientific, educational and cultural work during the initial revolutionary years of mass mobilizations and socialist flowering in 1920's, and then d) witnessed and suffered the terrible consequences of successive victories of the bureaucratic power, which eventually purged the USSR of its own proletarian, socialist movement, imprisoned science and culture under police state rule, etc. This way of looking at the world that Vygotsky worked and lived in could be a way to help us understand his constantly evolving scientific and theoretical work in his short but very rich 37 or so years, as well as how the cultural- historical school and activity theory movement developed and grew in subsequent decades.

Just some thoughts of mine that yours evoked, Ulvi.  Thanks.

~ Steve

On Aug 31, 2009, at 4:09 AM, ulvi icil wrote:

Dear Achilles,

Some thoughts:

1. Proletariat in 20s in Soviet Union is not surely a proletariat similar to
the one in a capitalist society. In this sense, the children of the
proletariat there in 20s are not children of an exploited proletariat etc... But in another context, we can remember that during 20s, in Soviet Union, social classes were not liquidated yet, even more, class struggles was going on quite violently...New Economic Policy has even strengthened the position of kulaks (capitalist peasants) etc We can also remember that liquidation of the bourgeoisie takes towards the beginning of the 30s in the true sense of
the word, with industrialization and collectivisation.
2. Conceptually, even though bourgeoisie was liquidated, Soviet working class saw itself as proletariat...In fact, this was theoretically named as
dictatorship of the proleariat...
3. In this sense, Soviet children at that time were proletarian children, but a proletariat who owned the political power and who did not establish
yet socialism...


2009/8/31, Achilles Delari Junior <achilles_delari@hotmail.com>:

Thank you, very much David.

It's very instructive.

I will see the quotations at the Works.
Seems to be interesting that Vygotsky was
open to Rühle, even he was agaist Leninism,
and saw Soviet Union as a form of State
Capitalism... (I don't know if that information
is reliable)... But, the point is just about
relationships between social class position
and social formation of mind. I agree with
the opposition to Zalking thinking in terms of
"class character"... I wonder that in "Socialist
alteration of man" the relation of personality
formation and class struggle seems to be more
in dialectical terms... The entire society is
not homogeneous, then the social formation
of personality is not homogeneous too... But
I really don´t know yet if Rühle thank like
Zalkind. Do you think so?

Thank you very much David... My friend tell
me that she already find a Spanish version from
the Rühle's book reviewed by Vygotsky... and
them this seems to be very useful. There was
yet some pedological works about soviet children
valuation about class struggle, expropriation,
relations between money and work, etc. There
is a list of questions for interview with children
from Mikhail Basov, that contains this kind of
questions, together others about "physical
causality", etc. This is reported by Valsiner,
but I don´t know if this is the same. Can we
call soviet children exactly "proletarian children"?
In a social context in that people believe that
there are no more "classes"? But we will see
that pedologists studies too, if we could...

Oh. Thank you very much... You help me too think
broader than before...

Best wishes.

Date: Sun, 30 Aug 2009 22:03:53 -0700
From: vaughndogblack@yahoo.com
Subject: Re: [xmca] "The psyche of proletarian children" and language
and     thought
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu

Dear Achilles:

As you probably know, there are a few references to Otto Ruele in Volume
Two of the Collected Works on defectology, and some of these are to "The
psyche of proletarian children".

Overall, LSV takes a positive view of the work, which is a little
surprising because of his hostility to the ideas of Zalkind on "proletarian

Ruele seems to have been close to Adler, and a critic of Freud (or so
says the notes on Ruele in Volume Two. LSV has generally nice things to say
about Adler too.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

PS: Mike, I wasn't trying to put either you or Meltzoff on the spot; I
was really just writing fluff along the lines of
something-I-read-on-the-way-to-work-this-morning-that-I-thought-you- might-find-interesting.

I guess the most interesting thing about it for me has to do with Greg's
rather Whorfian letter which argues that thinking and speech have to be a lot closer than the longitude and latitude metaphor suggest, and that in particular phasal and semantic aspects of speech are really one and the same thing, linked but not distinct. When two things are linked but not distinct,
it is hard to see how they can develop each other.

Of course, SOMETHING happens in the brain when we read, and it may happen
in different parts of the brain when we read different scripts (just as we may recover memories from different parts of the brain). But sometimes
structural differences really can be "uncoupled" from ffunctional
differences, and I think this is one of them.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sun, 8/30/09, Achilles Delari Junior <achilles_delari@hotmail.com >

From: Achilles Delari Junior <achilles_delari@hotmail.com>
Subject: [xmca] "The psyche of proletarian children"...
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Sunday, August 30, 2009, 7:01 PM

How are you?
I wish fine.

Please, I'm asking you for a help, one more time.
There is a friend of mine, working with expropriated
children, fighting against "child work expropriation" in the
North-east from my country. And she is looking for a particular
text from Vygotsky, and I suppose that there is no publication
of it, even in Russian. This is the title, seems to be only
the manuscript

Review of The Psyche of proletarian Children by Otto Rulle
(Moscow-Leningrad, 1926). Private archives of L. S. Vygotsky.
Manucript, 3. pp.
на кн.: Отто Рюле. Психика пролетарского ребенка. М.; Л.: ГИЗ, 1926 //
арх. Л.С. Выготского. 1926. 3 с. Рукопись.

But this indication that there is only the manuscript is from 1996'
Lifanova's paper. Then, who knows if there is any publication after...
Do you have any notice about this work, or some general suggestion
of reading something about this subject (the psyche of children
in terms of social classes, and class struggle)?

Thank you very much about your attention and help.

Best wishes.
From Brazil.
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