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

Thanks, Andy.

On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 6:11 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> Levitin's book buyable at:
> http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=One+is+Not+Born+a+Personality&x=43&y=10
> http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=One+is+Not+Born+a+Personality&x=19&y=17
> or http://www.erythrospress.com/store/levitin.html
> Andy
> mike Cole wrote:
>> And then Sokolyansky (sp?), Mescheryakov, and other's delivered on LSV's
>> boast, culturing butterflies in Zagorsk.
>> mike
>> PS-- See the K. levitin book now available at bargain price on Amazon! :-)
>> On Jun 8, 2011, at 6:22 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
>> wrote:
>>> 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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> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Joint Editor MCA:
> http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
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