Social Scientist. v 10, no. 113 (Oct 1982) p. 56.

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In Defence of Serious Polemics

SERIOUS and honest polemics is necessary for the development of scientific theory. But two elaborations are called for: first, seriousness is to be verified in the protocol adopted and in whether consistently adhered to; second, honesty, in this context, lies in admitting the distinction between polemical arguments and philosophical discourse. To palm off the former as the latter, ignoring the essentially 'regional' nature of polemics, is dishonesty. For the discourse of polemics is governed by the nature of its opposition. This is not to deny that behind each position is a world view, but to emphasise that the position is not the world view.

Lenin, throughout his prolific career, had to defend Marxism against various brands of anti-Marxists: populists and ultra-leftists, opportunists and anarchists, dogmatists and empiricists. In the process he developed the strategy and tactics of proletarian revolution, and concretised Marxist philosophy. Not unexpectedly, the protocol of revolutionary polemics is exemplified in his works. In each of his polemical tracts he took a roll-call of his opponents, hauled out their particular anti-Marxist tendencies from within the facade of Marxism, gave no quarter and forced an ignominous retreat.

But Social Scientist (hereafter SS) inaugurates another tradition of 'Leninist polemics'. The opponents are alluded to, their 'anti-Leninism' (which, apparently, is their common brand of anti-Marxism) not defined; they are made faces at behind their backs.

We are told, to begin with, that the polemic is to be directed against the "New Left and other similar critics of Lenin" who reduce Leninism to "merely a Russian conduit for Marxism" shaping and "itself shaped by the specifically Russian heritage". To take the second point first, whoever these pernicious anti-Leninists may be, it has to be proved that this is all they will give to Lenin. Going back, who or what is this New Left and who are these "similar critics"? The answers are to be sought, according to the editiorial submission, in the "two pieces of the current number (SS-107, April 1982) (which) carry forward the plan to use the journal as a platform for a clash between Leninists and anti-Leninists": Madhu Prasad's

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