Международный Институт А.Богданова
poster
"...пути стихийно-организационного творчества природы и методы сознательно-организационной работы человека, взятые по отдельности и вместе, могут и должны подлежать научному обобщению"
 
А.А.Богданов "Тектология. Всеобщая организационная наука."
А.БОГДАНОВ.
разделитель
www.ephes.ru

 

публикацииВ.В.Попков: "АЛЕКСАНДР БОГДАНОВ. НА ПУТИ ОБЪЕДИНЯЮЩЕГО МИРОВИДЕНИЯ"
публикацииV.V.Popkov: "ALEXANDER BOGDANOV AS SCIENTIST AND REVOLUTIONARY"
публикацииВ.Попков: "Творческое наследие А.А.Богданова и создание Международного института."
публикацииГеоргий Гловели: "Богданов – ученый и утопист"
публикацииН. И. Бухарин: "ПАМЯТИ А. А. БОГДАНОВА"
публикацииВ.А.Базаров "А.А.Богданов (Малиновский) как мыслитель"


V.V.Popkov

"ALEXANDER BOGDANOV AS SCIENTIST AND REVOLUTIONARY"

In 1989, the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow had begun to prepare for publication a memoir written in 1914 by one of the founders of Bolshevism, Alexander Bogdanov (Malinovsky), entitled "Ten Years of Heresy in Marxism". This account of Bogdanov's political and philosophical disagreements with the Plekhanov school of Russian Marxism and with Lenin in particular, contained a devastating and prophetic critique of the philosophical bases of Leninism. Had Bogdanov's work been published before 1991, Soviet historians would, for the first time, have been able to evaluate the arguments of the thinker against whom in 1908-1909 Lenin had written, and in 1920 re-published, his "Materialism and Empiriocriticism", a work which after 1917 had acquired canonical status in Marxist-Leninist philosophy.

Who was Bogdanov, and what are the grounds for thinking that his place in the history of Russian political and intellectual history merits reappraisal?

Born in 1873 in Sokolko, in the province of Grodno, Belorussia, the son of a village school teacher, Alexander Malinovsky had been, together with Lenin, a founder-member of the Bolshevik fraction of the Russian Social Democratic Party (RSDRP) in Geneva in 1904. After the 1905 revolution (during which Bogdanov had led the Bolshevik fraction in the St.Petersburg Soviet) the policies of Bogdanov and Lenin had diverged. Whereas Lenin argued that the RSDRP should play a role in the newly created State Duma similar to that played by the Gennan Social Democratic Party in the Reichstag, Bogdanov, following Stolypin's alteration of the franchise in 1907, denied that the Duma was an authentic parliament and considered participation in it to be a dissipation of the energies of the labour movement. Although unable to obtain a majoritv within the Party for a boycott of the Third Duma, or for the recall of the Party's deputies, Bogdanov had succeeded in December 1908 in convincing an All-Russian Party Conference to make the Social Democratic group in the Duma accountable to the Party Central Committee. This was the policy of so-called "ultimatum". The Bolshevik fraction now split into two sub-fractions, each of which claimed to be the legitimate successor of the fraction of 1904.

During the years 1907 to 1909, the sub-fractions led by Bogdanov and Lenin competed for control of group funds and of the Bolsheviks' newspaper "Proletarii". In May 1909, in his Materialism and Empiriocriticism, Lenin sought to discredit Bogdanov by proclaiming his ideas inconsistent with Marxism, and in June 1909 he contrived the expulsion of Bogdanov and his supporters from the "Bolshevik Centre".

On 28 December 1909, a letter to the Central Committee of the RSDRP signed by Alexinsky, Bogdanov, Fedor Kalinin, Lunacharsky, Lyadov, Pokrovsky, Virgil Shantser and others, had announced the formation of a new fraction, the Forward ("Vpered") group of the RSDRP. However, the Forward group was no more successful than any other fractions of the RSDRP in uniting the Party around its policies (there were no fewer than ten separate RSDRP fractions by 1914). Nor was it less vulnerable to schism. On Capri, Gorky quarrelled with Bogdanov and Lunacharsky; in 1911 Bogdanov resigned from the group when Alexinsky questioned the integrity of his management of the Tiflis funds. Following his resignation from the Forward group, Bogdanov contributed during 1912 and 1913 to the Social Democratic newspaper Pravda, which was that time based in St. Petersburg. When Lenin brought pressure to bear upon the paper's editorial board, Bogdanov was excluded from its columns. Thereafter, he devoted himself to his writings in philosophy, sociology, and economics and to the idea of a "Union of Socialist Culture" which he conceived as being a necessary adjunct to the political and trade union activities of the labour movement. In 1912 he published the first volume of his Universal Science of Organization, or "Tektology", which he conceived as an alternative epistemology to Hegelian dialectics for the social sciences, and, indeed, as a "science of sciences".

In 1914 and until his return to Moscow in 1915 for treatment of a nervous disorder, Bogdanov served as a doctor with the 221st Infantry Regiment. Following his recovery, he served as a junior house surgeon in an evacuation hospital and then with a mobile medical unit attached to prisoner of war camps.

During the revolution of 1917 Bogdanov remained faithful to the policy of the RSDRP that the autocracy should be succeeded by a democratic republic or "people's state" based upon universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. Pending the convening of a Constituent Assembly, he favoured the idea of a socialist coalition government which would be accountable to the Soviets, but lie condemned, in June 1917, Lenin's slogan of a permanent transfer of "All power to the Soviets". For Bogdanov, conflicts of interest between the two principal social classes represented in the Soviets, that is, the industrial proletariat and peasantry, were more likely to result in civil war than in any dictatorship of the proletariat. The idea that the working classes of Europe, who had followed their own ruling classes into war, would immediately cast the shackles of domination and inaugurate a "permanent revolution", he considered to be wishful thinking.

During the revolution of 1917 Bogdanov remained faithful to the policy of the RSDRP that the autocracy should be succeeded by a democratic republic or "people's state" based upon universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. Pending the convening of a Constituent Assembly, he favoured the idea of a socialist coalition government which would be accountable to the Soviets, but lie condemned, in June 1917, Lenin's slogan of a permanent transfer of "All power to the Soviets". For Bogdanov, conflicts of interest between the two principal social classes represented in the Soviets, that is, the industrial proletariat and peasantry, were more likely to result in civil war than in any dictatorship of the proletariat. The idea that the working classes of Europe, who had followed their own ruling classes into war, would immediately cast the shackles of domination and inaugurate a "permanent revolution", he considered to be wishful thinking.

Between 1918 and 1921, when he found it expedient to resign, Bogdanov devoted himself to work in the Russian Proletarian Cultural Educational Association, or Proletkult, the incarnation of his earlier plans for a "Union of Socialist Culture". From 1918 to 1926 he was a member of the Presidium of the Socialist Academy, lecturing on economics and organizational science (he protested on theoretical grounds when, in 1923, the Academy was renamed the "Communist" Academy). In this same period he lectured on political economy in Moscow State University. When, in July and August 1920, during the Second Congress of the Comintern held in Petrograd and Moscow, the Proletkult leaders launched the idea of a "Cultural International" (Kultintern), Lenin took pre-emptive action: later that year he arranged for the publication of a second edition of his "Materialism and Empiriocriticism", inviting the veteran Bolshevik Vladimir Nevsky to write a new introduction which appeared under the title "Dialectical materialism and the philosophy of sterile reaction". Then, on the occasion of the First All-Russian Congress of the Proletkult in October 1920, Lenin brought pressure to bear upon the Commissar for Education, Anatoly Lunacharsky, to have the Proletkult brought under state control. Bogdanov now strove to adopt a less conspicuous political profile by resigning from the Presidium of the Proletkult.

In 1923 the preparedness of the Bolshevik leadership to employ not only polemics but also police methods in its persecution of Bogdanov was demonstrated by his arrest and incarceration in the Lyubyanka prison. In a memoir which he wrote after his detention, "Five weeks with the GPU", Bogdanov made it clear that he considered his arrest to have been politically inspired. He noted the difficulty experienced by Dzerzhinsky in securing his release even after he had satisfied his interrogators. In signing the protocol authorizing Bogdanov's release on 13 October 1923, the "GPU" investigating officer, M.Slavatinsky, instructed that his case should remain open. It was not until the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 16 January 1989 passed a decree rehabilitating a wide range of political oppositionists that the file on Bogdanov was finally closed.

It was in 1924 that Bogdanov, a graduate of the Medical Faculty of Kharkov University in 1895, had turned again to the study of medicine. Having been profoundly affected by his experiences on the Eastern Front during the World War, he now, together with the medical doctors Gudim-Levkovich, Maloletkov and Sobolev, formed a working party for research into the science and technique of blood transfusion. In December 1925 this working party reported to the People's Commissar for Health, Nikolai Semashko, who in March 1926 appointed Bogdanov Director of what was to be the world's first "Institute for Clinical and Experimental Haematology and Blood Transfusion". It was in this developing branch of medical science that Bogdanov made his last contribution to human knowledge, investigating techniques of blood transfusion and the effects of transfusion upon the immune system and the ageing process. On 7 April 1928 Bogdanov died of the effects of an experiment in reciprocal transfusion in which he had himself taken part. His death, which was that of a martyr in the advancement of His death, which was that of a martyr in the advancement of medical science, was thus in keeping with the collectivist and humane values which had guided his entire political and intellectual career.

Seeking clarification of Bogdanov's views, we can identify three strands in the spiral of "monist method":

  1. A natural-historical approach to the study of the natural world (Charles Darwin, Kliment Timiryazev), of socio-economic phenomena (Karl Marx), of language (the German-British orientalist Max Muller), of cognition (the physicist Ernst Mach and sociologist Georg Simmel) and of the emotions (the philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza, the Austrian neurophysiologist Theodor Meynert, the psychologist William James and the Danish anatomist Carl Georg Lange).
  2. The deduction of general scientific principles - the energetics of the "hemist Wilhelm Ostwald, the principle of natural selection of the biologist Felix Le Dantec, the "analogy" of Ernst Mach.
  3. The idea that spiritual culture has its genesis in collective labour: this applies to speech (the philologist Ludwig Noire), myth (Max Muller), the arts (the economist Karl Bucher), logic (the worker-philosopher Joseph Dietzgen) and to scientific cognition (the material collected by Ernst Mach on the derivation of the exact sciences out of the everyday knowledge of workers). The poet-encyclopaedist and "great teacher of the creative process", Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, had a great influence upon Bogdanov, who interpreted Faust as a metaphor for the striving of the human soul for an "harmonious integral life" devoted to work for the collective well-being of humanity.

In an autobiography of 1925, Bogdanov divided his works into five categories: Political Economy; Historical Materialism; Philosophy; Organizational Science; and Proletarian Culture. Under each of these headings he could claim to have made an original contribution to theory. As early as 1903, his contribution 'Exchange and Value' to "Outlines of the Realistic Philosophy of Life" proved "for the first time the theory of labour and value based on the principle of equilibrium". In "On the Psychology of Society" (1901-1904) and in "The Science of Social Consciousness" (1914) he had further developed Marx's theory of social ideologies, demonstrating that ideas had not a passive-reflective, but an active-organizational function in society. In his principal philosophical work, "Empiriomonism", written between 1903 and 1907, he had provided "a picture of the world from an organizational standpoint, that is, as a process of formation, conflict and interaction by complexes and systems of various types and degrees of organization". In these early philosophical works Bogdanov had anticipated his later General Science of Organization (1913-1922), "a general study of all elements of nature, practice and thought", a science which, he considered, provided the "social sciences with a disciplinary base superior to, indeed transcending, philosophy". Most scholars would now agree that in his "Tektology" Bogdanov provided many of the ideas later used by Ludwig van Bertalanffy, until recently considered the founder of organization theory. Bogdanov's , pioneering work in another sphere has also gone unrecognized. From what we know of Antonio Gramsci's contacts with the cultural section of the Communist International, and in particular with Anatoly Lunacharsky, it seems likely that Bogdanov was a direct or indirect source of Gramsci's ideas m cultural hegemony and the social role of the intellectual. Though his "Tektology" had been translated into German between 1926 and 1928, and a number of his works on economics and culture had been translated during the 1920s, these translations had not established his reputation. In Poland during the 1960s a freer intellectual atmosphere made possible an early reappraisal of Bogdanov. In 1961 the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, T.Kotarbinski, called for a lifting of the ban on Tektology which he described as "a work full of penetrating insights and original ideas". For Kotarbinski, a leading representative of the widely respected Lvov-Warsaw school of logicians and philosophers, Bogdanov's work had anticipated the new discipline of "Praxiology", the "general theory of optimization of work" at that time being developed by Polish scholars.

In 1968 the Polish scholar W.Przelaskowski pointed out the similarity between Bogdanov's "law of the minimum" and contemporary principles of network planning and management (the PERT methodology).

During the 1920s, in the Soviet Union alone, Bogdanov's works were translated into Armenian, Chuvash, Georgian, Hungarian, Kazakh, Tatar, Ukrainian and Yiddish.

Outside of the Communist bloc, the French socialist L.Apostel as early as 1960 described Bogdanov's universal organizational science as an attempt to "enlist cybernetics in the renewal of Marx's general theory of labour". However, credit for initiating the scholarly study of Bogdanov in the West belongs to Dietrich Grille for his Lenins Rivale. Bogdanov und seine Philosophie (1966) and to Avraham Yassour, whose bibliography, 'Bogdanov et son oeuvre', Cahiers du Monde Russe et Sovietique (1969) resulted from doctoral research in the University of Paris. In 1978 and 1979 George Haupt and Jutta Scherrer began to publish some of the results of their research into Bogdanov's early political career. The contribution of German scholarship was augmented in 1980 by the publication of Gabriele Gorzka's A.Bogdanov und der russische Proletkult and, in 1982, of Krisztina M?nicke-Gy?ngy?si's "Proletarische Wissenschaft" und " sozialistische Menschheitsreligion" als modelle proletarischer Kultur. By 1984, in a note on the state of 'Bogdanov studies', Zenovia Sochor was able to write that "A.A.Bogdanov is undoubtedly coming into his own in the West". Soon afterwards, a number of important books appeared which illuminated our understanding of the place of Bogdanov in the history of Russian politics and social thought. These were Robert Williams's The Other Bolsheviks: Lenin and his Critics 1904-1914 (1986), Zenovia Sochor's Revolution and Culture: the Bogdanov-Lenin Controversy (1988) and Lynn Mally's Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia (1990). The publication in 1990 of a special issue of The Russian Review testified to a still growing interest in Bogdanov. By this time, however, it had become apparent that for Bogdanov to be accorded an appropriate place in the history of Russian social thought and of the social sciences, a far greater number of his works would have to be translated. A short version of Tektology had been published in English in 1980 and in January 1995 an international conference on the importance of Tektology in the history of organization theory was convened in Norwich. In March 1996, a collaborative effort by Vadim N.Sadovsky, Vladimir V.Kelle and the British systems theorist, Peter Dudlеу, produced the first English-language edition of the first volume of Tektology. However, many important works of Bogdanov still await translation.


  1. John Biggart, Georgii Gloveli, Avraham Yassour. Bogdanov and his work: a guide to the published and unpublished works of Alexander Bogdanov (Malinovsky) 1873-1928.
  2. Ashgate Publishing Company, Old Post Road, Brookfield. Vermont 05036, USA.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-77890.