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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky: A Marxist...But NOT a Communist?

Dear David and all,

>From what I have read in Vygotsky, I had the impression that Vygotsky was
both a Marxist and a communist.

A Marxist , especially in terms of the value he attaches to the methodology
of Marxism.
And I think that it is very natural to be distanced to some kind of Marxism
and to be close to another kind for any people in any time, if these people
are especially of that kind who are in search of creative work to certain
questions and problems.

Plekhanov was a Marxist but Lenin was quite distanced to his Marxism in
terms of the "application" (a bad term, I know) of Marxism to Russia.

I believe that it is a great merit of Vygotsky not to follow blindly some
"Marxists" in the science of psychology in that period in Soviet Union,
trying to realize a creative Marxist approach to the problems of psychology.
Distance to some Marxists does not mean distance to Marxism. In contrast,
this is quite healthy and necessary for a "good" Marxist sometimes.

"if the form of manifestation and the essence of things coincided directly,
then all of science would be superfluous" (Marx)

Vygotsky quotes this very frequently, especially in Volume 4 of CW and I
know other people who quote and value the same a lot, in other sciences,
they are all creative, quite prolific Marxists.

So, I think that Vygotsky was not only Marxist but also he was really a good

The reason I think he was also a communist: I think not being a member of
the Party does not show that Vygotsky was not a communist. I think that
Vygotsky believed strongly in communism, in  classless human society in
which man would develop freely.

It is obvious that in Soviet Union citizens were expected to believe in
communism, in communist ideals, in classless society as a goal but at the
same time it is also obvious that not all people were expected to be members
of the Bolshevik Party and party membership was not given abundantly.

As a Marxist and a communist, (believing fully in communist ideals), I think
Vygotsky may have not preferred to apply for party membership. The primary
reason for this was, I think, that he thought this official status as a
party member would hinder the creative work he wants to realize as a Marxist
since he had a different opinion on how to relate science with Marxism. He
clearly saw that the way Marxism was related with science by some scientists
in and close to the party was not the best and correct way to do that.

But I think that belief in a classless , communist society, the correctness
of such a society for the humanity to live in  is really quite visible in
many places in Vygotsky's work, which means that Vygotsky was a communist,
in my opinion.

In summary, I think that stones about Vygotsky's Marxism, communism, his
appraoach to Bolshevik Party can be located better if we analyze Vygotsky's
real  relationship to these in a broader way and somehow separating better
each other in Vygotsky himself.


2011/6/9 David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>

> Thanks for the prompt and very precise answers, Anton. I would like to
> respond briefly to your (rightly) tentative answer number three, lest it
> become, without your wishing it, yet another "bridge too far".
> First of all, one of the jobs I had to do in China in the early eighties
> was to help choose people to go to conferences. We sent people abroad who
> were ALREADY good at languages, because there was considerable concern that
> a) they would not understand what people said to them, and b) they would not
> be understood when speaking on behalf of the government.
> This rather excessive concern with language proficiency is a little hard
> for native speakers of English to grasp, but anybody who has ever had to
> give an important speech in a foreign language will understand how very
> difficult it can be. We didn't ever send people abroad just to get language
> practice; that would, as you point out, be frivolous and wasteful, and while
> they were brushing up their pronunciation our country was losing face.
> Secondly, I think that I have a very different interpretation of Vygotsky's
> remark about the Russian Revolution than either you or van der Veer and
> Zavershneva. Vygotsky says:
> "In essence, Russia is the first country in the world. The Revolution is
> our supreme caus. In this room only 1 person knows the secret of the
> genunine education of the deafmutes. And that person is me. Not because I am
> more educated than the otheres, but [because] I was sent by Russia and I
> speak on behalf of the Revolution..."
> (This is followed by somewhat embarrassing personal reflections about his
> precarious marriage, which will be instantly recognizeable to anyone who has
> ever, in the throes of youthful Sturm und Drang, tried to escape from a
> fraught sexual relationship by joining the French Foreign Legion.)
> This remark (which Zavershneva also writes about on p. 24 of her 2010
> article in the JREEP issue you guest-edited) is then interpreted as the
> first clear confirmation we have that Vygotsky was privately as well as
> publically a committed Marxist and even a communist. I think you go even
> further when you speculate that his trip may have been in some way
> underwritten or endorsed or even stage managed by the Cheka.
> Of course, the Cheka would have been informed. So would the British secret
> services for that matter. Britain had just elected its first Labor
> Government,and in fact Vygotsky's trip coincides with the stormy nine month
> tenure of Ramsay MacDonald which in turn coincided with a) Britain's first
> council housing and b) the fuss over the so-called "Zinoviev Letter" which
> supposedly showed that the Soviets were using the MacDonald regime to carry
> out a communist coup (the Zinoviev letter was later shown to be a forgery).
> I think that Vygotsky was a Marxist. At that time and place, who was not?
> When I first arrived in China, the only people who really had any doubts at
> all about Marxism were people who had actually become interested enough in
> Marx and Engels and Lenin to read the stuff critically. (These were also the
> people who were not afraid of the ongoing campaigns against "Spiritual
> Pollution" and "Bourgeois Liberal Democratization" and thus, maddeningly,
> they were the folks I spent most of my time with, although I considered
> myself vociferously Marxist and on a mission to reconvert the whole of China
> to the true faith.)
> Vygotsky was, of course, NOT a party member, and he would have found it
> rather hard to join in those days as the competition was quite fierce. In
> fact, he seems to have been quite UNinterested in party affairs, as most
> intellectuals, particularly those of a literary bent, tended to be in those
> days.
> I think his remark that "Russia is the first country  in the world" and
> "The Revolution is our supreme cause" reflects are real confidence in world
> revolution. I think his further remarks about "the secret of the genuine
> education of the deafmutes" refers to the actual content of his paper,
> available here:
> http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/reader/p019.pdf
> The secret is the rather Adlerian belief that the main effect of deafmutism
> is social, and that with the transformation of society this will become
> irrelevant. A patriotic, revolutionary-minded Russian might believe this,
> and even refer to it as a "Russian" achievement rather than a Soviet, or a
> communist, one.
> However, it seems to me that a communist would NOT believe this. I note
> that Vygotsky speaks of "the Revolution" as a RUSSIAN matter (not even a
> "Soviet" one much less a world movement). Vygotsky has absolutely nothing to
> say about the (extremely interesting) class struggles going on under his
> very nose. This suggests to me that, despite what I have always believed,
> Vygotsky was a Marxist, but not a communist in any sense of the word,
> neither with a big C nor with a little one.
> I think that Vygotsky was a Marxist in exactly the same sense that he was a
> Darwinist (i.e. a somewhat distanced one). Just as Vygotsky considered that
> Darwin's laws are basically inapplicable to sociogenesis, he did not think
> that the laws of ontogenesis could be derived from Marx by any formulaic
> prestidigitation, and was rather disgusted by the attempts of his colleagues
> to try.
> Rene van der Veer remarks somewhat deprecatingly that Vygotsky didn't like
> historians who were only interested in interpreting the work of
> others...like van der Veer himself! I think Vygotsky probably also wouldn't
> have liked young scientists who are only interested in world revolution.
> But I think he would have understood instantly the sort of scientists I was
> teaching in China, people who went off to the most remote corners of the
> country in the fifties and sixties because they were revolutionaries. They
> came back to Beijing in the seventies and went abroad in the eighties
> because they discovered they were scientists too, and that a successful
> revolution needed scientists rather more than it needed revolutionaries.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Edcuation
> --- On Wed, 6/8/11, Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com> wrote:
> From: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky in English: What Still Needs to Be Done
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 3:05 PM
> Thank you, David, for your high opinion of our work! As an announcement, I
> am
> reporting that I have just submitted the corrected proofs of yet another
> paper
> from this Vygotskian issue of the journal, -- the one on the Vygotsky
> Circle, so
> it might get released online fairly soon. Now, to your questions.
> 1. I have seen many Vygotsky's texts--including those that have never been
> republished after the war--but not this one. Therefore, I can not verify if
> Vygotsky's review (1929) of the Sterns' book is identical (or, perhaps,
> more
> precisely, *nearly* identical) with Chapter 3 of Thinking and speech
> (1934).
> However, I fully trust Rene van der Veer, whom I consider a top expert on
> the
> history of Vygotskian psychology and whose name is to me synonymous with
> the
> highest quality of scholarship. Thus, in brief, if Rene claims the two
> papers
> are just the same, I have no reasons to doubt his words; after all, this
> what
> collaboration is all about.
> Then, you are asking for an explanation of how come the author in his
> Preface on
> page 3 of the original edition of 1934 does not mention that the text of
> chapter
> 3 had already been published as a book review, although he does admit that
> two
> other chapters, i.e. chapters 2 and 4, had been published before. I could
> try to
> provide a plausible explanation why this is so. Vygotsky reportedly
> dictated
> some fragments of the text (chapter 1 and parts of  6 and 7) ,  and, in all
> likelihood, the book has never been proofread by its author: as we know,
> not
> only did it come out, but also it was typeset and signed out to
> press   well
> after his death (Russian: "sdano v nabor" -- August, 27, 1934, "podpisano k
> pechati" -- December 7, 1934). I could image that the references to
> chapters in
> brackets were later incorporated into the text by the editor of the book,
> Kolbanovskii, who was not really familiar with the circumstances of the
> manuscript production. This might explain the lack of reference to chapter
> 3 as
> previously published. However, please understand that this explanation is a
> mere
> ungrounded speculation of mine. Let's say, a hypothesis...
> 2. The question about Tool and sign is really an interesting one, and we
> don't
> know the full story yet. Perhaps, we will never know it. Thus, I would
> readdress
> this question to Mike Cole, who certainly knows a part of it. Thus, van der
> Veer
> and Valsiner published an English manuscript of the paper in their Vygotsky
> Reader in 1994. In their comments they claim that this was *the* manuscript
> that
> Luria passed to Mike for publication in the West. Then, in turn, Mike seems
> to
> have passed the manuscript to the two editors of the Reader who did a great
> job
> of publishing and -- even more importantly -- most professionally
> commenting on
> the text. Still, much is unclear, for instance: what kind of manuscript
> that
> was, if it was handwritten (I would doubt that) or typewritten (I believe
> so),
> when and under what circumstances Luria forwarded it to Mike, etc. Then,
> the
> Russian text of the 1984 edition might well be a[n edited] translation from
> English or an version of the paper. I guess, some research--both
> historiographical and textological--needs to be done in order to answer
> your
> question. Anyway, thanks for raising this issue: I have always wanted to
> ask
> Mike for a feedback from him, so... Mike, do you have any comments, please?
> 3. As to Vygotsky trip, I think that the Bolshevik leadership knew fairly
> well
> what they were doing. Especially, when the matter concerned funding a
> foreign
> trip for an individual for a month or so. Funding was really scarce back
> then,
> and they must have had really good reasons for sending this guy abroad. So,
> since we do not have any evidence in support of this hypothesis, I would
> not
> speculate about his possible connections with Russian intelligence or any
> other
> related organization that might explain his seemingly purposeless stay in
> England way after the conference was over. Then, however, the point is that
> Vygotsky had several advantages over other persons you (and the authors)
> mentioned: he was young and loyal to the ideas of Socialist transformation
> of
> man and society, very proactive, not blind or peripherally located (like
> blind
> scholar Shcherbina from provincial town of Priluki), and, perhaps, also
> importantly, had a good rationale for returning home: a newly married young
> specialist with a newborn baby (May 9, 1925) staying home did have good
> incentives not to stay abroad. Yet again, note: this is pure speculation
> again.
> Frankly, the name of Golosov does not tell me much, but speaking of
> Sokolyanskii, one must keep it mind that, according to Hillig and Marochko
> (2003; the source is available, but it is in Ukrainian) he did make a
> foreign
> trip in the August of 1925, and was even the head of Russian delegation in
> Germany during "Russian weeks" in Berlin. I believe at least a part of the
> story
> of Sokolyanskii's foreign trip is certainly true, but in any case this
> account
> still needs to be verified. In other words: nope, the Bolsheviks did not
> send
> their people abroad just in order to let them practice their language
> skills:
> too costly it was for the extremely poor country that had just emerged from
> the
> Civil War. As it is argued in a recent publication, Vygotsky was quite a
> prominent "defectologist" of his country back in 1925 and was the right guy
> for
> the job (for more see: Yasnitsky, A. (2011). Lev Vygotsky: Philologist and
> Defectologist, A Socio-intellectual Biography. In Pickren, W., Dewsbury,
> D., &
> Wertheimer, M. (Eds.). Portraits of Pioneers in Developmental Psychology,
> vol.
> VII; just wait till September, 2011 when the book is reportedly scheduled
> to
> come out).
> Cheers,
> Anton
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
> To: lchcmike@gmail.com; Culture ActivityeXtended Mind <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> >
> Sent: Tue, June 7, 2011 7:54:05 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky in English: What Still Needs to Be Done
> Anton et al:
> First of all, thanks for what in my view is really PRICELESS work. The
> Plenum
> edition of Thinking and Speech has been out since 1987. Rene van der Veer
> has
> been suggesting that it is inadequate, and Luciano Meccaci has been
> promising
> full documentation of the inadequacies, but I think this is the first clear
> indication in print that we desperately need a new translation of this
> book, so
> that we miserable Anglophones may at long last learn that we don't know
> what
> we've been talking about.
> Secondly--THREE questions:
> a) You say that Chapter Three of Thinking and Speech was written in 1929,
> and
> you provide a very convincing reference to prove this. But the Authors
> Preface
> to Thinking and Speech does not include Chapter Three in the list of
> previously
> published works, and by implication says that it is being published for the
> first time. Can you explain?
> b) There are two slightly different versions of "Tool and Sign in the
> Development of the Child", one in English and one in Russian. Do you happen
> to
> know which was written first (and when?)
> c) Rene van der Veer and Ekaterina Zavershneva wonder why the unknown
> Vygotsky
> (rather than the better known Golosov or Sokolyansky or Sherbina) was sent
> to
> the London conference. But it appears that a LOT of people at the
> conference
> were not experts (e.g. Lord Whatzisface and the poor Japanese delegate). In
> China we used to send people abroad for the language proficiency rather
> than
> their technical expertise; mightn't the same thing have happened here?
> Thanks again, Anton--you are a supernatural resource!
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Mon, 6/6/11, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky in English: What Still Needs to Be Done
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Monday, June 6, 2011, 7:52 AM
> Thanks, Anton.
> Mythbusters super star!
> mike
> On Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 5:32 AM, Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>
> wrote:
> > Hi everyone!
> >
> >
> > For your information:   most recently several papers from the special
> > Vygotskian
> > issue of the journal Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science
> have
> > been
> > released and are now fully available online (as html and pdf). These
> > include:
> >
> > In Search of the Unknown: Introduction to the Special Issue
> > René van der Veer
> >
> > http://www.springerlink.com/content/h438g3337j5520l7/
> >
> > Vygotsky in English: What Still Needs to Be Done
> > René van der Veer and Anton Yasnitsky
> >
> > http://www.springerlink.com/content/278j5025767m2263/
> >
> > &
> >
> > To Moscow with Love: Partial Reconstruction of Vygotsky’s Trip to London
> > René van der Veer and Ekaterina Zavershneva
> >
> > http://www.springerlink.com/content/375141xv6284506g/
> >
> >
> > At a later time, there will be another paper, on Vygotsky Circle of
> several
> > dozen Vygotsky's students and associates that will hopefully finally
> > overturn
> > the myth of the "troika da pyaterka" of his Apostles that keeps
> replicating
> > in
> > numerous accounts of Vygotsky's life story. I shall keep you posted...
> >
> > Have a nice reading!
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Anton
> > __________________________________________
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