Nikolai Bukharin on oriental & racial mysticism & fascism

Quotes from Philosophical Arabesques (1937)

Among a number of bourgeois philosophers and the philosophical “caste” in general, the flight from the clamor of collapsing capitalist civilization arouses a craving for mystical primitivism, although in these circles this primitivism is distinguished by a particular refinement. The influence of Chinese and Indian philosophies, in their spiritual and mystical variants, is especially evident. Hegel encouraged the prejudice that the East has not contributed anything positive either to science or to philosophy. In this case Hegel manifests the same white nationalist line which induced him to see in Prussia and the Prussian state the seat of the world spirit; in Alexander the Great, a demigod taking vengeance on the Greeks; in Asia, a drunken sensual bacchanalia; and so forth. This quite preposterous thinking, which simply justifies the German saying that the wish is father to the thought, and which directly contradicts objective reality, later acted as one of the components of fascist “Aryan race” ideology. Along with it, one usually finds an artificial selecting out of the spiritualist and mystical currents in Eastern philosophy, an omission of everything that even smells of materialism, and a distortion of the whole picture of the philosophical development of the East. Here, therefore, we have the use of a method of falsification common in the history of philosophy [….]

[from “Hindu Mysticism and Western European Philosophy,” p. 146: beginning]

For the solving of philosophical problems, this fascist “mode of presentation” signifies an enormous step backward, since it draws its understanding of the subject from an abstraction of a social human being (which was featured in the old bourgeois philosophy) either in the direction of a biological-racial abstraction, that is, a zoological one, or toward a medieval-teleological “mode” of hierarchically immobile thinking, of thinking in the categories of medieval scholasticism and mysticism. However much it prides itself on being anti-Christian and anti-Asian, in its anti-intellectualism it duplicates the Eastern mystics, the Church fathers, and the Christian mystics. After all, it is precisely these latter who considered thought to be a plague, an ulcer, a hell; these were the people who considered reason to be a creature of Satan, a wanton woman. In the Upanishads it is said that anyone who experiences the world rationally knows nothing. Lao-tze maintained that life and rational cognition were incompatible.

There is nothing that characterizes the complete rottenness of the racial-mystical orientation so thoroughly as this rejection of reason. The biological prolegomena of thought, as they are understood by the fascist philosophers, are in fact an ideological illusion. In reality, the springs of the social-historical process operate here as well. The logic of “biology” in this case reflects a concrete social and historical setting, and analysis of this logic once again confirms the fundamental truths of Marx’s historical materialism. ‘The social being of a class that is doomed and perishing, that is making desperate, brutal lunges, defines both the class itself and its social consciousness. The rejection of rational cognition and its replacement with mysticism is a testimony to intellectual poverty, which from the point of view of world history deprives this class of the right to historical existence. No one should raise petty objections to this formula; it is, of course, simply a metaphor. Nevertheless, it is an expression of reality. It signifies that tendencies of a progressive type, that is, tendencies associated with life, have become incompatible with the existence of a class which cannot go forward and which only looks backward. For precisely this reason, the class is forced to wage a struggle against reason and against reasoned cognition, whose development on a general scale poses an ever greater threat to the rotten, decadent system of the exploiters. The renewal of modern philosophical thought will not pass along these roads.

[from “On So-called Racial Thought,” p. 231: conclusion]

SOURCE: Bukharin, Nikolai. Philosophical Arabesques, translated by Renfrey Clarke, with editorial assistance by George Shriver. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005. With: Introduction: A Voice from the Dead by Helena Sheehan.

Chapter 14: “Hindu Mysticism and Western European Philosophy,” pp. 146-153; Chapter 24: “On So-called Racial Thought,” pp. 224-231. Excerpts: p. 146, 231.

Philosophical Arabesques

Introduction: A Voice from the Dead by HELENA SHEEHAN 7
Editorial Note by MONTHLY REVIEW PRESS 31
Author’s Foreword 34
Author’s Introduction 35
1 — The Reality of the World and the Intrigues of Solipsism 37
2 — Acceptance and Nonacceptance of the World 7
3 — Things in Themselves and Their Cognizability 67
4 — Space and Time 68
5 — Mediated Knowledge 81
6 — The Abstract and the Concrete 83
7 — Perception, Image, Concept 92
8 — Living Nature and the Artistic Attitude toward It 98
9 — Rational Thought, Dialectical Thought, and Direct Contemplation 104
10 — Practice in General and the Place of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge 113
11 — Practical, Theoretical and Aesthetic Attitudes toward the World, and Their Unity 124
12 — The Fundamental Positions of Materialism and Idealism 191
19 — Hylozcism and Panpsychism 199
14 — Hindu Mysticism and Western European Philosophy 146
15 — The So-called Philosophy of Identity 154
16 — The Sins of Mechanistic Materialism 163
17 — The General Laws and Relations of Being 170
18 — Teleology 177
19 — Freedom and Necessity 186
20 — The Organism 193
21 — Modern Science and Dialectical Materialism 200
22 — The Sociology of Thought: Labor and Thought as Social-Historical Categories 207
23 — The Sociology of Thought: Mode of Production and Mode of Representation 214
24 — On So-called Racial Thought 224
25 — Social Position, Thought, and “Experience” 292
26 — The Object of Philosophy 241
27 — The Subject of Philosophy 248
28 — The Interaction of Subject and Object 255
29 — Society as the Object and Subject of Mastering 262
30 — Truth: The Concept of Truth and the Criterion of the Truthful 269
31 — Truth: Absolute and Relative Truth 275
32 — The Good 282
33 — Hegel’s Dialectical Idealism as a System 292
34 — The Dialectics of Hegel and the Dialectica of Marx 308
95 — Dialectics as Science and Dialectics as Art 331
96 — Science and Philosophy 339
37 — Evolution 345
38 — Theory and History 352
39 — The Social Ideal 359
40 — Lenin as a Philosopher 369
Notes 377
Index 305

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