RE: [xmca] Vygotsky and Trotsky (question)

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Nov 12 2008 - 14:46:38 PST

In terms of Vygotsky's relationship to authority, the obvious name to examine is not Trotsky but rather Krupskaya, Lenin's widow, who was certainly Vygotsky's boss at the Narkompros and either was or was not Vygotsky's patron. If you believe Richard Prawat, Krupskaya and Lunacharsaky (not Kornilov) were responsible for Vygotsky's move to Moscow and meteoric rise. This account has been hotly disputed by Gredler and Shields (See "Several Bridges Too Far", American Education Research Journal Fall 2000, 40:1 pp 177-187).
Chukovsky suggests that Krupskaya was also responsible for the very hostile response by the authorities to his children's book "Crocodile", which also had some trouble being published through official organs. As far as we know, Vygotsky shared this hostility; a caustic note about "Crocodile" appears in the chapter of Pedagogical Psychology on aesthetic education. Anton says that he doesn't think Vygotsky actually wrote this note.
Now Krupskaya in 1926 was a member of the Leningrad Opposition. This bloc later went on to form the "Joint Opposition" with Trotsky, but the block was largely over organizational matters within the party, something that Vygotsky would not have been involved in. The Joint Opposition did not have a common position on China, for example, which led to accusations that it was an unprincipled bloc and not a real oppositional faction. So of course they would not have a common position on psychology.
Krupskaya was, however, a sponsor of the pedologists, and Vygotsky published a good deal in organs controlled by pedologists. Like many pedologists, Vygotsky was not particularly sympathetic to Freud. Trotsky, on the other hand, was.
In 1925-1926 Trotsky held a number of technical posts; he was the acting Comissar for Science and Technology and wrote on Freud (and Einstein!) in that capacity. He was very anxious to promote openness to his ideas, and argued that whether or not Freud was materialist should be an open question. Here is Trotsky in early 1926:
"Pavlov's reflexology proceeds entirely along the paths of dialectical materialism. It conclusively breaks down the wall between physiology and psychology. The simplest reflex is physiological, but a system of reflexes gives us 'consciousness'. The accumulation of physiological quantity gives a new 'psychological' quality. The method of Pavlov's school is experimental and painstaking. Generalizations are wone step by step: from the saliva of dogs to poetry, that is, to the mental mechanics of poetry, not its social content--though the paths that bring us to poetry have as yet not been revealed."
     "The school of the Viennese psychoanalysis Freud proceeds in a different way. It assumes in advance that the driving force of the most complex and delicate of psychich processes is a physiological need. In this general sense it is materialistic, if you leave aside the question whether it does not assign too big a place to the sexual factor at the expense of others, for this is already a dispute within the frontiers of materialism. But the psychonanalyst does not approach problems of consciousness experimentally, going from the lowest phenomena to the highest, from the simple reflex to the complex reflex; instead, he attempts to take all these intermediate stages in one jump from above downwards, from religious myth, the lyrical poem, or the dream, straight to the physiological basis of the psyche. (...) The attempt to declare psychoanalysis 'incompatible' with Marxism and simply turn one's back on Freudianism is too simple, or more accruately
 too simplistic. It is a working hypothesis which can produce and undoubtedly does produce deductions and conjectures that proceed along the lines of materialist psychology. The experimental procedure in due coruse will provide the tests for these conjectures. But we have no grounds and no right to put a ban on the other procedure, which even though it may be less reliable, yet tries to anticipate the conclusions to which the experimental procedure is advancing very slowly."
Culture and Socialism, in L. Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life, pp. 233-234. London: Monad Press.
Luria was pretty sympathetic to Freud too. So I guess I think that despite what Gredler and Shields say, Vygotsky tended towards Lunacharsky and Krupskaya, and Luria towards Trotsky during that brief year of calm before the storm. 
Interestingly, ten years later, the psychological development of the child was still a VERY hot topic in Soviet politics; Bukharin writes extensively about pedology and child development while he is awainting execution in 1937.
See N. Bukharin (2005) "Philosophical Arabesques" New York: Monthly Review.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Wed, 11/12/08, Achilles Delari Junior <> wrote:

From: Achilles Delari Junior <>
Subject: RE: [xmca] Vygotsky and Trotsky (question)
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 10:31 AM


Thank you very much...

These informations allow to think that quote Trotsky in this context
turns something undesirable from official political point of view, despite
Vygotsky's works were wrote maybe when there was not such restriction
so clearly defined... But publication of Pedagogical Psychology in 1926
was carried on even so (!) It's interesting this possibility of
publications at that time. How did Soviet State administrate this alternative
publisher houses? Was not there any kind of control or restriction to it too?
With economic matters centralized, how can an relatively autonomous
publishing busyness survive at this social context, with editorial guidelines
not strictly aligned with the Conference of the Communist Party? There
was cues of not yet "unidimensional" society until this date? Voices
some kind of "resistance"? Or this though of mine sounds too
Please, help me to think better.

About Vygotsky and Nietzsche, I wait more notices. The few impressions
that I had, until now, were of a critical position by the first about the
Mostly at "Defectology" and "Socialist alteration of
man"... But my memory
can be wrong about these references too, I read some years ago... The socialist

"new man" versus the nietzschean "beyond-the-man"
(Übermensch)? Mikhail
Bakhtin, by his turn, in "Philosophy of Act" criticized Nietzsche
about his "vitalism".
I will wait more notices, but if you can tell us more about, I will be thankful

as well.

Thank you, once more.

> From:
> To:
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Trotsky (question)
> Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2008 09:00:34 +0100
> I think I can contribute to this discussion:
> there is a German Vygotsky scholar, Peter Keiler who did extensive
> research and in his book:
> sees a Nietzschean influence on Vygotsky and examines the use of
> citations of Trotsky in the Psychology of Art.
> Keiler claims that it was because of these ideological influences that
> the Psychology of Art which was initially accepted for publication,
> was not published after Trotsky's views were officialy rejected
> (Conference of the Communist Party in 1925). It was also because of
> this reason that Vygotsky's book Educational Psychology was not
> published with the State Publisher in 1924/1925 but with the Publisher
> 'Workers of Education' in 1926 (I am not sure about the
translation of
> the names of the Publishers and I do not have the originals now).
> I am writing about these issues and I think Veresov has done also work
> about this issue in English, so for sure there is/will be some more
> material in the future for the English-speaking audience.
> with friendly regards,
> Michalis Kontopodis
> research associate
> humboldt university berlin
> tel.: +49 (0) 30 2093 3716
> fax.: +49 (0) 30 2093 3739
> On 12.11.2008, at 00:24, Achilles Delari Junior wrote:
> >
> > David,
> >
> > Thank you very much...
> >
> > I have suspected that was not only an opportunistic relation,
> > but you give us many more reasons to confirm my suspects...
> > Despite somebody that had that kind of only strictly political
> > acceptance goals, Trotsky was then the obvious reference to
> > quote too - and this I didn't knew until your explanation. Well,
> > all we are real persons, with our contradictions, including
> > moral and political dilemmas - but, even so, I resist to wonder
> > Vygotsky's intentions only in therms of simple conveniences or
> > blind following of a moment trend or fashion. I don't know...
> > All we are human, "nothing of human will be strange to
> > But if you said:
> >
> > "I think the real affinity between Trotsky and Vygotsky (and
> > more,
> >
> > between Trotsky and Luria) is to be found a little deeper. It's
> >
> > something that he would have left on the surface, and even if he had,
> >
> > it would have been expunged for obvious reasons."
> >
> > And then you empower my feeling that there was something
> > beyond convenience in that dialog.
> >
> > Thank you, again.
> > Achilles
> >
> >
> >
> >> Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 14:50:48 -0800
> >> From:
> >> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Trotsky (question)
> >> To:
> >>
> >> Dear Achilles:
> >>
> >> I think everybody is right all around. The problem is that
> >> was not a party member, and the Bolshevik Party tended to keep
> >> disagreements to itself until fairly late. Remember that although
> >> Pedagogical Psychology was publishedi n 1926, most of it was
> >> written earlier for teaching purposes.
> >>
> >> By 1926, Lenin was dead, and Trotsky was already in opposition.
> >> Stalin, however, was not well known outside the party; he'd
> >> not particularly distinguished editor of Pravda, and written
> >> Lenin's help) a book on the nationalities question, but that
> >> about it.
> >>
> >> Trotsky, on the other hand, was extremely well known as the man
> >> had led the first unsuccessful Soviet in 1905, written
> >> on art, literature, science, and the history he had helped to
> >> Popularly, he was the man perceived to have almost
> >> created the Red Army and saved the USSR during the civil war. He

> >> was the obvious person to quote, particularly if you were Jewish,
> >> kind of intellectual, and inclinded to cross-disciplinary
> >> intellectual interests.
> >>
> >> I think the real affinity between Trotsky and Vygotsky (and even

> >> more, between Trotsky and Luria) is to be found a little deeper.

> >> It's not something that he would have left on the surface,
and even
> >> if he had, it would have been expunged for obvious reasons.
> >>
> >> Nevertheless, it's really there, particularly in the idea of

> >> permanent revolution, where development consists not of the
> >> like mechanical replication of stages, but in the Trotsky like
> >> compression of stages, where "the first shall be last"
and the
> >> "rock that was despised by the builders shall be the
> >>
> >> David Kellogg
> >> Seoul National University of Education
> >> .
> >>
> >>
> >> --- On Tue, 11/11/08, Achilles Delari Junior
> >> > wrote:
> >>
> >> From: Achilles Delari Junior <>
> >> Subject: [xmca] Vygotsky and Trotsky (question)
> >> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
> >> Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 2:39 PM
> >>
> >>
> >> Greetings,
> >>
> >> It´s only a simple question,
> >>
> >> Alex Kozulin (1990, Vygotsky: a biography of ideas) in his
> >> about
> >> "Pedagogical Psychology", see this book almost like a
> >> work.
> >> I will not touch the problem of pavlovian trends of Vygotsky at
> >> this time.
> >> But, about Trotsky, Kozulin think that Vygotsky quotes him only
> >> a political
> >> mean to be accepted in official marxist scene of the time, and
> >> nothing really
> >> conceptually relevant. But, I had asked for myself, since 1994
> >> I have
> >> read Kozulin excellent book: why then Trotsky? Why not Lenin or
> >> Stalin him-
> >> self. Is not Pedagogical psychology a book published at 1926? Tom
> >> Bottomore
> >> said that since 1923, Trotsky was leading opposition movements
> >> against so-
> >> viet bureaucracy, what culminate with his expulsion from USSR in

> >> 1929 by
> >> Stalin. Many years after read Kozulin's book, Vygostky's
> >> Psycho-
> >> logy was published in Portuguese... I don't know exactly what
> >> happens after
> >> with his political trends, but I feel that his quotations seems
> >> be not so
> >> artificial, nor conveniently "official".
> >>
> >> What do you think about?
> >>
> >> Thank you, very much. It's only to share a simple historical
> >>
> >> Best wishes.
> >> Achilles
> >>
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